Have you heard the term “negative capability”?  

I believe these two words are a different way to think about the way Ulrich describes the tasks in Stage 4 of the creative process. He writes we need to retreat, review, research, and seek refinement  

I’ve been reading that if you have negative capability, you are able to handle not knowing. There is a certain amount of not knowing in retreating, reviewing, researching and seeking refinement don’t you think? “Knowing” would block all those r’s.

Have you ever considered the ability to be with not knowing as a positive? It’s been hard for me to embrace the ability of negative capability because of my need to know. I like certainty. I detest uncertainty. But I’m finding as I move forward in the creative process (writing memoir and establishing an author website), that I must develop the skill to not know so I can sleep at night. Right now, I don’t even know for certain which of my chapters will turn out to be Chapter #1! 

What are you glad you don’t know? Is it difficult for you to be in uncertainty? Please let me know how you are doing these days before the holiday onslaught.

Thanks for exploring the mystery – Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: This week, try to actively notice new things. This will put you in the present. Do this because it’s engaging, and it turns out it’s literally, not just figuratively, enlivening.* 

*Ellen J. Langer in The Art of Noticing by Rob Walker.IMAGE: 

The Guardian is happy to be in the sun again.


6 Responses

  1. As I've grown older, I've learned to embrace the "not knowing" and being open to possibilities that I may not be aware of. I love "knowing" that I will be surprised with outcomes, whether it's what will appear on the page after I sit down to write or how a person may respond when I initiate a difficult conversation. Often, when I've been certain that I've "known" something, I have been proven wrong (and most often, it has been a positive experience). So, I am not sure I like the name "negative capability." I don't really see much negative in not knowing.

  2. Hi Diane,
    I hear you on uncertainty about the phrase negative capability. It's taken me time to fully understand what it is referring to. I, too, love being proven wrong sometimes!
    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Nolan – your message makes me SO happy! I hope you have a hilarious holiday season with some adventure and a new experience!
    I'm rooting for you! Will you help me not get discouraged about how commercial everything is?
    Thanks in advance! Much love to you!

  4. Quoting Keats. Deep stuff. Seem an oxymoron. I'm happy to be incapable of knowing the time and method by which I check out of life. Happy TG, vivacious lady! You too, Wendell.

  5. Hi Kathi! You have the honor of being the first in the history of exploring the mystery to quote Keats! Congratulations.

    Quite a deep thought you have about leaving this life – I guess it is a good thing that we don't know that. Sometimes I wish I did know but now will remember to use negative capability when I think of that great transition!

    Congratulations that you also figured out how to make a comment stick here! Hurray! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Happy Thanksgiving to you too – good luck on your adventure!

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