As I said at the time:

Along the way, the “creative process” is a phrase I’ve come to detest. “Poetic” is another, especially when applied to another art. Whatever “creative” really means or as though the resulting work always occurs in a given sequence. Perhaps “artistic problem-solving” or “artistic exploration” comes closer, except that “artistic” still carries too much excess baggage.

“Process” sounds too much like ritual for my taste. Or a formula, “If you add L to M you’ll end up with an original poem.” Which sounds too much like a dogma or a creed to recite. Like a corridor through a shopping mall. Like a secret code to be disclosed, a joke to be retold in some variation.

For universities, “creative process” can even be seen as the teaching of mistrust and technique. “Absolute skepticism is one of the powers,” Richard Foster writes in Money, Sex & Power. “Absolute skepticism is so pervasive a belief in university life today that it must be considered a spiritual power hostile to an honest search for truth. The task of a university is to pursue truth – all truth – and yet precisely the reverse is happening today.” Creation, however, requires a foundation. Affirmation – a critical embrace of what remains holy. However we want to define that.

In the periodicals, the accepted pieces are typically of a certain length and idiom – that is, they are those lacking the obvious signs of amateurism; they’re idiomatically correct. But do they say anything meaningful, especially to the general reader, much less the populace? Do they speak to others’ conditions? I sense not: at least, seldom my own. (Leading to literary journals read by exclusively by other poets or short story writers, a particularly ticklish incest.)

Meanwhile, when I look at Japanese and Chinese art, the Zen/Chan work jumps out in its freshness from the well-schooled stream of traditional art. Thus, with poetry or musical performance that knows living silence: a whole higher dimension. Necessity for revolution here: transformation. Transfiguration. Transcendence. Transparency, too. On into unending depth.

When I first set forth, I believed to be truly creative, something had to spring out of nowhere – a bolt of lightning accompanying work thoroughly unlike anything before it. Similarly, my girlfriend at the time thought, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had a language all our own?” One unlike anything before it. Slowly, however, I realized how difficult it is to understand what’s said and written in an existing language, with all of its nuances and roots waiting to be fathomed. The fact is, creative acts happen through building on existing tradition, evolving at the edges and frontiers. The artist or scientist or inventor or entrepreneur is indebted to all who have come earlier, and is responsible as well for those who will follow.

Often see those who start out are filled with an experience/awareness they want to share but cannot because of deficiencies in technique. By the time they master technique, they’ve lost the freshness. Yet I most admire those who have acquired technique the hard way: hands-on, original, primitive, perhaps without any of the accepted shortcuts.


The term I’ve come to love, by the way, is “practice.” The way a doctor or lawyer practices. Or even a football team or a choir. It’s never really done. It’s just a way of living.


  1. I’d like to think of it along the lines of a plant needing roots to thrive. That’s where traditions comes into play. The crucial difference in the development of one’s craft would be the difference being carefully cultivated in a garden and eking out an existence in the harsh wild. That is, if I’m making any sense…

  2. I’d argue that amateurism is where the true art lies. That work comes from the spirit of the attempt and represents a fresh perspective on accepted work. The idea of even the most accomplished in any endeavor ‘practicing’ still should give any of we amateurs all the encouragement we could ever need.

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