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Revisiting the Old Creative Crosstraining

I haven't had many good ideas about what to write lately. There is nothing of note. As usual, I am working on new versions of the same painting I keep painting ad infinitum, variations of shapes in space. Whatever key to the universe I think resides in unlocking the secrets of shapes in space, I haven't found yet. I will probably keep painting the same painting until the day I die.


I guess the universe can be described as little more than 'shapes in space', so maybe the problem is that I'm trying to paint the universe and I'm over-thinking my own over-simplifications.


That would be very characteristic of my approach to life. I vacillate between believing that everything is impossibly simple and insisting that everything is impossibly complex. Then when I finally settle into the middle ground, I feel sad, like I discovered something disappointing about my level of commitment.


When I get to feeling this way, it's time to branch out. Switch tracks. Cross-train a little. While this may not mean setting my usual projects aside completely, it does require that I add a different kind of work to my rotation.


Bodily fitness is incomplete if only the large muscles are recruited and strengthened. The small muscles that stabilize the joints need to be stretched and strengthened to support full mobility, and the back and sides of the body must be attended to as completely as the front to avoid the body becoming contracted and bound, lopsided. A runner or a weightlifter without flexibility will get injured.


Similarly, artistic endeavors will fail unless you attend to the entire creative self. That means varying the input---what we see, read, experience, encounter. And varying the output—what we produce.


I've been painting more than I've been drawing lately, and I haven't done much sewing or fabric work in months. I've been reading horror fiction more than I've been reading theology, poetry, criticism, humor (I can only explain this by saying nursing is a hard job and reading about ancient shadowy monsters that live under elementary schools helps me feel like, hey, it could be worse, I could be the literal child who has to face an ancient demon monster and possibly die in order to save my small town).


But in the past, I've relied on my varied interests and projects to feed and inform each other, to create a kind of cross-conversation.


The poetry I read showed up in the drawings I made which gave me ideas for the poetry I wrote which sometimes turned into blueprints for paintings I wanted to make, and the source images I needed for those paintings lead me to novels I wanted to read and music I wanted to listen to while I walked to work.


When you do it right, with the perfect combination of focus and detachment, your creative life can become a kind of intricate tapestry with threads woven in every direction to form a rich unfolding narrative.


When you do it right, you feel like you are nothing but momentum.


But I have to summon the energy, in my current, tired state, to allow new experiences and projects in. It's challenging to take on a new genre, or ask your hand to move across the paper in a different way. I know that, after a good night's sleep, if I can make myself try something new tomorrow for at least an hour, I can count on my own curiosity and motivation to wake up and push me forward, and it won't feel like work.


Just like running doesn't feel good until you've suffered through the first ten minutes, and then your body starts to work by itself, your mind is free, and you feel like you're flying.



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