The phrase/title has been echoing in my head: What Lies Beneath - because of London smoke-friend and her recent blog post, and yes I know it is also the title of a horror film that I never saw. The blog post speaks about an art exhibition beneath Waterloo station that I would love to see, but it ends today and getting to London is for me in any case, you know, a big deal so I don’t do it much. It is a literal underground place - but also speaks some larger message “about the dank, dirty, unexplored places where art comes from, under ground, under consciousness...”
I have been thinking about this recently in connection to my own writing project (see how I shy away from the word ‘novel’). It draws deeply from my own, early life which was, as I experienced it, full of magic but also full of danger and darkness. In her book, Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise de Salvo cautions against being too casual about dipping your pen into the vein of troubled experience. I picture a manhole, the cover of which is lifted - and out come the monsters and creatures that you never expect to see above ground, and you are suddenly defenceless, disarmed, made small and weak again by their potent presences. I think one of the reasons I loved Buffy the Vampire Slayer was that it covered this terrain and drew on powerful archetypes. At some point you probably, if you are going to Make Art, have lift the cover or go down there because the underground life will undoubtedly find a way of making its presence felt, will emerge from the Beneath and challenge you to engage with it or go dry and wordless - and if you write, you can’t have that. How to do that, and have the right defences in place so that you are not overwhelmed, is a challenge and not for the faint-hearted.
The creativity coach, Eric Maisel says that an artist is someone who must learn to manage her/his emotions and if there is any truth in the notion that artists tend to be several skins short of a a sausage then it is particularly important that they learn to do this sooner rather than later. I am doing it later, but never mind. You have to begin where you are, and I am here, at the tail end of my fifties, raw and undisciplined (still), and I never learned how to kick-box. What I did learn, by hook or by crook, and by deep immersion in fairy tale, was to trust the story - that it would take you to the place where you needed to go, and that it would, if you allowed, stay with you and be your sword; and how, if you undertook to make a journey, you would find helpers en route. And how if you found yourself out in the dark forest completely naked, the stars would see you and throw down their gold.