(The door to channels of white and dark noise…)
My friend Dan Read has had some very interesting things to say in connection with my White Noise/Solitude post earlier this week, and I’m going to bring them up out of the comments thread and into this revisting of the subject. See below. I’m curious whether anyone else has trouble with this balance, and any thoughts on it, especially since it’s part of the sustainable career/sustainable creativity section of my forthcoming Booklife book from Tachyon.
Here’s part of my response to Dan, as well: I totally agree with you re channels. Itâ€™s tough sometimes. We keep too many channels open and we have to retreat completely from all of them. The key is the recognition that too many channels are open before a fuse blows. Iâ€™m always somewhat afraid of getting burnt out and not regaining whatever it is that keeps the imagination continuously putting out ideas and images. This in particular resonates: â€œOne thing thatâ€™s tricky is that the channel stays open in your consciousness even when youâ€™re not paying attention to it. In fact, the fact that youâ€™re not paying attention to it at any given moment creates an extra stress.â€ This is one reason I am not writing much fiction while doing the 60 in 60. It started as an interesting exercise, something to cleanse my mind. It still is doing that, but with the linkage to the feature, the Guardian thing etc., it is now much more of a â€œperformanceâ€ than Iâ€™d planned. And so I have to be careful now that this open channel also doesnâ€™t become something that burns me out.
The text below is all copyright Dan Read.
I have experienced an overload of what you call dark noise. It was followed by a depression, actually. Instead of the dark noise metaphor, though, Iâ€™ve thought of it as having a finite ability to handle a limited number of â€œopen channels.â€ Mostly the idea of a â€œchannelâ€ centers to me around a communication medium: a blog one writes, a site where one participates in comment threads regularly, an email account (each conversation is a sub-channel, and I experienced an overload on one of my main email accounts also), a collaboration on a projectâ€“but a channel could be any relationship, really, though I think particularly an online one, because the other side of the channel is not feeding back into you directly, if at all.
I think this kind of overload is a sign of the times, and I wonder whether the younger generation will evolve with the ability to handle far more open channels. I went over my limit, experienced burnout, and ended up letting some people down from over committing.
One thing thatâ€™s tricky is that the channel stays open in your consciousness even when youâ€™re not paying attention to it. In fact, the fact that youâ€™re not paying attention to it at any given moment creates an extra stress. Iâ€™ve started training myself to be careful of opening new channels. And online, Iâ€™ve found myself becoming more of a passive consumer of online channels that donâ€™t know Iâ€™m listening.
Connected to this topic for me was an overload of too much attention spent in the virtual world of the internet, and also mass media in general, particularly TV. The â€œreal worldâ€ became more foreign to me, and that took a toll.
The verb â€œregainingâ€ that you use is most apt to the situation after the fuse blows. There is a process that happens, hopefully, of regaining.
Setting aside for a moment the usual debates about personality tests, the Meyers-Briggs (sp?) personality types offer an interesting perspective here: on one of the four dimensions measured, people are either â€œIâ€ types or â€œEâ€ types. â€œIâ€ stands for Introverted and â€œEâ€ for Extroverted, but the terms donâ€™t have quite their usual meaning in this context. â€œIâ€ means that one is energized, rejuvenated by alone time; conversely, time spent with people (and on open channels, I believe) are a drain on energy. â€œEâ€ means that one takes *in* energy from the company of others, and alone time is draining.
Oneâ€™s tolerance and desire for open channels, for dark noise may have something do with oneâ€™s proclivity as an I or E. As Iâ€™ve aged Iâ€™ve definitely learned that I have â€œIâ€ tendencies, and I have to be careful with open channels. (I still think dak noise is a good metaphor, just with a different perspective; dark noise comes from everywhere, not just the channels youâ€™ve explicitly opened, and has an element of randomness to it; without the dark noise, and some open channels, we have no raw material for either life or artâ€¦).
There is another perspective in your post and comment that is also useful and powerful: the cyclical nature of thingsâ€“to every season, etc. Itâ€™s natural and normal to sometimes be in a state of taking in, sometimes of putting out, sometimes producing, sometimes incubating. These cycles are baked into nature itself. It seems to me that some of your exercises and techniques are designed to harness these natural cycles in order to keep a constant flow of some kind going. Art is very much a craft at that point, and in some ways like the process of an endurance athlete.
The product of your energy is not just a burst, but rather the result of a deliberate discipline. Your physical and mental ability to keep up a steady output are also based on your discipline. But when what you do requires inspiration as well (controlled bursts?), not just perspiration (to put a little Jesse Jackson spin on it), youâ€™ve got to design things into your process to let the inspiration in while you keep the wheel spinning.