Friday, November 25, 2011

Creativity, Cycles, and Cowboys

By Sean Wheeler
Danelctro Guitar
 I did theater in high school and my first go at college.  Doing a show was a huge creative process that involved tons of creative choices, tremendous team work, and a constant adrenaline kick that started at auditions and peaked on closing night.  For anyone that's done it, being in or working on a play is a life defining experience.  In theater, we call the last week of rehearsals "Hell Week" though it's really anything but hellish.  In reality, it's an extended creative flow that is both exhausting and massively exhilarating. The days immediately after feel almost lifeless and all-to-mundane.

The same goes for playing music.  I've was in bands off-and-on throughout my teens and twenties.  I was never really any good, but I did some good stuff.  And, again, there's nothing like playing in a band when the music hits a point that transcends anything going on in real life and the instruments almost play themselves.  It's also the whole reason anyone who plays music does it in the first place.  Time slows down, individuality merges into community, and the last note is always met with a laughing "wow" and then an exhausted silence.

Athletes, painters, gardeners, craftspeople, all of them and many others go through a similar experience.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on "flow" has been tremendously influential in my thinking concerning teaching and my work with The American Youth Foundation at Camp Miniwanca.  As a person who has experienced this sensation through several experiences of my own, I fully believe that the creative act is my most immediate access point to flow.  

Which brings me to the fact that I haven't posted anything for over a month.  Though the school year keeps moving on, and the first big phase of the Wikiseat project is behind us, I've found myself recently in the place that happens just after one of these flow experiences.  A silence, an exhaustion, a letting-out of breath.  Rather than beat myself up over a too-long absence from posting anything here, I've come to recognize that sometimes the silence is needed.  Less needed, than simply real.  It's just the result of doing some great creative work with an incredible group of students.  Everything has it's let-down.  It's a part of the bargain. 

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