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J. J. Brown, Wordslinger

"I Sling Words As I Go Along."

Month

January 2016

So, David Bowie once said…….

………“If you feel safe in the area you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you’re capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth. And when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.

I read this quote by David Bowie shortly after his death. It stayed with me, the way things do that make a strong impression. Some of my best creative output came about during the worst times and least secure moments of my life. As long as I was sitting in front of my computer, stringing words together and giving scenes and characters life, I was okay. Whatever was happening outside my little home became easier to handle and navigate. In short, regardless of the uncertainty of my future, my art allowed me to give voice and find strength.
However, as I reflected on Mr. Bowie’s words, I realized that maybe he wasn’t talking about the discomfort of the physical world, but the discomfort of our individual interior and emotional worlds. The analogy of water that Mr. Bowie uses can be interpreted in many ways. Swimming is the most immediate symbol – in order to become a competent swimmer, one needs to learn the basics of swimming. To be a competent or even a competitive swimmer, one had to be willing to push past fear and go into the deep end.
The other image of water that made itself clear to me was the subconscious, as in, “What lies beneath your conscious self?” What, indeed? What we fear the most, about ourselves, our loved ones, our worlds, is generally buried under the busy-ness of every-day living. A lot of times, we make ourselves busy so as not to address that which worries or scares us the most. It’s natural to want to feel safe and secure, but it can also hinder us from making the necessary changes in our lives that would bring us peace.
Embrace that discomfort and that fear. Get out your sketchpad or journal. Just let it all out onto that page, whether it’s haiku or musical notes, oil or watercolors. Let it be what it is. There is no judgement between you and that page – remember, this is for you to express yourself to yourself. Share it only if you want to.
Artistic expression is not just about romance and beautiful landscapes and silly love songs and enchanted cottages. It’s also about the flip side, about the things that scare us, make us angry or sad. The arts can give voice to both our light selves and our darker selves, what Carl Jung would call the Shadow.

Recommended reading:

Man and His Symbols

The Red Book

*****
Editor’s Note – this blog post is also published concurrently on Citizens Journal Ventura County.

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So, there’s this confounding thing that affects those who create with words…..

………..writer’s block, it’s called – but it has been known to strike in other art forms. Essentially, whether it’s through fear of not getting the final result of your art right on the first go or you’ve found yourself backed into a corner, the Block is a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. How does one get around it? Well, as with creating one’s art, getting un-Blocked is unique to the individual as well. What works for one may not work for anyone else. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try any or all options in order to find the way out of being stuck.
As a writer, I get blocked and stymied on my own creative projects all the time. I’ve used water color paints and a sketch book to find my way out of the corner I’d find myself in. But I also have a background in theater and lately, I’ve been using an actor’s technique when floundering over a stalled chapter – The Moment Before.
What is The Moment Before? Well, as I learned it, The Moment Before is a tool used by an actor or actress to understand who their character is before they walk out onstage. The characters don’t just come into existence because the playwright wrote “So-and-so enters from the kitchen up stage right”. It is the actor’s job to know what the character was doing in the kitchen (cooking? Crying? Arguing over the phone?) prior to their entrance.
This process is internalized by the actors, giving them a rich interior life and insight into the characters they play. It is not shared with anyone else in the cast – it is a discussion between the actor and the director alone.
So is this Moment Before to you, regardless of your art. When your project feels difficult and you’re struggling to make the next sentence or paint the next stroke or write the next lyric, stop and step back. Take a breath, find that rhythm prior to the block.
Find your Moment Before, re-focus and go forward.

*****
Editor’s note – this blog post is published concurrently on Citizens Journal Ventura County.

And now, a word from Louisa May Alcott……

“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”

Louisa May Alcott, author
November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888

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