Clive Matson writes from an itch in his body


March 11th, 2012 | Posted by clive in Uncategorized

“Writing workshops are exercises in magic. The entire creative unconscious operates according to its own logic, by definition a logic we know nothing about. When we dip into our creative source, we’re dipping into magic.”

I give this talk every workshop. It opens another dimension of the Crazy Child exercise, where we tell the Editor and the Writer to take a walk, and let the Crazy Child write whatever it wants. In the tropics those voices could head for the beach, try bird-watching, or go climb a tree with the howler monkeys.

In Costa Rica, magic entered the room the moment I finished my spiel. A white moth, an inch-and-a-half wide, fluttered over the heads of the dozen people in our workshop. A gecko came suddenly out of hiding and scurried along next to the ceiling, in position to pounce. The hapless insect flew close to the gecko, and a second gecko appeared, twin to the first, a gray lizard-shaped animal about five inches long, moving adroitly high on the wall. For an instant the moth was poised midway between the geckos, who faced it from either side. We expected to witness the moth’s demise.

Instead the moth fluttered into open space. Flitting this way and that, out of reach of gecko jaws, it seemed oblivious, happy-go-lucky, and why not? It flew in comparative safety. The moth demonstrated the huge size of the creative unconscious: It lives in three dimensions and the geckos, in effect, are confined to two, the surfaces of the walls.

Casual magic is commonplace. How often does the phone ring, when a line is read that mentions the phone? Or a siren goes off, when there’s sirens in someone’s story? Costa Rica gave us a perfect representation of the Editor and the Writer in bad moods, or eager for action, or just hungry for lunch. And the Crazy Child escaped.

In Costa Rica the portal to the creative source is wide. When we did workshops in Scotland and Italy, wonderful as they were, the very things we love about Europe limited access. The portal felt crowded with cathedrals, museums, castles, and hundreds of years of tradition. But Costa Rica is Central America, it’s the new world and not much nibbles around the edges of any portal. A wide open sky with very little history we’re aware of, with sunsets you can walk into, hosts of exotic and colorful birds, a tribe of monkeys in the trees, a green flash almost every night as the sun sets, and a warm ocean that lets us swim freely and soaks away our doubts. It’s all as vast and as intriguing as the creative unconscious itself.

The geckos might have commented, with their crisp calls, “clack-clack-clack” a half second apart, on what we were saying at the workshop. They did call from their hiding places, but I didn’t notice any sort of fit. Afterwards I walked to my room, and the howler monkeys were talking. “Uhhgg-uh-uhmnhg-mnh” they called out in the trees, an extremely loud, dinosaurial sound like nothing else. You don’t have to go through a portal to hear these guys.

Do they speak for my creative unconscious? The calling continued into the night. If I could translate that “Uhhgg-uh-uhmnhg-mnh” I’d put it in a poem.

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