“You don’t conquer the anxiety about dying, you meet it with courage.” ~ Paul Tillich
Art is, first and foremost, a mortal’s response to the anxiety of mortality; and, secondly, an artist’s response to the anxiety of banality. It’s a transient self-expression despite impermanence. It’s a defiant beginning despite all things ending. Art wrestles vicissitudes into verisimilitude. It creatively captures Time, for a time, before Time is lost.
But the creative states that to produce such art is difficult to come by. They are diamonds in the rough at best and nonexistent at worst. As with all things, we can become better at achieving such states through practice.
After which, either more diamonds become apparent in the rough or more diamonds are being created from the pressure of practice. Either way, practice is a virtue. But unlike with most things, this type of practice requires a higher dose of a vitally important ingredient: courage.
Leap into fear
“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
Hugging the hurricane is a metaphor for creative courage. It’s an imaginative slice of legerdemind (sleight of mind) that launches us out of our carefully constructed comfort zone. It provides vivid imagery for the would-be artist to ponder. Indeed, hugging the hurricane is a leap into fear itself.
What is courage without fear? Nothing. When you think about it, without some element of fear to overcome, courage is irrelevant. It’s not courageous to simply cross the road, but if you’re genuinely afraid of crossing the road and then you do it anyway, that’s courageous.
Courage is only a meaningful concept when we proceed with an action or thought despite fear. The adage, “Be afraid, but then do it anyway,” comes to mind. And yet the comfort zone is so nice and warm. It’s snug, safe, and secure. There’s no fear there. Wounds are easily healed and there are medicines galore.
But the vital medicines of adventure and creativity are difficult to come by within comfort zones. We need some sort of agitation. Some challenge. Something to discombobulate our settled mind. There’s got to be some kind of threshold to overcome. As Farah Gray said, “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.”
So, there must be a leap of courage. Even if there isn’t a physical attempt at stretching our comfort zone, there’s at least got to be a mental attempt, or an imaginative coup.
As Rebecca Goldstein said in Plato at the Googleplex, “There is a kind of quiet violence in philosophy’s work. Philosophical thinking that doesn’t do violence to one’s settled mind is no philosophical thinking at all.”
And so it also goes with the kind of thinking it takes to stretch our creative comfort zone. Hugging the hurricane is that violence. It’s teeth and splinters and blitzkrieg and angry winds. It’s a tempting of the tempest, meant to uproot souls and rip up fenced-in foundations.
It’s shattered glass and vehemence. It’s torn up thoughts and displaced reminiscence. It’s Tyler Durden spitting frustrated fury into a wobbly camera. It’s un-trenched entrenchment, waiting for a creative mind to connect its scattered dots into something a reader/viewer/listener can wrap all their eight senses around (art).
Leap into flow
“So good, and so twisty, and so shadowy, and so chewy, and so boomerangy, that it requires the forging of a new word for ‘beauty.'” ~ Nicholson Baker
The above Baker quote is what I feel like every time I come back to my comfort zone from a deep flow state. When I manage to thresh the threshold into a crossable crossroads, I feel Fear get baptized by Flow. This baptizing is an overflow, a fountainhead.
Everything opens up to everything else. As Leonard Cohen said, “You lose your grip, and then you slip into the masterpiece.” Indeed. I lose my grip on griplessness so that I may gain a better grip. It’s scary and amazing and joyously fecund. Intermittently planting and digging up seeds becomes the only reason to be.
Taking a leap of courage, diving into fear, hugging the hurricane, these will get you past the threshold of your fear and across the crossroads of your doubt. But then it’s time to take a leap into flow. It’s time to empty your soul’s cup and dive in. Relish in the crushing waters of creativity.
Imagine you are Charlie seeing the Chocolate Factory for the first time. Or Neo rising out of the pink goop. Or Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. Better yet, imagine new worlds. It’s all that and more.
Anything is possible. This is your flow state, erupting with seeds that only you can bring to fruition. Bursting with the scattered thought-prints of your unique memory that only you can transform into art.
The flow state is your playground. A place where you are free to play with ideas and to create new ones. It’s your platform and your canvas. A launching off spot where you can build and experiment. It’s time-stopped jouissance.
It’s so Meta it’s Meta-licious, taking you to heightened states of awareness that can be described as ecstatic or numinous or mystical, but where words ultimately fail to translate the experience. Where even a “Language Older Than Words” falls short of the mark.
At the end of the day, unlimited and unlimiting art is the reward. Baptizing Fear with Flow is a creative person’s soul-craft. When we consistently practice hugging the hurricane, we make instances of baptizing more prevalent.
It gets us out of our own way so that we can tap into the cosmic artery of the universe more readily and suckle on the sweet nectar of Flow more often. So that art becomes an overflow, and the wasteland of writer’s block, creative slowdown, and lack of inspiration are fewer and farther between.