Monday, November 12, 2012

Drain-O For the Mind

When it comes to drive, motivation or creativity, sometimes I can't get any of them into gear to get out of the driveway. I struggle, I flail and I simply can't get traction on anything due to a lethargic mental fog. I need something to clear the plumbing of my mind.

Others seem to be more than happy to give advice on the matter. We've all heard things like, “Don't sweat the small stuff.” To some extent, what they are trying to impart upon us is the need to maintain focus on primary goals without becoming mired down in the mundane day to day grind. Easier said than done. For that matter, if everyone had rock-solid willpower, perhaps alcoholism and substance abuse would be a thing of the past. Sadly, willpower isn't an unlimited natural resource.

As for the idiom of not sweating the small stuff, I am more than willing to put up a reasonable fight against the demons of drudgery. But as usual, I prefer to hammer out my own interpretation in the blast furnace I call my mind. With my mental machinery stopped up with murky water, I decided to step outside to take a closer look at the world in my backyard. Even though the environmental variation in my yard is a drop in the bucket of uniqueness when compared against the backdrop of Seattle, it doesn't diminish the inspirational potential. And to my surprise, I found something interesting that started my thought processes. While it didn't trigger the “work until dawn” type of motivation, it did provide a burst of the creativity that started to drive out the stagnant sensation I felt in my mind.

What triggered my feelings of creativity? A whiskey barrel, that's what. And no, I'm not talking about drinking Jack Daniels or whatever else your poison of choice is. I'm referring to a half whiskey barrel water feature I have on the deck behind my house. With the dropping temperatures, the water in the barrel froze. As I looked at the surface of the water in the barrel, I felt a sense of inspiration triggered by the simplicity of beauty that I found.

This simple image of frozen ice sent me scuttling to a local bookstore to browse through art books. Let me add, art books are wonderful sources of ideas. From the pages of these fascinating view-ports into other people's minds, it went from one pseudo-manic idea to another. My mind assembled a series of craziness ranging from thoughts of fabricating a Steampunk inspired mechanical spider sculptor to an oddball urge to embed LED lights in the outer radius of bicycle rim to mimic a Ferris wheel. Useless ideas? Perhaps. But inspirational nonetheless. Sometimes it's simply a matter of noticing the small things around us like the shard of ice that made me step back and say, “Cool!” What can I say, textures and shapes fascinate me. Most importantly, it's enough to ignite the spark of creativity in my artist's soul.

So next time you're feeling writer's block or are suffering from any of the other life-sapping burdens that get you down, take a closer look at what's close by. Don't sweat the small stuff. Notice it, touch it and take it in with all of your senses instead. And if that fails, find a bookstore with art books and start thumbing through the pages. You might not experience an epiphany at the moment, but it helps kick-start the unconscious mind into motion. Sometimes interesting thoughts and ideas are waiting for us to discover and they're hiding right in front of our faces.