Rediscover your magic, crafting order from chaos
PANAMA CITY BEACH — They say that the secret to working magic is directing energy by force of will to impose order on chaos, to transform and to elevate.
Some would say there is no such thing. That "magic" is just an illusion — sleight of hand at best, or a con artist's job at worst.
And yet, what father wouldn't ascribe something magical to that moment when Mom manages to quieten two rambunctious children? What is that but order out of chaos, forged by the careful application of energy.
And what artist — visual, musical, performing or literary — hasn't found her head aswirl with images, inspirations, colors, sounds and visions, only to step back from the canvas, tablature, stage or page, and realize something supernatural has manifested. Something new exists that is more than the sum of its parts because of the effort derived of a human hand guided by a human heart and mind.
Sometimes I think of those inspirations — the creative well, some call it — as a sort of unfocused chaos. Something like what Caliban described in "The Tempest" when his new companions asked about the strange sounds they heard on the magician Prospero's enchanted island:
"Be not afear'd. The isle is full of noises / Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not. / Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments / Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices / That, if I then had waked after long sleep / Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming / The clouds methought would open and show riches / Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked / I cried to dream again." (—From "The Tempest," Act III, Scene II, by William Shakespeare)
Going on months, now, I've "cried to dream again," in search of that magic the trials of the past two years seemed to sap. That creative energy I once took for granted, which came alive whenever it was summoned, felt so far away.
Here at home, from which I've been working now for a year and a week, we continue to seek a solution to structural repairs needed after Hurricane Michael; I'm writing under a ceiling that is cracked and bent, threatening to fall. During that time, we cared for a family member here in the last year and a half of her life, through pandemic fears and less-than-perfect conditions. And we have survived COVID-19 — at least, so far.
I know many of you have endured similar hardships, any one of which feels likely to require all of the energy at your disposal. Together and alone, we struggled through a wintry year of darkness and isolation, a season of mistrust and rampant ignorance.
And though it's still early days, and maybe I'm just too much of an optimist, but doesn't it seem like Springtime is upon us at last? Could the clouds be opening, as in Caliban's dream?
There's a vaccine making the rounds, for one thing. Sure, it's too soon for unrestrained celebration, but performers have returned to the stage. Artists are showing their work. Festivals are being planned — with obvious concessions to social distancing, handwashing, masks and other common sense safety measures, of course.
We've been able to visit with family again. We've had giggling children running willy-nilly about the place. And I have had the opportunity through my work to visit many long-missed locations and creative persons — backstage at rehearsals, behind the scenes at lifeguard training, and even just sitting with a friend over a cup of coffee downtown.
Now, it's time to face that blank canvas again, or that blinking cursor on an empty Word page. Time to take up your instrument and strike a chord, to pick up your charcoal and sketch, or click that pen and scribble in your unlined journal.
Don't over-think it. Just do it.
Let's hear the delight of a thousand twangling instruments, the hum of voices in conversation or dialogue or song, the scratching of pencil upon paper, the start-and-stop thunking of heavy fingers pounding a keyboard.
By the way, the secret to writing the first draft of a story — like that of beginning a painting, putting clay on a spinning wheel, or performing a play — is to start, then keep moving until you reach The End. There will be plenty of time later for editing, adding or subtracting, finding harmonies or mixing contrasts before you share.
Now's the time to begin. Harness that chaos in your heart and brain, currently without form and void, and direct it into creation.
And be not afear'd.
(Image photo by Tony Simmons; artwork in progress by Jessica and Debra Simmons.)