A couple of weeks ago I went to the theatre to see one of the UK's most celebrated comedians Paul Merton, together with his Impro Chums. Anyone reading in the UK will understand me when I tell them that this was a stage version of the hit Channel 4 TV show Who's Line Is It, Anyway?
Earlier in the day I had been driving in my car and listeing to the great Bob Marley classic Jammin' on the radio.
Earlier still I had been having a conversation with an aquaintance about the question oft favoured by those fond of control: 'where do you see yourself in 5 years time?'
Don't laugh. He was serious.
Where was I? When I was at school, doing English Language lessons, we were often asked to write an essay or short story. The teachers insisted that along with the finished article, we showed some sort of planning. E.g. an essay plan with subsections containing short summaries. They assured us that making a plan before beginning writing would help us produce something more polished, with structure and coherence. Something altogether better thought out.
Those who know me well will be able to guess that what I did was to just spontaneously write the story or essay without any prior thought or planning whatsoever, and then retrospectively pretend (to keep the daft a'p'orth of a teacher quiet) to have started with a plan by making one up based on the finished essay or story.
Guess who's essay or story was invariably read out in class the next week.
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: 'Yeh, well, of course. You are a writer. Of course you could do that. You have a natural talent.'
I would like to suggest that what people normally call 'natural talent' is essentially the extent to which a person gets themselves (or their ordinary thinking mind) the hell out of the way and just lets creativity flow through them totally unhindered. No planning. No thought in advance. In fact, no thought at all. Just let go. Just flow.
If I had followed the teachers' advice, I could have produced something that was still OK, quite good perhaps. But totally ignoring the teachers' advice, I regularly produced pieces of work that made the rest of the class and the teacher gasp.
Now back to Bob Marley and the 5 year plan. That day I think I realised what Bob was on about when he wrote that song. Musicians often hold what they sometimes call a 'jam session', and it is often reported that during such sessions some of the world's most memorable songs are created. Paul Merton and his chums on stage made us laugh out loud throughout the evening with totally unscripted improvisation and the laughter was enhanced by a sense of awe at their courage, freedom and wonderfully flowing creativity.
In my past I have dabbled with 'self-help' books like those written by Anthony Robbins, which often encouraged turning vague dreams into detailed plans. I wrote about this in my previous article entitled What Do You Want? In the article I describe how, although the first few chapters of those books got me very fired up and motivated, when it came to the planning the future part, I just could not do it. I did not know what I wanted, and even if I had, I had absolutely no idea how to go about getting things.
Today I look at my life and I can see that regardless of no planning at all, things seem to be going wonderfully smoothly, with a sense of wonderful joy at the creation that is happening with no planning whatsoever.
And on that day it all came together. I understood what was going on. I am improvising. I am jammin'. No plan. No goal. Just enjoying the ride and creating by mistake. Trusting that wonderful things are just going to happen without any planning.
Come and join me and together we can say, we can sing, we're jammin'!
"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our mind." Bob Marley
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