Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Slow Gin and Other Stuff I Learn About In Bars, or How Process Can Help Us Calm the #%@&! Down

One night a week, I bartend. While I can't do any fancy bottle twirls (yet!), I have had the chance to hear my fair share of funny bartending, bar attending, or needing-attending-to-while-in-a-bar stories. Last night, I heard a pretty funny one: a new girl was working behind the counter a few years back, and one of the more experienced bartenders was hanging out and enjoying his employee discount. When a customer ordered a shot of sloe gin, the new girl grabbed the bottle of regular gin and proceeded to pour very slowly. (Ba-dun-chhh!)

While I'm not sure that "slow gin" tastes much different than its quickly-poured cousin, I do have a strong suspicion that the speed at which we go through creative processes makes a difference in the outcome. And I'm not the only one: artist Tim Slowinski (aptly named, good job Tim's parents!) started the "SlowArt" movement in order to combat our increasingly accelerated "fast food" way of observing and consuming the world and making art:
"Art is a way of life, a method of being, a way of perceiving the world."  
It was this concept of art, not only as a process of creating objects, but as a way of life and perception that was to become the basis of SlowArt. Essentially, under SlowArt, the life process itself is a devotion to art, all life energy is directed and focused as an expression of art. In a SlowArt life, activity that appears unrelated to art is engaged only as a support structure for art. Art is not an occupation under SlowArt, it is a vocation and devotion. (
Read all about it here. And it's not just for the artists -- art itself can observed and consumed using the SlowArt principles, which has in turn led to the creation of Slow Art Day, an annual event where participants are invited to deliberately and unhurriedly interact with a select pieces from a museum's collection, before spending a lunch together discussing and exploring their experiences in greater depth.

In fact, it's not just for the traditional confines of "art," either -- the Slow Movement can be applied to almost any creative process -- whether cooking, or parenting, or watching a movie, or taking a vacation, or doing a scientific experiment. Its core principle of "Slow" instructs us to resist the urge to rush past what we're doing and get twenty bazillion thousand other things done just because we can, and instead spend that time focused on the moment at hand, allowing ourselves to be fully present and open to receive the experience.

Sounds good, right?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Challenge Number #19: Reality Check

Put on your PJs, lose the make up and grab the Ben & Jerry's people,  things are about to get real.

I'm not going to lie, most of my creative career has felt a lot like running around really fast in the dark praying that I'm not going to run into a brick wall and knock myself unconscious.   I don't really have a solid sense of direction or even purpose all the time, often opting for the Indiana Jones "make it up as I go" method of living.  This has served me well over the years.  It may not be the most efficient way of living, but it was sort of, kind of, working out.

Till it wasn't.

Here's the problem, while running around at Mach 10 in as many directions as possible, making life up as I go, sounds like a great plot to a spy novel, it was a really inefficient, unproductive, exhausting way of living.  I just couldn't see it.

As our world get's more and more advanced and we discover more and more technologies for helping us do simple tasks more quickly and efficiently we slowly begin to fill up our lives, one moment at a time.  We work our jobs, we commit to extra curricular activities, we eat out instead of having to take the time to come home and cook a meal, let alone take the time to shop for the groceries to make it.  And then in our down time between events we scour our media pages, scrolling through pages and pages of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook updates.  Filling every once of spare time finding out what our friends, or most likely people-I-only-met-once-but-am-somehow-facebook-friends-with are doing, thinking, saying, eating or just posting for the hell of it.  We've become the poor little frog, slowly, over time, being busied to death without even realizing it's happening.