Integral Iterations: The Process of Building “Trust”…

The picture above was inspired by the notes I took while I was interviewing Daniel Midson-Short for an episode of my podcast. He and I had an unexpected conversation about “Integrity” – you can check it out below:

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is the second time I’m writing about this discussion. Having previously explored the topic, I didn’t intend to bring it up again. But, like the unexpected arrival of our discussion on “Integrity”, itself, this writing, too, is something of a surprise.


A couple days ago I wrote an essay called “Prototyping the Process“. As artists, creatives, writers, and makers, we have to be constantly tweaking and prototyping the work that we produce, but we also have to be constantly beta-testing and iterating the processes by which we produce the work.


Before writing that essay I began working on the art piece at the top of this post. It’s initial iterations took place in an app on my phone, while sitting in a retail store break-room. Eventually it found its way into Photoshop for further tweaks and iterations. For my birthday my wife got me a Huion Inspiroy Q11k Graphic Drawing Tablet. That’s what helped bring this piece to its final form.


It was a process of small changes, incremental adjustments, an interplay of various tools, an endeavor of consistent development. In other words, the process of creating this image embodies the quote it depicts. The art “is” what is it “about”. The medium is the message, one might say.
The iterative creation of this collage unexpectedly illustrates the on-going consistency that demonstrates “Integrity”.


Creativity and integrity go hand in hand. Both are a commitment to truth; a commitment to the pursuit of truth, a commitment to truth-telling. Both necessitate the strength of reliability. Art and each entail consistency. Both are built over time.


The slow dependable process of carefully stacking brick upon brick, Art and Integrity are built upon “trust”; trust in the work, trust in the process, the trust you give to others, and the trust you receive in return.


None of it arrives fully formed, and so we build…

…As a $2 Bill…

This morning was a momentous occasion, well that’s probably an exaggeration.

I’ve been trying to get into the habit of writing every morning after I meditate and before I bring my daughter to school. Yesterday, I filled the last remaining pages of a notebook, which means that today was time to open a new notebook.


I took out a fresh journal. I always keep a few around, who doesn’t? Right? I pulled the cover back, cracked the spine, eager to enter the freshness of the notebook’s beckoning blank pages, I noticed two crisply folded $2 bills. What else could I think but “that’s weird”? I don’t remember when or why I put them there but, I’m glad I did.


I’ve often quipped that I’m religious but not spiritual. I don’t have an affinity for the “other-worldly”, the supernatural, or what some might call the transcendent. I think “this-world” has more than enough amazement and wonder to offer. I think the “natural” is plenty “super” on its own, and often my most profound experiences of “transcendence” comes from deep experiences of the immanent.


And yet, I have a relishing fondness for ritual. I think most creatives do. We are often meticulous and almost superstitious in the observance of our creative routines. We take great care to create at the same time and place everyday. We drink out of the same mug. Some of us are compulsively particular about the notebooks and pens we use, as well as the ceremonial ways in which we use and prepare them. It’s interesting that the near monastic ordering of our creative ritualizations becomes the opportunity for the expression of our weirdness.


In a lot ways I think that’s exactly what creative practices are, the routinized rites we methodically perform in honored observance of our weirdness; the ceremonious celebration of our peculiar strangeness.


In fact, James Victore goes so far as to say that “the things that make you weird as a kid will make you great tomorrow”.


On a daily basis we are bombarded by a legion of outside influences and forces all vying for a chance to smooth out the unevenness of our peculiarities, so that we can better fit into the current cookie cutter shape of normalcy.


We need to find, formulate, and routinely carry out rituals that remind us of our strangeness. 


Today one found me…


I think from now on, whenever I open a new notebook, before I ever dot an “i”  or cross a “t”, these $2 bills will be ritualistically paper clipped onto the pages of the journal to instruct me that no matter what happens here, no matter what you do…Keep it weird…

Prototyping the Process…

*I created this using Photoshop Express, Photoshop Mix, and Photoshop Sketch

I’ve been reading Adam Savage’s book, Every Tool’s a Hammer. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve been enjoying it. It’s not uncommon for me to be juggling 3 books at any given time within my daily reading rotation; reading from one in the morning, reading a chapter or two from another book on my lunch break, and ending the day reading from an entirely different book before I go to bed.


What is uncommon for me, though, is becoming so enamored, so engrossed with “one” book that I give it my exclusive reading attention. This is exactly what’s been happening with Savage’s book. Every time I open my Kindle, I immediately tap on it without a second thought.

I’ve tweeted so many evocative nuggets of wisdom from it, I joked that I might end up tweeting most of the book (see below, lol):

But, seriously… I might…


I read the following passage last night:


“Creation is iteration. Your job as a creator is to take as many wrong turns as necessary, without giving up hope, until you find the path that leads you to your destination.”


“Creation is iteration”. That line has been reverberating in my head since I read it.


What I love about the word “iteration” is that it is expressive of an analytical ambiguity.


“Iteration” is repetitious. However, it is not the repetitive monotony of an assembly-line task performed identically ad infinitum. “Iteration” is a procedural searching. It is the fine-tuning of a computational curiosity, a continuous re-considering.


“Iteration” is problem-solving…


At first glance, this isn’t necessarily a revelatory concept. We are used to and well-aware of prototypes and prototyping. We have grown accustomed to “beta-testing”, especially in terms of “what” we make. But, “the process” by which we create is also a prototype. Our methods and mediums, themselves, are perpetually in “beta”.


In other words, it’s not only the “products” of our creativity that require iterative problem-solving. Sometimes, it’s our actual creative process that is “the problem” that needs solving.


For the past year I have devoted nearly all of my creative free time to videography and podcasting. Learning these mediums has been a fruitful endeavor. It’s unlocked parts of my creativity that had become dormant, and its revealed forms of creativity I didn’t know I had access to. However, the process of filming and recording is time consuming. Setting up takes time. Adjusting the set-up to get it “just right” takes time. Recording and filming – trying to find just “the right take”, takes time. And, editing take A LOT of time.


The amount of time I have available to create has diminished substantially. At the moment, I only have small isolated windows in which to “make”, which makes it almost impossible to create videos and podcasts in the the way that I have been for the past year. If I want to continue, I will have to prototype a new process. I will have to find a new iteration of my creative process.


Truth be told, I haven’t quite solved that problem yet. But, I have started prototyping new paths for my creative expression. I’ve begun dabbling in different artistic mediums that are more accommodating to my patchwork schedule of free time.


As Gary Vaynerchuck says, “Creative people can be creative anywhere, and the most creative people do it where no one else has tried before.”


I’ve started doing some collage art (you can check out my Instagram to see some examples or you find some here, here, and here). I’ve also started writing and blogging more. And, I’ve begun experimenting with what I guess you could call a kind of graphic designing. I’m finding ways to be creative regardless of my circumstances. I’m finding ways to make it work. Maybe you could say that I’m finding ways to make “making” work.


Evernote has been instrumental in allowing me to work on essays and blogs from any where and at anytime; while I’m at work, whenever I have a random thought, or when I manage to find a free moment. I’ve also begun integrating apps like Photoshop Express, Photoshop Mix, Photoshop Sketch, and Adobe Capture into my creative tool belt. They give me the flexibility to create, and iterate, when the only thing I have access to is my phone.


The process isn’t perfect but, no process ever is.


I haven’t solved all the problems or worked out all the kinks, but we never really do.


Often, the best solution is simply working towards “successively closer approximations”…

“Grace” through the Cracks…

The funny thing about making it a point to practice gratitude is that when you go looking for things to be grateful for, you find them – go figure.

What’s even more interesting is that we find things to be grateful for in unexpected places and in the strangest of forms.


I was walking my son to the bus stop, as I do every morning. We traversed the same crumbling asphalt road as we had every school day for almost two years. Nothing had changed. Everything was the same, and yet I saw something different. Maybe only because I was different. Maybe because “I saw” differently.


Stabbing upwards through the fractures and fissures of the road were these subversive blades of grass. In piercing their way through the pavement they had lacerated their way into a portion of my own experience. They were unapologetic in penetrating their way through the gravel and pitch of my mind. 


On my walk back home, I stopped and took this picture:

I’ve spent what some might say is far too much time staring at this photo, staring at these blades of grass. There is something so bold, so defiant, so rebellious, about the way the foliage finds a way through the ordered obstruction of the asphalt. And yet, there is also something so graceful about its poise, balanced perfectly upon the edge of strength and vulnerability. 


Maybe that’s what gratitude does. Maybe gratitude cuts through the breach of our concrete defenses. Maybe when our callousness begins to crumble just enough, the recalcitrance of grace and gratitude finds a way to reach through.


Leonard Cohen says “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”


Maybe gratitude is obstinate. Maybe grace is insubordinate. Maybe gratitude is a kind of mutiny. Maybe, as Jay Baker says, “Grace is Anarchy“.
Gratitude refuses to be submissive or obedient. Grace resists “staying in line” and objects to “staying in its place”.


The grace of gratitude says “fuck you” to the authority of the “No Trespassing” sign and finds a way to slip through the fence anyway. Sometimes we are cut deeply by the barbed-wire that stands between us and where we are told we are not allowed to go. With radical noncompliance we wear our scars with pride, knowing that the scars of grace are our gift to the world.


Francis Su explains that “our shared struggles” are opportunities for “extending and sharing grace”.


Sometimes its the seemingly crushing conditions that create the perfume of our existence, fragrance of our aliveness, a sweet savor unto our collective human condition.


I am grateful for the grace that grows through the cracks and crevices of our fractured Being.


I am thankful for gratitude found in unexpected places and in the strangest of forms…

Art in Pieces…

Nietzsche says that “One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” I can relate. While I can’t say for sure if I’m actually able to “give birth to dancing star”, I can say that everything I create begins in chaos, an inner chaos that manifests itself into outward expression. That physical expression of an internal anarchy is what I call my creative process.


Everything that I make begins its life as a fever of a thought typed into Evernote, a jagged idea roughly hewn and scraped into a notebook or across a Post-It, like the photo above.

The line inscribed on the pictured Post-It note first appears in a conversation I had with Brady Hester on an episode of his podcast. It then took up residence as a random annotation. And, would eventually find a home in an essay called “I Am Grateful for the Insight of the Other.”


This leads me to wonder…


What if it’s the Post-It notes, the scaps of paper, the unseemly assortment of uncured ideas, that are more important then the completed essay?


What if it’s the sketches, the rough drawings, the drafts, that are of greater value than the finished painting?

What if “the process” is the place of artistry?


What if it’s all the various “pieces” that make up a piece of art that are the real ‘masterpieces”? And what if we treated them that way?


What if we created a Gallery of First Attempts, a Museum of the Primordial?


What if we framed the early iterations and filed away the finished product?

Maybe that’s what it means to be liberated from the “outcome”…