The Open Window: Taking Care of the Edges
Insights on Creativity by Quinn McDonald
My father was a brilliant scientist, and communicating with him wasn’t always easy for me. But he had a great curiosity about life. He was always studying, taking notes, working on projects he brought home from work. So much so, that my predominant memory is of the back of his head, bent over a book.
Occasionally, he would become briefly involved in one of his kids’ lives—generally with science homework. One afternoon, I was destroying a slice of freshly-baked bread, trying to get cold peanut better on a warm slice. He surveyed my impatience, took in my frustration, and said, "Take care of the edges, the middle will take care of itself. " He was right.
The sturdy crust helped the edges hold onto the cold peanut butter, and as I carefully applied it up to the edges, the stiff peanut butter warmed, making it easy to spread to the soft middle.
This advice works well in the rest of life as well. In the studio, start the glue on a collage at one edge, work it carefully toward the adjoining corners, then the middle, and the center won't be overworked and buckle.
Start a story at the edges--with research, character development, a plot line, and you won’t stall out in the middle of the story.
Life problems, too, are best solved from the edge in. When you jump in without thinking of the cause, trying to fix the heart of the issue, you allow the problem to pull at the soft, warm, center of your pain. Work at the edge, at the cause, and by the time you get to your pain, you understand it better and are ready to see the growth.
My father has been dead for more than 30 years, but I never scoop peanut butter out of a jar without thinking of his easy wisdom that has served my sandwiches--and my life as an artist and writer--well.
Quinn McDonald is a mixed media journaler and creativity coach who helps artists through transitions in their lives. Quinn’s book, Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art
is published by North Light. She is working on her second book for North Light Books.
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