730 BELLS: The Secret Irony of Creative Play

Walking along the waterfront, I spotted a man building these whimsical rock towers, bridges, and figures. He told me he was an artist. His work on a piece in his studio wasn’t going well, so he'd decided to get out and do something different to clear his mind.

His idea of doing something different was building ephemeral rock sculptures.

Sensible people (praises and hallelujahs that I will never be one of them) would say this was a waste of time. The man was building something that wind, tide, or most likely kids would soon knock down. But the ephemeral nature of the rock sculptures was one of the things that made them startling and wonderful.

The making, the creating, was the entire point. This fits well with what I’ve come to believe with my whole heart. Work done without thought of results, work done without thought of where it might lead or what it might get you, work done without thought of how it might be received by the world— is the best attitude to adopt when making things.

It isn't easy. We are raised to achieve and produce, produce, produce concrete, measurable (in sales, awards, approbation) results. But the "best" is not always measurable.

The secret irony is that usually work done without thought of outcome turns out better than work done with thought of outcome. I believe the reason for this is because when we are completely engrossed in making something, we are also completely alive and present, and that focus leads to better work. And it makes the bells ring and ring. Creative play opens new places in our imaginations.

This also resonates with my idea that how I want to live, be, and act in the world is more important than what I do. And I highly suspect that living this way will ultimately lead to my doing better work, because that work will be authentic and right for me. More on that next week.


Creative play makes the bells ring

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.

7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday
 of every month. Join me on July 8 for a guest post with 
Edgar winning author Dori Hillestad Butler.