If there is any one characteristic in me that just comes naturally, it would be a love of variety. When I go to a restaurant, I look for something that I have never eaten before. I love lots of different music that is full of surprises. I want to read different kinds of books because any one genre over time gets old to me. I want to see movies with good stories… to be pulled into the story and surprised. I do not like predictability. The same old thing bores me. Variety inspires me.
I do not want to “see the pattern”. A few years ago, a coworker told me about the TV show, 24. I got it on DVD and watched it with Jeanie. What a great show! I loved the way they put it together by doing it in “real time”. After the first season on DVD, we watched the 2nd season. By the end of the second season I was starting to “see the pattern”. I was seeing the formula. I started watching the clock and thinking to myself, “It is too early to solve this now. Something really off the wall is about to happen.” Sure enough, a new character would turn the whole thing upside down. By the end of season two, I didn’t care. In fact, I never saw the final episode. I didn’t skip it on purpose, but got too busy to watch it. I could have rented it again, but I just didn’t care any more.
When I am playing jazz on my trombone or flügelhorn, I may find myself running out of ideas. Sometimes I will just pick a note out of the blue (no pun intended)… one that will just stir things up for me. I won’t know what it will sound like and that’s the point. It may fit well with the tune or it may not. The challenge then (whether it fits or not) is to make it sound like I meant to do it. The mere change can inspire me to weave a different musical pattern completely because of where it took me.
When I am running, or riding my bicycle, or driving, I love to take different routes, just because I can. I sometimes shave my face backwards because I can.
A long time ago when I was in the musical instrument repair business, I toured a musical instrument factory. A group of my colleagues wandered away from the “official” tour when they saw a man engraving a saxophone by hand. As they watched him in awe, one of them asked him if he ever made a mistake. He said, “you mean like this?” and he purposefully scratched the instrument with his engraving tool. He paused a moment to let us take in the gravity of what he had just done, “I just make it look like I meant it,” and he began to add leaves to the scratch to make it look like a vine or a branch. That inspires me. Turning a mistake into a work of art. Creating variety. Using variety to be creative.
After all, a rut is just a grave with the ends kicked out.