I was, quite often, a lonely child.
I have wonderful parents and two amazing siblings that filled the space of my childhood. But being the youngest (and unexpected) of the family, my brother and sister had already formed a subtle bond somewhere in the first delicate years of their lives. It remains this way even thirty-some years later. Of course we love each other and get along well, but they always seem to have an invisible members-only jacket to a club I couldn’t join.
That being said, I spent a lot of time trailing behind in a constant state of catching up to the bigger kids, the bigger wheels, the bigger ideas. Often, having exhausted the possibility of joining them, I’d hole up in my room.
Some would say this was sad.
I say (in retrospect) it was a seedling of a blessing, buried under the obvious soil of loneliness.
Sometimes the absence of noise from other minds and voices leaves us with the vital quiet so essential for creation. Not all brains are the same, obviously. Some people need the crash of busy streets, and nightclubs, and neon-thrashed cities, feeding off the energy like some sort of urban vampires. I’m not knocking that method. The brain works as the brain does and it draws inspiration from the strangest, most unfounded places. But for me, and for a few other minds I know, the quiet drudge of boredom is the perfect nesting ground for good ideas. After all, how can you ask “what if…” when all the ideas and answers are pounding around you, distracting the neural pathways and interrupting the natural stream of human consciousness.
So out of this boredom, this loneliness, comes the theme of today’s post; the game of Bounce-Catch.
We’ve all played bounce-catch. You just need a ball, a wall, and the ability to repeat the motion of throwing and catching the rebound. Bounce, bounce, catch. I remember the sound of the hollow tennis ball’s echoing reverberation. I can see the wall in front of me, and feel how the slightest deviation of hand movement would change the trajectory of the returning ball. The repetition led to meditation. Meditation led to flourishing thought.
Meditative states free up neural pathways and unclog thought highways, leading us to the subtle and slow coming to new ideas. We need a pastime, or practice that helps us let go of our frantic mind-state and relax into the untapped creativity within us.
The second part of this analogy is a counter-balance to the idea of loneliness.
A wall is essential to the game of bounce-catch. In the same way, our creativity needs someone to return our thoughts to us, with nuances of change that can build and grow them.
Who is your wall? Who is the person you can talk to without being judged? Who will listen, patiently to the rough outline of our ideas and return what you say with an outside perspective essential for growth and movement?
The wall’s job is not to throw a wild return that causes you to bolt across the parking lot after your idea. It’s job is to add to the force and power of the throw, echoing back the reality of what happens when the outside world receives your idea.
So, this week, try to focus on two things.
1.) Find a meditative space, a mantra, a mindless, repetitive activity (folding laundry, running, bounce-catch, etc.) and while you do it, let your brain wander and play with the creative seeds in your head.
2.) Take your foundling ideas, or those that have paused with stagnation, and find someone to talk to about them, (friend, co-worker, spouse, writing group, family member) and ask what they think, what they’d do differently, how you could improve or move forward with the idea.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be about writing. It could be a painting, or a quilting project, an invention or engineering problem. It just needs to be your Work In Progress.
Good luck out there. Find some boredom. Find some support. But find your Folly and follow the hell out of it.