Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Boredom & the Creative Process
Hands down, the most boring activity I engage in is my creative process. Which is funny, because it's also the thing I do the most. I spend the first few hours of the morning working, since it's the only time that my Brooklyn neighborhood is quiet. Then I generally work for a while in the evening before bed, and my weekends are pretty much dedicated to studio time. That's a lot of time to be bored out of my mind. Which is exactly the point: getting out of my mind.
I used to be a painter, but I stopped, for reasons explained elsewhere. Paint is an incredibly sensuous medium, and there's rarely a dull moment in the process. But my new medium - cutting up sacred texts - is anything but sensual. Off-the-charts, mind-numbing boredom. I think I know why monks wear hair shirts - it's to break up the monotony. At least the pain gives them something to think about. Since the cutting & pasting process is too boring to engage me, my mind launches off into the night sky in search of distant galaxies. It searches high & low for some kind of cerebral delight, while I, back on Planet Madge, plod on with my x-acto blade, hacking away at my texts as if my life depended on it. It may. So I just watch my mind, where it goes, how it circles & swoops, like a hawk looking for a morsel to scoop up, or a vulture looking for carrion to pick at. There's never a shortage of either.
So my job is to work through the boredom. To get on the other side of it. I get to wade through all the usual mind conversations: What am I going to have for dinner? You already had dinner. What am I going to do on Saturday night? Oh wait....this is Saturday night. How much longer do I have to go? Just under 3 hours. When is this going to get fun? In another 2 hours. And so on. All the time cutting, gluing, cutting, gluing.
And you know what? Something happens. My mind gets tired. It comes back to rest & refuel, and then starts to watch what I'm doing. It begins to engage. It generally takes a couple of hours for this to happen. It becomes fascinated with the process of cut, glue, cut, glue. The repetition, the chant-like monotony, the beauty of pure form, and the action that it takes to create the form; my mind actually becomes an observer, and I am the observed. Completely absorbed into the creative process, my mind finally shuts up, shuts down, and I am free.
Pure, undiluted bliss.
Above: Hymn to Vishnu (detail). The letters were cut from the Methodist Hymnal.