BREAKING IN

Breaking in
Breaking in

We feel for the faint clicks, the minute, instantaneous vibrations that touch us like the most delicate movements of air. Something fits somewhere, suddenly. We listen closely, watch for evidence of wheels turning with the narrowest, most focused vision we can apply, force our minds to dilate time. Then, suddenly, like safe crackers, we're in.

Finding the right path into a creative project is just as important as delivering the goods on the other side. The approach vector determines the glide slope; the glide slope determines the point of anticipated touchdown. Then, when the cross winds hit you in the body--and they will hit you--you've at least got a plan, and your hands are firmly on the yoke.

(Are you wondering if I'm going to launch a third metaphor in the next paragraph? Ain't gonna happen.)

When undertaking a creative enterprise, it's easy to dismiss simple clues that you're on the right path. Discoveries and experiments that please you probably do so because you CAN tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea. At least you SHOULD be able to tell the difference if you know your craft and you're being honest with yourself. Bad, or at least boring, ideas generally do not cause pleasure. They cause resignation.

But it's not enough to please yourself, or amuse yourself, or satisfy yourself. Unless you're that lonely poet locked in your precious garret, someone else is probably expecting you to deliver unto them a jewel they could not cut by themselves. That's why they hired you in the first place, and you're a fool if you reject your most astute perceptions about what you think they really want.

But first you must break in to the enterprise, and the thing about creative work is that each project is always opaque on day one. Even if you're a subject matter expert--a thoracic surgeon in a hospital operating theater--the patient always presents a unique history that demands careful attention to detail and custom made solutions that--hey!--work brilliantly. Just like the surgeon working on the patient, half measures are not going to work.

To successfully break in you must bring your powers of perception, reduce the mental clutter around you as much as you can, and lean in like your life depended on it. There may be multiple solutions to the problem, but you're not looking for adequate. You're looking for elegant. You're looking for the sublime, and like a safecracker, that takes a certain touch.

--MS

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