Sometimes it is helpful to take a look at the physical system which is enabling our creative work. In our passion, our eagerness each day to chip another piece from the stone, we may neglect to first sharpen the chisel. Problem is, we are primarily driven by our vision of the new creation. We are not fascinated so much with the system that makes that creation possible.
In a prior life, and at a very tender age, Lolita was a modestly accomplished classical oboist. She struggled, however, with the various technical aspects of her art, including instrument maintenance and reed making.
Lolita observed something very interesting in the course of her oboist career (or lack thereof). She looked at the individuals that seemed to be “making it” – the ones that were getting the most calls for work and had landed the symphony jobs. Surprisingly to her, they were not necessarily the individuals with the most flamboyant “artistic” personalities, or the most overtly expressed passion for their playing. They were not necessarily even the most expressive or dramatic in their musical performance. But what they were was consistent, even scientific, in their approach to maintenance of the system that would support their art. Most oboists, for example, in the day anyway, would make their own reeds – the vibrating element that one blows through to create the sound. This reedmaking turns out to be a rather technical affair, full of equipment and dimensions, involving raw materials which vary significantly. For Lolita, reedmaking was an obsessive struggle, and frequently hours before a concert she was madly trying to come up with a “good” reed. By contrast, she observed colleagues who always seemed to have a few “good” reeds coming along. They had looked more carefully at the system – come to grips with the limitations of that system, learned to compensate in other ways so that the “good” reed was not the be all and end all. They had evolved and learned to maintain an overall system, including a basic handle on reedmaking, that enabled them to play at a consistently acceptable level each day.
In the maturity of years and the acquired patience over those years, Lolita learned to take time on a regular basis to understand her artistic support system and to keep it well oiled. She came not to look at this effort as outside of her creative process, but as a fundamental aspect of it – creative work in its own right. She came to value regular focus on highly technical aspects of her process not only because this focus ensures a functional creative system but because this focus sharpens her mind for all aspects of her work.
You have wisely learned to preserve a balance between sharpening the chisel and just plain chipping away. You keep creating first and foremost, but keep a close eye on the physical system enabling your work.
And the result is great work, and more of it, and a deeper connection with your Creator.