1. FROM SICKNESS TO DEXTERITY
Harrison Ford got sick on the set of Steven Spielberg’s film Raiders of the Lost Ark. One morning, scheduled for an intense sword fight scene with an formidable foe, Ford didn’t feel up to the task. So, he asked Spielberg to make a change. Spielberg agreed. Out of sheer necessity, Ford made a creative choice, a choice that would make for arguably the film’s most memorable scene.
The enemy wields a huge sword and then swirls it like a Circe De Soleil pizza. Ford – as Indiana Jones – grimaces in mild irritation, pulls out his revolver, and blasts the Arab.
The scene and the scene’s back-story are telling for at least two reasons. One, as creatives, like Indiana Jones, we each face the equivalent of the sword-wielding enemy. We’re challenged in ways that bring out our highest skills. But, like Ford the actor, we’re also beset by annoying obstacles like illness or broken ankles or unexpected obligations. Sometimes, the best solution to a challenge or obstacle is the simplest and most elegant. Both cases involve drawing upon your wits and the best tool for the situation.
So, say you’ve imagined yourself richly at the end of 2012. You’ve been immersed in a Symphonic Activity. But it’s not been all blissy flow free from nagging self-doubt, unexpected surprises like injuries or ailing loved ones, or jolting shifts in your creative field or industry.
In your Inner Symphony, a fly persistently buzzes on the nose of your first-seat violinist. Or your conductor gets sick five minutes before performance. Or the symphony hall roof leaks. Or the high point of the symphony you’re composing eludes you.
There are problems. And there are challenges. And there are obstacles. They’re not the same. Feeling gratified as a creative does require dexterity and versatility. When challenged, the Dexterous Creative knows when and how to use both (or all six!) hands and the best tool at her disposal. When blocked, the Dexterous Creative is adept at finagling a way under, around, or between a rock and a hard place. And she also knows when to step back and let the challenge resolve itself or the block to remove itself.
So grant me a brief riff before we get to today’s prompt – the second of the four-day Be Possible Writing Project.
2. 3 KINDS OF GRAND (or Damned) OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW
Problems are what creatives thrive on. We are, at our best, problem-trackers, problem-sniffers, problem-solvers. We can even be problem-makers. At our worst, we’re problem-avoiders.
Challenges are the activities that call upon our best wits, skills, talents, and resources as we resolve a number of related creative, intellectual, spiritual, or existential problems. They, too, are where creative maestros thrive. They keep us from becoming sedentary, smug, complacent, or flat.
Obstacles. Well, obstacles can suck, but they’re also inevitable. I mean, the Buddha nailed it on the head as he sat under the bodhi tree and realized, “Life is suffering. Human beings suffer.” Even as I track wonder, I get this. Obstacles are perceived as the factors that block our path, that keep us from attaining our aspirations or achieving our goals.
Problems require solving. Challenges require versatility. Obstacles require change.
3. THE WRITING INVITATION: The Dextrous Response
Today’s writing invitation asks you to foresee the biggest challenge and/or the most prominent obstacle your wondrous best self encountered in 2012 as you aspired to immerse in your Symphonic Activity. The aim is not to foresee problems, challenges, and obstacles so you can avoid them. The aim is to foresee them so you recognize that you can and know how to engage with them as part of your creative process and practice.
It also pre-supposes your familiarity with the Day 1 prompt, by the way.
Again, find a quiet, private place. Write into this writing invitation. See where the writing itself takes your imagination, emotions, and intellect.
Imagine yourself in the same place on the same day in late 2012. What was one of your greatest challenges or perceived obstacles in immersing in your Symphonic Activity this year?
If it’s a challenge, what parts of your skill set/know-how, experience/background, or personality is it stretching?
If it’s an obstacle, recognize that the obstacle might stem primarily from circumstance and chance, social expectations, environmental conditions, or from mental habits. Or it might stem primarily from the fact that this obstacle is just part of the creative process in which you’re immersed. Regardless, just observe without over-analyzing. And reserve any judgment.
Instead, see how you engaged with that challenge or obstacle rather than fled from or avoided it.
How did your body feel as you engaged with it? How did your mind feel? Is there a metaphor or comparison for how you looked or felt as you engaged with it?
What did you do to engage with the challenge or obstacle? Observe if you possessed the equivalent of a “magic tool” that let you heroically have an edge, an advantage in handling the challenge or obstacle. What allies helped you?
4. DROP IN THE HUT
I appreciate some of you sending me personal notes and Tweets about your experiences with the Day 1 Prompt. Do feel free to drop in here and, as if we’re having a virtual cup of tea or beer together, share your insights from Day 1 or Day 2. Raise questions about being dexterous or engaging with obstacles or challenges.
And do stay tuned for Day 3 and 4 plus the follow-up phase of the Be Possible Writing Project.
See you in the woods,