Open Wounds

T is for Tartarus

Tartarus. The prison of the cyclops and the 100 headed giants and then the Titans. A place of great darkness – a deep, gloomy place, a pit, an abyss used as a dungeon of torment and suffering that resides beneath the underworld.

What is the writer’s Tartarus? What puts chains and shackles on our arms, our legs, our thoughts?

Osho, a spiritual leader from the 60’s-70’s says about creativity, that all children begin life creative and able to be artists, but that society and the way we are taught in school drives this out of us. We are told to color within the lines, not outside; play with trucks or dolls; wear blue or pink; be embarrassed to dance or play sports; that we can read, or can not.

Kindergarten starts the process, standardized tests finish it.

Osho was on to something. I have seen all these cultural beliefs (based on social values, not nature) placed upon my son by teachers, other children, by parents, sometimes even myself. Everyone is influenced by them in some way even if we do not act upon them to the same degree. Conform or be sanctioned (looked at differently, nobody will be friends with you, made fun of, verbal abuse, physical violence).

We start off as creative beings and lose sight of that wonderful freedom, so says Osho. Many think Osho was crazy too. I think he was a mystic, a crazy mystic who journeyed inward.

For me, writer’s block, the inability to write, is a personal Tartarus – a cell in the underworld with a grill that lets in only a sliver of light. It’s like Steve McQueen’s cell in Papillon (one of my favorite books and movies).

Loss of faith in myself and my work and a publishing system that grinds up writer’s and eats them for breakfast helped me to place myself there. I say place myself there because I own that the space is mine. I created it and I have existed in it. It is a part of my process. I know my own process of writing has ebbed and flowed over the 34 years that I have been writing and sometimes publishing. A few years ago I lost faith in myself – in my writing. In Papillon, Steve McQueen paces back and forth, eats cockroaches and water-bugs, talks to himself while his teeth fall out and he waits for his opportunity to escape.

I’m not big on water-bugs or cockroaches, even if they are high in protein. And I’d like to keep my teeth.

What saved me in my cell was that although I couldn’t write much in the way of new fiction and could not start a new book, I could still edit and I could still write other things. I kept my muscles working, even if only a little. I paced in my own way and looked up at the sliver of light that came from the grill.

I wrote blog entries about my son and being a father.

I wrote poetry.

I drew a lot – Faber Castle markers have always been my favorite. What I couldn’t put in words I put in pictures.

Until I found the door to my cell was no longer locked. I pushed it open, looked outside and started writing again. My process had changed. The words have not flowed as easily. But I have a deeper faith in myself. To me that’s the only way to get out. It’s better than waiting for Zeus to get you out. He’s got other things to do. He’s a God after all. And Greek.

21 responses

  1. Great post. I’m now going to read your post on Sisyphus (The rock is my work in progress and I’m the poor bloke – well, gal – trying to push it up the hill).

    April 23, 2012 at 6:29 am

    • Glad you liked the post. Keep rolling the rock up the hill! Best – Joe

      April 23, 2012 at 10:32 am

  2. I really agree with this – our children are SO creative when they are little with everything. I think that’s partly because they have no frame of reference or links to what/how/reality/normailty etc, and make their own, but it is because of this that they are so creative. Then they are told what is what… ‘Grow up’,’ stop dreaming’ ‘that’s not right’ etc are all phrases which should be used sparingly! Society demands rules and that you obey them for the comfort of everyone, but it’s sad that it has to be payed for by a lack of parallel thinking in our children. Because that sort of thing is what is going to save our race on this planet hopefully!

    April 23, 2012 at 8:11 am

    • Glad you liked the post. The funny thing for me is I’m not into no structure for education – as I think structure can through it’s own challenges encourage creativity too but there has to be a balance and we’ve totally lost that through one size fits all education and social norms. Ugh. Best – Joe

      April 23, 2012 at 10:38 am

  3. Are these some examples of your drawings? They’re awesome.

    I’m not sure what my own personal Tartaras would be, but it’s probably pretty dark.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:11 am

    • The drawings are mine. In another life I was pen and ink guy. I love to fool with magic markers, finelines and brush markers. When Max was younger and every day was an opportunity to keep him doing something I carried markers and paper around everywhere we went so he and his friends could always draw. Crayons to markers. I still carry them around – always have.

      April 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

      • I especially like the green alien elephant creature.

        April 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

      • that’s Ganesha dancing on the world and riding his rat. seriously. he rides a rat. how cool is that?

        April 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

      • It doesn’t want to let me reply below, so I’ll just say it here: that’s so cool.

        April 23, 2012 at 11:18 am

  4. GREAT post. I’ve been in that hole myself, and it’s worse than Azkaban. What got me out was last year’s challenge. Just knowing that SOMETHING had to go up there freed me to experiment, and truly just throw posts out into the blogosphere. In my journeys, I’d fallen in with a group of extremely talented writers, and though it was great to have their praise, it intimidated me and made it scary – what if it had been fluke. What if I’m really not a writer, etc. Self-doubt is a majorly mean monster. Then I looked at my tagline, wanna be writer seeks place to vent, practice, and share. PRACTICE. My blog wasn’t about perfection. It was about a work-out. So I’m back. Working out. This month I’m teaching Swedish, my native language. One word a day. Matthew, fellow co-host sent me over, and I’ll be back. When the challenge is over I’m planning on reading all your posts for the challenge. Based on this one, I’m excited to read more.
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

    April 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

    • Tina, nice to meet you! Azkaban is the place. For years I never had writer’s block but the world changes, my life changed and so it goes. It’s good to know you can get out and get back on track. Self-doubt is one of the big monsters all writer’s face in some shape or form. I feel your pain. Glad you liked the post. Best – Joe

      April 23, 2012 at 10:46 am

  5. Fantastic Post! I write about a lot of your concerns on arts education in my blog Main Street Arts. Standardized Testing is my nemesis!

    Go A to Z Challenge!

    April 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

  6. What a pain in the ass. You have to have a wordpress account to comment.

    Anyway, Fantastic post. I write about these issued on my blog, Main Street Arts. Go A to Z Challenge!

    April 23, 2012 at 9:33 am

    • Nope. You figured it out the first time. i got both comments so never fear. Glad you liked the post. I’m going to hop over to your blog in a minute. Best – Joe

      April 23, 2012 at 10:05 am

  7. Great post! Stopping by from A to Z to say ‘hi’.

    April 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

  8. Just wonderful! What I initially thought was going to be a history lesson on greek mythology turned out to be a thorough and well written observation about the creative “cells” and locks that we’re often placed in by society and even sometimes by ourselves. I’m not familiar with Osho or any of his work and now, your post has me curious about this figure, so I may look into learning more about him.

    I’ve never been against standardized tests but then again, I don’t have children either, so maybe if I did, I would look at them differently. I think there could be a healthy balance between the preservation and nurturing of creativity and the development of academic skills. Unfortunately, our society has placed more emphasis on one while dismissing the other.

    So, did you draw that first graphic that features two figures…one with a sword? If so, it’s done rather nicely 🙂

    I have yet to use Faber Castle markers regularly and wonder if it’s due to me being accustomed to using Prismacolor tools. Happy Monday!

    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

    April 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    • Nicole – Good to hear from you and thanks for the comment. The original graphic is way beyond my capabilities but the other two (hiding behind a book and Ganesha) are my own. Osho was a real thought provoking mystic – radical and absoultely crazy (he claims to be enlightened, like the Buddha). His book on Creativity is excellent and his autobiography is a very very good read. Prismacolors are excellent too. I like to have lots of tools in my toolbox. Best – Joe

      April 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm

  9. LOVE the Ganesha pic. You amaze me with all that you can do. *bedazzled for a moment* You know I completely concur about standardizing kids–I just gnash my teeth and keep going forward. Your posts have been so helpful with so much–from writing to inner journeys–joy to you.

    April 23, 2012 at 8:40 pm

  10. I totally get this. Great post!

    April 23, 2012 at 9:44 pm

  11. Great post! I love Greek mythology, so your theme is right up my alley!

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

    April 24, 2012 at 6:24 am

    • J.C. – Glad you liked it! Thanks for the comment – best, Joe.

      April 24, 2012 at 9:42 am

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