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keeping the window open
on creativity, flow, and needing those things, and and a life update!
I arrived yesterday for a week of intensive training in Butoh1, movement, and creative practice. My teacher and I decided to spend this week working together only 10 days ago, and there’s a bit of disbelief in the air that this is even happening. As such, we have no choice but to let the structure of our work emerge — a pursuit I feel affinity for.
Over a seltzer, Marinés explained to me that Butoh as a dance form isn’t about rendering specific shapes or patterns. Rather, it’s about opening a window inside oneself that invites in the presence of creative flow, flow where one has truly no idea what movement, posture, feeling will arise next. And this window isn’t just germane to dance, it belongs to all artists, and all human beings. I’m sure you know this feeling, the feeling when the window opens and stuff just pours through you.
I’ve been chasing it for a long time.
You might notice that I don’t post on here at any regular cadence. Believe me, I have tried. Daily 1000 word practices, social media garbage post challenges, writing groups for accountability. But I think I decided early on that I would only post when the window opens for me. With respect to writing, Full Power-type writing in particular, the window opens a few times per year, and I’m grateful to that anyways, because I get to share the beauty I experience in these moments with you all.
All summer I have been trying to write a post about my relationship with creativity. It would be titled “my energy pattern,” and here is its thesis: my creative spirit has its own flow, and by listening to this flow I can produce more creative works. It would catalog attempts to control and direct this flow, specifically what has worked and (frustratingly) what hasn’t. And it would, in large part, address the importance of humility in one’s creative practice2.
My energy pattern isn’t troubled by any human sense of deadlines, of envy I feel towards other artists, or my sincere desire to monetize and live off my art. While it operates with no urgency most of the time, there are occasional moments where it arrives, furious with energy, demanding I drop everything to create. It’s clear that these are moments where I feel the window is open.
But I have also been learning that one can guide this flow. I only finished my zine project because I organized a launch party for the publication — my feeling of obligation to guests and excitement about the celebration pushed me to completing the publication process one day3 before the party. And recently I’ve been waking up and avoiding my phone for the first hour of the day. Instead, I’m trying to notice sensations across my body, and ask “what wants to arise from this?” So far this has led to more writing.
Marinés said to me: “the aim of our work is not dance, but to create and hold an environment where this window can be opened.” I truly believe that this environment can be cultivated in each of us, and I’ve decided it’s my duty to hold space for the possible opening of windows in myself, and to offer support on that to others.
This morning, while I was in a flow of writing and reflection, my mom sent a voice message that triggered me. I didn’t fully understand the trigger at first, but I was frustrated — I saw the window close right in front of me, and blamed my mother for that. All I could feel was a bubbling of… something in my stomach. This time, instead of getting lost in my frustration as I typically have in the past, I listened to that something, and it revealed itself as anger. Furious, bubbling lava at the base of a volcano that had erupted over and over and still had more burning to do. I was angry in the same way at my mother just one week ago, and for the first time, let her see the anger — let myself see the anger.
This time, I let the anger continue to flow through me, shaking and sputtering, until it gave way to tears. I was sad, a bottomless ocean of anguish over unmet childhood needs and unseen emotions, and as I fell through the water I found myself in a river of fear. Would Amma and I always be this way with one another? Would she run away and deny my feelings if I shared my anger with her? Would I always be so easily triggered by unassuming voice messages?
All through this emotional exploration, the window stayed open. In hindsight, I think it was my willingness to receive my own anger that allowed this force to move through me. I shared openly with my mother, weeping at the difficulty I felt towards my own bodily response, and to my surprise she met me wholeheartedly. Later, while at my first dance lesson I again invited this anger to take hold in my body, and moved from it. I don’t even remember what happened, frankly, but I know that I was in flow, that my body decided what it wanted from me, not the other way around.
In all honesty, it has been a hard summer. I opened the season anticipating more art, more performances, more creative community but I found myself blocked, chasing goals and patterns that a different me had set for myself. Yes, I went to an immersive theater retreat, visited Berlin again to do more poetry and see my friends, and helped organize and attended another Stone Soup. But I have struggled, I think, in large part with my attachment to my creative flow. I almost didn’t write this — it’s not easy to admit that something you and loved ones were really excited for was more challenging than rewarding (though not without both). But I made a personal commitment not to hide the shadow side of my experience, just as I am learning not to hide from my own anger.
Today, while dancing, I had a realization: the fear of the closing of the window is one way to experience the window being closed. Put differently, I have recently been too attached to specific forms and manifestations of my career and life, and I haven’t let myself do what makes me happiest: living creatively.
This week’s training was initially most exciting as a format to grow my facilitation skills — more than anything I want to create spaces where we can open our windows in group settings and witness one another in our unique collective creative spirit. But I also realized that to practice holding that space in others, I have to practice holding it in myself. So I’m releasing a sense of what this training is for and what I will receive from it.
Creativity is all around us, often in unseen places. I didn’t have dance on my bingo card for this summer. But at Kaimera Lab, I did my first ever improvised dance4, I facilitated movement at Stone Soup, and here I am, practicing and learning Butoh. Life is strange, but at this point I know better — when I have plans, my energy pattern may have different ones. Listening to that is a form of being gentle with myself.
Creativity is also better when you have constraints, I guess. I am tired of travel, and ready to root myself at home. From November 1st I’ll be back in the Bay Area5, hopefuly bringing some of what I’ve picked up along the way. If any of you reading this want to get together to talk about facilitating fun experiences, putting on immersive theater, or any other creative pursuit (or you just want to catch up), drop me a line!
I’m excited to continue the process of discovery and my continued dance with flow. Life moves forward.
A dance form originating in Japan, known for its deviant & anti-establishment tendencies, Butoh demands both bodily prowess and improvisational surrender from the dancer
I’m going to release writing this piece, but I still think there’s another similar piece of writing that might be more about exploring the similarities of my experience and what folks report about ADHD
I got my dancer friends to join me in an improv rap circle, and we thought it was only fair I did a dance number too
Spending a lot of time with this quote that basically says “home is not where you were born, it’s where all your attempts at escape cease”