directionless is not pointless

The creative process requires a certain degree of ignorance.

How do I express this feeling in a poem? What happens when I dance blindfolded? What kinds of photographs would help me deal with his death? How can I explain this to the board without using a PowerPoint presentation?

I often begin a creative project by turning in circles. Since any of the possible directions I could go looks as good as any other, I often get going with a shrug and a random step into the unknown. I’ll see what I see and I’ll find what I find. But unless I go – somewhere, anywhere – all those possible discoveries will remain hidden, even if what’s being quested for is no more tangible than a new thought.

Creating anything at all – and certainly creating something better or deeper or more meaningful or bigger or more unique – requires us to be inept and temporarily idiotic. Sure, advice from the experts can help. In some cases, without a bit of advice to go on, idiocy equals extermination (Now, where would I be if I were a parachute pull-cord? … Oh, so the bullet comes out of that end of the gun.).

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The point of beginning is to find something. Different directions lead to different somethings. The search for the point that will mean something happens inside, in private, beyond any direction an advisor will provide, no matter how insistent they are about knowing the way. Even in a collaboration, the collective benefits from each participant finding their own personally meaningful reasons for participating.

The whole point of creativity is to venture off the known map, so a project that wanders is not necessarily worthless or going nowhere. If there’s excitement, it’s right on track. When you follow a sense of excitement off the edge of your known universe – by tracking a shifting shadow, an almost-there thought, an intuitive inkling – you are led. Directionless, and yet led. You follow desire, moment by moment. You stay on point. You yield, even as you commit.

The directionless journey of creativity is likely to include tripping, falling down, losing the scent, going in circles, picking the scent up again, blundering, exasperated sighs, flirtations with the cliff edge, forehead smacking … and sudden flashes of brilliance. You’re required to forgive yourself continuously. If you want what you create to exist in the real world, your directionless journey helps you make friends with reality, as you discover what actually works and what doesn’t.

The paradox at the heart of the creative process is that arriving at a newly unique and meaningful endpoint requires not knowing how to get there. You invent and re-invent from the inside out, clutching intangibles, hoping. Along the way, you’re given opportunities to increase your appreciation for slapstick moments. Think of them as comic relief. And keep going.

3 comments to directionless is not pointless

  • Loren

    Grace,

    I love this essay. It describes my own path (or lack of one) so well. I appreciate the affirmation that there is a direction, even if it is not discernable by me or anyone else…. a method within, despite, and walking right alongside the madness.

    Thank you!!!

    Loren

  • Thanks Grace, I particularly relate to letting go, forgiveness, creating and enjoying slapstick moments :-).
    The creative process is the language of the heart. Our hearts do want to speak and create love, laughter, peace and harmony.
    Love
    Denise

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