Looking at creativity through the lens of a psychologist, May takes readers on a journey of understanding more about their creative encounters and the why behind them. His analysis of the creative process illuminates how we, as subjects, meet our objective worlds to bring new form into being. The form is the creative output of the artistic endeavour. A key argument, which goes against a previous belief of mine, that art is subjective, is that art can never exist in subjective isolation. Instead, the creative encounter is amid two poles; a subjective and an objective pole (cue idea for a future pole work). The subjective pole is the creative act of the conscious person. The objective pole is the artist view of their world. To quote May

“A continual dialectical process goes on between world and self and self and world; one implies the other, and neither can be understood if we omit the other. This is why one can never localize creativity as a subjective phenomenon, one can never study it simply in terms of what goes on within the person. The pole of the world is an inseparable part of the creativity of an individual. What occurs is always a process, a doing-specifically a process interrelating the person and his or her world” (p.50).

This is paramount to my thinking because, ever since starting my PhD and in previous autoethnographic study, I have had to defend my subjectivity. However, whether I bring myself fully into the research or not, I am always, no matter what, also speaking from an external perspective, an objective standpoint that incorporates the world around me. Knowing this, I will be reading more into self as construct over the coming weeks.

Another significant point for reflection is the detailed argument offered around creativity and neurosis. For instance, it reminded me that I am MUCH more comfortable expressing and actualising myself through my art than I am at verbalising self. I speak with my body which, in essence, means I am content with objectifying my body for expression and connection. With this in mind, I am aware that the ramifications of self-objectification, in the context of art, may cause further complication for the artist in terms of increased psychological issues, including depression. If the artist uses their neurosis to create this could be beneficial as there is always psychological stimulus to pull from. However, this does not mean that creative products only come to life because of the artists’ psychological hang ups. That is like saying a cured artist who was once unstable can no longer create art because she/he is well.

Julia Cameron, in her book “The Artists Way” touches on this with references to alcohol consumption. For a long time, Cameron credited her writing to her alcoholic behaviour, deeming being drunk as a space for uninhibited writing and creativity. It was this type of thinking that delayed her from quitting alcohol. However, it wasn’t long after quitting alcohol that she realised her creativity remained and that she found even more clarity and enjoyment. What I would argue against this though, is that a lot of real, authentic art has been built on a process of bringing up repressed pain to the fore. Marina Abramovic, performance artist, states that to be a good artist you need to have experienced pain. Or, alternatively, you must have a life outside of the art you make. The work you create should be based on something integral to your being, something that has made you who you are today. What is that pain (or even pleasure) for you?

Other notes…

A podcast I listed to this week – Elizabeth Gilbert in a conversations with Fearne Cotton. Elizabeth Gilbert is a phenomenal writer who is author to one of my favourite books “Big Magic”. A paraphrased, stand out statement from the podcast is that when you are creating, you are so absorbed in the work that you forget to hate yourself. You forget all of the complexities of being you and you just create. I love being in a creative process for that reason.

What I am watching – How to Get Away with Murder – Annalise Keating is an offense attorney and a power woman who makes me want to clap for her every time she wins a case. Aside from being absorbed in the twisted murder cases, you will be hooked on the way she carries herself and how she handles anyone who tries to undermine her.

Something new I am practicing – I am learning to juggle so I can add it to my cool downs when I have been doing a lot of upper body work. I found this tutorial useful.

I will be back with more notes next week, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook


May, R. (1975) The Courage to Create