I dreamt the other night about herding cats. Many of them, and quite a few kittens too. Cats are such squirrely little beasts that they kept slipping out of my grasp. It felt impossible to keep track of them and keep them all together!
Herding cats, as you no doubt know, is the famous metaphor used to describe managing programmers, or managing creative people in general. I woke up and described this dream to Daniel and of course he asked, “What do you think it means?”
I think it is about channeling creative energy. When I make time for creative flow- like I’ve been doing since my new year’s not-exactly-a-resolution – it can start to feel like a bit of a wild ride. I’ve been allowing 5 or 6 hours every day in the morning before “real work” to write, think, plan, and create. Everything inside my head feels more intense- and everything outside is flat. Food becomes uninteresting. Body becomes uninteresting. Social life becomes uninteresting. Anything outside of the mind’s creative flow is uninteresting.
Occasionally I’ve read quotes from successful people saying something to the effect of “Don’t worry about finding and following your passion. Get good at something and it will turn into your passion.”
Or, advice on “how to find your passion.” (what?) I get curious about this. It’s something I’ve never experienced.
I’ve known what my passions were since I was four or five. Nothing has shifted, only the media to explore them, because it’s always been creative projects. Writing. Visual explorations. Ideas. Even performance (which I shut out for 25 years, and is just now starting to come back, with the video series.)
My mom says, that from a very young age I was happy playing alone, without any help or interference from adults or other children. (I was quite anti-authority from a young age too- another side of the same coin) It’s still that way. The creative river is extremely vivid, and at times so much so, I’ve felt it necessary to block it.
Because it gets overwhelming. The amount of information available reaches levels that feel un-grapple-able. Ungrasp-able. Impossible to contain. It’s like there’s no way to channel the ideas and resources into the physical world. And that’s a frustrating feeling.
Then I remember the body. The body is always our channel. It doesn’t matter if you are a writer, or a CEO. The body is the channel for any ideas/ creative energy/ passions to enter this world. You write with your hands, or your voice. The leader performs ideas so that others can understand and act upon them. We always, everywhere, have to channel ideas through the body.
And so that unsustainable intensity I described above- where food and physical realities become boring? It has to be turned into a rhythm. The body is the only path for the creative energy to enter the physical real world. The body survives and thrives in rhythms- food, sleep, motion, work, pleasure, food, sleep motion work pleasure food sleep
But it’s so exciting to live in the creative flow! Why channel it, why block even a little of that energy by food sleep motion work pleasure ?
Well, it’s the only sustainable way, it’s the only way possible to ground it, to guide it into the actual projects and books and ideas and pictures that exist in the real world. Or- it’s the only way to do it and not flame out.
After I wrote this, and before I showed it to him, I asked Daniel, “So, what do you think my bad habits are?” I helpfully listed off two that I’d identified on my own, and am working on changing- (1) arguing, and (2) reading the news.
(Yeah, we have that kind of relationship. First thing in the morning, “daniel! what are my bad habits!?” “brook! are you sure that’s how you want to start the day?”)
But he answered, after thinking about it, and half joking: “Well, you don’t feed your husband dinner, like ever.”
So true.* Often, during intense creative periods like this I want to keep going until 10pm, 11pm, or later- without breaking for dinner.
And that brings me back, again, to the body rhythm. Our physical selves, our actual people and partners and all that- we still exist on the physical plane and we need to connect ourselves and ground ourselves via these rhythms. food sleep food motion work pleasure food sleep
*(This isn’t a gender roles joke, don’t get confused by that. He prefers to cook.)