Standing at Water’s Edge: Moving Past Fear, Blocks, and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Immersion by Anne Paris, Ph.D, arrived on the scene in 2008 and became an instant hit and highly recommended among many artists. Paris is a “clinical psychologist who specializes in helping artists and other creative people reach their potential.”
I remember reading an excerpt online in 2008 and being instantly drawn to the book. I received it as gift later in the year and promptly put it on my bookshelf. This often happens with the many books I want to read. Buy them, shelve them, sometimes forget about them, and eventually read them.
I believe, however, that a book comes to us, or we remember it and read it, when we need it. Such is the case with this book.
After witnessing some curious messages from the universe last week, I remembered this particular book, pulled it off the shelf and read the sleeve. Then I sat down and read the introduction. The introduction alone hooked me and I started reading the book in earnest late last week.
My intention is to share with you my learnings and a-ha moments as I read the book. If you’re feeling stuck, dealing with fear (of failure, of success, of getting started, of moving forward, etc), or struggling with blocks to creativity, I think you’ll enjoy this book and hopefully find it beneficial.
Chapter One: The Challenge of Immersion
In this chapter, Anne Paris defines creativity as coming from a state of experience she calls “immersion.” That is, an experience of total connection and engagement. You know, being “in the flow” or “in the zone.” And we’ve all experienced that. Paris further explains that the experience of immersion can be found in many realms: creativity (artistic expression), spirituality, intimate relationships, play, learning, parenting, and psychotherapy.
As Paris states “It is not the activity, per se, that generates immersion, but the doer’s internal state and engagement that define it.” However, it can be quite frightening to immerse ourselves in an activity. Instead, we often choose not to dive in, protecting our vulnerable selves but diminishing our sense of aliveness and connection.
Can you relate to that? Sounds like our friend fear is at work here. In this chapter, Paris also describes several universal fears that block immersion: fear of letting go, fear of loss of control, fear of annihilation, and fear of emotions.
So we have the immersive state, or being in the flow. Then we have fear of immersion due to blocks. The other player in this is what Paris calls “disengagement” or the time when we evaluate our work and perhaps feel threatened by judgment. This is when we are out of the immersive experience, perhaps after we have finished a piece of work. If we feel inadequate during this period, we need to find other sources of immersion, such as play, relationships, and so forth, in order to restore our energy. This, in turn, rejuvenates us and allows us to reengage with our artwork.
At the end of this chapter, Paris offers three guides that summarize the chapter and offer suggestions for working through the challenge of immersion. These include: making immersion the goal, accepting movement in and out of immersion, and engaging in alternative realms of immersion.
I had several a-ha moments when reading this chapter and several pages are marked in red ink with notes and underlining. My most significant a-ha moment, however, came when reading guide #3, engaging in alternative realms of immersion. I have always had some difficulty transitioning back to work after a vacation. In the last couple of years, this has become even harder.
What I realized by reading chapter one is that when I am on vacation, I am totally immersed in the vacation. The end of vacation represents the time of disengagement. It often takes me 2-3 days before I can get my groove back and work in the studio. What I need to do is engage in some other immersive activity that will assist me in getting back into the studio (something other than sitting like a lump in front of the computer, if possible :-))
This realization was like a light bulb going off for me. It has helped me to stop blaming myself for being lazy when this period of disengagement occurs. I’m not being lazy, I’m just working through the disengagement from one immersive experience to re-engagement in another immersive experience.
I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.
Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:
Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion
Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines
Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry