In 2005 I wrote an article for the Muses Muse about one chapter of the exceptional book Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts by Stephen Nachmanovitch.
The book was first recommended to me by Casey Sokol, one of my favourite professors at York University. Casey taught musicianship and piano improvisation, and was also my first contact when I came to do my audition.
Inspiration and Time’s Flow
In this chapter, Nachmanovitch challenges us to experience free play and creativity in our “ordinary” activities. He states the ideal existence as one of nonstop flow, and he refers to the Balinese philosophy that “We have no art. Everything we do is art.”
Here are five key points of learning from this chapter, and how they relate to your blogging efforts:
- In creating a work of art, there are two kinds of time. There is the flash of inspiration (brainstorming) and the labour of capturing that in a form that can be shared with others (drafting and writing). Performance (editing and publication) introduces a third kind of time. This distinction is helpful, since usually when someone is struggling with blogging, it’s only with one of these three areas, and it’s usually only temporary.
- Our aim is to improvise without being attached to the outcome, “because the doing is it’s own outcome.” What does it mean to blog without being attached to the outcome? While it would be great for every post to get rave reviews, chasing that unrealistic expectation will tire you out pretty fast. Instead, interact with what comes up in your day-to-day travels, and see how you can use it to help your readers solve their problems. Do your best, stay consistent, and let the results take care of themselves.
- The teacher’s art is to connect the living body of knowledge with the living bodies of the students in the room. When you write for different learners by accommodating their preferred learning styles, you help them connect with your ideas.
- Scripts are appropriate sometimes. They are a part of being committed and responsible to your audience. Templates and writing prompts can spark you into writing action so you can keep delivering valuable content that helps you connect with your readers.
- Once you’ve learned techniques, it’s essential to let them go and just relate to what’s in front of you. While you’re learning and practicing, be sure that you’re also finding and tuning your own voice.
Do you relate to this concept of “everyday improvisation”? Here are a few questions that will help you explore it futher:
- When have you experienced “being in the flow,” either when you’re writing, working with clients or any other time in your day-to-day life?
- What precipitated that state? What helped you stay in it? What brought you out of it?
- Where in your life is improvising not an option? When do you find it necessary to stick with a schedule or outside structure?
- What’s been your experience in the different “times” of creativity? The flash of inspiration, the creation into form and the performance?
- Which are the underlying techniques that you need to “forget” when it’s time to improvise or create something new?
Writing prompt: Open a blank document or a notebook, and “improvise” a piece of writing. Find ways to forget what you know and who you are as a writer. Experiment. Get into the flow. Then take a break and walk away.
When you come back to it later, look at your work objectively and ask: Was this solely a creative exercise for you, one that will spark new ideas later? Or is there something here you can turn into a useful post for your readers? (P.S. Here are three questions that will help you decide.)