I’ve been doing a lot of invisible creative work lately. The kind where progress can’t be seen.
The other day I spent a solid eight hours clicking buttons to transform paper illustrations into digital, then lousy digital into good digital, then the wrong kind of file into the right kind right before plinking them down into a virtual manuscript. At the end of the day everything looked exactly the same as when I started. Even the folders on my desktop, where all the work had seemingly occurred, hadn’t changed. The only signs of life were a half dozen mugs filled with varying levels of stagnant dregs.
I spent an hour that evening stacking firewood just so I could feel my body again. Remind myself what work feels like. Real work. The kind that takes time and muscles and energy, where thick fat splits go from a random pile to a neatly sheltered stack. The kind where, at the end, you feel a sense of satisfaction.
You have conquered entropy.
As I stood there looking at both the irreverent pile and the interlocking stack, it dawned on me just how important the mess is to the creative process. I’d never much thought about it. It was always just an inconvenience. But maybe it’s more than that. The mark of a creative distance traveled. A tangible manifestation that work has occurred.
When I work on a large commission, even when I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much, I’m left with a mess that proves I was there. A layer of sawdust, or a pile of metal cut offs that indicate progress was made, even if nothing got finished.
Lately I find myself missing that mess. Aching to ache again. Ready to breathe in the process. There’s no shortage of problems in the world right now, but they’re different. Overwhelming. I miss the sorts of challenges that can be solved with a little elbow grease and determination. But those aren’t on the immediate horizon.
So I clean. Sweep out the old entropy to make room for the new. Give creativity a place to stay when she’s ready to visit again.