What do you call it when your creativity just seems to flow?
Alison Luterman had an epiphany:
I was singing in a little pop-up chorus this past month. It was a tricky classical piece, and the other women were all looking intently at their sheet music. I don’t really read music, so I ignored the paper and gazed at our teacher, trying to meld my brain with hers. Okay, I know this is going to sound woo-woo, but that night in chorus, watching the teacher’s hands on the keyboard, hearing her sing the parts, my body understood the music on a level my mind couldn’t.
In Interplay we call this “ecstatic following” and we often do it as a group in dance. I remember being introduced to the concept and having an immediate suspicious reaction to it: “Ecstatic following– you mean you surrender your critical thinking? That’s how we end up becoming good Germans and supporting Fascism!” I’m very attached to my critical brain that helps me do crossword puzzles, solve murder mysteries, and participate in spirited debates.
But when I go to sing or to dance or play theater improv games, if I worry too much about what I’m doing, or try to figure it out ahead of time with that same busy brain, I freeze up. I’ve seen some of my students try to scheme and strategize their writing and in the process block their own flow. The writing becomes stiff and wooden, and it feels like a burdensome task rather than an exploration.
On the other hand, it’s good to know some technique. Thanks to an extremely patient musician husband, I can now find middle C on the keyboard and navigate around from there. I know what a scale is. I know the difference between a third and a fourth and a fifth, and on a very good day I can sing them. And all of that is helpful.
So it’s not like Intuition Good, Technique Bad. It’s more like Left Foot and Right Foot, and then Left Foot and then Right Foot again. We need them both.
In many ways I’m a left-brained nerd who loves crossword puzzles, dramatic structure and logical arguments. But that evening in chorus I remembered that my intuition is a resource that I can call on when I need it. I actually do this all the time with poetry, where the leaping and magic that the unconscious supplies are an essential part of the magic. I just didn’t realize that I could also do it with music which I think of as “hard” and something I’m not good at.
We all have this ability to let the energy of doing the thing we love lead us, and that, combined with a deep abiding commitment to love and clarity and truth, can create great work. I just don’t know how to put Intuition on a syllabus or a lesson plan along with handling dialogue or story structure, or metaphors and similes and figurative language. But it is part of the package.