On 10/2/11, I delivered a 90-minute presentation at Imagery International’s annual conference. My topic was Using Guided Imagery To Overcome Creative Blocks. In it, I mapped eight stages of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey onto the creative process. To illustrate the eight stages, I shared a tale from The Odyssey, I discussed how each stage relates to the creative process, and for each stage I shared questions for reflection, and explained one or two imagery techniques that I find helpful. I will post notes from my presentation in parts here. Click here for the series of entries.
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Refusal of the Return—Odysseus’ Story
Fairly early in his adventures, while lost at sea, Odysseus and his crew end up as guests of the wind god, Aiolos. As they are getting ready to leave his island, Aiolos bestows a great gift to Odysseus. He bottles all the winds in a sack except the west wind designed to carry them home. Odysseus stays awake for nine straight days, working the sail himself. When they finally see Ithaca on the horizon, he falls into a deep slumber. His men, not knowing what’s in the sack, assume it’s a great treasure and that Odysseus is planning to horde it for himself. They untie the sack, and all the winds escape, creating great storm, which blow them off course.
For the artist, the Refusal of the Return means the refusal to complete a project, or the refusal to get a completed project into the world
Mortality can be a great motivator for seeing a project through. I was deeply moved when I saw the unfinished sarcophagus lid at the Metropolitan Museum of art in NYC. (See photo above.) The caption below the sarcophagus reads, “While the man’s head is carefully portrayed, his wife’s head has been left unfinished, suggesting that he predeceased her, and no one added her portrait after she died.” That image comes to mind when realize that I’ve been neglecting an important creative project.
Here are some questions for you when you experience the refusal of the return, or that resistance to complete a project or get it out into the world.
Refusal of the Return—For Reflection:
- What fears do you have about successfully completing this project?
- How will your life be different when you complete this project?
- How will this success force you to grow?
- How might others react to the successful completion of this project?
- What fears do you have about failing? What would the consequences be?
- How might this project lead to a more successful next project?
Refusal of the Return—Imagery Techniques:
- Imagine a conversation with your 95-year old self who gave up on his or her creative purpose, or a significant creative project.
- Imagine a conversation with your 95-year old self who fulfilled his or her creative purpose, or a significant creative project.