For good or ill, I always write to discover what I’m writing about…
Garry Winogrand said something similar about photography: "I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.”; also expanding on this a bit: "I don’t have anything to say in any picture. My only interest in photography is to see what something looks like as a photograph. I have no preconceptions.”
It’s the same with music, if I’m to take one of my own pieces seriously, there has to be the sense of abandon – of letting something first assert itself, recognize it, seize upon it, cultivate it, give it a space to grow. But this also involves resoluteness, taking ownership and responsibility, making good on what I’ve been given. Music is channeling basically; channeling but also cultivation. But to do this I also have to be passionate about it, really wanting or desiring the thing to come forth. I make studying theory almost a parallel track – more inspiring than useful really.
My experience with childhood and writing is a semi-traumatic one. I had, over several years with a group of close friends constructed an elaborate fantasy world, sort of a live-action RPG superimposed upon the physical terrain around our houses and around school, but also a collective hallucination. (of course we didn’t know about actual RPG’s, they were around in the late 70’s but we were never exposed; I do remember structural/“game” aspects though.)
I suppose a lot of people did this to some degree but our world was held remarkably consistent for years (and years are an incredibly long time to a child). It persisted not only in conversation and play but in written stories (sometimes done for class assignments, where appropriate), and dreams; we called the never-ending process of bringing forth this world “writing”.
It was really like entering a space of myth, creating stories not for “entertainment”, but fundamental narratives by way of which we could interpret and make sense of everything around us. Nothing really contradicted what adults took to be the physical world, it was more a dimensional concatenation or superposition; a mythic space. Fictions not for escape but for gaining a much deeper understanding and even sensitivity to truth. Needless to say, most adults from teachers to parents were horrified by this, as it meant they could no longer control the narrative…
All this collapsed in an instant when we moved. I found myself at an awful school where I couldn’t connect with anyone. On top of it I was made to skip a grade, and found myself completely occupied with social challenges. I quickly forgot most of the details of that world, as if it never existed or mattered. The new thing was simply to fit in and I failed miserably, was horribly bullied. Also collapsing was this kind of dreamy, collective consciousness in favor of the pointed, awake consciousness of an “I” – the modern ego of which we’re all familiar – that was even worse than being bullied. (I wonder if this is the true meaning of a telepathic consciousness, that this meaning only becomes twisted into pseudoscientific nonsense, or becomes itself an amphibology when forcibly re-interpreted in modern sense of action-at-a-distance between egos already posited as separate.) Needless to say, I became basically like everyone else, except sad, lonely and alienated.
Crazy as it was, I owe so much to this experience. Everything we did was basically in the form of how I understand the creative process today, not in terms of invention, but in terms of disclosing or uncovering new worlds. To take the covers off and expose what was already there. Or un-forgetting things … something really close to the ancient Greek conception of aletheia, which was of course their predominant idea of truth, not the Roman veritas or truth-as-correspondence which persists to this day. Our imaginary world felt so real, so true precisely because we did not invent anything. We just channeled it, all action was just about being receptive to whatever thoughts arose and maybe shaping it a bit, to make it make sense. Dreams were remembered as much as we could and taken as authoritative, and my friends’ dreams shared many common elements with mine. The process of dreaming was also called “writing”, basically both fused into a single concept.
Almost 40 years later I guess that experience has deeply affected me, but not only in how I think about the creative process. Rather than creativity being motivated by wonder in my case, there’s always a sense of longing, a sense of wanting to recover lost time, a sense of being haunted by the absence of worlds, by the absence of a mythic space. I think a lot about this too in a historical sense, how the remnants of forgotten worlds still haunt the margins of language; that in language itself there is always a possibility of reawakening it, of taking the covers off.
I guess with that, I’ve found out what I really wanted to write about…