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How anxiety fuels creativity, Nabokov on inspiration


Stashed in: #inspiration, Creativity, Optimism, Brain, Awesome, Writing!, @brainpicker, Anxiety, Helen Keller

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Nabokov cites John Shade, the narrator in his 1962 novel Pale Fire:

blockquote.png"I am puzzled by the difference between two methods of composing: A, the kind which goes on solely in the poet's mind, a testing of performing words, while he is soaping a third time one leg, and B, the other kind, much more decorous, when he's in his study writing with a pen. In method B the hand supports the thought, the abstract battle is concretely fought. The pen stops in mid-air, then swoops to bar a canceled sunset or restore a star, and thus it physically guides the phrase toward faint daylight through the inky maze. But method A is agony! The brain is soon enclosed in a steel cap of pain. A muse in overalls directs the drill which grinds, and which no effort of the will can interrupt, while the automaton is taking off what he has just put on or walking briskly to the corner store to buy the paper he has read before. Why is it so? Is it, perhaps, because in penless work there is no pen-poised pause . . . Or is the process deeper, with no desk to prop the false and hoist the picturesque? For there are those mysterious moments when, too weary to delete, I drop my pen; I ambulate – and by some mute command the right word flutes and perches on my hand."

He then affirms the notion that creativity is subtraction, echoing legendary French polymath Henri Poincare's famous credo that "to invent is to choose and speaking to the essential role of editing, or filtering, inspiration:

blockquote.pngThis is, of course, where inspiration comes in. The words which on various occasions, during some fifty years of composing prose, I have put together and then canceled may have formed by now in the Realm of Rejection (a foggy but not quite unlikely land north of nowhere) a huge library of scrapped phrases, characterized and concorded only by their wanting the benison of inspiration.

Anxiety might be good for creativity, but it is still a fundamentally unpleasant feeling.

Good connection!

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