Head versus Heart in the Creative Process
These words are etched deep into my memory, not because they were hurtful or upsetting, but because they struck a chord. These words form one of those seminal points in my life where a fragment of truth joins up with another piece of a giant puzzle and you see something you hadn’t seen before. You know something which you may have already known, but which now, you understand.
The words were shouted at me across a dance studio, in an early morning class at The Place, London, some decades ago. Our teacher, a well-known hero in the contemporary dance lexicon of her time, had set a routine which I was trying to get my head round; walking it though; checking the mirrors in an attempt to co-ordinate the various parts of body movement. I was trying to understand it with my head.
She could see that I was working from the head, from the outside in and not feeling the movement from the inside out. I was disconnected from the spirit of the movement and was analysing the mechanics. She knew how I worked and in that moment, understood more about me than I did about myself. The words struck a chord and have stayed with me.
That little phrase has impacted on my creative process ever since. Head versus heart is a common theme which many artists struggle with and of course, we need both if we are to create anything. Even now when I am working out a plot point or stuck in my writing, I go into myself – into my head to find the answers.
The problem is that my head is a confusing place to spend too much time. It can be overwhelming, like an overstuffed attic where everything I have ever seen, known, heard, or remembered is dumped in no particular order. Memories which sting like barbs alongside the tingling delights which are like nuggets of pure gold. Ideas, thoughts, plans which I can use, alongside the trash I should have thrown away decades ago.
Becoming aware of my creative process has been essential since I became a writer; owning my unique way of doing things and creating some order in my thoughts and memories is a vital part of my process as I complete the first draft of my new novel: The Renaissance of Rafaela Brown, which requires both head and heart.
Knowing when it is time to stop thinking and just do it is a life lesson I am grateful for.