Friday, July 30, 2021

The Disappearing Man


In her seminal book A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf explained how Jane Austen wrote her novels under great restraint. As a woman, Austen was not allowed in the library unless chaperoned by a man, and so she wrote in various sitting rooms, constantly interrupted, and forced to hide her "scribblings" under blotting paper whenever anyone suddenly entered the room.

The truth is, all artistic people suffer from a multitude of interruptions. We begin something and then we are called away. The baby begins crying. Or the boss begins crying! Or the phone pings. You get the idea.

Recently, I was in the middle of this little India ink portrait when I was interrupted by my aged father. I am caring for him, and he needs a lot of attention! Sometimes he interrupts me for important reasons, like when he needs his walker. Sometimes he interrupts for a less urgent reason, such as a sudden desire to have a graham cracker. And sometimes, I interrupt myself because I worry about him and I have to jump up and see how things are going in the world of Papa Callan.

I did not return to this little painting of the man until the next day, and when I looked at it, I realized that I like it just as it is. Unfinished. I like the mystery. I like the white space. I like the sense that he is a man with an invisibility cloak and I have caught him in mid-disappearance. Or perhaps, he is in the process of becoming visible.

And then I thought, isn't this a metaphor for life? Aren't we all in some point of the in the process of appearing or disappearing?

Dear creative friends, this is why it's important to not be in such a hurry to finish things. Sometimes, the unfinished song with the melody hanging in the air is the most powerful choice. Sometimes, the poem that sits at the edge of the roiling river is actually at its most beautiful in this state before diving into the great unknown. Sometimes, your novel doesn't have to have a GREAT BIG MESSAGE at the end, and you would be better off letting your readers fill in the blanks from their own imagination.

Your creativity prompt for this week is to start something new. Thrust yourself unabashedly into this project. And then, I want you to let go. Just let go. This is a trust exercise. Trusting in yourself and trusting in the world. You are dancing and about to leap and then you collapse. Now, see what happens. 


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