Bugning Lights*

song du jour: Paper Moon, The Dave Brubeck Quartet

My favorite days in the studio are days like yesterday, days when I start early, have no interruptions or distractions, and the jazz streaming from my computer suspends my concept of time. The flow feels endless as I watch my abstract ideas take physical form before my eyes, and the feeling of profound fatigue that finally hits around the eighth straight hour can only compare to that of the proverbial bug on a windshield.

Days like today are, sadly, more typical. I have to pop up from the bench every 30 minutes and see to something else. Work gets done but not with much flow and not as quickly as I prefer. I tell myself that days like today serve to save my hands and wrists (and neck and shoulders) from the inevitable toll of smithing. I suppose that's a good consolation prize, but to hear constantly the call of the workbench is to be perpetually frustrated.

Flow is why most of us create. Don't get me wrong. Making stuff is just, well, cool, and there is no other satisfaction quite like seeing something finished, particularly seeing someone else wear it. Flow, though, is that sublime state of being fully present in the moment with little or no thought to anything but the process unfolding, propelled by the feeling of ideas and possibilities inside me, brimming up out and over.

I suppose it's really all about maintaining the proper level of chaos. (Did she say, "Proper level of chaos"? Dear me, I believe she did!) Chaos is a subject very close to my heart, whether it be chaos theories of physics or the more metaphorical version so vital to life. Order, you see, is created. I know, I know. Without it, most people assume we'd all degenerate into anarchy. Order seems the goal. We equate it with peace and security, but that's the big illusion.

Too much order can squash creativity. Perhaps that's why people considered to be creative have messy desks (or closets, houses, cars, purses, lives...). Order is left brained and logical, but all we know of how our brains evolved points to order, somewhat like time, being a construct to make us feel less overwhelmed and seemingly in control.

Chaos is primeval. The creation myths of nearly every religion start out with some kind of primordial ooze of chaos, the fertile ground from which life (and depending on the religion, order) arises. It's the undefinable, ephemeral soup from which we have a sense that there might be something more. It's the very ground of ideas.

Of course, too much chaos, and I can't find any of my materials, and I start feeling as if the studio walls are going to fall in on me before I can get anything done. It's a balancing act. My friend, Beth, jokes that she needs a certain level of chaos in her home to feel calm. If there aren't enough dogs barking and there aren't power tools and scraps of wood, stone, or cement alongside the finished projects covering most of her den floor, then all is not right with the world.

I might tease her about how many Chihuahuas and foster "Chiwinnies" she needs to feel at peace, but she helped me realize how I maintain my own comfort level of chaos. I take on more projects and dream ever bigger. Just when I begin to get overwhelmed at all that needs to be finished in the next few weeks, I get an even bigger idea to add to the mix. I hadn't released the last DVD before I got the idea for the chain book I'm working on, and I'd hardly started editing it before I had the idea for another book (besides the 5 or 6 I've already thought of).

Many people fear that giving into starting more projects means not finishing what they start. I don't have to worry about that. if I don't finish things, I don't eat. Not having a "day job" to fall back on is certainly a motivating factor, but I also become crabby (some might say worse) when I don't finish things. Years ago, I figured out that forcing myself to finish one thing before starting something else only produced a snail's working pace and a sense of ennui that gave me the urge to open a vein with my Joyce Chen cooking shears (the BEST metal cutting shears for non ferrous metals).

To say I balance a lot is some kind of silly understatement. Not many people work full time+ and homeschool (unschool actually) a cute small monster. Sometimes I achieve flow states as easily playing "I Spy Spooky Mansion" with my son as I do when starting a new piece or smearing the first layer of paint in a new collage, and when I do, ideas pop in from out of nowhere. There is wisdom in working on so many things at once. However illogical it sounds (to the supreme order folks), I find answers I didn't know I needed for one project simply appear out of nowhere in the flow state of starting another. That's right brain territory and the only real place to find anything new. Solutions don't necessarily follow in a linear fashion. They flash in unpredictable locations like lightening bugs glowing in the dark, and the receptive adult marvels like a 4 year old at the magical sight.

*When my son, Skyler, first became aware of lightening bugs, he would point to them and with the most serious facial expression and carefully articulate the words, "BUGning light!"

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