After a number of great responses to yesterday’s post I’ve decided to write a blog each day for the rest of the week, to continue sharing the experience of my self-imposed silence in our city and the creative insights that are bubbling up.
It’s sad but one of the stand outs that has really come through in all of this is how prominent the negative position is in so many people.
I know we’re all probably getting a bit tired of inspiring quotes over images, self help affirmations and videos pledging positivity but, from this silent standpoint, it seems that they really are necessary. Perhaps they’re not working, perhaps they’re saying the wrong things, but having been just a receiver for most of this week it’s quite striking how easily the negative can take over.
The realization struck me gradually and, to be honest, I didn’t really want to share it because it’s not all that happy or positive and I like to be happy and positive. I like to be cheerful but I think it’s important to stop and acknowledge that sometimes people and their actions are not.
In the first day or two of my silence it was quite easy to slip past the funny looks and focus on the lovely barista who made my coffee from a handwritten order that I passed her. She responded with a note back asking my name and was sure to include a smiling face on my coffee cup. At the AGO the first ticket taker was weirded out and dismissive but when I returned to get a map the second was lovely and smiling and wished me well.
Through the weekend there were a lot of laughs and it was sunny and beautiful so it was easy to sit outside and paint and draw and enjoy the silence without interacting too much with people who were unaware of my state. I felt bad for not being able to respond to people in the elevator but it really wasn’t too big a deal, I was learning how important it is for some people to be recognized and participate in community. It really is quite wonderful and heartening.
Then, I started noticing that while I received much positive feedback there were also negative trends happening, or maybe I was just noticing them more as I began to feel more isolated.
At a gallery a person I would have expected to be open and interested was rude and dismissive, she was outwardly hostile to me to the point that a colleague of hers was apologetic.
For some reason I started getting emails and comments that were focused on defining my experience. There were notes talking about rules and breaking rules, questions about whether I was conducting myself properly within the boundaries of the exercise.
It seemed that others were suggesting it was too extreme or indulgent, while a certain segment tried to define it as a monastic or spiritual experience. Out of nowhere something that was inspired by a reading about an opera singer with a tired voice was taking on a completely different meaning and I was limited in my ability to respond.
At somepoint in sharing my findings I not only opened the door to generous, curious feedback but also to more negative, limiting, possessive responses. And receiving them was inordinately painful.
Where at other times I might pass them off more quickly here, trapped in my silence, I was unable to vent and so was forced to sit with the questions.
Am I legit? Have I been cheating by putting out blog posts or corresponding by text on occasion? Am I supposed to be looking deeply inward to find an ultimate truth about myself? Have I got this all wrong?
I thought the whole experiment was to be defined by me. My intention was to spend a week without speaking in order to shake up my understanding of communication in the hopes of allowing new forms of expression to surface. I clearly defined the guidelines to myself suggesting that written notes, texting and emailing were not to be abused as a replacement for conversation but could be used for making plans and generally staying sane in the everyday interaction that a week in the city calls for. Was this wrong? Where was the rule book that I was supposed to be following and why had I not been informed of its existence? What was it that I was supposed to be adhering to?
It may be naive but I was really sad. I expected skepticism and many rolling eyes but it didn’t even occur to me that I would receive this kind of active, limiting feedback.
I know it sounds as though I was shaken, and I was, but thankfully it only lasted a few fleeting moments at each point of confrontation. Each time I received the comment, felt like shit for a minute and then remembered this is about me and my work. Creativity, expression and, I think, life are about making what is in to what you want it to be. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but we all must live by our own values, our own rules. I would think on that, get really pissed about the person imposing their perspective on my experience and then try to move on.
I suppose the real lesson here, today, is that when you invite people in to your space through sharing endeavors that are close to you you must be prepared for unexpected responses and you have to be courageous. It’s easy to get upset, to be a victim and to give up ownership over your creation. It’s easy to allow someone else’s definition to dominate but I have come to the conclusion that it’s not very valuable or brave.
Not everyone will understand, not everyone will connect to the intention of your work, whatever work that is, and people will naturally, for whatever reason, be compelled to limit, define and just generally rain on your parade.
In terms of creation, of innovation and big ideas it really is to be expected. There will always be critics. My experiment certainly isn’t revolutionary or ground breaking but it has garnered skepticism and surprising reactions nonetheless.
So perhaps now is the time to remember, to ingrain in ourselves, that any ideas, works or rumblings that have made a real difference have always been met with conflict, skepticism and, sometimes, outright denial but that is because they were new. They couldn’t stand up to comparison because there was nothing like them to adequately compare them against.
As for the next three days, hopefully there won’t be many more of those voices and hopefully they will be even more easily brushed aside. At this point, I’m resolved to do a little meditation tomorrow, to create something beautiful and to reconnect to my own intentions for the project. I am resolved to steer the work and myself away from those forces that are focused on what is lacking.
This isn’t about introspection, yoga or solitude. It’s not about following a prescribed set of rules or denying myself pleasure, happiness or connection. On the contrary, this exercise is about expanding my available routes to happiness, pleasure, expression and connection, about finding new ways to reach people and becoming a witness to communication. That said, it’s not supposed to be easy and I hope I’ll learn more about myself, my priorities and my process along the way…
Much love in the meantime and Happy Tuesday!
Category: Coaching, Creativity, Creativity in Action, Exercises, Leadership, Learning Together, Life Skills, Personal Development, Professional Development, Today's Challenge, Toronto Tagged: AGO, art, art gallery of Ontario, artistic focus, Arts, communication, communication exercise, communication experiment, connection, creative exercise, creative exercises, creative experiment, creative support, Creativity, culture, definition, drawing, education, experiemtn, Experiment, focus, Happiness, Henri Matisse, isolation, judement, leadership, loneliness, Matisse, My Creative Experiment, no speaking, no talking, painting, personal development, politeness, professional development, Question, quiet, shh, Silence, silent, social experiment, support, Thought, toronto, Twyla Tharp, Visual arts, vulnerablity, words