A few days ago, I posted about a painting of a hand I’d done. It had been a few days since I’d worked on the painting at all, and the initial surge of energy had long passed, so I decided to send it off into cyber-space unfinished.
Just sitting myself down to write those few sentences took quite some effort. And yet, as soon as I finished writing and pressed publish, I looked at the piece again and pulled it up on my iPad. Just to change one tiny thing. Then, an hour or so later, I exported the final piece and put it on Instagram.
This series of events confirmed something I’ve been thinking about for a couple weeks. That my own creative energy doesn’t work the way my brain thinks it should:
Energy out leads to energy in. Creativity leads to creativity. And work leads to work.
Put another way: An object in motion stays in motion, and an object at rest stays at rest.
I often find myself having to fight with the heat of a thousand suns to sit myself down into a creative posture and actually do the work. The hardest part is moving the object (me) from rest (sitting on my bed twiddling on my phone, not enjoying my rest, or actually resting, but simply squandering time scrolling) into motion (doing something creative that I’ve deemed valuable). Once I’m in (creative) motion, I usually stay in (creative) motion. But getting in motion can be a bear. (This rule also applies to physical activity for me, too)
And I believe this “law of creative physics” can be true in micro and macro settings. That creativity spawns creativity. In spare evening hours, yes. But also in months of shifting seasons. And across long years. And through entire lifetimes. Because, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
I want to spend my life creating beautiful things and enjoying my time. And to do that, I must dislodge myself from (unhealthy) rest, and force myself into the rush of (creative) motion.
And to do that, I must get a chair. (I will talk about this chair in my next post)
This is imperfect, and I already have many qualms and qualifiers with these thoughts, but I will leave it there, because it is better to have something finished, not perfect.
Upon reading a recent post where I discussed pens and an old friend from high school, my sister Lauren pointed out her wish for a broader why? in the writing.
“As it stands,” she said, “it’s warm and innocent and beautiful.” Stop it, I’m blushing.
“But if I had a wish,” she went went on, “I’d love to read this with a little more about the why’s, the lessons, or a parallel into some other life truth or something weaved in.”
Well. Yes, she’s right. In writing, I so often find myself stopping at my original thought. But this often leaves my writing feeling unfinished, without depth. When I finish my original thought, I need to stop and think how does this connect to broader life? Why does this matter?
This is something that Hank and John Green do beautifully in the weekly videos on their Vlogbrothers YouTube channel.
Hank even describes this phenomenon at 2:55 in this lovely video about arbitrary human design.
And just for fun, here is another Vlogbrothers video, made by John this time. It’s one of my favorites.
I think the thoughts bouncing around in my head at present can be summed up in the words purpose and meaning. That’s what I feel I’m often missing in my work.
What is the purpose of this story? Of this drawing? The meaning of this video? What am I hoping for friends and folks to get out of this thing I’m making? If it is simply beauty, then great. But there is often more room than I think for deeper purpose and beauty to live side by side.
That’s something I’m trying to learn right now. How to infuse purpose and meaning.
Those are very abstract words that do not lend themselves to a very tangible goal, but I will work on reducing the thought down in the stew pot of my mind to a more understandable objective.
It’s late. 11:07 PM. I’m back at my desk after a day of work culminating in an evening of sports – the Chicago Bears played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, led by the legendary former Patriot, Tom Brady. I was expecting a loss, but instead a messy game dominated by a Chicago defense that excelled, far exceeding their play of the last couple games, resulted in a Bears win 20-19. The Bears record is now 4-1 for the first time since 2012, but we have a long road, and the road we’ve travelled thus far has not been a smooth one.
We’ll see what happens.
For now, I don’t have a lot more to say, but I do have a recommendation. John Green, author of young adult novels Paper Towns, the Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska among authors, hosts a podcast called the Anthropocene Reviewed. It is brilliant. He reviews aspects of a human-centered planet, such as Prom or the flavor of Dr. Pepper. It may sound gimmicky, but the show is really a collection of essays about the deepest aspects of humanity, and the beautiful stories wrapped up in the objects and items all around us.
He has one episode in particular that I thought of tonight as I sat next to my dad on the couch, cheering for a sports team I have no real connection to – and yet feeling the emotional turmoil of seconds and scores. Go listen to a review of the Notes App and Sports Rivalries – I’m going to listen to it now too. I hope you find as much value in the words as I do.
(I’m going to write more about John Green in the future, he is fantastic – one of my favorite creators in the world. Sometimes we talk about wanting to meet celebrities or have dinner with a famous person – but I think most times that wouldn’t actually be enjoyable… John Green is one of the two people I would genuinely like to have a conversation with over a warm beverage.)