“Writers Live inside their Heads”: Further Reflections

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

Photo by Marten Jager

About SSH

Philadelphia native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Cornell, Shaw Homer has lived in Costa Rica for over 30 years, where she has taught languages and worked for environmental NGOs. In addition to writing for the local press, her fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in both print and on-line literary and travel journals, as well as on her blog, writingfromtheheart.net. Her travel memoir, Letters from the Pacific, received excellent Kirkus and Publishers Weekly reviews. Her most recent book is Evelio’s Garden: Memoir of a Naturalist in Costa Rica. She and all her books can be found at www.sandrahomer.com.

2 thoughts on ““Writers Live inside their Heads”: Further Reflections

  1. Marten Jager says:

    Well said Sandy. It’s hard to define the creative process. It is something we all experience in our own way. For many, that process is free of thought – in the moment. I think it would be hard to disengage the thinking brain as a writer when it comes to thinking up topics to write about; however, I feel that the act of writing can be focused, flowing and as in the moment as playing violin or painting. Then there comes editing.
    When I play guitar it usually works best if I turn my mind off. Which is one of the reasons I like it so much. If I play stuff I’ve written it is usually pretty structured and I know what is coming. Not to say it doesn’t sound a little different every time; but when I get lost in new territory, or am making new sounds playing something I have no intention of remembering or recording, it is really gratifying.
    I don’t know what is involved: heart, head, mind, body? Maybe its just the awareness that comes, when you are in the process of crafting something that deeply resonates with oneself.

    • SSH says:

      I really like the idea of “something that deeply resonates with oneself,” Marten. That’s when everything comes together in the moment and you profoundly know you’ve hit the right note — in writing as well as music!

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