“Each moment offers a variant of the previous”

I am learning (slowly) to use Twitter, hopefully to connect with others out there interested in the creative process.  I feel somewhat overwhelmed at figuring out the art of Tweeting, but saw today that there is actually a #creative process, which led me to this:


I like the blog especially because the writer links his own art to science as well as to his own life experience. I love his exploration of the idea that the creative process in his art (one thing leads to the next) is the same as that of genes (nature). Surprise, surprise!

My thoughts turn to painting today, partly because of his blog entry and partly because of breakfast with my friend Cheryl, whose beautiful painting “Moon Phases/Summer Healing” I recently bought from her. She says that, somewhat like Kandinsky, whose process I wrote about recently, artistic ideas build up slowly in her head before she actually starts to paint.

This has never been the case for my poetry. I might start with a tag end of a phrase, but until I actually write it down (i.e. “Inspiration comes from work”),  I don’t know where it will go: how the words will play together; what other things they will suggest.  Picasso put it this way:  “If you know EXACTLY what you are going to do, what is the point of doing it?  

I am frustrated with my current physical restrictions: the flare up of my rotator cuff that has kept me from the piano and the pool for two days now. But I am thankful for its sending me to the exercise bike where I can still keep up my cardiovascular work until I can swim again.  But I am frustrated by the apparent detour: i.e. I have a “plan” and I want it to play out as I have envisoned. As I said in my first post, everyone has a story, and mine has to do with the early knowledge that death can happy at any time—quickly and irrevocably—and so one had better make good use of one’s time.  However, such set requirements and “schedules” are the opposite of the creative process I just spoke of: NOT knowing exactly where the day, or week, or year will take you. Following tag ends of opportunities when they present themselves and seeing what they attract when attended to.  Being willing to follow detours and mutations. I do believe that life itself is such a creative process but sometimes lose center when the winds seem to be blowing me “off-course.”

Variations again—intended and unintended. I wrote about variations in one of the contest pieces (not yet submitted).  And a friend and former work colleague, Sara—now a retired Unitarian minister from Florida–writes:

Noticing natural variations is my practice.  My house in Tampa sits on a slight embankment about 10 feet from a large pond. A county park abuts the pond on the opposite side.  Every morning between 7 and 8 am, I am out on the porch where I meditate on and write about the variations in color and texture of the foliage of the scrub pines, crepe myrtles, and other plants growing nearby and on the far bank.  Every single thing visible in its variations offers double and sometimes third and fourth variations as it is reflected in the water.  Each moment offers a variant of the previous, as any breeze changes the movement of the water, as it does when a mullet jumps, or a heron leisurely wading by in the shallows spots me and takes off.  Cloud patterns determine the color of the water, and the water color changes moment to moment from gray to deep green to blue and pink.  In August, after 9:30 am, it’s too hot to remain outside.  From the living room or bedroom I  observe variations at other times of the day.  Just now a kingfisher sits on the lowest branch of the crepe myrtle in the rain.  He waits for a fish to jump and then he dives head first into the water to grab it and sets off ripples that widen, creating patterns and…more variations. 

(Herons again–see previous post!)

I am struck by the visual changes that take place even as you write, Sara. The scene changes with the light, time of day, and in the watery reflections. Why are we so mesmerized by the dance? Like children listening to a story, do we just want to see what will play out next?


2 thoughts on ““Each moment offers a variant of the previous”

  1. Variation Practice & ImprovisationOne of the remnants of a primary education guided by Notre Dame nuns is my hyper-focus on grammatical errors so the apparent typo of death happy would never fail to distract my thoughts. In a brief conversation yesterday you mentioned that you had seen it and thought it had been corrected. Yet it remained in the published form. So, playfully, do we have intended or unintended variation (conscious or subconscious)?I'll take the opportunity for some free-flow improvisational thinking on death happy and realize I no longer fear my own death; only the loss of those dear to me. Perhaps death is only one of many fears that distract and impede our creativity.As a basement guitarist (I play for myself; rarely for others) there was a time that I blamed my lack of practice opportunity on others. Certain that my chance to play would be quickly interrupted by my family, I seldom began. Someone would holler “Hey Dad” and my joy would be over before it began. One day that changed. I left my guitar case opened and decided that interruption would be acceptable. The remarkable did happen. The expected mere 3 minutes frequently became 20. One riff became multiple songs. I began to hear songs emerging from the instrument I never expected to be able to implement; all made possible by a redefinition of cause.The Death happens/Death happy conversion experience banishing of fears may fuel experimental improvisation. Where does an attempt to replicate perfection in performing pieces made famous by others, shift into an interpretive release from precise duplication and allow exploration of phrases? As students certainly the requisite repetition of practice is skill-building, but perhaps practice shifts into play shortly after we reach some level of mastery. I always wanted the ability to play without the practice that build mastery; perhaps a fear of inadequate taken necessary for mastery.We do not always engage improvisation in the same media. Kathleen you obviously improvise when you write, explore Kandinsky, or experiment with technology. You chose to practice piano. As a poet you have achieved mastery, as a pianist perhaps you define mastery more broadly. What context difference shifts us between practice and improvisation?


  2. Thank you, Kathleen, for the mention and for the connection on Twitter. That was very kind of you. Indeed the creative process is fascinating. I am more familiar with visual creativity than the kind involved in poetry. I imagine that it is more of an auditory experience (hearing the sound of the words, which generates the next bit of sound in the form of spoken word). There is probably a musical connection for you, since you are a pianist. At the core of creativity is inspiration. Everything follows from that initial spark.Thanks again, Kathleen.Jack


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