Everything exists in tension.
Our personalities are a mix of tensions: introversion vs. extroversion, spontaneity vs. order, emotion vs. reason, etc.
Ethics is built on tensions: truth vs. loyalty, short-term vs. long-term, individual vs. community, justice vs. mercy.
Even taking a sip of that coffee beside you requires tension: the upward force you create must overcome the tension of gravity plus the weight of the object, right?
Tension is simply the energy (positive AND negative) created by two or more objects pushing and pulling against each other.
If you were to go back and read every essay on this blog, you would discover that the vast majority of my essays are built on tensions. And the most interesting tensions are “right vs. right,” rather than “right vs. wrong”.
Here's a sampling:
- Should we seek depth or diversity in our creative work?
- Should our lives be balanced or harmonized?
- Is creativity received externally or self-generated internally?
- Are our lives paths or portfolios?
- Should we embrace mystery or demystify it?
Tensions cannot be resolved. They are perpetual. They exist because of the co-existence of opposing forces.
At best, we can find relief from tensions, but not release.
I believe our creative lives serve as cathartic agents for the tensions in our everyday lives. (Get the name of this blog now?)
So my hope is to challenge the way you view all the tensions you are experiencing as you do your creative work. And I hope you can channel them into groundbreaking work.
One of the most prevalent tensions inherent in my work as a writer is the tension of process vs. product.
My desire to produce great work (i.e. products) makes me want to spend too much time and energy within my processes: researching, re-writing, proofing, editing, etc.
At the same time, I can't call myself a writer without a portfolio of published work, right?
To acquiesce to product would result in a surplus of crappy, drafty products due to unrefined, rigid processes.
And to acquiesce to process would result in a spin-cycle of projects that get tweaked to death and never actually produced.
So what to do?
The fact is there is no right or best answer. I need both my processes and my products as a writer. It’s simply a tension I must recognize, accept and manage.
If you are trying to rid your creative life of tension, please stop.
The tension is your energy source. Your secret sauce.
Not just the tensions surrounding you as you do your work. But the tensions your work hopefully creates in the world.
And great work creates tension. Debate. Study.
So please take note of the tensions in your life. Accept them and try to figure out how to use them to your advantage.
After all, no tension…no attention.
It’s that simple. And hard.
This week’s essays focused on “the circumstances” and “the tension” that surround our creative work.
Our natural tendency is to see these as threats to our creativity.
But I don't believe they are.
I believe they are root ingredients in our creativity.
(Photo by Scott Anderson on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons.)
Keitharsis is a blog about creativity, roots and the portfolio life. It is written for writers and artists from all walks of life. Please tell you friends about this blog. Also, save time and join others who receive these posts via email, click here.