by Stephen Nachmanovitch

The freedom to create is a fruit of personal growth and evolution. In the creative life cycle we pass through at least three stages: innocence (or discovery), experience (or the fall), and integration (or rejuvenation or mastery). Birth, blockage, and breakthrough. This passage is not, of course, a single and straight line; developmental phases are complexly shifting and interloping throughout our lives.

In our original state of innocence, creativity evolved out of the child’s primary creative experience of disappearing - pure absorption in free play. But eventually we experience life’s battles, the list of evils that seem to come intrinsically woven into our existence on earth, as well as the internal and impedimenta of fear and judgement. Sometimes before we can reach a breakthrough to clarity we live through a dark night of the soul. Sometimes we are able to transcend innocence-and-experience and achieve a renewed innocence. The mature artist comes back around, spiral fashion, to a state that resembles child’s play, but which has been seasoned by the terrors and trials it took to get there. At the end of the journey “costing not less than everything,” writes T.S. Elliot, 

We shall not cease from exploration,

and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

and know the place for the first time.

from Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts


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