Owen and Audrey and Sadie have been making paper airplanes. Not just a few—dozens and dozens. Squadrons. Enough paper airplanes to reach from here to, say, Mars, which may be the point, I don’t know.
They hide behind the couches and launch the things at each other in a mad flurry, like a hot-weather version of a snowball fight. But first they have to stock up.
If you were to walk by their work table right now, you would see stacks of paper waiting for folding. You would see markers and pencils to decorate the planes.
You would see double-stick tape and scissors and a handful of popsicle sticks, who knows why, and a smattering of loose buttons that I don’t think are related but you really never can tell with these things. It’s a messy business, this paper folding.
It’s a messy business because creation is a messy business. It always is, no matter what you’re making.
Things don’t always turn out the way you envision.
You try again. You start over. You unfold and refold and unfold and gently, carefully recreate the thing you were trying to create the first time. That’s how it works.
You know that, even if you haven’t folded paper airplanes in years. You know that because you are creating things now, today, even if you don’t work with your hands, even if you can’t sing a note, even if you don’t put pen to paper or brush to canvas or bow to strings. You are still a creator.
You are participating in the creation of your life and your family and your neighborhood and your community, right now. You are a life artist.
You are helping to create the life you’re living.
You are creating peace or discord. You are creating rituals and routines. You are helping to create the environment where you live and work. You are a maker.
And making is a messy business.
Sometimes the creases are a little off, sometimes the edges don’t line up. Sometimes you try to make one thing, and what comes out is something else altogether. Maybe you thought you were creating a fine canvas, and instead you found yourself faced with a large amount of hot glue and a jar of googly eyes?
The thing you see in front of you does not match the truth and the beauty in your mind.
But creating is a messy business, and all art is a process of re-vision.
When the thing you meant and the thing you made do not match up, you look again. You decide if you want to keep on with this new thing, this unintended but perhaps beautiful in its own way thing—or whether you want to keep working at it, keep shaping it, keep moving it closer to what you meant to make all along.
It’s art. There’s no wrong answer.
You can look at what you’re making with new eyes, and appreciate it for what it is. Or you can look at what is, and decide to edit and curate and re-work what you have. You can do some of both.
You open up. You smooth things out. The old creases will still be there, but they don’t have to define the new thing you’re making.
Unfold, refold. Open it all up again. Re-imagine it all. Line up the edges, make your mark. Move closer to the truth you need to tell, the truth you need to live.
It’s a messy business, this life artistry.
But it’s good. It’s a life’s work.