Monday, July 06, 2009

fireworks: audio on the outside, sparks on the inside

Our fourth of July celebration turned out to be exceedingly quiet. Orion went to a fireworks show with Aubrey and her boyfriend, Matthew. Spencer and I decided to watch the show from deck chairs on our roof, yet we discovered to our surprise the neighbor's trees grown enough to partially obscure the view. It's a fair trade for the extra shade. We agreed that we'd seen enough fireworks. So we enjoyed our outdoor space, playing "Endless Summer" on the television on the deck, sitting in beach chairs with our feet in the water and drinking Smirnoff. Recluse and Hermit were we, watching other people surf.

But we heard the fireworks explosions and speculated on future works and even solved a couple of small technical problems, geeks that we are.

One thing that came up in our discussions is an aspect of creativity we both recognized, but didn't have a name for. Maybe you can help. It's hard to describe in the way that it's hard to explain to someone how it feels to whistle. You must first discover it by casting around, trial and error style, until your brain associates the position of mouth with sound.

I get this mental sensation when I'm close to solving a puzzle (e.g., slider puzzles in video games --as in Finding Nemo.) I've also experienced it when close to solving equations. It goes beyond 'the zone,' but that state of concentration often precedes the sensation I refer to.

Does this sound familiar?

Multiply it by several factors and it aptly describes the experience of honing in on a complex work of art---one of those where the metaphors click into place. When it happens there, it's accompanied by a rush of adrenaline. Not a good time to interrupt me.

(and no, I'm honestly not smoking anything. ;)

It is indeed difficult to define a process without terminology. So I put it to you for clarity and, well, fun! Either someone will find a name for it, or we'll just make one up.
Time for swimming. g'night


Syd said...

It's the creative version of being in the zone, being in flow: you know what it is, how it looks/sounds/feels/behaves/smells/tastes, it's right there NOW and you want to wrestle it into reality before it slips away, except there's no sense of effort (or very little).

It's there, entire, and all you have to do is bring it home. The zenith, the apex for creativity, but also the center of the labyrinth where all the answers are known. For a while, anyway.

I don't know what to call it, either, but I've been there a time or two and damn, does it feel wonderful.

Confluence, maybe? A coming or flowing together, a gathering together at one point, to paraphrase Webster's. I think that kinda works...but I'm interested to see what everyone else suggests!

lisa said...

Syd: now there's a key---"before it slips away" That would explain the sense of urgency, the need to avoid ANY distraction, because this moment, castled within the zone, is extremely fragile.

Confluence is a great word. We may as well start a list.

Thank you!

Beez said...

Hmmm.....I always just say it makes my brain itch and I can't stop until I scratch it (metaphorically speaking) which requires some intense focus. But AHHHHH...what a relief when it's done

So for me it's the highly unromantic Brain Itch.

DavidK said...


It sounds like something that we get occasionally when doing scientific research - at the point where a bunch of unrelated data and observations suddenly start to click together to form a coherent whole that makes sense, fits all of the available data, and offers new avenues of experimentation.

I've had it happen two or three times - one of the best feelings in the world, truth be told, as you suddenly get an insight into the workings of the world that it's likely no one has ever had before.

I've thought of it in terms of a moment of clarity, and as an epiphany. Perhaps the combination of the two? Clariphany? The moment that everything opens up and provides you with a completely new insight that was previously unsuspected?

Rosie said...

I describe it to myself as being on the edge of a solution.

It's the feeling that I get when I know that if you shift one, or maybe two things then the echoes from that action will make everything ripple into place. That's the point when your idea will be self-supporting rather than making you hold all the bits in your brain at once.
After that it's just a matter of tidying up the edges.

Miss Bliss said...

Ok I just have to say that I love confluence, because I love words that sound like they mean and clariphany mostly because it's fun! I will now be using clariphany on a regular basis.

Drinne said...

When I was a child there was a three dimensional puzzle apple, When you had enough of it together to see the tubular center that all the pieces hooked into your fingers flew and your mind processed spacial relationships faster than any other time because instead of figuring out the pieces, you were completing the whole so everything you touched was suddenly different and made sense.

When you were done, you slid the extended pieces together which were spread out like horizontal red church keys and nothing like an apple at all. But you knew it was there. The horizontal layers would come together cupped in your hands for a final CLICK, and then you would have an apple.

So for me, I call that time when from when I have seen the solution and it is now simply a matter of making it happen with the rush of energy that comes from seeing, "reaching the core"

And when I feel all exploded on the inside but not yet destroyed I also think of myself as the unfinished apple where all the interlocking peices are there but they haven't been pushed together into the the Click.

It was a red puzzle with a green leaf and it was plastic, which made for an Excellent Click.

I love the success of the Click.

lisa said...

We have then,
confluence (which is also the name of a pretty good convention--check it out.)
Brain Itch, which may not be poetic but is right on, as far as helping explain the sensation.
Clariphany---which also (indeed!) sounds like what it is
The Edge (I've often thought I was at my creative best as I operated 'on the edge of failure.'
The Excellent Click (which I suspect is going to be the name of a sculpture)

Syd said...

Drinne, would that be this?

Drinne said...


Wow - that looks close enough to have made me catch my breath.

Of course I am now going to order it - it's like finding it in Gaiman's InterWorld - it's almost my apple.