I came across a wonderful collection of films by artist (in the broadest sense of the term), Maya Deren. More on her later, but take a look at this site. Astonishing.


Some Metaphors For The Creative Process
by Maya Deren

A creative artist must have, to begin with, substantial reserves in his bank. He must have endured the experiences of life; he must have first earned and deposited his money. Those who have spared themselves the pain and effort of living do not have much in the vault…..

At this point my useful bank metaphor has to be modified….Let us instead imagine that this money is really like books or diaries or records of all we have ever seen, felt, thought, heard, thought, and experienced. The problem of the artist, then, is to rob the vaults only of those riches that are relevant to his need.

The trouble is that these vaults — these archives of the spirit — are not catalogued and cross-indexed. So one begins with the idea; and the intensity of one’s concentration makes, of that idea or concept, a sort of selective magnet which, passed over the mind again and again, draws out the images, sounds. movements, people, reflections, ideas, etc. related to it in kind.

If the magnet is too selective, it will bring up only synonyms and no new, illuminating relationships will be revealed. It is better that it be a little loose, eclectic and liberal so that one starts out with a big choice of possibilities. It is wonderful, of course, to watch a Master at work — and this is what a Zen Master is — when the magnet is of such extraordinary precision that it brings forth the most precisely best and no more and no less. One might even say that Zen is the art of tooling the magnet to its most refined precision and of charging it with the greatest pulling power.

Jazz musicians have, at times, an exquisite precision of selective memory. Pressures, as of deadlinesor critical demand. also serve artists of every kind to release the adrenalin which acts with “inspired” precision. These are usually classified as “improvisations.” But it is hard to be a good bank-bandit, and it has nothing in common with the pseudo-Zenist who, plunging his clumsy, untrained paws into his past as into a grab-bag, comesup with a mess of half-eaten oranges andcockroaches….

–July 21, 1960