In the final section Standing at Water’s Edge, Dr. Paris addresses the stages of the creative process. Chapter 8 focuses on the first three stages: fantasy, contemplation, and preparation. According to Dr. Paris, entry into the creative state is the result of successfully navigating these stages. It is important to note that while the stages are presented in linear fashion in the book, in reality creative types often move back and forth through the stages multiple times. The intensity and duration of each stage varies. Some creative types will pass through each stage every time and others will pass over stages.
Also important to note is that the ability to immerse is different for everyone and may be different for the same person at various times. Some have no difficulty immersing into creativity and others wrestle with immersion. What is important is to realize the nuances and shifts in your internal and external sense of being-in-connection and how these fantasies and actual lived experiences affect your creative process.
Finally, be aware that moving from one stage to the next can cause anxiety and fear because moving into the next phase means moving into the unknown. This is often accompanied by negative feelings about our selves. It is at these transition points that we need the support of others to keep us going.
Fantasies provide the fuel for creativity. Here we draw on previously discussed relationships (greatness, pleasing, admiration, understanding.) At this stage, creative types know what kind of artistic form he/she will use, but the specific idea, feeling, or experience you wish to convey has not been clarified.
With fantasies of greatness and connection, we hope that our work will be seen, understood, and appreciated. As Dr. Paris points out, it has been argued that the creative process is undertaken in an attempt to enhance or heal the self. A second fantasy is pleasing an admired figure; a parent, teacher, or idol. Here we can gain strength, inspiration, and vitality. Finally, the third fantasy driving creativity is being perfectly understood and appreciated. In this fantasy, we hope our expression of creativity will resonate with others.
So the creative process is ignited when artists find fantasies that “supply hope for self-enhancement or self-cures.” This is usually a time of anticipation for artists. Many people, however, never move beyond the stage of fantasy in the creative process. For some, these fantasies are sustaining enough. According to Dr. Paris, if we view fantasies as fertile ground from which to grow, we can rediscover our passions and creative energy. Here we need to reach out to mirrors, twins, and heroes for support.
In the second stage, contemplation, an artist experiences enough support for a specific artistic fantasy that s/he can move forward and actively think about the project. Here we begin to ask questions such as “what will be the content of the project?” “what emotions or experiences do I wish to convey?” The project now takes on purpose and intent. At this point images of the project begin to emerge and we write down these “creative sparks” in sketches and notes. These images reassure us of our ability to experience total immersion in the future.
Ironically, this stage can also feel like avoidance or procrastination! Why? Because this is a time of incubation. A time to sit with the ideas…which often occur when we’re not focused on the project. In this phase of contemplation artists move from fantasy to reality through commitment to the project. A good affirmation during this phase is to say “I am creating a ____” or “I am writing a _____” or “I am painting a ____” in order to give the project life and move it toward concrete action.
The third stage, preparation, is an attempt to soothe the fear of the unknown through concrete actions and behaviors that function to keep the project alive. Preparation can take many forms including research or taking care of extraneous tasks like cleaning the house, shopping for groceries, cleaning the studio…sound familiar?
Dr. Paris points out that whether the tasks lead to creative immersion or are stalling tactics of procrastination, it is important to understand that these tactics are reflections of fear, not an indication of weakness or inadequacy or laziness.
The preparation stage also consists of self-evaluation and comparison to others. We may run our idea by another person to see if it has merit. Unfortunately this is the time when we may confront deficits or holes in our talent. Now we realize that we need to take a refresher course in our medium or to take a course in an area outside our medium.
Finally, during the preparation phase, we may immerse our selves in other realms such as spirituality, art appreciation, or intimate relationships in order to be restrengthened and to gain confidence as we immerse in our artwork.
Dr. Paris offers the following guides to consider as we approach immersion:
- Identify your current phase in the creative process and evaluate the usefulness of your efforts during each phase.
- Identify and validate the nature of your fears at each transition point. Developing rituals and structures can help with these transitions.
- Turn to others for support. If you don’t have a support system at this time, draw on memories of previously supportive others.
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 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