Ideas have a life of their own – zooming, flying, hovering in the world, looking for a brain or a pair of hands to take them from the invisible world into the visible one. They are in the collective, the ether, the universe, and when we as creators (all people are creators!) write or sing or paint them into being, we can see it as a birthing, a coming through us, rather than a generating from us.
This truth is the backdrop for every project I am privileged to take part in. I sit with my clients, they tell me the story of their work, using language to take what lives inside of them and put it inside of me, so that I can understand, and then make them things to help other people understand.
Language is a blunt tool, the Mary Olivers among us aside. I experience it as allowing for partial but limited transmission. Because words carry different meanings for each of us, there is always a gap between what I say and what you hear. The only way to close that gap is to trust in the collective… the shimmering, mysterious, unknowable force of ideas that live beyond the realm of language.
So I sit back, I listen, my neurons spin and whir, my clients’ synapse snap and crackle, and in the space between us, the cogs and wheels of their story begin to fit together. We’ve defined what they do, and the architecture of their story moves into place. But the soul, the meaning and the greater purpose is still getting ready to emerge.
I let it be. I hang out with all I’ve learned. I hike, shower, dream with it, hand-in-hand with the work that has been described to me, the sudden companion in my life who has come to stay for a while and who I am meant to get to know really, really well. I trust the unfolding as it all comes slowly into focus.
The story shimmers and clears, wavers and sharpens, and then finally snaps into the full light of clear seeing. Now is time for the magic trick of making form from the formless. Sometimes this process is a slow and painful one, a difficult birth. Other times the words can’t wait to arc forth, the pure thrust of spring water flowing hard, straight out of the earth.
They key is to not try too hard to understand. To step away from too much thinking and into the bigger knowingness available beyond thought. To stand firm, but not so much that I contract around something smaller than the best possible outcome needs to be. I busy myself with other things, know that the eventual clarity is like a shy deer that will leave the dark forest for the clearing only when it feels safe. I trust, I open, I don’t rush, I putter about doing other things and, ah, there she is, all dappled and shining, black nose wrinkling in the sun.
The beating heart of the work is revealed. Now I can wrap it in words, clean and clear, run them through the woof and the warp, the harrow and the plough, turning them over, polished stones in the river, and then … the work is done, and we celebrate.