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I’ve been doing a meditation for the past few days that feels really interesting. The idea is this: spend the meditation reviewing your life in thought. Do this for fourteen days straight.* The directions were fairly open ended. On day one, I thought about my life as we typically do, from beginning until present, going over highlights in memory. On the second day I thought about it in reverse order. These two initial views showed me that I tend to think about life, superficially, in terms of relationships.
So, on the third day, I thought about my life as a series of 5 year chunks, looking at the patterns and overarching feelings associated with each, and I thought about the artwork I had made in those time periods. Today, the fourth day, I thought about my life, in reverse order, in terms of work, both creative and money-producing.
Each day this meditation has taken 30-40 minutes to complete, and it surprises me how quickly the time passes without notice. (The only reason I’ve had a sense of the time is, before sitting down, I stick a bowl of steel-cut-oats- prepared prior- in the convection oven on the ‘warm’ setting. The setting defaults to an hour, and by the time I visit it again, much of the hour has passed.)
Today, thinking about my work-life as it has related to my creative life, I could observe fairly clear patterns of how seriously connection to creative work affects the other aspects of my life. I have a better and healthier physical-body-life when I’m connected creatively. I make better relationship choices. And so forth.
Interestingly, there were a couple points in time where I was actually in art-school but disconnected creatively. This is no doubt because the first few years of art school are all about fast work, with low-quality attention and materials, and high quantity. It’s intended to teach young people who don’t have experience with creative process about making without editing, and about medium and self-assurance, but it can be extraordinarily frustrating and deadening to a person who has already been making art their entire life at that point. The consequence as I experienced it was there was no time left over to insert a personal creative process into the glut of material that needed to be pushed through.
I’ve been mulling two interweaving thoughts recently. One is about simplicity and minimalism. The other is about creative aesthetic.
I experience this push-pull dynamic between happy simplicity and unhappy asceticism. As I’ve recounted before, left to my own devices, I have slipped too far into the ascetic side of minimalism, not purchasing furniture, sleeping on the floor for years, eating in extremely restricted ways, and so forth. These are not behavior traits that lead to happiness. These days, I rely on Daniel’s healthy approach to minimalism- that is much more rooted in aesthetics than philosophy- to guide our living/eating choices.
By most standards, we live a simple life and have a minimal aesthetic. There’s practically nothing hanging on the walls, we don’t give gifts unless they are to be used up, and, since we make, we buy little in the way of clothing. (Though with the new outdoorsy explorations, Patagonia has been receiving quite a few visits.) We easily retire things that have served their purpose, and appreciate order and restraint in the home life. (Daniel has been known to resort the cupboards after I put items away in a not-good-enough order.)
And so, I’m always intrigued to contrast this with my aesthetic life. My personal creative style is not visually minimal- it’s colorful, and doesn’t have much in the way of straight lines. Working as a maker means, sometimes unfortunately, a constant stream of materials that are used in work or become scrap, or, in the business of clothing, something in between. Suddenly I have 50 buttons- not enough for a production run, too many to discard or just give away, because maybe I’ll need them in the future!
In truth, it was the glut-filled accumulation of crappy art work, that the first few years of art school encourages, which led me deeper into making clothing. I couldn’t stand to see paper-mache sculptures or graphite drawings gather in corners of my life any more, un-sellable because they were so conventional and un-storable in practical means. At that realization I decided to just make clothing for the remainder of art school, because at least I could keep it in a closet, and I might be able to sell it. (Amazingly, I was able to sell some 90% of it in those days before the internet, despite the fact that it was all only one size.)
Art school was followed by about five years of creative dormancy, where I was working for my dad’s company. It was an important experience, but I had to go through the consequent poor relationship choices and body disconnect that being creatively disconnected makes for me.
So, I’m observing these cycles in my aesthetic and ‘choice’ life, veering between a high level of connection with creative process and a dormant level. The creative process itself- the mediums- have taken numerous forms over the years, beyond just clothing, and are ancillary to the discussion. Whether it’s painting, clothing making, or writing, it becomes part of the flow as long as it’s self-directed. If it’s homework, it’s not.
And, I find, the process is very connected to body. It has to be physical making. Using just a computer doesn’t work for me.
We are now, with our business, entering a new phase- a phase where we can properly grow- because I no longer need to personally cut, bundle, and ship each piece of clothing. (I stopped doing production sewing some years ago, but until last month was still shipping everything myself.) But somehow, these tasks, despite that they were routine and dull, and inefficient for me to do, were still part of the self-directed physical making process and used that flow of energy, keeping it connected.
Now, I’m very excited to enter a new phase, with the opportunity to use my hands to work on new things. (Like, making myself a new wardrobe ;)
The first real resolution I’ve made around this idea is to write by hand. It feels simultaneously like a total luxury and like it will be too hard to order and organize, but, upon reflection, I notice that most of the best things I’ve written were first done by hand. The second most common way I write is via a paragraph showing up in my head, which I then rush to capture on a computer (because it seems faster) and then try to retrieve the rest of the related material. But sometimes I can’t.
So I’m taking up the luxury of always writing by hand first. Editing on the computer.
*This meditation is from the book Start Now by Rudolf Steiner