telepathy, art and fire

In science fiction, whenever a character develops the ability to hear other people’s thoughts (like Parkman in the show Heroes), they go through an intense struggle to control their gift. If their telepathy is left unchecked, outside thoughts constantly flood in from all around, and they get overwhelmed with all the data. To keep their sanity they have learn how to control it, to turn their telepathy on and off at will. This describes for how I feel about making art. When I am “in the zone”, I quickly get completely absorbed by art. Before I know it, hours will disappear, and the days will fly by. Even after I stop working for the day, my art brain is still chugging along, toying with ideas, searching out patterns and textures. The never-ending flood of data can get too tiring, and I need to try to turn my “art brain” off. The trouble is, when I am not in the zone, I can have an equally hard time getting started. I can go for days, weeks — or sometimes even months — without a creative impulse in sight. Making art from a cold start like this is difficult, nerve-wracking, and a bit scary. I begin to question myself, wondering if that ability I thought I had was just in my imagination.

So like our telepathic heroes, I am trying to learn how to control my special ability. I am trying to learn how to turn on or off at will. I think of it like a glowing ember inside of me, which I want to keep hot without ever going out. I need to be able to make a fire whenever I need it, but I also need to be able to bank that fire, let it cool down without going cold, so that I can get on with my regular life.


I suspect what you are describing is true of most creatives. My solution has always been to go to my favorite location to photograph, a place I feel relaxed, and “rub two sticks together” until some heat develops. If I’m having any success, I’ll continue to try to add oxygen until a full fire is going. My problem tends to be that once a fire is burning hot, I have other responsibilities throwing water on things. I like your analogy Dan, can you tell?

I’ve been fighting that for years, this one has been especially bad. And sometimes the ember flares into a flame when I am not in a place where I can do anything about it – and fades again quickly, leaving me more frustrated than ever.

I work with glass but I am sure the problem is that same with any basically visual medium – when the ember is banked down the medium seems unresponsive and flat and working with it rarely fans that little ember to life.

So now that you have brought this up – please share with us the successes and failures along the road.

Boy, I can really relate to this. Unfortunately my problem is that those embers do go cold and sometimes I feel like I am starting over again. I know keeping them warm is to perhaps keep shooting, whatever it may be, but like you say, other things in life come up. I know my mind is always active in creating even mental images, but even some of that fades once I have a camera in my hand.

Have you developed any techniques to keep the embers glowing Dan?

Seems everyone prefers my fire/spark metaphor over my (I think) cool reference to Heroes. Oh well, I try. 🙂

So, do I have any techniques to keep the embers glowing? Well, a few. It’s a good question. I’ve actually been spending some time over the past few weeks thinking about this, trying to nail down what techniques work for me to keep my creative spark hot. I’ll pull these ideas together, and post them soon. Maybe we can get an exchange of ideas going.