I had a block—couldn’t arrest anything long enough to explore in words—maybe didn’t want to. Couldn’t sit down to fixate loosely construed ideas and interests into a product, a package, a page. Themes and ideas were like helium balloons with strings attached stuck to the ceiling. I gave myself the luxury to wander around in that room, tug here and there and let them float to the ceiling again.
Whenever I tried to hold a theme and elaborate on it, my thoughts looped too nicely, too neatly. Thinking is prone to do just that, nothing new about that. But actually sitting down and writing can veer off into all sorts of directions and explore unexpected paths—thinking alone seldom does.
I like doing simple tasks—gardening, cleaning, arranging furniture, empting gutters and so on. I did wash the windows of my workshop which were so grey and mouldy I could hardly see through. In contrast writing and painting are complex activities that can play my emotions like a wild piece of Jazz.
I like getting out tools and making something. I feel more at home in the workshop than in the room with themes and balloons. Being a potter was so good for that. It was also part of my up-bringing, working on our farm with my parents and siblings, weeding one row after the next, harvesting one field after another. One season following the next—each arriving with their prescribed jobs and activities for survival. It was a life of toil and I still hear the rules: ‘always finish a job you started. Always finish the row. What you can do today don’t postpone till tomorrow.’ I hear another note, ‘to the bitter end (whatever the cost)…by bending or breaking.’
I just made a loose connection when I wrote this. Didn’t the Germans, my people, my grandfather’s and even my father’s generation march to the bitter end in many ways with their National Socialist Regime. A big helium balloon full of cruel themes. These found their culmination in the Second world war and the Holocaust. To the bitter end for so many. It still tastes bitter.
Ideas can be dangerous tools. They truly can loop around too easily. Hammer, chisels, guns, computers—there are tools for everything– to grow and nurture or to destroy. That’s a deep vein, but I’ll leave it there, otherwise this gets too tight and long.
That’s yet another way to block the flow— to take a very big topic, a very heavy load indeed and try to make sense of it. Just like the child in the image, trying to push a very heavy boulder through a round arch. It just won’t fit.
On Thursday I met a friend at the local farmer’s market. We sat under a native fig tree with its spreading limbs, glossy leaves, buttressing roots. We sat on rickety director’s chairs, drinking local coffee and had a conversation about creative process, his and others. I don’t think it was what we said that mattered, but to have the conversation was helpful and it gave me the wings to try again.