“All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality.” – George Orwell, “Why I Write”
Photo by SSH
My friend Katherine’s thoughtful and provocative comment on my previous post deserves another post, not just a comment that will get lost at the bottom of the page. She makes a strong case for living from the heart, not the head. I certainly wasn’t trying to suggest that all writers are rational; for many creative people, quite the opposite case might be made!
There is no question now – science seems to be bearing this out – of the strong connection between heart and mind. The heart, in fact, contains about 40,000 neurons which help to regulate, by way of the limbic system, many brain functions. Fascinatingly, the experience of heart transplant patients suggests that memories and feelings are also stored in the heart (as well as throughout the nervous system). So the wisdom of the ancients that Katherine refers to was wise indeed.
Defining the role of heart in the creative process is a daunting challenge. It’s something we feel more readily than we can describe. The first time I felt it was at the piano – the Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 no. 1. After almost 10 years of piano study, I played this piece very well, so well in fact that I felt I personally could bring something to the interpretation. But there was one evening when I was sitting at the piano in the darkened living room – with just the light over the keyboard – when I became so profoundly involved in the music that it felt for one magical moment as if Shubert were playing through me and I lost all sense of who I was; my heart was full. I now understand this as living in the moment – heart, mind and soul all perfectly synchronized with something much larger than myself.
Some would describe such experiences as divine, but I don’t think it’s necessary to insist on the divine nature of the human creative process. What we do need to recognize, however, is that without that capacity to get inside the moment – the moment of heart, if you will – our art will be missing an important component in our communicating with others; something of the potential connection between writer and reader will be lost.
© Sandra Shaw Homer, 2015
Photo by Marten Jager