Wednesday, September 14, 2011

glimpses / fascinations

Every day it seems I encounter a new word, concept, idea, or possibility that fascinates me.  I want to dig into all of them and roll around in their ideas, innovations, vocabulary, theories, and theses.  These ideas flag me down from inside the field of work and play I currently call my own, from right next door to it, from across the street, down the block.  Some of the ones that have triggered rabbit holes of Googling-based digression lately include:

people called Cultural Geographers

Michel Foucault

solipsism - it's meaning and its application

arts education as a civil right

cognitive science

theories of emotion

reason vs. feeling

people who can write really good personal mission statements

hip hop culture and its righteous anger

the complexity and miraculousness of pretending to be a tiger (David Brooks, you're my new favorite)

I want to learn everything about everything all the time.  Today, so that I can get back to writing this syllabus?  I'm just going to make a list.

Do other people ever have to just make a list of everything that's fascinating so that you can focus on just one of the fascinating things?  If you've happened over here - what's your list?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

because fretting isn't productive

My boyfriend is a smart cookie. Like, one of the smartest cookies I know. Even though sometimes he pretends to be a garden variety smarty pants he's actually brilliant. Don't tell him I said that. It'll go straight to his head the way donuts go to my ass. If he asks, just confirm his fallacious belief that he's lucky to have me.

So, I was fretting last night about my lack of focus, the way time seems to slip through my fingers. I've been fretting about this to my shrink, too. And fretting about fretting and then continuing to fret because now I've spent all this time fretting about fretting.

Where was I? Right. Fretting. So, Boyfriend suggests last night "Well, why don't you take 15 minutes everyday and blog about the things that caught your attention that day that you didn't have time to investigate further." I nodded and smiled and then remembered - just now in fact - Hey. I have a blog. I've had a blog for a while, and it's once in a blue moon that I use that sucker.
And then I remembered the name of the blog - with gratitude to Auntie Anne. The thing about the violence inherent in articulation is that it's a definite action. It's, in fact, the opposite of fretting. Or worrying. Or distracting yourself by looking at bikes on Craig's List. Or fantasizing about bigger apartments (you can't afford) or cars (that you REALLY can't afford).

There's a peace that comes in articulation. There's a support that comes from the universe as a reward for choice. Sometimes choice - any choice at all - is the right answer if the alternative is worry and fret and inaction and wasting this precious time that we're given looking at things you can't afford.

So. Here are the things that caught my attention today. Things I would like to investigate more fully:

Avoidance - something I hate yet something I've been cultivating in myself without really noticing that's what I was doing. Avoidance and waiting and refreshing the email and waiting for answers to questions I need to answer myself and action I need to take regardless of who is or isn't with me.

Fear - so much fear. All around. All the time. I want my art to be fearless. I want it to run and expand and get things wrong so it can get other things right. I want it to be as specific and driven as the art of the people I admire. I want to be as specific and driven as the people I admire. It's not. I'm not. Not yet.

Modes of transportation and wanderlust: blame it on my Air Force Brat roots - if I'm faced with fight or flight, I want to fly. I always want to fly. And what I really need is a little more fight. I don't need a car. I need to get rid of my credit card debt. I like the idea of having a bike. I like the idea of renting a car and driving driving driving driving.

Work before Play: I am the worst setter of deadlines and I am simultaneously the most lenient on and disappointed in myself. What am I trying to get away with? What am I trying to prove? To whom? And why?

Owning bits of identity: Owning. And earning. And discovering. And being okay with uncertainty and the evolution of answers.

So - there.  We'll try this kind of articulation and see if Boyfriend is on to something.  I think the problem is less that nothing is capturing my attention and more that So Much has been capturing my attention for So Long that we've reached a point of overload.  Hence the irrational desire to ditch all my various obligations tomorrow and rent a car and drive home to Nebraska.  That's not the most productive solution, but it seemed like a damn good idea for about 45 minutes.  Mental Wanderlust - maybe this is the solution.  Or at least a way to articulate the questions.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Do the work.

I've been inspired by one of the emerging voices of the American theatre to take a good hard look at my generation. Over on HowlRound, Mat Smart has some biting and indicting words for his fellow emerging playwrights, as well as for artistic directors and literary managers the world over about why so many of his fellows are flailing and failing.

I would like to extend his indictment to many if not all theatre-makers of a certain age. It's not just playwrights, Mr. Smart. It's all of us. We're all fucking lazy.

And come to think of it, I wonder if it's just theatre-makers of a certain age - I wonder if it's not a great big cross-section of the American population who needs a kick in the ass. The concept of post-collegiate flail is not a new one - there are movies, tv shows, books all about the idea that America is chock-full of intelligent, well-educated, liberal arts inundated slackers who are baffled by the world's seeming refusal to open up and let them at the good stuff because they just got a degree, dammit, and had that bitching internship at that fancy company and that somehow makes them qualified to be in the room where the decisions get made.

My generation is one of crippling entitlement and deceptive self-concept. To speak from a place of acknowledged privilege for a moment - in my circles of friends growing up: mostly white, mostly middling middle class or so, predominantly in Central California, Oklahoma, and Eastern Nebraska - going to college was never an "if" but rather a "when." We are the first generation raised to believe we can be whatever we wanted to be. The sky is the limit. Take this aptitude test. What kind of work would you find fulfilling? What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead? Where do you want to live? Where would you like to go to college? What are you looking for in your college experience? College, college, college, choice, choice, choice. We were taught that we are loved just the way we are, that we're good enough and smart enough and with hard work we can do anything our little hearts desire - anything at all.

But we've forgotten the "hard work" part. What we haven't forgotten - as made evident recently in the New York Times - is the blame. Mat Smart talks about the perceived blame that lies with artistic directors. The NYT piece blames politicians and the torpor of the economic engines lugging themselves back into motion.

Meanwhile, Seth Godin is talking about the opposite. To me, included in the tyranny he's railing against, is that tyranny of blame. And the entitlement that its presence implies. Young college graduates, emerging artists - I'm sure we're all lovely. I know we all did really well on that paper we pulled an all-nighter to complete - that one that counted for 25% of our grade and which we totally got away with. The one that we wrote in 5 hours even though we had 5 weeks, because as long as it got an A who gives a shit and there was just so much other exciting stuff happening in the middle of our "college experiences."

I know you put in your time. And I know no one told you how to adjust your measures of success for your "real-life experience" post-college. No one told me, either. And, like you, I am subject to those reinforced habits of procrastination and distraction by all the cool shit there is to look at and do all around me all the time. But guess what - it's time to focus, kiddos. It's time to pick. It's time to stop blaming other folks for not being in the room where the decisions get made.

It's not just playwrights, Mr. Smart. Our generation needs to get our collective ass in gear and do the work, do the work, do the work.