Synchronicity, Martha Graham, and me

Confession time: earlier this year, I experienced a real, full-on writer’s block. Not a fun place to be, and the worst thing was that the longer the block went on, the more I knew I needed to do something to break through it and I needed to do it on my own. I admit that I’m a bit of a lone wolf at the best of times and that isn’t always a good thing, but in this case, any helpful advice I received just seemed to add to the heaviness I felt whenever I thought about writing (this is not to say that I’m not terribly appreciative of advice and support, though!)

Funnily enough, the breaking point for this block came from something an alternative health practitioner I was seeing for my fibroids suggested. There’s a theory in alternative health circles that fibroids and ovarian cysts are connected to blockages in creativity, and my practitioner suggested I dig out my copy of the The Artist’s Way and work through some of the exercises, just to see what shook loose.

Well, shake loose, indeed. That block has been eroded and boy, did were there ever a lot of words dammed up behind it!

Anyhow, synchronicity. That’s what I wanted to write about. Julia Cameron talks about synchronicity a lot in The Artist’s Way, and it’s one of those concepts I’ve always believed in, the idea that things fall in place when they should and not before, and there aren’t any short cuts (foo), and all that. What I like about the concept of synchronicity is that it’s not passive – in order to recognize those moments of “Aha!”, one has to be watchful, and ready to act (and learn) when those moments appear. And, the other thing is that those moments aren’t accompanied by angel trumpets and heavenly music – they’re hard, stark, honest moments when somehow, I’m able to see my truth. Often, they’re “be careful what you wish for moments” too!

So, the other day, I had a moment of synchronicity. I was out running errands, listening to CBC as I drove from one place to the next. Jian Gomeshi was interviewing an author (whose name I can’t remember) about his new book, and why he wrote it, and the author quoted a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille. Agnes de Mille, who was enjoying the success of choreographing things like ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ on Broadway, wrote to Ms. Graham, asking her if she was spinning her wheels, wasting her talent, selling out, that sort of thing. And Ms. Graham wrote back with the following:


There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive.

Ah, I thought. Yes. If I hadn’t gone through that block, I wouldn’t have opened The Artist’s Way, and if I hadn’t opened the Artist’s Way, I wouldn’t have read about synchronicity and blockages and how to heal, and if I hadn’t done that, I might not have hopped in my car the other day to go out searching for waxed thread for book binding (because I probably wouldn’t have taken that book binding class) and if I hadn’t been in my car, I wouldn’t have been listening to that interview and would never have known about the letter Martha Graham wrote.

But the point is: I was, and I did, and here I am. Keep the channel open. That’s my job. And march to the tune of that blessed unrest.

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