Bird in Space (Brancusi), Getty Museum, Notes & Rests


Letter #14:

Managing space is something we all do. We exist in three dimensions, and, as sentient creatures we want to handle physical space in a way that suits us. While birds fly and build nests, we decorate homes, drive in traffic, and move in buildings where space has been well or poorly considered. Your consideration of space is different than mine. We are led to believe that the more we manage space the more effective we’ll be. This is especially true for composers, with their precious rests, sculptors, architects, painters and designers who know that decisions about space determine the effectiveness of the work. For them placement in space is a calibrated and precise decision.

When it comes to mental space we act like these artists; earnestly placing ideas in mind-space where better decisions can be made. I wonder if people are probably more inconsistent in their physical and mental management of space, than consistent, depending on behavioral and cultural influences. The neurologist and psychiatrist, Viktor E. Frankl, said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (FYI, the underline is mine. I write about personal freedom and privacy in Letters #8, 9 and 12.) How we choose to act out in the space between the stimulus and the response informs our character type –introvert/extrovert, etc; yet just as with physical space, we are led to believe that more mental space leads to better decisions.

(“Unless they don’t,” says the smiling extrovert to introvert.)

Which brings me to Mark Ronson. Yes, the music producer Mark Ronson of the mega-hit, “Uptown Funk”, featuring Bruno Mars. Notice that the YouTube video below has 540 million views (plus), to date.

NPR’s Terry Gross interviewed Mark on Fresh Air. Here’s what she said: “The song, on the album Uptown Special, just ended its 14-week run at the top of theBillboard Hot 100. Ronson has put out four albums under his own name, and they all feature other artists singing the songs he co-wrote and produced. Ronson has also had a hand in other hits: He produced some of Amy Winehouse’s 2006 album Back To Black, including the songs “Rehab” and “You Know I’m No Good.” (Listen to the full interview, and read the article here.)

So, what does this have to do with intuition and mental space? He tells a story about how he and Amy Winehouse came up with the song, “Rehab”.

It is a stunning example of the role intuition can play, and I would go so far as to say that it makes the argument that over-thinking can kill creativity.

(See this Psychology Today article.) Here’s the except from the interview:

She wrote “Back To Black” and “Rehab” while we were there in the studio, in like, kind of a matter of hours. So when she was telling me this story about rehab — we were actually walking down the street and she was saying, “There was this time a couple of years ago, and I was in this dark place, and my family came over and some friends, and they tried to make me go to rehab, and I was like, ‘No, no, no.'” And she put up her hand, and I just thought, “That’s such a catchy turn of phrase, and should we go back — and do you want to try to write a song with that?” Because it just instantly sounded like a hook to me. I remember it so well. She was telling me this really deep story, and I’m kind of like, “Is it gross?” — all I can hear is a big pop hook in there.

At the time Mark was building his career, and was relatively unknown. To me, it seems that he acted authentically in that moment. So did the success of that act encourage him to remain authentic? Who knows, but the point is, you can’t accommodate intuitive space if you’re not present. In the moment. Sadly, that act of intuition on his part later became achingly ironic when Winehouse took her life. (I mention her in the context of Music Trends in 2015 — and now add as a strong influence.)

My character, Allison in THE FACES IN THE RAIN learned to be authentic—-the hard way.  So, while we’re moving things around in our places and in our head, making room for decisions, maybe, before we actually act on that decision, maybe we should stop and ask, what is that voice inside my head, telling me to do something entirely different? And why am I thinking in two dimensions, when stimulus, response and intuition offer me a much wider three-dimensional palate? When I am writing, I occasionally give intuition a voice to shout out, so the reader can hear it echo elsewhere in the book. Then, like the composer, I give it a rest.

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