Remember that scene in The Matrix, where Neo goes to see the Oracle and she tells him that, despite being gifted, he seems to be waiting for something to let him know whether or not he is “The One?” I’ve been thinking about that scene a lot lately, in terms of what it could mean from a creative perspective. In the movie, we eventually find out that what Neo was waiting for was a reason to truly believe in himself and fully own his own power. Once he is able to do that, everything changes.
It’s been almost a year since I decided to put my musical projects on hold because I felt that I had lost sight of where I was going with them – what I was trying to achieve and why. I’ve questioned that decision a number of times since then, but something inside kept telling me to wait and listen: to simply let things settle instead of giving in to the urge to rush back into busyness. I was hoping to find some kind of creative direction during this time – some kind of inkling that would push me in one direction or the other. What I found instead is something that I feel is even more valuable: the patience and willingness to endure the silence.
I think it’s natural to want to fill a void. A common axiom dictates that something is better than nothing, although this sentiment may be more a product of scarcity-based thinking than any kind of universal truth. Regardless, emptiness can feel downright uncomfortable, especially when it comes to one’s sense of purpose or direction. There’s the temptation to think that as long as you’re working on something – anything – at least you’re making progress in some regard. The problem with this, however, is that you may be moving in the opposite direction from where you’d really like to go, or you may simply be moving at random, without any real goal or destination in mind. This is exactly where I found myself creatively: I kept myself busy working on various projects, but I never stopped to ask myself where I was going, or what it was, exactly, that I wanted to create in the first place. What purpose was being creative serving for me, other than keeping me busy? Or more to the point, what void was I trying to fill with it?
Being unsure of one’s direction from time to time, whether creatively or in general, is simply a part of life. Whether it’s during a time of intentional transition, the result of an unexpected turn in the road, or anything else, sometimes it’s necessary to stop for a moment and take a good look at your surroundings so that you can effectively decide on how to move forward. Stopping can also allow you to look back on where you’ve been and ask yourself if the path you’re on is still the most appropriate for where you’re trying to go. What I found when I finally decided to get off the merry-go-round was that for me, staying busy had been serving as a means to fill a long-standing void of indecision and non-commitment that was rooted in fear. Had I not stopped, it would have probably been next to impossible for me to see this for what it was, as countless issues and tasks related to that eternal busyness would have undoubtedly been right there demanding my attention. The takeaway: emptiness and silence can be powerful tools for revealing the unnoticed, ignored, or forgotten.