Our article writer Daisy Leigh-Phippard shares her thoughts on letting go’ and how it aids creativity.
‘Write drunk, edit sober,’ said Hemmingway, supposedly. At first glance it just seems like an excuse to get hammered and claim it on creative inspiration, but whenever I sit down to write – or draw, or lift up a camera – I can’t help but feel it resonate with me. Because everyone’s favourite thing about being drunk is the fact that your internal monologue might actually agree with you for once. Nervous of talking to new people? Hey, everyone’s as out of it as you, it’ll be fine. Want to show off that dance move you saw Beyoncé do in her music video? Go for it, you won’t make a fool of yourself at all. Ready to write that sad poem about your ex you would never do in your right mind? Let’s go for it, you can always delete it in the morning.
I think it comes down to the fact that there’s a strong relationship between the freedom to be creative and a lowered consciousness. I’ve read countless articles and essays about how we engage with films because of the ‘suspension of belief’ our ‘lowered consciousness’ provides when we’re staring at a screen. As much as that sounds like a negative thing when phrased like that, I think the ability to escape into something because we aren’t picking out every tiny detail that’s incorrect is valuable. And the same thing applies to when we’re the ones creating in the first place.
Separating ourselves from the situation helps us to let go and create because we aren’t spending all our brain power on second guessing ourselves and the work. We all know what it’s like to have a deadline hanging like a sword above our heads, and the awareness that it’s dangling there only makes it harder to write the essay or complete the project. If we’re concentrating so much on doing something to the highest standard and putting all these clever things in, then half of our energy is being spent on criticising something that we haven’t even made yet. It’s all very well me joking that the best way to write is to lock yourself in a room with alcohol and chocolate and go on a typing frenzy powered by drunkenness and a sugar high, but there’s some method to that madness.
For a lot of people working late at night (or for me, early in the morning) is the best way to get something done. Whether it’s the calm before the storm of a deadline, or simply procrastination that has left you with an ungodly hour to be productive, a lot of us feel like we produce better work – or at least some sort of work at all – in the transitional times near sleep. I’m not a psychologist so I don’t claim to have any sort of science to back this up, but I think creating is easiest when we’re only half awake because our conscious mind doesn’t have the energy to second guess everything we’re doing; it lets the unconscious creative go wild.
Now perhaps writing drunk and then leaving your sober mind to clean up the unintelligible mess is a bit far for some people, but we all use that feeling of letting go of the worry about what the work will turn out as and just doing it anyway. If you’re a perfectionist like me you probably feel that less than the average person, but we tend to gravitate towards the things that have this affect on us.
Give me an essay about the Cold War or the way Hemmingway used heroism and disillusion in his writing and I can guarantee every other word I write I’ll be scanning back over what I’ve just written wondering if it’s phrased well, is to too pretentious or too dull? But tell me to go write a script about a man reading Hemmingway in an office somewhere in 1960s America, only to fall pray to the tragic arrogance of the protagonists he’s reading about and I will emerge out of my room 24 hours later with a banging headache and a poorly written script. But at least I’ve started somewhere.
We’re told to let go a lot of the time, but we don’t often contextualise that within our self criticisms and work. I’m not encouraging everyone to get painfully drunk and create while trying not to fall over. The point is that when we have the ability to let go of our own hectic expectations and just let our unconscious mind do its work, we end up a lot further down the track than if we were obsessed with making sure the starting line was perfect.
Words by Daisy Leigh-Phippard, Illustrations by Sarah Gomes Munro