The Murder of Creativity–How Dreams Uncovered the Crime

“Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse

Henri Mattisse “The Dream”

Last night I over-dreamt. I feel as if I attended an all-night movie where none of the “shorts” were related.


“The creative adult is the child who survived.” Ursula Leguin

My last dream memory is of lying on my left side, nestled under the covers, my face buried in my pillow. A girl’s voice calls to me, “Auntie, Auntie.” (Auntie had a last name but it is lost to me now.)
I raise my head. A child of five or maybe eight years, sits on the floor facing me, her back against the wall.
“Bethany?” I ask. “What are you doing here?” Vague now. It seems I am supposed to be babysitting Bethany and one or two other children.

I wake up. Other dream pieces materialize.

I am still lying in bed. A distraught man comes to me. Says that his prostrate is burning. I tell him, “Get the bag of frozen peas, the one with the large blue X on the front, and put it over your genitals.” He refuses. I say, “Your only choice then is to go to the hospital emergency.”

In the last remembered fragment, I am in a large, unfamiliar house. Horizontal wooden planks, weathered to a brown-grey, line walls, floors, and ceilings. I wander from room to empty room looking for an exit. I come into a small vestibule with a door leading outside. An older man enters—a brimmed hat shrouds his face. I know he’s a police detective. I say, “I am known to have prescient dreams,” and tell him the name of the murderer was revealed to me in a dream; however, it is up to him to find the proof.

**********************

It is now a few hours later. I have eaten breakfast, been for a long, cold walk with my dog and fielded a phone call. But, the dream images peek out from behind other thoughts, play on my mind, keep me from being fully present. I realize that the day will go badly if I don’t “do something with them.”

Keeping in mind that 99% of dream images are aspects of the dreamer, here I go.

Dream #1
Associations

For every image in a dream, the unconscious can provide associations that explain that image’s meaning. Every word, idea, mental picture, feeling or memory that spontaneously arises in relation to an image is written down.


Bethany
Bethlehem Christmas Jesus Baby Beth Epiphany A saviour A new beginning

Young girl 5 or 8
What was I like at that age? What did I value? What did I believe?
Move to new house. Tomboy. Grade 2. My own bedroom. Windows too high. Couldn’t see out unless I stood on the bed. Snakes in window wells. Summer. Tree-climbing. Adventurer.

Back against a wall
No where to turn, a desperate situation

Auntie
Auntie Mame—looked after young boy. My aunties—hardly knew them. Who am I an aunt to? Nieces and nephews live far away. Auntie Blanche—Marilyn’s fake aunt—jealous. Someone who is supposed to take care of children? Not a mother. A loving care-giver. I am sleeping—neglecting my duty.

Title: The neglectful care-giver.
Theme: Failure to take care of business
Feelings: Surprise! I didn’t realize what was expected of me
Questions: What have I been neglecting? What young-girl part needs attention? How would taking care of this be a new beginning?

Research:
The most famous Bethany was a village on the eastern slope of Mount Olivet, about three kilometres from Jerusalem. It’s where Jesus’ three friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus lived, and where the latter was raised from the dead (John 11:18).

It seems that I am on the right track. I remind myself that all dreams in a night, however dissimilar the imagery, are related in theme.

Dream #2
Associations:
A distraught man
My husband? My inner masculine? He’s about my age. The active inner force. The doer (as opposed to the dreamer). The man who gets things done.


Prostrate
Gland. Sperm production. Reproduction. Ability to produce children. Symbolically, the source of new ideas (children).
But, it is on fire, burning up, too hot. Destroying what is inside? Not being used? Seed is not being released. Pent up. Source of cancer.


Bag of frozen peas
urine? Pee? Bag—testicles? Large blue X—not good anymore?
The solution I offer won’t cure the problem—just freeze it for a while. Inner man rejects it.
Go to emergency—is it an emergency? Are things worse than I perceive?

Title: the burning prostate
Theme: the danger of neglecting one’s creativity
Feelings: once again, I feel aloof, not emotionally engaged with the problem.

Questions: How can I get the creative juices flowing again?

Dream #3
Associations:
Unfamiliar house
a place I have never been, an unrecognized place in myself


Large empty rooms
no furnishings=no ideas, no inner furniture, bleak


Weathered wood

feminine, natural material, usually outdoors, how did it weather inside? The feminine is old, tired but still holding up, still strong

Seeking an exit
I am lost inside this barren space, need to escape

Police detective
someone who solves crimes, the part of me that can help me out of the bleak house, my conscience
Prescient dreams
dreams that foretell, a consciousness of something beforehand, I know the murderer but my conscience will have to prove the guilt.

Title: the murder of creativity
Theme: problem solving
Feelings: sadness about the old house and the empty rooms, lethargy as I wander, hope when I meet the detective. ( Frustration when I woke up and wondered why my unconscious chose the word “prescient” because my conscious self didn’t know its meaning.)
Questions: How will my conscience solve the problem? Who/what did murder my creativity? Self-doubt? How do I restore my belief in mySelf?

Wow! That exercise, as time-consuming as it was, proved not only helpful, but necessary.
For almost two weeks, I procrastinated about writing. Found excuses at first and then retreated into inane NetFlix dramas. Killing time. Killing creativity.

The solution, of course, is to write. Simply write. No matter how uninspired. No matter how crudely done. The simple act of writing restores us to ourselves.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” Sylvia Plath

The Writing Teacher

It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”

Albert Einstein

On a Saturday in mid-March 2016 my writing teacher died. Susan was fifty-four. She had not only lived fourteen years longer than the doctors had predicted, she had lived her days as if she would never die—full of optimism, determination, humour and sometimes rage.

***

In the fall of 2015, two weeks before my 68th birthday, I signed up for a creative writing course being offered through the local seniors college. The journey began with a locked door on a frigid Thursday afternoon. The church secretary had forgotten us. We stood, seven or eight of us, backs to the wind, crumpled inside our insufficient clothing. I looked at people’s shoes. What type of older woman wears bright pink Mary Janes or fashionable but stalwart brown leather hiking boots? I had on my perennial Birkenstocks—with socks.

Twenty minutes later, the apologetic late-comer opened the door. Susan’s friend helped her and her paraphernalia—computer, briefcase, refreshments—into the classroom..

Around the long table we sat. Introduced ourselves. An artist. A businessman. A teacher. A traveler. Not surprisingly, the artist wore the fuchsia Mary Janes, the traveler the brown leather boots. Susan’s turn came. A published writer—poems and short stories. Wryly funny. Knowledgeable. Articulate. I knew that I was going to enjoy these Thursday afternoons.

When we read our work, Susan read hers. Bits and pieces came together. A car accident at sixteen. A quadriplegic. The illnesses, hospitalizations, pain. She never dwelt on those. Always the elfin grin, the bright eyes, the optimistic spirit. These were what we saw. Not the withered body. Not the twisted limbs. Not the wheelchair.

Susan bubbled information. Best books for memoir, poetry, story-telling. Writing workshops, publishing, writers’ groups. She inspired confidence. Guided our journeys. Proof-read. Edited. Made suggestions. Laughed. Mused. Pontificated. She wrote not of suffering or pain, but of beauty and joy—the perfect “amethyst day.”

After Susan died, I stopped writing. Two months passed. Then, I dreamed of three women. One lost in grief; one lacking self-confidence; one unable to commit to anything. The grieving woman had given up waiting for me and left. The woman short on self-esteem reminded me of my youth—the little girl who could never do anything well enough. I needed to let her and her uncommitted friend go. I needed to be courageous, determined, confident. I needed to open myself to joy. I needed to be like Susan.

I picked up my pen and began.

Susan’s Mom with Dahlias