The Creative Process
© 1998 John Perkins
On-Line Peer Day
January 3 - 9, 1995
Convener: MARILYN GALE
Participating Peers: John Perkins, Alan Hunt, Chris Holzer, Tom Heuerman,
Lenore Wadsworth, Maureen Toles, Victor McGregor, and Walter Pokines
The Objectives as drafted by Marilyn Gale: "1. to gain an understanding
of the creative process with learners in different disciplines. 2. to define
the creative process.
3. to learn ways to facilitate the muse. Text: Witness to the Fire: Creativity
and the Veil of Addiction, by Linda Schierse Leonard, publisher, Shambhala
Publications, Inc. l989, read part three; The Creation, pages 211 through
The agenda Marilyn proposed included:
"Day 1: what is creativity? Rollo May Definition. In The
Courage to Create, May defines the act of creating as an encounter, an engagement
with reality. Creativity requires the enactment of this encounter.
"Actualizing one's potentialities gives one the sense of joy, the heightened
awareness, and the ecstasy one feels in the creative process. All this requires
the courage to choose to create and stand in the center of this ongoing
process. What has it been for you? Describe a creative act.
"Day 2. Share a famous person's or mentor's creative
process that you have carried with you in your journey through creativity.
"Day 3. Creativity and the dark night of the soul. What has
emerged from your abyss?
"Day 4, how do you facilitate your muse? Music, meditation,
dreams, pictures. Share success stories.
"Day 5, resistance to the creative process, our bad days, an
act of faith, shame, addiction.
"Day 6, toward a redefinition of the creative process."
From the opening day I felt like I had been swooped into a whirling vortex.
The fecundity and diversity of my peers left me dazzled and thinking. Sometimes
a particular day's contributions left me so excited I had trouble calming
myself enough to get to sleep.
How can I now think of creativity? In effect this report, which will be
shared with the others in this peer day, forms part of my response to the
challenge for day six - moving towards a new definition. I can call it only
part since my creativity can never be captured in words, as words can be
seen as a type of map; my experience will always remain richer, subtler
and livelier than any set of words. But I feel good maps can be very useful.
Each of us, as we played our role within this peer day, provided a different
perspective on how creativity can be expressed in a collaborative effort.
Marilyn carried the spirit of this peer day, having called for one on the
bulletin board and midwifed it through channels into a reality. She set
the agenda and made an effort to look at each of our contributions and comment
on them, when she could. In the midst of this on-line peer day, Marilyn
traveled to Chicago to attend her mothers funeral. Her mother had died just
before we were to begin, and Marilyn carried on with both her grieving and
the peer day.
Marilyn did not discuss these details until well into our effort. I admire
her courage, and it saddened me to know of her loss. She read at the funeral
a tribute to her mother as one of her mentors she had contributed to the
peer day. In a way, this action merged for a moment three domains of her
life, her self identity, Union and her family--an act of creation.
Alan Hunt and myself seemed to write at great length. Alan's initial approach
seemed to be heavily weighed towards books; my writings expressed my personal
experiences. Along the way I learned how to attach a file to my messages,
a minor achievement. Alan's sharing of his vast knowledge enriched my experience
of this peer day. He also is a potter, and I would like to see his rare
bilaterally symmetrical bowls.
Victor McGregor at one point thanked Alan for his genius but questioned
if he could forgive him for his wordiness. Victor posed a paradox: if we
get too wordy perhaps we would not be able to go as deep. Victor wanted
a "sweaty palm phenomena" as he said Marilyn called it, "that
poetry of the heart that is generated by genital energy but is spiritual
in nature and 'recursive' in effect..."
Victor in his next message deliberately tosses in some "dissonance"
detesting May for using the word "reality as if fantasy was not important."
Victor also admitted that he was a conscientious objector to military service
in his home country of South Africa. Clearly Victor plays a role of the
rebel in this group. Later, and maybe symbolically, his computer had trouble
cooperating to get his words to us. Too often the rebel is silenced from
speaking a language that few can "relate to" and so understand.
Rebels often speak truths which leave us feeling uncomfortable.
My life partner and I read each days print out and debated how I would respond.
Victor's feelings about fantasy raised a number of issues we shared at home
but I missed the chance to share during the peer day. Arnold Mindell (Union
Graduate) in his book Coma (1 ) shares his conviction that people in a coma
are still actively working through the last moments of their soul's purpose
and progress in this life. By cutting off life support are we then cutting
off their last chance to tie-up lose internal spiritual threads? If this
is true, isn't what he describes a spiritual, inward creativity?
Artur Lundkvist, an acclaimed Swedish poet, validates Mindell's ideas with
his own true experiences. From the jacket notes, we learn:
In October, 1981, the internationally known Swedish poet Artur Lundkvist
suffered a near fatal heart attack while delivering a lecture...In mid-sentence,
Lundkvist simply fell to the ground, comatose.
After two months in a coma, in the intensive care unit of the hospital,
Lundkvist, at the age of 75, awakened. It was just before Christmas, 1981.
There followed weeks of semi-consciousness during which the moments of wakefulness
and clarity increased. At the same time Artur Lundkvist was dreaming, richly
and strangely, perhaps as part due to the heightened bodily ventilation
supplied by the heart-lung machine. Each trip comprised a journey. The trips
were filled with great joy and deep sadness...In each case, Lundkvist's
imagination soared while his body remained in a state of immobility near
As a system, or package, Lundkvist's story challenges us on many levels.
Oddly, the internal and external effort of going about our lives may actually
block us from our creativity. The creativity we do experience seems to be
the shadows that Plato describes dancing on the back wall of the cave; never
quieting ourselves enough, we fail to turn and face the source of the light
that produces the shadows.
Chris Holzer reminded us of the use of ritual. She always lights a candle
before her colloquiums and peer days to honor all the participants and our
individual programs and work. She suggests that high creativity is produced
by living in tension. For some this might be true, but throughout our own
peer day we discussed the rituals and methods we used to let go (synonymous
to relaxing). Plus we can contrast this view with Lundkvist's experience
of being in a coma, which is not a state of tension.
Tom Heuerman and Lenore Wadsworth in their first day's pieces, returned
to the faith in the unknown and unconscious. Lenore also brought in expressions
of creativity as a collaborative act.
Walter Pokines joined us on the second day, beginning with another story
of loss. A friend of his suffers from a brain disorder and he missed the
first day because he had been with her trying to cheer her up. He used selections
from our text, Witness to the Fire to help her get perspective
on what she has been going through. Another type of creativity similar to
Marilyn's reading what she had written at her mother's funeral. Walter wrote:
"I am amazed at the confluence of this peer day and this crisis in
my friends life. It is surely one of the benefits of following your bliss."
Maureen Toles had trouble with her phone and computer connections and didn't
catch up until the third day. Painter, art therapist and dream worker, her
entrance into the discussion surprised me. Who is this new voice, I thought?
Like a writer who finds a character insisting on being in a novel, Maureen's
presence represented the surprise factor, serendipity, chance encounters.
She played a more witnessing role, in my mind, even writing one of the last
Creativity might be one of those paradoxical human behaviors, both common
and rare simultaneously; capable of being consciously directed and an uncontrollable
outpouring from someplace or somewhere beyond conscious comprehension, much
After all of this and over 100 pages of edited downloaded material, I think
I will follow one of Victor's suggestions and revisit my notes in nine months.
1. Coma: Key to Awakening, Boston: Shambhala, 1989.
2 .Artur Lundkvist, Journeys In Dream And Imagination: The Hallucinatory
Memoir Of A Poet In A Coma, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991.