Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Surfing Waves

Not literally, which is unfortunate.  Even growing up in Santa Cruz, California, I never quite got the knack of it.  Oh believe me, I tried.  I boogieboarded, bodysurfed and even skimboarded a bit.  On land, I made a valiant attempt over the course of about five or six years at skateboarding (even built my own), but to no avail.  I think my center of gravity is too high or something.  Never felt like I could balance properly.  It's just as well, anyway.  After a couple concussions in high school, my equilibrium is pretty much limping along.  Call me Captain Gaping Head Wound.

In any case, the title refers to the "mild bipolar" diagnosis I was given by a therapist about ten years ago.  Whatever you might think about words like "therapist" and "diagnosis", one thing is for sure: it gave me a name to put on the cycles I'd woven into my creative process.  The therapist even recommended against medication, saying that my cycles were not wildly out of the functional norms of the manic or depressive zones, and I'd already learned how to "ride the waves" to my advantage.  Tempering those waves would be a detriment to my creative vocation.  And we all know the majority of the best artists throughout history have been at least a little tweaked in the brainpan.

I can usually tell when a low cycle is coming on, because of the introspection and lower energy.  I'm not quite as outwardly bright or social.  I'm quiet and monosyllabic, and tend to have a corresponding period of lower self image.  And that's when I go into my head and do some of my most creative work.  I revel in the focus these low cycles bring, and can be much more prolific than when I'm in an up cycle.  Looking back, I can see that the year we moved to Seattle was spent in a low cycle like no other (or lots of them strung together), and it yielded three novels, four short stories and a screenplay.  Not bad.  On up cycles, I tend to be productive in more external ways: bill-paying, home projects, organizing, etc.  Maybe I'm just an overachiever, but I'll take it.

Although genetic and hormonal, it can be modified by outside influences, like the season, music, ambient chaos, and the emotional composition of my partner.  And with a lot of real life activity in the past year, the low cycles have been short-lived and few.  But now I find myself being extremely productive in the midst of some real personal and family-related challenges.  Go figure.

I guess I should be thankful I'm as functional as I am.  And I should, as they say, "make hay while the sun shines".  Or maybe something more like "make art while Bauhaus broods on your playlist because you're not a farmer and have no reason to make hay in an urban environment."

Speaking of urban non-farmers making art, we've locked in a date for the final Duo short.  I will get to work with some of my favorite people again.  Dan, Dan, Jessie, Eric, Devielle, Landon, and someone I've been looking forward to working with for awhile now: Wonder.

After years of just doing it, it's an amazingly empowering experience to actually see the patterns and appreciate them for the life skills they are.  These are my waves.  I've been surfing here all my life.

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