“He’s got potential,” is a compliment. For me, it is a critical comment pointing out my creative failures. It’s non-movement. Creatively, having potential means I’m busy doing a lot of not-doing.
Engineering teaches that potential energy is the energy stored in a body at rest. That is what I am when I’m not creating – I’m at rest. I’m not resting. There’s a difference. Resting means I need recharging after creative movement. Being at rest means stagnation.
Speaking of potential, I’ve got a large really cool Tenba carrying case crammed full of 25 lbs of art supplies.
Inside is a full inventory of paint, brushes, paper of various sizes for drawing, charcoal and watercoloring, a collection of over 150 colored and graphite pencils, several journals, and a large notebook for stories, sketches and ideas for new projects.
The journal and drawing pads are full of blank paper. The pencil collection is years old and most of the pencils are unsharpened. The brushes were last used in the late 1990s. The case is kept under my desk against several other tablets of drawing paper too large to fit in the case.
Every few months, I drag out the case and go through it, looking for inspiration. I rearrange the gear then slide it back into storage next to more pads of paper too large to fit in the case. It stays there until the next time I need “inspiration,” which is more like depression. The artist case is crammed full of what represents “some day” potential energy.
Engineering and physics tell us that potential energy becomes kinetic energy only when released by an external force. Kinetic energy is energy of motion and creative act. I guess that means it’s time to get moving. Maybe literally.
Last weekend’s wet plate collodion workshop was huge for me. Driving from Maryland to Georgia to hold the workshop got me moving physically, mentally and artistically. It also reminded me of how little moving of any I’ve done. I don’t want to slip back into that potential state, but today is a week since I returned home, and I can feel the momentum leaving.
I’ve achieved a sustained kinetic state before, so I know it’s possible, but I don’t remember this heavy drag before. Where did I pick up these chains to carry along on the trip, and why do I not let them go? I thought more energy was the answer because there never seems to be enough. Or is there?
One more revisit to physics and engineering. The law of conservation of energy teaches that energy is never destroyed or created. Energy only transforms from one state to another. Energy is used but never used up. Energy isn’t missing in my creative life. Heck, it’s inside this stationary body, just in another state. Maybe I don’t need more energy. I just need to transform what I’ve got to the next state by simply doing.
I need to open that Tenba case with fresh eyes. In the past, I’ve seen potential energy and wished for something more – something I didn’t have and didn’t know how to get. But I never moved to make that something else happen. I haven’t converted my energy that is there and waiting.
The law of conservation of energy – the law – says kinetic energy is present the instant motion begins. Sounds a lot like faith. Maybe me job is less complex than I imagined. Could it be that simple? In one of my first posts, I said Stephen King’s solution to becoming a writer was to read a lot and write a lot. Hmmm…
Todd, pick up a pencil, open up a pad of paper, place the tip of the pencil against the paper, and move it. Movement. That is the “missing” energy. It is right here waiting on you, just in another form. I can even hear the energy of movement. Pencil on paper sounds like a sigh of relief.
Whether our journey is a trip to Georgia or pulling out an artist case, movement every day is how we complete long journeys. When we stop, all of that creative kinetic energy returns to the potential state. Creativity is a lifetime of traveling and exploring, not something we do at rest stops along a non-creative journey.
I’m looking in the mirror when I say this, but I’m also looking at you: Move. Work. Do. Energy is something we’ve all got stored up. We’ve all got potential, but we can’t have kinetic until we start moving and make stuff!