I wear a small pendant on a chain around my neck. The chain is simple, metal. A series of little silver balls ending in a plan wedge-style clasp. A dog-tag chain. The pendant is metal, too, but it’s made of pewter. Round, this pendant is not a perfect circle but is, rather, rough-hewn, probably made by hand. The center of this disc displays a static compass with a two-tone star inside a thin circle with the customary N,E,S,W designator off each point. On the back, the side that rests against the skin over my breast bone, a single word is stamped into the smooth gray surface:
I believe this sums up the creative life. Most of us know by now that creative pursuits are mostly about chasing ideas, tackling the greater notion and pinning it down until the details manifest and are pushed into place by hours of study, thought, deletion and reworking. And once that project is complete we’re off to the next, restless, growing, changing . . . seeking.
So much of our work goes on inside the mind. There are galaxies inside of us that require nothing more than a good dose of consciousness balanced by the seasoning of dreams and imagination, and fed by the cosmos of our subconscious. Because of this it’s all too easy to spend our lives in stasis, content to remain shut-in, surrounded by our creature comforts while the world, what some call the “real world,” goes on around us, through us, but without us.
I acknowledge this fact as a wake up call to myself. I don’t deny that my life has been an adventure of sorts so far. I’ve done some cool things and been to some great places. By some measures my life has been spectacular. Regardless of the fact that there have been great experiences along the way, however, I don’t think now is the time to rest and count the shillings I’ve gathered from a moment’s treasure hunt. If my writing is to grow I need to continue to grow as well.
I suppose this missive is just a version of the old “write what you know” axiom. But if we are to write what we know then we must also ask ourselves what it is that we actually know, and whether what we know is something we want to write about. The question is complex because, as Flannery O’Connor purportedly said, “Anybody who has survived his childhood has enough information about life to last him the rest of his days.” The depths of a mere few years of childhood grant us a lifetime of material for our work. And far be it from me to disagree with our dear Ms. O’Connor, but I highly doubt she would have advocated that we cease living and write only about our childhood (though I suspect in many ways our childhood is the only thing we really think, talk, and write about in the end).
So as I write this entry, sitting as I do on the edge of the continent with the great Pacific before me, thinking about mortality, knowledge, and the creative spark, I think it a shame that I have not done as much as I still plan to do, and I berate myself over the time-wasters I engage in while the brilliant life remains safely unopened, garishly packaged in the vivid colors of other cultures, beauties, and even a little danger.
We creatives are seekers. Let’s be reminded then that in seeking we must move the body as well as the mind in our pursuits. All of our success begins with intention, but that intention must be quickly followed by action. As with the first word which leads eventually to a full manuscript, the first step out the door leads to new enlightenment. Just now and then. Perhaps one new place per year, and if only for a few days.