Sunday, October 27, 2013

Breaking Through The Bunk ...

Well, today has been rather fascinating. And it's only 3 p.m.

A confluence of seemingly disparate media moments – both social and traditional – however, led me to a salient thought:

I have been operating under a misapprehension, as Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in "Bridget Jones's Diary" once said.

And that misapprehension is this:

I thought it was supposed to be easy, this creative life.

All these years, I've heard so many seemingly content people rhapsodizing about doing what they loved and being in flow and I've seen so many perfect pictures that conjured so many expectations about what holidays and life should be that every time I experienced doubt or imperfection or friction or block, I stopped.

It must not be the right thing, I figured. Where was the flow? I'd ask, "What the hell is this dam doing here?" No one ever mentioned a dam.

And off on a detour I'd go.

And that's how I've arrived at this place in my life: by following a series of detours.

Some years ago, I saw Glen Hansard perform at The Chicago Theater. I'd previously seen him perform at The Vic. If you've never been to either venue, The Vic is like the minor leagues. The Chicago Theater is the majors. The Vic is a smallish venue on the north side that's easy to miss if you don't know where you're headed. The Chicago Theater is iconic and has an oft-photographed marquee on the very storied State Street. The Vic is rather dark and unremarkable inside. The Chicago Theater is stunning.

My point is, that night, Glen Hansard looked at the venue from the stage and looked at his much-larger audience and seemed a little awed. Now, it may have been for show, as he was already plenty popular in Ireland, but stateside, he'd caught fire in a more meaningful way. And he told a little story about a brick wall. And how sometimes, a brick wall may seem too high to scale. But if you turn around and walk in the other direction, you'll eventually end up on the other side of the brick wall. You might just have to walk around the whole earth to do it.

Now that's dedication.

I haven't walked around the whole earth in pursuit of anything because I've never had one thing of which I've been in pursuit.

So, as I was saying: detours.

I'll be a doctor. No ...

I'll be a writer. No ...

I'll be a baker. No ...

I'll be a singer. No ...

I'll be a ... person who doesn't know what she'll be, even while she is an number of things, including underemployed.

But today, on Facebook, I saw this in my friend Mike's feed:


Yup, I thought. That sums it up.

And then, in my friend Marce's feed, in a conversation about education, I wrote about my sad experience with algebra in junior high. I just didn't get it. But as I wrote, I remembered parabolas. That's what my brain remembered most about junior-high algebra: parabolas. Nope, haven't spent a lot of time in need of parabolas in my adult life.

And later, with a bowl of popcorn in my lap, I watched Oprah's "Super Soul Sunday" because she was talking with Anne Lamott and I love Anne Lamott, even if I don't share her love of God.

And it was while I was taking my popcorn bowl back to the kitchen (having paused my DVR) that I started talking to myself about creativity and that's when the tweet and the notion of parabolas came together.

And I realized that Marcus's creative-process tweet could be charted as a parabola – I'll be damned, they have a use after all – and that the problem with so many creative pursuits is that so many of us spend so much time at the nadir – "I am shit" – that we never complete the journey. Because the remainder of the journey is uphill. And uphill is often hard, what with gravity and all that. (I added the seventh entry, out of necessity.)


But for me – and, I suspect, for many – the challenge is not the roadblock on the creative path. I am not opposed to hard work. The roadblock appears out of the belief that the process is not supposed to be a challenge, that if I'm doing the right thing, it will flow easily and there will be no strife. And so, if challenge appears, it must mean I'm on the wrong path, and along the next detour I go.

Well, that's stupid.

I spent a good portion of last night singing. I was in my office – my office has surprisingly good acoustics – scrolling through iTunes, singing along with track after track and noticing that my voice has gotten stronger even though I'm sure I sing less than I used to. But I was very mindful that I was happy. I love to sing. I am surely not the best singer in the world, but I am also not the worst. And regardless, I really admire people who sing purely for the joy of singing, talent be damned. They never move off of No. 1 in the creative process. They do things because they are awesome. Or maybe they move swiftly along to No. 6. Either way, they act from a place of joy.

I love that.

I want to be like that.

I will be like that.

And from that place, everything else will take care of itself.

Here's to more moments of No. 7.

Which reminds me: I need to pick up another bottle of scotch.

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