Fascination | Steps on the Path | 5

Note: this page is part of the Cliffjump! Manifesto. If you’ve arrived from an external link, and haven’t read the previous parts of the book, you might want to start at the beginning


photo: dbeck03

Still with me? Good. We’re getting to the thick of it now. We’ve Cleared our heads and/or clarified our objectives, we’ve moved from that silence through a Listening stage when we tried to dispassionately become aware of the constant flow of ideas and images our brain provides, if only we can stop trying long enough to pay attention. We’ve waited for the Impulse to begin, that instinctual sense of OK, this is the moment, this is the idea, the beginning. And we’ve taken on the mantle of Fearlessness, that active form of non-attachment I’ve dubbed the Dare To Suck philosophy.

So what now? Now we allow ourselves to become Fascinated. Daring to Suck is all well and good, but of course it isn’t our larger aim in life; the objective is just to get the ball rolling so that we can get to the real meat of the process. And the core of creativity, the engine that drives it and the process by which ideas come alive and take flight, is Fascination.

Once we’ve used the ‘Dare To Suck’ principle to help us overcome our fear of beginning, we need to pay attention to our own attention and let it guide us, like an innate organic GPS, towards the ideas that are worth diving into. And it’s when our Attention Barometer starts to glide into those upper registers that we know we’re onto something good.

Attention All Passengers

Imagine a kind of continuum of attention, starting with total indifference and proceeding through taking notice, being actively interested, then intrigued, fascinated and finally obsessed. We just need to stop a little short of the last one. Fascination is where it’s at.

But as Eric and Ann Maisel have observed (in their book ‘Brainstorm’), there’s a big difference between negative and positive obsession. What they refer to as a ‘Brainstorm’ or a ‘productive obsession’, I’ll call Fascination. It’s a more versatile word: Fascination is what makes artists tick, and it’s also what makes our art interesting and valuable to others. Fascinating, even.

To fascinate, to be fascinating, we must allow ourselves to be fascinated by our own work. In order to give something the attention it needs to become fascinating, we need to be fascinated by it ourselves. We need to see and recognize the seeds of fascination, and we need to allow ourselves to be drawn in – to explore, to be playful, to nurture those seeds, to bring out the inner form that is hidden within an idea, or a block of stone, or a blank canvas or sheet of paper or… silence.

I believe it is also the single most important metric for identifying the value of a nascent creative idea. Fascination. Can’t-get-it-out-of-my-head-ness.

Swing for the fences

If we are not fascinated by our work, who else will be? Why settle for anything less than fascination? To be fascinating it has to be more than just interesting; it has to be brilliant, intoxicating, startlingly clear and yet deep and rich with layered meaning. It has to be arresting enough to capture us immediately, yet subtle enough to bear deeper investigation. It has to get under our skin, and it has to reward our attention generously.

It sounds like a tall order, but in fact this process is natural and organic. Once we set it in motion, it pretty much takes care of itself. Our brains, as it turns out, are wired for fascination – it is a result of our natural curiosity, as long as that curiosity is still alive within us. (I realize that the global consumerist culture does its best to quell this impulse, but I’m an optimist; I believe the spark never really quite dies out, and with the right tinder the flame can always be rekindled.)

And in my experience, there is little in this world that does not contain worlds of unexpected detail and meaning if one takes the time to look closely at it. We are blessed to live in a world of endless and fascinating complexity.

fascination is fascinating

Nearly any idea or spark can be fascinating if we explore it, which is why it doesn’t matter so much where we start – it’s the process that’s important. This is why the previous stages in the process are important and why they work – because we just have to start something and get into it in order to discover those hidden layers, that unexplored wealth of detail.

We need to know and to trust that this richness is there, and that we will find it if we begin something and stay with it for a while. And if we stay with our ideas, allow our own fascination and sense of play to bring out the inner form, if we carry our work through, it will be fascinating to others as well. Not necessarily to everyone, but it’s a big world – we can find an audience if we want it badly enough.

And if we can do this consistently, then that audience will stay with us; they will have no choice – they’ll be as fascinated as we are…

What’s your take? Does this make sense to you? Have you had creative experiences that confirm or contradict these musings? Please leave a comment in the Discussion section below, and start or join the conversation!

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* used (with much appreciation!) according to a Creative Commons license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0