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Widening Stream

Images we can use if we learn to wait

“This is an exciting and informative book– helpful to anyone interested in the creative process” is how Andre Gregory, costar and cocreator of my My Dinner with Andre, author and avant-garde director described the book, The Widening Stream.

If you buy a single book on this site, buy The Widening Stream by the photographer David Ulrich. He has the best oversight of the creative process that I’ve seen.

I can’t summarize this book. I can only give you quotes from it that blow me away.

“The creative process draws on many different energies of the individual. It calls forth our deepest impulses, the full range of our life experiences, our most profound hopes and aspirations, and our most penetrating and insightful observations on society and ourselves, and awakens our search for something more in life than what is offered by the culture in which we live.”

“Rilke writes that ‘a work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity.” What is it that we need to do? We must look and listen inwardly for the answer. What are our deepest responses to the world around us and our must heartfelt questions? What is it that we care about, passionately and deeply.”

For our work and our lives to be authentic, infused with our very being, it is essential that we address these questions.”

“The most important feature of this stage in our development is humility and acceptance, to fully embrace and even savor this state of incompleteness. To feel it and to know it intimately, and to allow it to act on us is the key requirement– rather that running away or hiding behind any of the things we use to fill the gap: false pride, self-delusion, alcohol, sex or whatever our proclivity. To recognize this lack and to aspire towards a deeper participation in life; this impulse leads us towards the creative.”

“Well prior to the advent of his mature work, Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo: ‘How then can I be useful, how can I be of service? Something is alive in me, what can it be?’ The path of greatness often lies in the early recognition of an unformed call and a life given to deeper questioning. The call is there– for all of us.

“We must try to give our full attention to the process. We strive to be present, to stay in touch with the relationship between our inner energies, those arising from our bodies, mind, and feelings, and the work itself…

The second chapter begins:

“Passion and creative work are inseparable. Artists tend to be obsessed with their subjects and themes. They care deeply and passionately, beyond the dictates and limitations of reason; interests or enthusiasms often burn with a focused intensity. In civilized society, obsession is generally viewed as highly suspect and downright dangerous– it can even imply violence. In the arts however, it can, if managed properly, translate into a highlly positive and helpful characteristic; a sense of urgency about the work.

About writer’s block: at this stage, if we listen and look, the work itself contains the solution. It is telling us that it needs something; a change of direction, an influx of new ideas or methods, a fresh point of view, an expanded understanding, an infusion of energy, or simply greater care and attention. One of my students perceptively observed that in coming up against a wall, attempting to force our way through is futile. But to climb the wall, look around, examine the sights from a new and heightened perspective– herein lies a way of intelligence, with potential to move gracefully to the other side.

“Sometimes we need to simply search within and question: what is needed…now? Somewhere within, we know. The solution may be as simple as gentle persistence, or falling back on the sheer joy of one’s craft while waiting and listening for new insights to appear. By staying with it, you will discover new conditions that bring fresh energy to the process. Zen philosophy teaches that we cannot force anything–but we cannot afford not to try.

“The stakes have now become higher. We are coming closer to home, nearer to ourselves.”

The book again is The Widening Stream, by David Ulrich, published by Beyond Words Publishing, Inc. Hillsboro Oregon (2002). The phone number of the publisher is 1-800-284-9673.

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