forget about passion (& follow this instead)

As I sit down to write this, it is pouring sweet earthy summer rain outside my writing room window. The sky is wild and electric with sharp slams of thunder and jagged streaks of lightning. This weather, this darkened gray stormy weather, is my absolute favorite. Which can only mean we are off to a splendid week ahead. 🙂

I came across so many treasures in the past week. Each made me think more broadly about how culture affects our creative minds, look at my writing in interesting new ways, and challenged my assumptions about what art does for the artist as well as the observer. Here are my top three finds…

1. This article by Megan Abbott about Sylvia Plath and female rage. This is a topic that fascinates me. In countless ways, our culture perpetuates the outrageous idea that women are not supposed to feel anger, let alone express it.  Abbott references Sylvia Plath’s final collection of poems written just before her tragic suicide, Ariel. The poetry in this book burns, it spits, it bites, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.  In her signature cool, measured, sinister manner, Plath confronts and disarms at once.

“What mattered was that I—this well-behaved, compliant young woman—was writing from deeper, darker places, reservoirs of anger and frustration I’d always denied were there.” — Megan Abbott from her article in The Millions, A Mad Woman on Fire: On Sylvia Plath & Female Rage

2. Austin Kleon wrote a thoroughly interesting article Ideas in Cars, Honking, in which he introduces Brian Eno’s ideas about the balance one needs in creativity between surrender and control. He likens the concept to surfing, in the sense that one needs to have the skills (control) to perform the act of surfing, but also— and just as importantly— needs to know when to let go of control and surrender to the rhythm of the waves, to roll with their natural movement. Eno argues that in much of our art we have become too obsessed with control, and we need to focus more on surrender.

“Control and surrender have to be kept in balance. That’s what surfers do – take control of the situation, then be carried, then take control. In the last few thousand years, we’ve become incredibly adept technically. We’ve treasured the controlling part of ourselves and neglected the surrendering part.”
Eno considers all his recent art to be a rebuttal to this attitude. “I want to rethink surrender as an active verb,” he says. “It’s not just you being escapist; it’s an active choice. I’m not saying we’ve got to stop being such controlling beings. I’m not saying we’ve got to be back-to-the-earth hippies. I’m saying something more complex.”

3. This may just be my favorite interview with Liz Gilbert ever.  Here she speaks with the brilliant Krista Tippett in On Being, about forgetting passion, and choosing curiosity over fear instead.

“And it’s a little bit like — gosh, I mean, even the word, “passion,”
has this sort of sexual connotation that you’re — I’m much more interested in intimacy and in growing a relationship, than everything has to be setting your head on fire. And curiosity is an impulse that just taps you on the shoulder very lightly, and invites you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look a little closer at something that has intrigued you. And it may not set your head on fire; it may not change your life; it may not change the world; it may not even line up with previous things that you’ve done or been interested in. It may seem very random and make no sense. And I think the reason people end up not following their curiosity is because they’re waiting for a bigger sign, and your curiosities, sometimes, are so mild and so strange and so, almost, nothing — it’s a little trail of breadcrumbs that you can overlook if you’re looking up at the mountaintop, waiting for Moses to come down and give you a sign from God.”

And so there you have it, my friend. A little snapshot of the artists and ideas that have kept me going this week. Until next time, I wish you an inspired week ahead, and thunder and lightning and coffee and books and charm.

With so much love and gratitude,

Allison Marie

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“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.” – Annie Dillard, The Writing Life