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Objects in Motion
Let's hope they stay that way...
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about inertia and motion and how it applies to my creative practice. We know that Newton’s First Law of Motion says that an object in motion tends to stay in motion unless some sort of external force acts against it. Conversely, an object at rest will tend to stay at rest. But I would argue that the First Law also applies to intangibles like thoughts and ideas. For example, this week has flown by. Actually, the past couple of weeks have and I think it’s because I’ve been working through so many ideas and potential projects—and I’ve been working on them differently than I have in the past, which I think is what’s making all the difference. And to be clear, when I say “working,” sometimes that means just letting go of an idea until it needs to be addressed. For some things that may mean now, but for others, that may mean next year. I talked about this a little in the last Iteration. Historically, I look at all of the ideas bouncing around in my head as one overwhelming “super idea,” rather than seeing them as a bunch of individual “potential somethings,” which is how I referred to them in the piece. The practical upshot of this change in perspective—in seeing them as components of the whole, rather than as the whole—is that it’s starting to keep the anxiety at bay. What’s more, looking at projects as individual “deliverables” and staging them accordingly actually creates space between them, which I can use as down time to step away to take a short walk, plunk around on one of my synths, or do 20 minutes of yoga. That downtime, even though it’s brief, can be just enough to allow me to re-center or to allow new ideas to begin to percolate before I feel like I have to act on them. Adrianne calls it “a break from the doing” and the fact that she’s noticed a difference in my mood and behavior since I started making some changes around all of this tells me all I need to know about whether it’s helping.
I don’t want to sound too bleak, but I think one of the things that really inspired me to take a deeper look at how I was doing things—or NOT doing things, as the case may be—was a conversation with my friend Charles a couple months ago. I can’t remember exactly what we were talking about, but I think it was one of those existential end-of-summer conversations around wondering where all the time went. At one point, Charles said, “You know, we’ve only got about 17 summers left.” After a pause, he added, “What are you gonna do with them?” Charles and I are about the same age, so statistically he was right—of course it could be more or it could be less. Regardless, it hit me like a sledgehammer and I don’t know which part hit harder, the number of potential summers or the question he added after it. Either way, it’s been gnawing at me ever since. There’s a great scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton’s character is talking about Helena Bonham Carter’s character, who is trying to insert herself into his routine of visiting various support groups. He watches her casually strolling in and says to himself, “Marla, the little scratch on the roof of your mouth that would heal if only you would stop tonguing it. But you can’t.” Charles’ comment is like that. “What are you gonna do with them?”
Fortunately, on the back of all of this I’m actually in the middle of a bit of a positive feedback loop, which I couldn’t be happier about. I don’t know how long this wave of strategic creativity will last, but I’m going to ride it for as long as I can. If I’m being honest, I needed this change. It was getting to the point where my recurring creative paralysis had me considering just throwing in the towel on all of it. I mean, making should be fun, shouldn’t it? It used to be, right? When I used to get busted for drawing all the time in school, I wasn’t doing it so that one day I could figure out a way to monetize my sketches. I was doing it because I loved it. I remember asking my stepmother once why she never pursued being a painter as a vocation. And before I tell you her answer, I need to say that her influence on my creative development can’t be overstated. She was and still is one of the most talented and creative people I’ve ever met and she has shared her talent and creativity with me since I was five. She was the one who spent time with me while my dad slept because he worked nights. She taught me how to paint, how to sew, and she always had little art projects for us to do. So when I asked her about it, she said because she never wanted painting to become a job, and if that meant having a 9-to-5 job so that she could continue to paint and create for the love of it at night or on weekends, so be it. And here’s the thing, she’s just as creative now in her 70s as she ever was, and she loves it just as much, maybe even more.
Living a creative life is a series of choices, at least it is for me. And making choices around the myriad of ideas swirling around my head has grown increasingly difficult, especially since I don’t necessarily feel “called” to choose one thing over another. It’s all fair game. My biggest challenge is that I just need to be clearer and more strategic around what I want to do and why I want to do it.
Thanks so much for reading.
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