An Itch to Scratch


Does the same person ever “wow” and also frustrate your Creative Self? When I want to chew on the sore tooth of How Creative I Have Not Been, I think of 18th-century novelist Samuel Richardson. I love him: he’s one of the first novelists in the English language, and he’s epic and awkward, complex and beautiful, and tender and humorless, and he wrote, among other things, three versions of the 1500-page Clarissa. Now, SR had a day job as a printer and a large family and household. 1500 pages. Three versions. Without. A. Keyboard. I can just hear the dip-and-scratch-and-dip-and-scratch of…what, a sharpened feather?! And what have we accomplished this week, O CPTs?

Recently I found another Inspiration who is a little overwhelming, the genius dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp, who wrote The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. Fascinating woman. Fabulous book. She is a CFT enough for three lives; it is her whole life. I can’t copy her all-consuming habits of art, and I’ll write about that in another post, but I’d like to quote her on the Creative Process:

Everything that happens in my day is a transaction between the external world and my internal world. Everything is raw material. Everything is relevant. Everything is usable. Everything feeds into my creativity…I have a habitual routine to keep me going. I call it scratching. You know how you scratch away at a lottery ticket to see if you’ve won? That’s what I’m doing…digging through everything to find something…Scratching takes many shapes. A fashion designer is scratching when he visits vintage clothing stores…An architect is scratching when he walks through an art quarry…You can scratch through books…It’s primal, and very private. It’s a way of saying to the gods, “Oh, don’t mind me, I’ll just wander around in these back hallways…” and then grabbing that piece of fire and running like hell.

She starts with some basic useful statements, ends up talking to the gods, and showers sparks of creative Possibility on busy CPTs, reminding us the everyday, ordinary world is flammable, so set it on fire like the sacred gift it is. So far, I have blog-scratched the Community Gardens in my local park, Facebook, and my home, scratched all over the Boston Public Library, and scratched my friends. I just scratched my friend’s cat. I’m scratching Samuel Beckett, children’s books, a former professor, a hamster, and much of the eighteenth century. In my poetry, I see I have scratched everything from tree bark, to a documentary on Roman catacombs, to film noir, to a parking lot, to Lizzie Borden. And then I “wow” myself a little, and my world “wows” me, no matter how frustratingly Uncreative they can both seem some days. I make these silly lists, my attempt to express how dazzling and interconnected I find the world, but the truth is, the blog-scratching is helping the poetry. Being aware that I’m always scratching for the blog is lifting my writing up in all kinds of ways. A layer of rust and doubt crusted the poems lately, but I find it can be scratched off. So the blog scratches the poetry’s back, and the poetry, I’m sure, will scratch the blog’s in ways I don’t know yet. Who could ask for more as a CPT than to have one Creative Path support another? Thanks, Twyla.


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