The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 - 5:05 am

The Vital Obstacles in the Creative Process

“Artistry” is not confined to folks who create verbal, visual, or musical forms of beauty. I know people who are artists at parenting, friendship, gardening, manual labor, teaching, leadership, problem-solving, care-giving, peace-making, or just plain living!

So Wendell Berry’s words about the creative process apply to all of us, no matter what “medium” we work in. Berry, 80, is not only a brilliant writer of novels, short stories, essays, and poems. He is also a life-long farmer who farms with the same artistry he brings to his writing.

I find great guidance in Berry’s words about the “Two Muses” of creativity, especially when I feel done in by impediments. One Muse inspires us with visions of possibility. The other Muse puts obstacles between us and our vision. And those obstacles, says Berry, are as vital as inspiration in achieving beautiful outcomes!

So celebrate your obstacles! Don’t fear them or fight them — flow around them. As Berry writes, “The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say, ‘It is yet more difficult than you thought.’ This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”

Share Post

Contributor

is a columnist for On Being. His column appears every Wednesday.

He is a Quaker elder, educator, activist, and founder of the Center for Courage & Renewal. His books include Healing the Heart of Democracy, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life, and Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

Share Your Reflection

Reflections