Flow and the Wandering Mind
One of the purposes of this news section is to honestly document the creation, from beginning to end, of the projects in production at Monkey-Rope Press. Inevitably, it is not all good news.
In addition to the print series, Monkey-Rope Press is also in the early stages of writing and illustrating a book. Print production is old hat: I took all of the fine printmaking classes I could work into my college schedule, worked for a year as a pre-press and press operation apprentice in a small-production offset facility, and then a year honing my typesetting and letterpress skills with my friends at Starshaped.
I am reminded of the work of positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi on flow. Flow is the creative production ideal: a loss of self-consciousness, a total absorption in the matter at hand, a loss of track of time & physical needs. It is pure, undistracted, rewarding concentration. When settling in to print work, flow comes easily. I know the process thoroughly enough to not need to look up answers to problems; I find every aspect of design and carving, ink-mixing and printing challenging and rewarding; I find myself irritated at daily necessities that get in the way of continuing on the project. Why do I need to buy groceries? This block needs hours more work! I can eat tomorrow.
Unfortunately, it has been markedly different with this book work. While I have made small "sketch" books and taken bookbinding & book arts classes with artist & educator Melissa Jay Craig, I have never before attempted anything on this scale. Every decision breeds two new questions, breaking any rhythm I had briefly found. In almost every way, this project is thrilling: it is the fulfillment of two years of daydreaming and testing and hind-brain planning, but it also has that carpet-pulled-from-under-feet feeling of working in new, untested media. Even worse, without settling into that easy rhythm of production-flow, I find myself seeking distraction. Cats walking by my feet? They must need entertainment! Computer in the same room? Surely something of life-or-death importance has been sent to my email! Suddenly I find my bicycle too dirty to function without a good cleaning, the day too beautiful not to walk in, and then the whole day has passed with my notebooks untouched.
The only solution I have found that works is to physically isolate myself from distraction. Without a Woolfian room of my own, I settle in to the comfortable cliche of Young Urban Writer Slash Artist Working in Independent Coffee Shop. This has been much more successful a strategy than working in my home studio, which is encouraging. Since changing spaces 3 weeks ago, I've made a lot of progress. I'm not as far as I'd hoped, but this forward movement is significant. I am still writing the story, with the goal of finishing writing by the end of the year to turn to production in January.
I can't wait for that production-flow. Until then: off to the coffee shop.