SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE was the first show I ever saw on Broadway.
On multiple levels it made an indelible impression on me, particularly the song Finishing The Hat.
Stephen Sondheim wrote Finishing The Hat
about the joys and challenges of the artistic process (keenly on my mind with my novel coming out this June).
Sondheim even used the song as the title of his 2010 anthology about writing lyrics.
Paul Simon, reviewing the book for the New York Times
, understood that Finishing The Hat
was the perfect metaphor for "that feeling of joy, the little squirt of dopamine hitting the brain when the artist creates a work of art.
It's a feeling so POWERFUL and ADDICTIVE that Georges Seurat,
the play's title character, is even willing to forgo love in order to experience creative bliss.
But the metaphor about process that's moved me most this month -- and one which has been helpful to several of my creative clients --
is not Finishing The Hat ... but BAKING THE CAKE.
You see for almost the ENTIRE CREATIVE PROCESS when you're baking a cake, it looks ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like a cake.
Think about it...
Just imagine if you'd had a piece of cake, but somehow had absolutely no idea how one was made. As if you were, quite literally, starting from scratch.
First, you assemble a handful of disparate ingredients gathered
from different parts of your kitchen.
If you lined them all up together on the table, there's no logical connection between them.
A cup of flour, some eggs, milk and sugar just don't seem like they would add up to much of anything.
When you start combining them, it gets even worse. Everything is gooey and liquified.
It's not much better when you heat the mixture either. (And if you keep opening the oven, you'll cause the whole thing to collapse
in on itself.)
It's really in maybe ONLY THE LAST 10% OF THE ENTIRE PROCESS that it looks anything like what you've been aiming for.
Somehow -- because we've made cakes before or we're just willing
to trust that this is truthfully THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT -- we're OK with that messy unfolding.
(In my experience, very few people freak out about the uncertainties
Yet when it comes to new, uncharted territories in our lives,
however, I've found that most of us (me included) are not so great
at trusting that 90% OF THE TIME the Cake we're trying to bake
isn't going to remotely resemble the final product.
Of course, all this is somehow particularly true for our Creative Endeavors, and it takes a little something extra --
PATIENCE ... FAITH ... SUPPORT ...
-- to believe that the gloppy liquid is somehow going to become light and feathery, that the scattered notes and index cards are going to add up to a play or a novel or a viable business.
Somehow, remembering how a cake comes into being from seeming chaos really comforts me (as all comfort food should).
Finishing The Hat reminds me of the intense joys and challenges
of making art -- or attempting anything creative or expansive.BAKING THE CAKE
reminds me that in the end, if you can hang on until the last ten minutes, it all turns out quite well (if not deliciously).
As always, every month I offer up a few FREE CREATIVE CONSULTS
for Aspiring Bakers (and other Artists and Entrepreneurs) who want to explore the possibility of working with me as Creative Clients.
There's a part of you always standing by,
Finishing a hat . . .
Starting on a hat . . .
Finishing a hat . . .
Look I made a hat . . .
Where there never was a hat!
-- (Stephen Sondheim)