A Beautiful Anarchy: When the Life Creative Becomes the Life Created by David duChemin
Book Rec by Nancy Miller Barton
With apologies to authors and booksellers everywhere – I have a confession. I find that I do my best reading on craft books while still in the bookstore. Once I buy the book that seemed so appealing in the store and bring it home it gets added to a pile and forgotten. Unread. I think I must need to read craft in bite-sized pieces.
I sit on the floor at the local bookstore, leaning among the stacks, good light, tea from the cafe and no pressure if I don’t like it. I sip. Skim. Flip.
That is how I stumbled on David duChemin’s book A Beautiful Anarchy and this pondering thought, “really who the hell do we think we are that we should accomplish something new without first bumping around in the darkness a little?”
Can I get a hallelujah? I found duChemin’s small yet rich paperback in the photography section at the Barnes and Noble. According to the back cover, duChemin is a photographer. Peek at his website (davidduchemin.com) and find stellar examples of his “world and humanitarian” photography. There are also blog posts about things like finding the soul of a photo and how smiles, although universal, only tell part of the story. I ramble on – sum it up with duChemin’s subtitle “When the life creative becomes the life created.” This is not a how-to write or take photos book, duChemin looks at creativity, dare I say, through a different lens?
I live life in a rich fog of doubt and procrastination. “I can’t. Why me? Everyone has it and I don’t.” Put those statements to music and you’ve got my soundtrack. You too may know the chorus? So this line from duChemin’s book spoke to me: “To be blunt … suck it up princess. The only failure is to not do.” Great cheerleading stuff, but there’s more. As the princess he’s talkin’ ‘bout I love his direct style – on that same page he goes on, “the real failure is to rob this world of the contribution only you can make.” Who me???
Page flip. Tea refill. You’ve got my attention. I read on.
“The words ‘this might not work’ are probably some of the healthiest in the lexicon of anyone who wants to live creatively,” duChemin writes, ”They indicate a certain humility and openness to what comes next.” Love it. Speaks to my aforementioned soundtrack of doubt. He considers taking risks. Big ones. Have you always wanted to sell everything to travel? He did, and he did. Okay, not realistic for all of us, but the intent resonates. Maybe when the time is right we should. “I wanted to experience things I would never experience at home, find some new stories and meet new people.” Arguably though I suppose we can meet “new” by going to a different part of town, turning left instead of right. Or dare I say checking out a different section at the bookstore.
But all that leads to a concept that really hit me like a hammer about idea generation, connections and forgiveness. “If creativity is, in part, about connecting dots, then the more divergent (or unlikely) those dots are the better.” I’d underline this next part if I’d bought the book, “it is the daily task of the creative to be curious and collect dots.” Fill your brain he says with raw material. Meet. Read. Watch.
Sip tea. Turn page.
If I take him at his word, duChemin is offering a get-out-of-jail-free card: enjoy the life you create. He encourages readers to, “take classes, go to new places, and try new things.” Increase the input. Increase the possibilities. Isolation limits potential. So here’s a chunk that may help assuage guilt at the idea of doing the things I find fun, in lieu of getting down to work “We’re not islands. We don’t self generate ideas…seed your garden…soak it in…don’t try to force the dots together: just let them sit there.” He continues, “If ideation is about collecting and connecting dots, then it’s the collecting which we can do intentionally. The connecting is a passive act of incubation and that takes time.” The things that (to me) are fun are part of the work.
“A Beautiful Anarchy” is a look at creativity no matter your muse. Not a writer’s how-to but rather, when at the risk of feeling defeated or doubting talent it’s a how-to-not. So while I didn’t buy the book, cause then I wouldn’t have read it, I do encourage you. If you’re so inclined to help an artist out, I’d say buy it. Please. And at B&N I do recommend the good light and a nice Earl Grey tea.
Nancy Miller Barton says writing a bio, an elevator speech about herself, is nearly as hard as naming a baby. Think about it – picking the name for a human person is no easy task! Nancy loves to tell stories, meet people, listen and yes, talk. She considers herself a dot connector and (she realizes after reading duChemin’s book) loves collecting dots. Nancy started her career in broadcasting. She first worked in radio in Central Texas and eventually grew to her dream job in TV news. While working at Austin’s NBC affiliate she interviewed serial killers, political candidates and every day people often at the worst moments of their lives. Later she turned to freelance, telling stories in local magazines and on air as a voiceover talent. Nancy considers herself the charter member of WCAA (Writing Class Addicts Anonymous) and loves it. The Writing Barn has opened the door on new skills and what she hopes will be new accomplishments. She’s currently working on children’s picture books and essays. Nancy also works for the Austin School District as a middle school Parent Support Specialist. She loves learning the stories of the primarily refugee parents and students she works with as she continues to connect and collect dots.