“The poet marries the language, and out of this marriage the poem is born.” This beautiful, passionate statement was made by W.H. Auden and it takes us right inside the crucible in which all creative action is born. It’s sexy, it’s spiritual, it makes your heart beat faster, it puts a champagne fizz of excitement into the air. It suffuses everything around with incredible light, so you feel you are seeing the curve of a flower stem or the bubbles in a glass for the very first time.
Such depth, such passion, such focused
rapture is not only the province of poets, though we may need poetic speech to suggest what and how it is. Are you with me now? I am talking about you, and the creative leap you can and will make in the year ahead. I spoke here
recently about the essence of the creative act, which is to bring something new into the world. You may have no earthly idea, at this moment, about how exactly you can do that.
Let me offer some eminently practical guidance, based on what Auden said about the roots of creation.
Start by marrying your field.
What is your field? It’s not work in the ordinary sense, or what your diplomas say you are certified to do, or how you describe yourself in a job resume – although it can encompass all of those things. Your field is where you ache to be. Your field is what you will do, day or night, for the sheer joy of the doing, without counting the cost or the consequences. Your field is the territory within which you can do The Work that your deeper life is calling you to do. Your field is not limitless. You can’t bring anything into creative manifestation without accepting a certain form or channel, which requires you to set limits and boundaries. So your field is also the place within which the creative force that is in you will develop a form.
If you are going to bring something new into your world this year, find the field you will marry, as the poet marries language, as the artist marries color and texture, as the chef marries taste and aroma, as the swimmer marries the water.
Let’s say that you have a notion that your creative act may involve writing. Maybe you even think you have a book, or a story or screenplay in you. For you, marrying the field will require you to marry words, and be their constant lover. You’ll engage in orgies of reading, have tantric sex with a first (or third) draft. You’ll kiss your lover in the morning by writing before you go out into the world, and when you go out you’ll gather bouquets for your sweetheart by collecting fresh material from the call of a bird, the rattle of a streetcar, the odd accent of that guy on the cellphone, that unexpected phrase in the ad in the subway car.
You’ll work at all this, because marriages aren’t always sweet. Some days you may hardly be on speaking terms. Some days you feel your partner hates you or is cheating on you with someone else, maybe the fellow who just got a piece in the New Yorker or is merely in front of the mike in the neighborhood poetry slam. But you carry on. You fetch the groceries. You tuck your partner up in bed at night, and promise to dream together.
And out of this constancy – through tantrums and all – will come that blaze of creation when the sun shines at midnight, when time will stop or speed for you as you will, when you are so deep in the Zone that no move can be wrong. Depending on your choice of theme and direction, you may find you are joined by other creative intelligences, reaching to you from across time and dimensions in that blessed union that another poet, Yeats, defined as the “mingling of minds”.
When the sun no longer shines at midnight, when you are back on clock time, you won’t waste yourself regretting that today you’re not in the Zone. You are still married. You’ll do the work that now belongs to The Work.