I only wear one piece of jewelry; a sterling silver pendant in the shape of a backwards number “1.”
It’s not a backwards number “1” though, because that would just be silly. I’m also not egoistical enough to wear the “top place” symbol all day and the individual digit itself has no special meaning in my life.
The necklace is actually a tiny version of the laguz rune; a Norse character of the Elder Futhark that roughly translates to “water.” I wear it to remind myself of the impermanence, flexibility, and tenacious qualities the ubiquitous liquid. Not only does it instantly reshape itself to fit any container, it can be difficult to contain to begin with. It will seep and soak and pour itself into any gap, only stopping when it has reached an obstacle that is, quite literally, impermeable. Humans have been trying to master and control water since Neandertals mastered the doggy-paddle, with relatively little success.
I try to apply these philosophical abstracts to my personal life. If I can flow and adapt like water, nothing but the most dense situations can contain me, and none but the driest and least pore-laden of of people can hold me back. After some practice, it makes the worst events seem like brief obstacles in the river of your life. You’re never stuck dwelling on or seething over something, as you’ve floated on long since.
These are ideas that I also apply to my craft; a set of principles that has helped me make progress as I wind my little writing stream closer and closer to the ocean of published professionalism.
When I write, I do my best to let my mind flow. I move with my ideas, letting them carve huge meandering curves into my story, sometimes resulting in oxbow lakes of sub-plots and minor characters as the words loop back onto themselves. I let my creativity spill from the goblet of my brain, watching closely to see where the droplets fall, seeing what pools where, what soaks into what, and if any streams run off in a direction previously unexplored.
It’s an incredibly free-form style, but hey, that’s water.
It reminds me of another concept I use when I write, the appropriately named phenomenon of flow. First articulated by Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (yea, I can’t pronounce that either), flow is the idea that when you satisfy a specific set of psychological criteria, your mind enters a phase where you are intensely focused on your art, time passes incredibly quickly without you noticing, and you are blissfully engaged at peak efficiency.
Flow can happen to anyone, anywhere, but is often tied to task-oriented activities like gaming, painting, sculpting, sewing, playing instruments, golf, martial arts, meditation – and you guessed it – writing. It aids in unleashing imagination lightning bolts and satisfying your primal urges to create. It also helps ward off depression and increase overall life satisfaction, if case studies are to be believed.
So the next time you’re slamming your head against your keyboard because the ideas just won’t come, or when they do come they suck, stop.
Are you a rock? Too sedentary, unwilling to move or change much, staying in the same place you’ve been for a very long time?
Or are you a gust of wind? Fleeting to a fault, not taking the time for ideas to mature, moving on to topic after topic but never really settling on anything for more than a moment?
Maybe you’re a dancing flame? Passionate but uncontrollable, letting your desires and emotions guide you, second guessing yourself, burning your words to ash in a fit of rage or destruction?
Maybe you should be more like water. Flow a little, it’s good for you.
(As I was walking to work, past the bridge, I noticed this, carved perfectly into the concrete as if it were as natural as the leaves on an oak tree.)