Write with Blood: How to Infuse Passion, Energy, and the Divine into Your Work

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Written by James Dowd,
• 9 min read

“He who writes in blood…does not want to be read, he wants to be learned by heart.” – Nietzsche

Talented creatives have something beyond skill that cannot truly be explained, harnessed, or diagnosed. It’s a deep, emotional hunger to make, dissect, understand, share, destroy. It’s our ability to transcend education and experience to somehow craft new things and new worlds. It’s our ability to do something with Blood.

To do anything with Blood — with passion — is to be skillful, deliberate, and precise with your actions, and to not simply follow all the right steps and rules, but to put you — all of yourself — into the work. Whether you're a writer, a designer, a painter, a developer — or any doer, maker, believer — you can go beyond simple step-by-step structures and established processes to create something immensely powerful and unforgettable.

As a professional who strings words together for a living, I believe that writing with Blood is to write with spirit, to feel the energy in you and around you, and to funnel it into your work. It means including everything that is you; the best and the worst parts of yourself, all there, right on the page.

Call it divine frenzy, poetic madness, a drunken outburst, or simply inspiration (from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breathe into.”) Whatever you call it, our power is a gift that is breathed into us and can never be shared or truly explained. Simply, our Blood is our innate talent. Skills can be learned, but our natural ability, our irrational spirit, the Blood for the work, can never be taught.

This natural, savage style of work, and our passion for it, thrives on uncertainty. If we always knew what it would look or sound like, we'd be too bored to complete it, so we must stumble over ourselves for a time in order to truly create. We must embrace our curiosity and imagination and reach out into the darkness. We must open a vein and bleed.

If we don’t bleed, our work, our world, becomes a tired exercise of habit and commonplace. We find our routines and our style, and we repeat, repeat, repeat. Someone who doesn't write with Blood becomes a tourist to the work. They go to the same old, uninspired places. They become predictable, hitting the spots everyone expects them to hit. They’re never truly seeking new worlds, or looking to create them. They aren't sneaking down back streets to discover the mysterious and unknown. They aren't creating truly unique experiences.

Sure, powerful experiences, crafted by talent, can be finely curated and perfected over time. But, they’re hardly special, and rarely memorable. As a creator, you must be willing to take the journey your work demands. You must answer its call, abandon preconceived beliefs, and be willing to go places you've never dared explore before. Because, that's where greatness lies.

"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary." – Cecil Beaton

Writing with Blood is to misbehave. Tell a creative it's already been done, and they'll gladly find a different way to do it. That’s because where we see disorder, we wish to create order. Where we see harmony, we wish to create chaos. It's up to us creatives to break the rules, to ask what's next, and to find connections between strange, unexpected things.

To write, to create, to design, to play, to do anything with Blood is to escape yourself in order to disrupt routines, expectations, and most of the trivial things you've been taught. It's not a kicking & screaming disruption of the work, yourself, or the world around you, but a disruption of the way you look at the work, yourself, and the world around you. It’s one of the five core, innate values that the Digital Surgeons team lives by. We believe deeply that repetition limits our creativity, so we bravely disrupt conformity with every opportunity, and resolve the struggle of defending our own beliefs in the face of others. We all seek acceptance, but first we must accept that our individual beliefs are unique and our own, and we must rebel from expectations to find our way — the way we truly believe in.

To write with blood is to admit, at least to yourself, you're wrong. Assurance in your work breeds stagnation, and stagnation perpetuates mechanical thinking. If you're not admitting you're wrong, or that you can go further still, you're not looking at things differently enough to learn. So, adapt to and seek new changes and possibilities. Strive even in your pursuit of failure. Always dare mighty things without trepidation. To quote from a great adventurer of world and thought, “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

In order to disrupt fear and my own repeating routines, style, and existence, I've found myself making subtle changes during my days by “dressing up” to write. Now, this is not dressing up in a suit & tie, but in whatever I could find, from a pink cowboy hat to rainbow suspenders. In so doing, I fall deeper and deeper into myself. I am pure focus, driven by a force that is purely “me.” No expectations, no barriers, no prejudices, no preconceived notions, no rules. I’m creating a small experience for myself, not trying to look or be cool, and not trying to prove anything to anyone. I don't care what people think, I just am.

By simply abandoning these fears and negative, dispirited feelings, we are actually activating our brain to truly create. Creativity is a neurological process, so when you create, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is suppressed, which is linked to conscious self-monitoring. One part of the brain turns on, and the other turns off. What that means is if you allow yourself to self edit (on paper or in-person) while creating, the creative, magical part of your brain, is turning off. Actively trying to prevent yourself from making a mistake or follow rules means you’re no longer creating new perspectives or putting your full self into the work.

On the subject of perspective and new ideas, Oliver Burkeman wrote in his tremendous 99u article:

“We see the world, and our work, through countless lenses of assumption and habit—fixed ways of thinking, seeing and acting, of which we’re usually unconscious. And that’s exactly as it should be: Our brains are wired to automate as many processes as possible, thereby freeing up resources for the unforeseen…You’d never manage to order a burrito—let alone write a novel or complete a redesign—if you had to think consciously about every step. First open your mouth; next, get your tongue in position to form words; then activate your vocal cords…”

In my not-always-so-humble opinion, creativity comes from the self, you, the individual. But, my spirit animal Liz Gilbert feels the opposite. Writing about the power of divine creativity in her powerful book “Big Magic” and detailing the history of the spiritual influence in her insanely inspiring Ted Talk, Gilbert attributes the “Blood” of many artists to be the “geniuses” of ancient Rome and the “daemons” of ancient Greece, amongst other spiritual beings throughout time and space.

They are the magical entities that carry with them a creative power, and invisibly assist us mortal artists and creators in our work. The artists of the past, and of Gilbert's world, possess the mysterious powers of a “divine attendant spirit that came to human-beings from some distant and unknowable source for distant and unknowable reasons.” In fact, with the Renaissance, the artist was not only regarded as one of genius, but by fanciful names, like “the Divine Michelangelo.”

Gilbert goes on to discuss how by associating the work with a disembodied spirit, the creator can disassociate themselves from their emotional connections, thus avoiding the crippling effects of certain critique and potential failure. Or, it does the opposite by disconnecting them from the just-as-crippling over-inflation of ego that comes with success. This is a valuable perspective in overcoming the sensitive nature of us creatives. After all, we tend to be serious drinkers and addicts in order to combat the emotional ties to our work, and the constant unsympathetic examinations from the world.

Whether you believe it's a heavenly spirit, or you yourself, your Blood is the power to create. You simply have to harness that energy, that emotion, that spirit, and focus it into your work. Forget your fears, and the oncoming critiques. Prevent yourself from being haunted by mistake or failure, or from realizing you're not truly as great as you've told yourself before the work's created.

Place your trust in your Blood, and it will guide you. And remember, this rare power works for you. It is you. You control it, inspire it, cage it, or let it loose. It is your soul, and your disruption of your world is your ability to channel it toward mighty things. Now’s the time for you to create, to open a vein and bleed, and to leave behind the expected. Remember to not just write, but to put yourself into it. Bleed! Live through your work. Give it life. Give it a pulse.

To close, I offer you a commercial made with Blood, about a product designed with Blood, featuring dialogue from a movie about living with Blood, quoting a poem written itself with Blood. God damn, good stuff. Enjoy.

What have you created with Blood? Share your work with me @jvincentdowd