“I think of all the different music that I have done and will continue
to do almost as photographs of my evolution, and just like
photographs, in some I may look great and in some I may not. What
matters to me is that I risk, I trust, I strive, and let things unfold
as they may.”
– Azam Ali
I’ve been thinking about eggs, and the way we form ideas and release them into the wild.
My first thought was that ideas are like eggs in a nest, little orbs of potential that we fuss over and tend to and keep warm, until they are ready to hatch and emerge into the world.
But I don’t think that’s quite right. It doesn’t seem to reflect the experience that artists and innovative thinkers have when sharing their new ideas with the world. It’s too detached.
What if we aren’t outside watching over our ideas? What if we are inside? Not just inside the nest, but inside the egg?
Maybe our relationship to the ideas we develop is not one of parental vigilance but symbiosis?
We nourish our ideas, and our ideas nourish us. We grow through the exchange.
It might make more sense if we think of ideas not as something that we have or collect, but as something we are. An idea is something we become, at least during those initial stages of growth, before it takes on a life fully its own.
In other words, hatching ideas isn’t a process of anxious observation as our ideas enter the world: it is we who must emerge each time.
The Nature of Our Shell
What does this mean for our creative process?
The shell could be the walls of our studio, or the anonymity of a blogging pseudonym. It could be the comfortable praise of a long-time mentor, or the fears that keep us from expressing our thoughts. It could be the rounded womb of habit, or the way a well-used tool feels in our hand.
The opacity of a shell provides a kind of veil or disguise — there’s no need to be presentable while still forming. And its hardness provides protection from the elements, elements that might damage and inhibit growth before the life within becomes viable.
But the strength of the shell is illusory. Eggs are fragile. They need to be incubated and tended. And they are temporary.
The protection of a shell allows growth, to a point, and then it starts limiting development and warping growth.
At some stage in every career — in every project, even — there comes a time to emerge, to tap our way through the shell, and enter the world. And that can be a real mess.
We don’t know how the shell will crack, or how long it will take. We peck and peek, hoping we can leap out fully-formed and strutting like a big, beautiful peacock that has always been that way, or a poised and sedate swan, gliding without effort.
We want to instantly be and appear our best, not a wet stumbling mess, with bits of shell matted in our feathers, wondering how many times we’ll need to fall before we fly.
For perfectionists, it’s that much worse, because this moment is about the possibility of letting a whole lot of imperfection happen — in full view.
You have to trust that eventually, you’ll be remembered for flying, not the missteps and bad hair days you had along the way.
By leaving the shell, you lose its opacity and protection, but it’s impossible to walk, or fall, or fly or grow while you’re stuck inside it.
Whatever the project, big or small: make the first crack, then the next, until you can stumble out, take a spill, and then stand on your two new feet for the first time. Muscles will follow, then growth, then flight.
And it all starts with a tentative little crack.