Creating something whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, a magnus opus or a short poem, we need to find that elusive thing called solitude. It is possible to create when in a busy place surrounded by others and with constant interruptions but Mary Oliver knew how much easier it is if we can rely on having the luxury of a quiet time to ourselves. In her book of essays Upstream Selected Essays, she wrote –
Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.
But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.
As she noted, it’s not always others that interrupt our train of thought. We need to somehow keep our minds focussed on the job in hand and not let our minds wander, drift off along another path which leads to a dead end. This is so much easier said than done.
When learning to meditate many years ago, I was told to acknowledge thoughts that come into my head, then put them to one side and return to the stillness. Occasionally, one of these uninvited invaders might actually be bringing a useful insight – in which case we accept it gratefully!
Sadly, I have only recently come across the work of Mary Oliver but better late …