Monday, 10 March 2014

Ways of thinking doing and being

Today I want to try to put into words something that has become gradually obvious to me over the time I have been doing this course. It will be no surprise to anyone else, no doubt, but there is a striking difference between the way my mind works, and the way I am, while doing the coursework, and the way I am in other contexts in my day to day life.

This isn't just about how I go about solving problems. It's also about the way I think about what I'm doing. And the state of my body when I'm doing it.

So here I am writing in sentences and lists. This is the way I sort things out at work. How I am expected to express myself - with verbal clarity and without too much ambiguity if I can. My ability to do my job is judged, to an extent, by the effectiveness of the editing I impose on my writing and speaking. And how cleanly it results in the hoped for outcome.  

I have experienced a very different way of going about things during this course. 

For a start, there is no hoped for outcome. No one knows what the result will turn out to be. That's the fear and adventure of it. Especially, I suspect, for someone like me with a lifetime of goal-directed living behind them. Setting out on a journey into the unknown without a map or a phone. Who knows where I will end up? Or if I am up to the challenge. 

It is quite uncomfortable. My confidence is built on experience. And I haven't done this before. Each time I start an assignment I am a novice again. 

This means that instead of gathering information and organising it, I am imagining and experimenting. Imagining what is possible, trying it out visually, seeing what it looks like and where it takes me. There is a swing from opening up to possibilities, to deciding which to try out, to opening up again to all the experiments that can flow from them, and back to deciding again. 

It's rather a clunky process in fact, this switching mode (more like reconfiguring the machine than clicking a switch) and often accompanied by a lot of self-doubt and some procrastination. Mairi Hedderwick (artist and illustrator) on Desert Island Discs this week said 'all creative people' feel discouraged as part of the creative process (or words to that effect) - when they reach a point where what they produce is not quite what they had envisioned. If I were in fact in a strange country without a destination this method would get me walking around in spirals and sometimes deciding to stay in the place I had already found and getting to know it better, rather than always looking for new places. I'm not used to that idea at all - no goal but to follow my nose. 

And wow what a brave new way of deciding where to go - by tapping into a  neglected part of my humanness that quietly pulls me back to one thing rather than another, without logic. Without any words. 

It's not attractiveness in the conventional sense. If I had to put words to it it's because something about it seems right, intriguing, enlivening. More about my inner state than about the thing I'm looking at. 

But I'd rather not put words on it because all my life I have been trained to put words to things and I have noticed some resistance in myself, because this sometimes separates the thing from something important in itself. Especially things like this, that are about responding to the essence of myself. (At times like this I can understand why you might not want your photo taken.) 

So, here I am, nearing the end of this module, and suddenly there's an 'outcome' to aim for again - assignment 2 - and I'm feeling regretful that I have to leave this intriguing no-man's-land and fix myself back into the map. 

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