Re: The Creative Process
26 March 1999
As is my normal habit, I began this book at that ever so logical place for beginnings: that is to say, at the beginning of the book itself. This may have been a mistake, either in my ideology or in my neurosis. Reading the book thus meant enduring the Foreword, the Acknowledgments, the Prefatory Note, and the Introduction(1). Having dredged this much of the book, I hit the most extreme resistance to continue. What does a man who can not create an enticing book have to tell me about creating? Thus far, the book was dry, boring, and had nothing useful to say. It did not promise me that anyone would have anything useful to say. It promised only so many pages of text by various people most of whom I can't care to hear from.
Most people I know, regardless of how they feel about my works, whether they like or understand them, or dislike or fail to, insist that I am creative. Looking at the proliferation of writings, drawings and other materials I have accumulated, I should not deny this, but I rarely feel creative. And I will tell you the key to my creating and you may not understand it. It is Zen: It is doing not doing. I do not try to be creative, I do not act creatively. I just do. I sit with my tools for creation and I flow. That is all there is to the matter. I allow myself neither walls or limitations. I flow and I flow until the energy ebbs and the
tide goes out. Then the work is done. And sometimes the shore is littered with sea shells, and other times with factory refuse, and yet others with the long lost treasure of a sunken ship. I can not control or predict that. All I can do is let it happen. Flow is not about trying to do anything, it's about tearing down the resistance to the same. I don't care whether it's automatic, premeditated, or any of the other adjectives Ghiselin might wish to dilute the matter with. It just is and to deny it, force it, manipulate it, or otherwise tamper with it can do nothing but destroy it. You must wait for the tide to go back out and then walk down the shore with your eyes open and pick up whatever debris has been washed in. Then the wise man knows when to clean things and when to leave well enough alone. And that is all. There is no mystery, no short cuts, no formulas. There just is. I don't need anyone to tell me that or to refute that. I just need the time to allow for flow.
Reading 250 pages edited by a man who can turn communication into a chore is antithetical to my creation process. As time permits, I may read some passages, starting with Nietzsche whose work I am currently otherwise trying to find time to read... and some other authors may find their way onto my pallet in the remote future. But until then, I just want to send Ghiselin a letter that says his entire book should be reduced to the words: "Don't try, Don't do, But Do Not!"
But that letter won't be sent today. Neither he nor his publishers would be very interested to read it and I have better things to do. Not to be counted upon those better things was reading Nietzche's Composition of Thus Spake Zarathustra since it tells me nothing useful about either how to be creative or how best to understand Zarathustra. What he says here is much the same as I have just said above: "One hears - one does not seek; one takes - one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightning, inevitably without hesitation - I have never had any choice about. . . . Everything occurs quite without volition, as if in an eruption of freedom, independence, power, and divinity." Here I sit, one hundred years after him, hardly familiar with his work, and I have divined the whole method of his creation. If this is true, than what need have I for this waste of rain forest. Perhaps others might have need, but I would tell them they should find more utility and joy in reading books on Zen; let them send their copies of Ghiselin to the pulpefactors.
1. The title page and dedication were tolerable enough. And I did not mind skimming the Table of Contents.Return