For week twenty-four of our year long calligraphy challenge we were given this quote from Louis Armstrong. Do anything you want, but only use these words. I decided to play around with different brush pens to see how I might express the words ‘jazz’ and ‘improvise’. It may sound funny but I did a couple versions and liked this blue-ish version of the word jazz, so I cut it out and completed the rest of the quote in black. I used nine different brush pens to write the word improvise, one per letter.
For many of us these stay at home days, weeks and months have been a true life exercise in improvisation. There are core things that we do each day, the rest of it seems like a lot of living on the fly. For those who need structure and a plan the unknown and unplanned feels like wasting good efforts for no real reason. For those who like things unplanned this is a dream come true. Maybe this saying reminds us that life is a lot like jazz, best when improvised and yet you cannot improvise well unless you have mastered the basics.
I have a friend who starts back to work tomorrow, less hours but she goes back to the office. She is glad to be gainfully employed again, yet knows it may take weeks for her to get back her ‘workday mojo’ as she called it. We ate in a restaurant over the weekend and it was the waitress’ first day back in three months. She said it was hard to get moving again, glad to be there but it felt strange. They both know the necessity of work yet have been improvising for so long that the structure of it seems odd. Getting back to a routine is in essence how we live our lives, however our “old” ways now may feel a bit old fashioned or out of date.
How much of your life is sticking to the basics and how much is improvisation? In which one do you thrive more? And what about the other one drives you crazy? The best jazz musicians know the basic tune yet thrill the audience when they improvise beyond what anyone imagined that the original tuned could sound like. Maybe it’s time for you to let go, try a new way, even do something on the fly to exercise new muscles AND appreciate the areas in your life that are structured.