Discovering the Creative Self

Over the course of the past year realisations of life-altering proportions have shifted my self-perception and behaviour alike.  Whether as a result of being blind to the painfully evident or deluded about the purpose I find, simple adjustments to my own definition of who I dare to be have unleashed torrents of release and the strength that stems therefrom. I have finally come to accept the artist within me and to award actionable agency to the poetry and prose I never took seriously enough. The conclusions that drove this shift in personal identification dawned on me through multiple dimensions, which I would like to share with you today. 

The first conduit for such enthralling reflection lies in my current abode. In the base of the artists I am not only surrounded by opportunities to internalise varied forms of self-expression, but also find myself in the presence of individuals who have naturally adopted their creative personna as their main me. They do not, like myself, split their world between what must be done and what their internal fluctuation produces; they are and dare to be that which the rest may forsake for the vague fear of being labeled as having their heads in the clouds.

I suppose it is the variety of activities my roomies engage in that emboldened me to summon the courage I need. From Toms’ sax through Rebeka and Christian’s paintings to Charly’s audio / visual endeavors, what’s missing in this idyllic picture is a writer. But I digress – what I intended to share is that this range of creative bustle inspired me to look beyond the unimpactful formalism of academia and accept the affect of art. It drove me to perceive how the poet within me thrives in hyperbole, linguistic exaggeration and potent imagery. It lead me to understand that the output that flows most readily from me shall not be destined as a cash cow, but rather as expression through the medium of writing free in its purpose of merely existing. I now dare to liberate my creative process from the shackles of a daily occupation and render it unambiguously committed to artistic output. ‘Tis to live a cliché – I stayed in Berlin, ran away to live with the artists and in the process discovered the creative self. Perhaps the angst of the last 15 years and that unmistakable internal pressure which finds no valve can finally spill into this realisation, filling it with truth and prowess by sheer magnitude and force. 

The second conduit relevant to this exploration is the space I have discovered in my solitude. I have read and read and read and have at last conceived that before one can dare to call themselves a writer, they must be a reader first and foremost. Through my literary explorations I was guided to develop the habit of journal keeping (thank you, Georgi Gospodinov) and of pragmatically ingesting formats that I may one day dream to call my own. All of this is exciting to a point of motivation far greater than the one encountered in a lacklustre attempt to make my master thesis publishable. More importantly, my newly-found habituality may represent a dim signal for the validity of my tweaked self-perception.  

As a final observation I will briefly address Virginia Woolf’s conceptualisation of the artist that one encounters in a A Room of One’s Own. In her work, Woolf raises the hypothetical scenario of the existence of  Shakespeare’s equally gifted sister who, like him, is drawn to theatre by her immeasurable talent. The outright mockery she encounters as a woman attempting to enter the art drives her to suicide as the unexpressed internal turmoil slowly pushes genius to insanity. Woolf appears to implicitly equate the artist to a human of grand emotional capacity which, if left inarticulate, engulfs the mind in a suffering that degenerates into surrender or abandon. In the early days of emotional exploration, I often permitted the tides of sorrow and confusion associated with my father’s passing to spill into my earliest poetry, a gate that sealed shut as teenagehood taught me the concepts of shame and capitalistic ambition. Now, over a decade down the line, I stand where I did so many years ago, observing how a room of my own and the small desk and solitude that go along with it have returned me to that same expression that not only keeps me sane, but also heals practices that bring nothing but ruin. 

I must thank you, Charly, Rebeka, Christian and Toms (and might I mention Rory and Kate here, too), for illuminating the seriousness of art at its core, and for being stronger in your conviction than I ever dared to be. I continue grow as the artist within me is finally free to write what the mind chooses to write. 



I continue reading Rilke…

as I address that which strangles my lightness and peace.

These were life-sized experiences and bore down upon me with their true weight.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

Let me paraphrase, if I may:

These are life-sized realizations that re-align my internal universe with their gravitational scale.

I have been writing this past month. Driven by uncanny realizations of the interconnectedness of mind, body and emotional trauma, it is much to process and daunting to structure. Scattered words and thoughts swarm ’round the nebulous truth I have found as it materializes and consolidates. I arrive now at the end of the cycle and begin to shape action from philosophy, and will share a coherent account soon.


What I Saw in the Warm Rain

The pristine moves me

So much less than it dared to before,

Laying me trembling ‘pon the speckled floor

Of summer, and all it affords.


So it lies

The cloud graphite with rain

That little but a few heavy drops

In the salty dust distorts.


Thunders and rains

Beckons and calls

That which from the heaven could pour

And within its meaning conform.


Immersing it all,

As eternity would, set loose

Free upon the world to call

And within me storms to form.

Source and Result

Everything, everything runs too fast for common conceptions of memory to dice out what significance momentary decisions bear. One’s dialogue runs faster than the hand can keep up and the medium becomes restrictive. The mind is alive in a way that neither memory or process can reward, and thus must exist in a realm guided by principles other than the plainly physical. Art is the tool that unites the two, transforming the metaphysical impressions generated by the fluid, rapid mind into the concreteness of expression. It is, in essence, a practice permitting the self to sift unlimited outpour into focused statement, with decision and compromise guiding the flow. For long I have known that patience and peace are virtues I must yet construct; and it is in connecting the dichotomy of source and result, at that very intersection of the physical and metaphysical, that my practice must lie. 

Underpinning such standpoints is an understanding that views the mind as both actor and receiver: as much a vessel consuming external stimuli as a beacon projecting and shaping the subjective reality of each being’s existence. Passivity in reception is not for me, thanks. I choose to believe I am not helpless in shaping my world, and that the effort that transforms the metaphysical source into concrete result via the creative process reflects a fundamental capacity of our conscious being to shape the nature of reality, even if only at the margin. 


On my love for Rilke

It brings both bewilderment and relief to discover, through the beautiful solitude which arises in the company of books, that once upon a time there worked a verbal soul that so closely mimics one’s own contemplations. A poet and writer who too failed to honor the tried and tested; who lived in hope of escaping the monotone and in his escape discovered the unlimited capacity we largely fail to engage:

That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us; to have courage for the most strange the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter … But fear of the inexplicable has not alone impoverished the existence of the individual; the relationship between one human being and another has also been cramped by it, as though it had been lifted out of the riverbed of endless possibilities and set down in a fallow spot on the bank, to which nothing happens. For it is not inertia alone that is responsible for human relationships repeating themselves from case to case, indescribably monotonous and unrenewed; it is shyness before any sort of new, unforeseeable experience with which one does not think oneself able to cope. 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Fear of the Inexplicable, reading in April 2019

What for Rilke is the riverbed of endless possibilities for me is the symbol of continuity in repetition of the tried and tested:

Those are the rivulets of thought that slowly (at geological pace, perhaps) creep into the surfaces of the internal vacuum, popping out like veins in harsh exertion. Tiny, precarious gorges of unexpected thought, of the realisation that life is so much more than a tried and tested progression. From the monolithic riverbed I see the intricate network illuminate in each direction with its countless feeble paths, those ideas and aspirations conceived but unattempted.

~ myself, May 2018

Where he sees the monotone as a static wallow along the bank, I see it in motion along the uniform canyon that tradition and custom have forged into the collective consciousness; for life and time move forward even if guided along constant parameters. Where Rilke sees the riverbed as the source of possibility, for me this arrives further downstream where the surges and currents have calmed to a delta of countless interconnected rivulets that one may choose to navigate. Choosing to do so carries with it the fear of a dead end, of the unknown conclusion that may well see you trapped in shallow sand. And yet, it is only in this uncertainty that I find solace; in the indication that one may choose truth or trap, and that the choice itself embodies all that makes life more than just coincidence or replicated recurrence.

To fear not life’s unpredictabilities;
To embrace and release into its unknown;
To comprehend that all is us and we are all
And that our own solitary mind is what spawns and curbs the bloody wounds
We so readily attribute to the hands of others.

I plead that you should not read this as a conceitful attempt to equate myself in any way to the genius of Rilke. Rather, I intend to observe the lover I have found in him; one who pours into the chalice of my creativity; who mirrors my contemplations and understandings a century in the past and who shines a light on the universality of my concerns;  evading time and space and echoing back through that unlimited capacity which will forever guard the humanity in us.