I've been reading In Search of Memory, The Emergence of a New Science of Mind, by Eric Kandal (WW Norton & Co, New York, London, 2007). It fascinates me that the same process which allows a snail to "learn" to withdraw its tail when a sharp pin prick is applied, also allows me to write. My creativity, my imagination, is merely the movement of protein within nerve cells and then between them through synapses.
As the snail "learns" to associate a loud noise with the pain of a needle and then to withdraw its tail at the sound only, that synaptic connection reforms and grows stronger. And the more I am creative, the more I write, the more my neural pathways undo and re-tie themselves to increase and concentrate the imaginative links and leaps which fuel what I am doing.
We are complex beings made up of many, many simple chemical reactions.
Kandal posits that the connections between neurons is genetically and developmentally determined, but it is experience which specifies whether these contacts will flourish and become robust. "This view implies that the potential for many of an organism's behaviour is built into the brain, ... however, a creative's environment and learning alter the effectiveness of the pre-existing pathways, thereby leading to the expression of new patterns of behaviour." (Kandal page 202).
Which confirms in scientific speak what we artists know in our soul, we become creative by being creative and by taking risks which break the "shoulds" and "have to" neural pathways imposed by others.
A woman who attended some of my poetry workshops sent this poem to me recently. It was heart-warming to read and also reminded me why I do the work I do. I reproduce it here with her permission.
Coming Out I came out in class today. It was quite a revelation. Something I thought I'd never do, Was share my inner thoughts with you. I wrote alone, in the dark, behind the closet door, Putting pen to paper and writing words Which were never meant to see the light of day. Or be revealed to anyone other than myself alone. I thought I'd never be able to say the words out loud. But today, I found my voice. I thought I'd never show you my bare throat Or expose my anguish for public gaze. I thought it would be easier to remain within the closet. But you have shown me that it is good to share And that we all have something worthwhile to say. And that is why I came out today.
I do, however, write about my own experience of counselling. This was a poem I wrote some years back about my relationship with my then therapist. It echoes, of course, with the poetry of the wonderful Anne Sexton.
Mr H with inspiration from Anne Sexton
I call you comfort because you comfort me, I call you guide because you guide me. I call you Mr Rescue Inc as well.
And you call me?
I need you. I lack the required hope. My weaknesses unfold, a child’s picture book with clever devices to hide and then reveal and then hide again.
I call you companion. You came with me to the water’s edge, held my hand as I paddled, flung out the life buoy.
We snapped crab claws do you remember? Searched for pearls in the seaweed. You must recall that.
I fell at the rocks sliced my hands and feet so there were pools of blood amongst the star fish.
Are you unstained by our journey? No salt tides on your suit?
Why do you never slip? Unsoiled, ungrazed by our voyage through grime.
Each time after I scrub myself pink with a cruel brush, comb silver fish from my hair, drag eyeless eels from my ears, anoint myself with the heavy oils of myrrh, rub myself with lime, wrap myself up in purple and silver to cover over the debris.
I have you under my fingernails whispering in my head.
Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment
A new book by Kate Evans exploring creative ways for overcoming blocks to writing especially for those working in the academic environment. Aimed at students with essays, theses and reports to write, academics with articles or books they want to get out there and supervisors supporting anyone who is having a hard time putting words on the paper. See http://www.sensepublishers.com/ & www.amazon.co.uk
Healing Words: six linked one day workshops exploring creative writing
Aimed at writers working in therapeutic environments or with vulnerable groups or health professionals who want to bring writing into their practice. Themes covered: storytelling; poetry; metaphor; embodied writing. Dates: Saturdays in 2013, 9th March, 1st June, 27th July, 21st September, 23rd November and 18th January 2014. Participants can do all six or choose to attend specific ones. Workshops will be held in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Continuing Professional Development hours will be awarded. Tutor: Kate Evans, writer, UKCP registered counsellor and Lapidus member. For more information, please contact Kate on email@example.com.
All the poetry & writing in this blog, copyright Kate Evans, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. For comments, questions or permissions please use email from my website: http://www.writingourselveswell.co.uk/.
Photos by Mark Vesey
Many of the names used in this blog have been changed and the dates & places of events have been disguised in order to preserve confidentiality.
I am a writer and a UKCP registered psychotherapeutic counsellor. I facilitate writing workshops. I am personally and professionally interested in the link between creativity and good mental health.
Visit my website: www.writingourselveswell.co.uk
Poetry The Peasholm Magic Lantern, Coastival 2009
Haiku & photo exhibition, Nutmeg Cafe, 2010
Words in My Head, Woodend, Coastival 2011
Books Contribution to Writing Works, a resource hadnbook for therapeutic writing workshops and activities eds Gillie Bolton, Victoria Field & Kate Thompson. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2006.
Articles The Poetry of Therapy, Therapy Today, December 2009 (reprinted Counselling Today NZ)
Outside Life: Edith Sitwell, Poetry News, Winter 2010
Writer's Block: a reflective literature review, The European Journal of Qualitative Research, Summer 2011
The chrysalis and the butterfly: a phenomenological study of one person's writing journey, Journal of Applied Arts & Health 2011
'Finding the unexpected': an account of a writing group for women with chronic pelvic pain (co-authored with Dr Lesley Glover), Journal of Poetry Therapy May 2012