Milt and I had a nice coffee chat this morning. I realized a couple of things while we were talking. Although this time we spend talking doesn’t produce much or help cross items off our do list, it’s probably the most important time of day for us. It starts with scattered chatter, this and that, but if we stay with it, eventually we break through the chatter and sink into some other place.
My goal is the “some other place.” There doesn’t seem to be a way to reach that place except by entering the chatter first.
Chatter is a nice word. Just the sound of it mimics the mind at this busy entry point. It’s like walking into an auditorium filled with people before the lights come down and the main event begins. It’s loud, indistinct, a nattering chattering sound.
It’s the preprogram—not the program.
We also love road trips for the same reason. A four or five hour drive is about right. He listens to the radio. I squirm, pick up trash, dust the dashboard—kinetic busyness that, for me, finally burns off excess fuel until I can settle in. Then, at some point, he turns off the radio. I have my legs crossed and have settled down. Usually one or the other of us jokingly says in a South Dakota (or a Minnesota) accent, “Whatcha been doin?”
And then we talk.
First level. General bullshit.
Second level. Uneasy bullshit (any sensitive issues that need clearing)
Third Level: Sinking in.
Fourth level: Communicating
Fifth level: Creating—the land of new ideas and new ways of looking at old ideas.
When we’ve exhausted our ideas, we go back to the beginning, turn on the radio, squirm a bit, dust the dashboard . . . On a good trip, we may cycle through these levels two or three times. Trips force us to descend (or would it be ascend?) through the chatter and into “some place else.”
There is consistency in this journey to the creative. I don’t know anybody who just walks into the room of the creative and flips the switch. The room of the creative always seems to have a noisy crowded tunnel that leads into it. If we know this and expect it, we don’t’ have to get trapped in the tunnel. Every day when I sit down with this notebook (the one I’m writing in right now) I expect the tunnel. It will last one, two, three pages. If I’m patient and just keep chattering—I’ll find the inner room.
For some reason, I keep thinking about this joke that I overheard in a coffee shop recently. That’s the other cool thing about the room of the creative—I can do whatever I want.
Four Middle Eastern students were sitting at the table next to me. One was telling a joke about this German guy on a boat in the middle of the river. He had sprung a leak, and when he saw several bystanders on the path, he called out to them,
“I am sinking.”
The bystanders—unused to hearing a German accept called back, “And what are you sinking about?”
I loved this. Four ESL students telling a joke about a German accent.
I also loved the correlation between “sinking” and “thinking.”
So, what are you sinking about?
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