Carl Jung discusses the creative process in literature

Efforts to explain the workings of the creative process and originality of thought in the production of literary work, such as poetry, have included the opinions of a wide variety of scholars and experts, such as the psychiatrist and psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

Noting that the question of “creativeness” has attracted the attention of psychologists, Jung wrote about the creative process with poets:

“Creativeness, like the freedom of the will, contains a secret. The psychologist can describe both these manifestations as processes, but he can find no solution of the philosophical problems they offer. Creative man is a riddle that we may try to answer in various ways, but always in vain…” (1)

Jung tends to look at an artistic creator, such as a poet, as being just like everyone else, in having a personal life for example, but also as someone who is irresistibly and almost mechanically propelled, through an “impersonal creative process.”

Jung did not think this was necessarily a happy condition.

Jung emphasizes that “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.” Moreover, the artist’s life is driven by “a ruthless passion for creation which may go so far as to override every personal desire.”

Within the creative process, in Jung’s view, “the conscious ego is swept along on a subterranean current [and is] nothing more than a helpless observer of events.”

As a result Jung says, we cannot look to the poet for an interpretation of his work; “[the poet] must leave the interpretation to others and to the future.”

(1) Source: The essay Psychology and Literature, from Modern Man in Search of a Soul, as translated by W.S. Dell and Cary F. Baynes, cited in the Mentor Book, The Creative Process, edited by Brewster Ghiselin

— Dennis Mellersh

About Dennis Mellersh

Dennis Mellersh is an independent writer, journalist, editor, and editorial consultant.
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