Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dust in a sunbeam

So many times, like now, I’ve wanted to “be productive” without actually acting wilfully. I am an almost wilfully unwilful person - I have this aversion to over planning (Smith might suggest I have an aversion to under or “any” planning) - but instead enjoy a random walk approach to creativity. Start typing and see if it goes anywhere, doodle, screw around in photoshop or whatever new software has gotten my attention.

Often, like now, there's an associated excuse - I’m tired or hungover, or tired and hungover, or burnt from work or whatever - with the passage of years I’ve learned what that part of it is is that impulse control goes down and compulsivity goes up when you’re fatigued - so it's harder to focus than usual.

So I let the typer take me where it may, and if I am lucky - or more accurately, if I’ve been writing with any degree of consistency or discipline, I get “somewhere” faster.

I call it the foothills of competence - the real slightly rolling green fields of actual effort that real workers have passed through years before. You are starting to exert yourself, but so minimally that you hardly notice it.

Any accomplished artist will likely tell you some version of the importance of just showing up. Of maintaining some form of discipline so that you are at least stretching your creative muscles in some consistent form each day. A great recent version of this for writers was how if you force yourself to write no matter what mood you are in, you will write when you are happy and sad, tired and excited, and that exercise - of writing in all those different states, will give you access to different ideas and feelings, mental states, than if you just write, or play music, or sculpt when you “feel like it”.

I’m working on my discipline. I’ve always been working on my discipline, and I want to get passed the foothills and really start exerting myself to climb some kinds of mountains. But I recognize too I’m like a cat on the floor. Stretching my claws out reaching for dust in a sunbeam. Not actually hunting, but still curious - trying to get somewhere, but staying where it's comfy. Knowing the sun will set and I’ll have to move, just not yet. Or at least not very quickly.

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