Everyone is talking about creativity. But what is it? Where does it come from? Is it in a special section of the brain? If not, then where would I find it– in the brain–the psyche? But most important—how do I get it working. That’s the eternal search for the muse.
How does the psyche really behave? And why? Does it have a special purpose? Maybe we could answer these questions if we could examine our own psyches.But that may be like trying to catch a butterfly and hoping it will stay still and fly at the same time.
But the effort to understand it is well worth it. And here I shall try by laying my psyche on the examining table.
I’m not a terribly organized person in terms of pieces of paper and “things”. And so when I construct a mental image of the psyche, I see the inside of my desk drawers. Perhaps the only organizing principle is chronology. This photo and that note were tossed in before that one and something else. So what’s on top is most recent? Does the psyche store everything that way? By observing mine, I’d think it’s pretty much a hodge-podge of oddly related matters.
If not, then how does it organize everything from a lifetime? Perhaps there are compartments like little drawers marked by year or by kind or importance of event. I expect that the wedding day or birth of a child should have some sort of special place.
The psyche is a wily creature sneaking around underground! Sometimes it can be quite spiteful when something rises up and contradicts everything you think you thought. [Freudian Slip!]
In contrast, our conscious self is reliably proper or so we think. We can safely take it out in public without fear of consequence. But even so, it’s like an adult taking an unruly two year old into an expensive antique store. Or is that really true? Sometimes I think my psyche is one hundred times smarter and wiser than me.
The psyche is free of logical imperatives. It knows little discipline. To our embarrassment, it may kick up its heels at any moment and romp about like that mischievous child. Remember that terrible gaffe you made five years ago? Your conscious self has forgotten it, but the psyche never forgets. And of course—we know the ugly truth of it will pop out at the worst possible moment when the conditions are right and just when we’re least expecting it.
So why are we “built” with this ability to undermine ourselves via the psyche? Hard to say, but give your psyche its due. It does have a value and purpose. I like to think of it as a sponge with endless capacity to soak up everything. Not only through our senses but through its mysterious connections to the collective unconscious [that limitless library of humankind].
So whether it’s a squib of conversation thirty years ago or an image of your older brother scaring you with your teddy bear—it’s ALL there in the psyche. How do I know? Because that brother’s face, unbidden…out of the blue…rose up and laughed at me when I was buying laundry soap at the store.
The laundry soap box had a retro design and image on it [a cheery woman wearing an apron> a 1950’s looking washing machine > mother > brother > teddy bear > laugh at me> cry!] So, I figure that the psyche operates on the basis of association and takes me on a run through childhood.
But I’ll bet it’s a lot more than that. This is the tricky part. In my meanderings, my brother’s dog comes in the room and tries to bite me just as the teddy bear is thrown out the window. But that could not have really happened because my parents never allowed pets in the house. Is that false memory or imagination? It seems the association of the event and the laundry soap fifty years later is enough to make me start “inventing” stories and creating dogs.
It’s as if somewhere in my psyche there is a thread on which is “coded” brother>teddy bear l>laughing at me. Along comes old looking laundry soap box which triggers Childhood> Brother> etc…
By now I’m at the checkout counter—definitely not at home in bed asleep and dreaming. But it seems as if my psyche has floated free and taken over my conscious thoughts. It has invented [created?] a dog which is now baring its teeth and growling fiercely. This is fantasy is becoming quite threatening.
Where did that dog come from? Does it represent something buried deeply in the psyche? Perhaps that’s how I feel about whatever malice my sibling is expressing. My own emotions and reactions to my brother [built up over years] cause my psyche to create [embellish] the imagined scene.
Next, in my mind, I’m walking along a residential street which skirts a ravine. I’m about nine years old. Suddenly I feel sharp teeth digging into my right hand. This is a real memory. Fortunately I’m wearing thick gloves. [By now I’ve bought and paid for the laundry soap at the checkout.] What’s my psyche accomplished? By association, it’s leaped from an imagined dog in my room to a remembered but real dog back in time. I try to tear my hand away and start to run. Thank heavens! A woman comes out of the house and calls the dog off. [memory of real event] which has left me with an uncontrollable fear of all canine creatures.
So—LAUNDRY SOAP>mother>brother>teddy bear>laugh at me>IMAGINED DOG>[memory of] REAL DOG> and real bite.
From following this meandering of my psyche, what do I conclude? A combination of something in the “outside” world triggers memories of real events and my imagination?
The psyche floats freely throughout time and space like a butterfly landing here and there and flitting off again.
It changes direction or fastens onto something new depending upon associations it makes. [laundry soap box]
It changes direction when some emotional component within me seeks to add something to the “storyline”. [imagined dog representing my brother’s attitude.]
It jumps back and forth between “real” memory [brother], things in the outside world,[soap] and it adds [or creates] something new [imagined/real dog].
This is hardly a scientific inquiry! Just an attempt to stand back from my own mental meanderings and understand how creativity might possibly work.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s this—the best way, at least for me, is to let the mind [psyche?] relax. Set it free to flit about because, just like with the butterfly, where it lands is where your creation might begin. The other option is to take a nap in hopes of a dream. Both sound pretty good to me.
And by the way–what did I create? A short story which you can now read entitled THE ICE HOUSE Not about a teddy bear but something to do with a brother, sister and a doll.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in it’s entirety right here Wattpad.com