Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Making Sense of Chaos

As I mentioned in an earlier post, a post last year, from 2017: 
2017 was the pits. Let’s hope 2018 holds more for you, me, all of us.

Aside from the fact that 2017 was the pits, there’s another interesting fact: I had a very productive, successful writing year with many things to celebrate. It just didn’t feel that way. From that earlier post:

** Not only a book contract for a novel I’ve been trying to sell forever, but 13 acceptances of “Other Writing” plus an eBook, Flash Memoir: Writing Prompts to Get You Flashing. Whew!

It simply doesn’t make sense when I think of how chaotic and frustrated I felt. But as I also mentioned in an earlier post, a post from last year, from 2017, podcasts got me through the year. From the podcast, Hidden Brain, I learned that chaos can actually be good for our creative process. Messy inspiration.

In Praise Of Mess: Why Disorder May Be Good For Us, November 29, 2016. I realize this podcast was pre-Trump. How could the moderator know that disorder would extend to all facets of government. That a tsunami of Trump was about to roll over us. No one. No one predicted his election.

Shankar Vedantam interviewed Tim Hartford, author of Messy: How to Be Creative and Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. They talked about several measured scenarios where subjects experienced increased productivity in the midst of disorder. In the midst of messy there is also a sense of liberation. Maybe it’s about letting go. One scenario had a boss come in and re-arrange a workers work space, remove personal affects. Not only did productivity decrease, but on the same scale work place satisfaction. People are happier working even in the midst of chaos as long as they feel safe.

Sort of like studies conducted on children in wartime. The ones evacuated and separated from family felt more stress and fear than those who remained with their family in war zones.

In the podcast Tim Hartford cites a live performance by jazz improvisario Keith Jarrett. His Köln concert, which by all measures should have been a historic failure turned into one of his most listened-to albums. The only reason he recorded it according to Hartford was because he wanted later to show how not to do a concert. You see it was organized by a young 17-year old German woman and she was absolutely embarrassed—the piano Keith had requested was somehow replaced by an out-of-tune second-rate broken-down baby grand found backstage.

A snafu on a seismic scale. It’s like NASA trying to get Apollo 13 back to Earth using an old manual, socks, and rubberbands. Circumstances demanded action, there was pressure, deadlines, or else catastrophe. Or if not catastrophe, people might laugh at you. This enough is impetus to attempt the impossible. So Keith Jarrett proceeded, even though he knew it would be awful.

And what happened . . . was magical.

Anyway, this is about perception. I didn’t think 2017 felt great. I didn’t think what I was working on was that great. The work was hard and confounding. In the end though I was able to create through chaos.

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