I'm thinking today about patience, and projects, and pushing, and passion, and the relationship between all these Ps.
I'm project-oriented. I'm a serial creative monogamist. All my life, I've found passions to immerse myself in: utterly, short-term. I've dived in, sunk down, wallowed.... I've identified with the project: the novel or short story I'm writing, the play I'm acting in, the class I'm taking.
I'm not alone in this.
This is the way the arts are set up so often, it's what artists are trained to do.
It happens in theater: You get cast in the show, you lose yourself in the part. You rehearse, you fall in love with the other actors, your compadres and comadres. You obsess. You become the character and the world of the show becomes your world, and it culminates in performances: one, two ten, twenty-five, a three-year run... and then it's over. If it's community theater, you strike the set, and then it's the cast party, and tears, and promises to love each other forever, and then it's the next day and you're no longer that character, in that cast, and you're awake now, and your real life is there again.
It happens in school. I see this in classes I've taken, classes I teach. As a teacher, I try to create an open environment, I push people together and make them share experiences, and I watch it happen again and again -- the bonding. The best-friends-forever. Until the semester is over.
And it happens alone, when you're writing. And this book, this story, this is the one, the one that is changing your life, will change your life forever.... and it does change your life forever, until it's done, and you disconnect from it, break up with it, and though you may love it forever, it's never the same as those hours you spent alone with it in a room, the sky outside foggy or sunny, the sounds of the street outside your window dissipating into your own dream world. It's done; and you are still you.
I've been influenced my whole life by these patterns common in theater, school, the writing life. I'm not comfortable with the between times, between projects, between obsessions. I judge these times and call them lack of inspiration, I call myself lazy and a dilettante. I'm used to living twice at a time, having an extra world of characters and plot twists in my minds competing with the now. I love the narrative arc of a project, culminating in a big climax. Without a project -- a novel, a short story, an intensive workshop, an upcoming performance, a contest to win -- without that intensity and adrenal rush, life feels both slack and expansive. Unwilling to feel the slack, unwilling to just let things expand, I generally leap right into the next project that comes along. Whatever it is, it becomes my next big thing, and once again I'm absorbed, I'm enthralled, I'm engaged.
Today, I don't have a project.
Usually this would make me frantic. But today I'm feeling open handed.
I'm asking questions.
What happens if I don't knee-jerk jump into a new project out of the desperation of not having one?
What if I stay actively receptive without forcing it?
What if I look straight into the universe, shoulders relaxed and ask with curiosity, "What's next?"
What if it's just waiting, and waiting is okay?
What if the waiting goes on a very long time?