While I can't claim to have found the philosopher's stone, I did discover that certain objects can be keys to getting started, to unlocking the creative process. Okay, so they don't transform ideas into gold, but still they are a kind of treasure. I felt a bit like Betty, the crow who not only uses tools but makes them to "obtain [something] out-of-reach."
Last spring, I was having trouble practicing my monologue. For some reason I just couldn't feel the character, could only recite the words, not act them. Acting definitely felt out-of-reach. The TA for the class suggested I focus on one area of my body, locate the monologue in my stomach, for example, and really feel it inside. I trusted him and believed that would work, but it didn't.
My friend told me that when she taught elementary school she found she could speak better when she held a pen in her hand. She didn't know why, but it seemed to ground her. She said that when she writes she also holds a pen, as if she were going to use it to write, but she types on her keyboard instead. She suggested I find something like that.
I took her advice. While I was practicing in my studio, I picked up some sandpaper. And a little rock. Practicing with the sandpaper and rock changed how I performed the monologue. I could focus on the rough sandpaper and the heavy rock. These were physical objects that reminded me where I was and that I was in my body: feeling the rough and heavy monologue. I had to have objects to transform. They became my tools.
The objects gave me the focal point, which allowed me to settle down and away from the swirling thoughts and possibly, anxieties that I couldn't pin down otherwise. I was able to keep my energy on the creative work itself—the monologue—and successfully performed it without hesitation and with a depth of spirit. I think this focus on an object can translate to art, writing, and other creative activities. The object may start out as unrecognized by the mind (I seemed to pick my two objects intuitively) and it may also change, depending on need. I'm keeping this in mind now, the idea of a grounding rock, pen, or other object that I can focus on that has certain qualities to inspire me, so that I can continue to carry on.