Which brings up the questions of creativity and the ways we are limited – and limit ourselves.
I’ve just learned that if you want plants to pollinate, you need to shake them. Somewhat vigorously. I laughed at Sooz’s original assertion, but she’s a brilliant gardener (and actor, director, playwright) and she was too right.
Then there’s Cousin Marilyn’s story – Cousin Norman’s story, really – about the four-foot tall potted jade plants. Nobody knew anybody in Cleveland who’d ever gotten jade plants to bloom, much less bloom profusely, yet theirs routinely did.
Why? Because Marilyn steeled herself and left them outdoors overnight in the cold.
Because plants don’t blossom if you don’t stress them.
There’s another story, this one about a camping trip – why two Jewish families filled with smallish princesses tried to go camping, I may never know. When we’re two years old – the terrible twos – we cry a lot. At least, Carol and I did on that trip. The short version is, if Carol wasn’t crying, I was, and if I wasn’t crying, she was. I will point out that kids crying tend to beget crying kids, as it were – right? – but that’s not my point.
Guess it was too far outside our current parameters for there to be any comfort zone for either of us. As adults, we’re both obsessed with order and structure – she’s a lawyer, I’m a math-brained creative – and learning to pee in the woods was just one step too stressful an activity in the realm of potty training.
Parents, take note.
If boundaries are pushed, limitations, be they in- or external, you can grow. Or make chaos. Depends on who’s around to shore you up, perhaps?
Directors, producers, teachers, colleagues, the best of you make us artists feel safe enough to test our own boundaries, you ask us to test them, you give us a playpen in which to fall and fail and learn from those mistakes.
I had a prof who scoffed at that idea, he believed he was there to throw us into deep water and see what – or who – surfaced. Three-quarters of the students dropped after the first class, not because he was asking for a twenty-four-hour weekly commitment outside of class, but because he made it clear that the class was sink-or-swim for folks with neither background nor training – and no support system in place – to help them stay afloat.
(Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am NOT advocating the current trend of giving approbation to people who manage the task of tying their shoes when the task is shoemaking. I AM discussing the idea that terror and disorientation can not produce good or useful work.)
The other side of the coin is “You can’t do that!”
Prior to meeting that doctor, Phil Hansen was the victim of “You can’t do that!” from both teachers and himself.
I empathize. The very people who opened doors for me in the first place have spent an alarming amount of time telling me just those words, saying that my use of language is too elevated, too difficult, that I shouldn’t “try” to write musicals or push my own boundaries.
The doc who told Phil Hansen to “embrace the shake” – well, that could have been taken a couple of different ways, but Phil Hansen welcomed the idea that one man’s limitation is another’s springboard.
Would that all of our teachers, leaders, parent-figures, role-models could show this level of acuity.
I get it now.
Time to “embrace the shake.”
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