“Whatever happened to me in my life, happened to me as a writer of plays. I’d fall in love, or fall in lust. And at the height of my passion, I would think, ‘So this is how it feels,’ and I would tie it up in pretty words. I watched my life as if it were happening to someone else. My son died. And I was hurt, but I watched my hurt, and even relished it, a little, for now I could write a real death, a true loss. My heart was broken by my dark lady, and I wept, in my room, alone; but while I wept, somewhere inside I smiled. For I knew I could take my broken heart and place it on the stage of The Globe, and make the pit cry tears of their own.”
William Shakespeare in Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” (1996) (from Wikiquote)
Creative people are often chided as living “in their heads”, yet, as aptly put in the quote above. However, I think that a part of them is always apart from themselves, yet watching the world (including the one inside their heads) intensively. There is some kind of meta-process that is always running in the background, and that is pointing out interesting things. It is similar to metacognition (thinking about thinking), but also unconscious at times.
This part apart watches, observes, makes notes, makes connections, and sees new things appear out of the old. It might even point out things about other people’s creative works, e.g., why a book managed to have the effect is has on you, how the author managed to build a huge story with only a few pages, what he did tell in a chapter, what he referred to, and what he only implied.
It does not seem like an ingredient for a happy life, it can spoil some situations. Personally, I find it hard to stop this background process, and only a few things like sleep, sex, (legal) drugs, or some kinds of music can stop it — for a moment. In this moment it becomes possible to live in the moment, until a part takes this observer role again. And I do not want to stop it too often, it provides a very useful perspective.
What do you think — is this something that creative people must have? All creative people, or only a selected subgroup? And are there other ways to be creative?