Using the churn
Not to be confused with the Amos Burton novella. Some clever bastard phrased it as “the sound that a fork makes in the garbage disposal.” And I’m stealing that metaphor, because I’m satisfied to regard my brain as a sort of garbage disposal. I never stop looking for new things to stuff in there via traveling, events, television, music, film, books, crafts, hobbies, games, whatever. And when I get especially hung up on something it’s a catalyst– I’ll binge, obsess, repeat and churn it down to the atomic level, exploring the components, absorbing them, figuring out ways to graft them into my being because I want the things I love to define me.
(And while I think they do to some extent, I also try to be careful with that notion because when others don’t like what you yourself love, it is sometimes difficult not taking it personally. Besides, sometimes there’s no accounting for taste.)
The churn is neither good nor bad, it’s more just energy looking for application. The churn helps immensely when I’m writing and weaving context and details into a story. If I can’t pull the perfect example from memory, there’s always something appropriate I can call to mind as a starting place. Then, churn baby, churn.
But undoubtedly fixation comes with all kinds of downside. Like when it begins to feel genuinely impossible to get people to believe in you. When asking friends for help or support and they give you hard pass. When applying for grants, fellowships or submitting to competitions and getting the endless stream of “Regrettably…” responses. Even when you’re moving right along on a project, finding locations, enlisting help and finding actors, pitching the story that you’ve spent so long cultivating, and then …nothing. Silence. Ghosted. That vacuum is agony. And in that vacuum the churn will make everything seem suspect and personal. It will taint your thinking, steal your momentum and broadcast all kinds of unhelpful thoughts and doubts that can discouraged or sap your motivations.
So you gotta tell yourself to shut that shit down. Figure out how to judiciously use the churn and turn it off from time to time. Let it feast on passion and starve on despair. Easier said than done, obviously.