In the pantheon of archetypes I believe there must be an archetypical writer that has written everything that will ever be written. We, the ones who come after, are only reforming the things that pass from formless, into form and back into the amorphous. If this is true, how do we access the inchoate idea and then make it palpable and hopefully palatable?
I think Samuel Taylor Coelridge may have had an idea of where we go as writers to find our blobby, shapeless notions as to form them into inspiration and finally coherent passages when he wrote:
If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awoke – Ay! – and what then?
Borges thinks Coelridge is referring to the idea of generations of lovers who have begged for a flower as a token of love. He thinks that this idea is a means to one end, the ultimate – to reach heaven and return with a flower would be like a Buddhist reaching Nirvana or full enlightenment; Borges’ eyes this idea as of little use beyond its fanciful end.
Is the creative process not a dream? The flower is a metaphor for a poem, a book, a song or a painting. In inspirational flight, we move to higher realms and are gifted with a phrase, or if we are lucky, a whole poem or book.
Coelridge is famous for his poem Kubla Khan, which he said was sent to him in its entirety in a dream. Although the vision incorporated 200-300 lines, he was only able to put down 30 lines before he was interrupted. Apparently, he dreamed this dream after having read Samuel Purchas’ description of a palace built by Kubla Khan and having taken “two grains of opium”. In a twist of the story, Coelridge found out some years later that Kubla Khan too, had had a dream of the design of the palace.
Where do we go as artist to create? Is it too much to imagine that we reach another place and come back to instruct through art? Is it safer to say that our practical experience in life and education has gifted us with our most precious piece?
I have dreamed dreams and years later lived that dream in reality, almost verbatim. I have dreamed phrases and later realized that I had no idea how they got there.
Where have you been and how did you get there?