Marshalling our Resources: Missing School, Rowing Boats, and Making Space for Creativity

Recently I've been having that experience we all have where something--a thought, an idea, a symbol--is brought to our attention and then we start seeing it everywhere.

I've been having a very hard time getting my junior high son out of bed in the morning. Because of this, he has missed a lot of school and his grades are not good. We were due for an IEP conference anyway, so, naturally, his attendance became the focus of the meeting. One particular thing the assistant principal said caught my attention. He said that there are plenty of other kids in the school that are experiencing the same problems as my son but there is a big difference between them and him. They are making use of the resources available to them, and he is not.

When the VP said that to my son, I felt like he also meant the message for me. So I started to think it over....

Around the same time as this I was reading @theboysintheboat by Daniel James Brown. The book is about the rowing team at Washington State that went to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The part of the story I was reading was about their coach, Al Ulbrickson, who was struggling to get the boys to perform at the level he felt certain they were capable of. He had already worked and reworked dozens of strategies--both old and new. Some of the things he'd tried had brought about gains in their performance but the gains had been small and/or inconsistent--never enough to get them to Berlin.

Going into the final season leading up to Berlin, Ulbrickson fine-tuned his approach. Part of that approach was that he was going to need to make full use of the resources available to him and his team. One of their most precious resources was George Pocock.

Pocock was a boat builder who worked out of the team's boathouse and as an unofficial advisor to their coach and crew. He had more practical knowledge about rowing and racing boats than probably anyone else in the world at that time. But there was more to him than that. He was remarkable in his intuitive understanding of what made the crew tick on a philosophical and psychological level.

Joe Rantz, one of the crew's rowers, particularly concerned Ulbrickson. "He'd scolded Joe, he'd encouraged him, he'd demoted him, he'd repromoted him. But he wasn't any closer to understanding the mystery of him. Now Ulbrickson turned to Pocock for some help. He asked [Pocock] to take a look at Rantz--to talk to him, to try to figure him out and, if possible, to fix him." (Chapter 12, pg. 213, hardcover edition)

I think you know where this is headed. I haven't finished the book yet but I know that Pocock and his influence are instrumental in "fixing" Rantz and getting the team to the Olympics.

Which brings me back to the concept that's been coming up for me alot lately: marshalling (i.e. assembling) and making the best possible use of our resources.

What does marshalling our resources have to do with making room in our lives for and finding motivation for art and creativity in our lives?

Well, for example, what if Ulbrickson had told himself that he was already trying as hard as he could and there was nothing else he could do? What if he had decided he was stuck and couldn't do anything more? But there was something else he could do--he could bring in more and better help. He could make better use of the resources available to him and his team.

And in the example of my junior high son? Well, we're still in the thick of it but I'm definitely starting to think about the resources that are available to us and that we haven't been utilizing. I'm trying to follow Ulbrickson's lead.

Sometimes I feel stuck and I tell myself I've given all I can. I tell myself my energy, my ideas, my motivation--everything--are all used up. First of all, this is never true for me. I suspect it's never true for you either.

But second, when I do feel this way, I might remind myself to stop looking inside my head and my feelings and sensations and start looking at the world around me. What are the resources outside myself that are available to me? What difference could it make if I were to call upon them?

So, here is a wall I keep butting my head against in my creative efforts: waning energy and disappearing motivation. So often I feel tired--simply wiped out. What resources do I have that can help me address this problem? Specifically, how can I look outside myself for help?

A few ideas: I could set up a time when I can paint with a friend; I can sign up for a community class; I can talk to a therapist or a friend who motivates me; I can research motivational and time-management techniques; I can ask other creatives how they get back their energy and motivation.....

That's a hella lot of resources and that's the tip of the iceburg.

And that's probably enough talk about this subject for this itty-bitty blog post but I want to end by turning to you--my readers--because I hope you can be a resource to me, too. I hope we can be a resource to each other.

Could you please share below, in the comments, how you marshall your resources to make creativity happen in your life? I'd like to hear about the resources you've found both inside and outside yourself that have helped you get unstuck. I'd love to hear, especially, how you break out, or climb out, or are pulled out of fatigue and ennui.

Your comments would mean so much to me. Thank you and don't ever forget this: our souls are just plain going to wither up and die if we don't create.

Until next time!


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