PROFESSIONALLY, I’VE been traipsing after artists for quite some time. Not just shadowing them, but listening, watching and chronicling.
Over time, I’ve found myself most drawn to those who seem to make unexpected leaps; pivots that might look like unimaginable next-stops in the artist’s evolution.
It’s a part of the creative process that artists don’t always talk about aloud — the “it’s just the way I work”-reflex of seeking or problem solving.
Sometimes a resolution can be happened upon quickly. Sometimes a fix might leave the seeker at some vague a fork in the road. Other times, that path chosen might lead to what might appear to be a brick wall or disaster — but really it’s a beginning. And they must keep going.
Those who master this art of feeling comfortable in uncertainty and begin trust the process of traveling through the dark can unlock places inside themselves that they never knew existed. Breakthroughs often mean just that — a shattering of the old on the way to the new — and it’s trusting that the road to those new territories will come, but they may come with bumps and ruts and consternating switchbacks.
A month or so ago the editor of LMU Magazine approached with a question about “success”
What are we supposed to do in life and how do we figure out how to do it?
We had a great talk which had me circling back to some artists that I have kept in close touch with over the years, and about how much of their “success” has been shaped by chance — more specifically the serendipitous moments that have been the gift of those encounters.
As well, I revisited an ongoing conversation I’ve been having with a writer freind about how much of our ability to live a fully open creative life is about learning that when adversity happens — and it always does — that learning to how to mindfully pivot is essential How to land and roll is the key not just to the next creative pursit but survival.
From my piece:
We want to map a plan — a life — that’s what both our conscience and the culture tells us; a life/plan that nudges us toward “success” and ultimately a precisely articulated and fully realized you. The trouble with this premise is that what we already know too often obstructs what we might come to know — if we’re open to it. That’s the juncture where chance lies — and where serendipity — and often the greatest possibility can step in.
We think we can outline a foolproof strategy, one that keeps us on track, moving forward, but things break, sever, snap and shatter all of the time. Plans fizzle, promises are broken, things fall apart. Both life and the language we use to describe our derailments and defeats tell us that.
Planning, however, doesn’t stave off the inevitable detours that present themselves: There are moments when patterns are broken for us, and moments when we choose to break them. What happens when we walk into that void, that open question, is the first step toward the unknown and where faith and chance can take us.
As a journalist who writes about people who make elegant, jaw-dropping leaps — creatives who ultimately conceive beyond-category art, music and food, or design vibrant community landscapes or networks — I see many who seem to share a key trait: the ability to pivot, to “see in the dark.” The darkness in this case is uncertainty: blind turns and difficult passages that we all must navigate at some point to find our way to the next phase, chapter, summit. Why, I wondered, are some better at the pivot than others? That facility begins with feeling comfortable in the space of the unknown.
What I’ve been learning as I dig deeper into the project is that all this shadowing, listening, chronicling is finally adding up to learning.
To be continued…
You can read the rest of the essay here.