“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”
This quote came from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and is spoken by Frodo Baggins as he, Sam, Merry and Pippen embark on their quest to take the One Ring back to Mordor. The imagery, as I read it, struck me as being similar to the creative process, whether you’re in the beginning stages or are somewhere in the middle and struggling to get un-stuck. Or, other times, you can get lost in the rhythm of the process as you watch the ink flow from the pen onto the paper, forming shapes that become words. Similar things can happen while working on music or sanding down a piece of wood that will become a toy or piece of furniture or even sketching.
It’s a Zen-like state, where instead of you leading the creative process, you’re letting the creative process lead you. In that sense, you’ve allowed yourself to ignore the inner critic, your ego, and to begin trusting yourself enough to follow your instincts. It may not make any sense, at first – indeed, it may not make any sense at all. Don’t let that stop you – if nothing else, this process is clearing the way for you to resolve a conflict in your story, find a different note for a song, or finding a fresh color in a painting. Oftentimes, when I’m sitting in a coffee shop, trying to write and words are refusing to show up, I doodle on the page. What shows up are horses, either smirking at the viewer or prancing up a hill. Most of the time, however, it’s just random lines and circles connected in one long stroke of the pen that make no sense at all.
I love these moments and come out of them feeling refreshed and happy, though they come at the expense of my current project. They give me time to step away from my project and relax my mind a little so that I can proceed with a more defined objective. For me it’s similar to the theater game of improvisation, where the first rule is to say “Yes, and….”.
The road that leads ever on comes from the spark of an idea. Outlined or flying by the seat of one’s pants or a little of both is how the journey progresses to its destination.
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Editor’s Note – this blog post is published concurrently on Citizens Journal VC