22 November 2005

Annealing the metal, forging the sword

My husband has been helping me craft some language to describe what service I plan to offer on my soon-to-be website for Runningwave Workshop. The Runningwave Workshop is a dream I have had for years of owning my own business and becoming self-employed. My parents own their small business and have kept it afloat for 40 years, so I am well aware of the potential risks as well as the potential gains in this venture. I recently took an introductory workshop given by the county's manager for Small Business Development. I came away from that workshop thinking that I must carefully define the service I will be selling. I think I have hit upon a job title that describes what I will do: creativity facilitator. Very few people on the Internet are using this phrase, but those who are seem to be doing something similar to what I'd like to do for a living. I have had a rush of other thoughts and words about the services I will offer in teaching creativity workshops and seminars and in facilitating creative problem-solving. I already have many of the required skills, it is a matter of knowing how to market them and how to network to sell my services.

M., my husband, is brilliant when it comes to analogies. He always find the most apt imagery to draw upon whenever he must explain a complex process or concept to others. It is one of his true gifts and one of the qualities that makes him a scholar as well as a scientific researcher. M. told me that some cognitive scientists and machine intelligence engineers are now using the verb "to anneal" in order to understand and to describe the human creative thought processes.

From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Main Entry: an·neal
Function: verb Etymology: Middle English anelen to set on fire, from Old English on[AE]lan, from on + [AE]lan to set on fire, burn, from Al fire; akin to Old English [AE]led fire, Old Norse eldr transitive senses
1 a : to heat and then cool (as steel or glass) usually for softening and making less brittle; also : to cool slowly usually in a furnace
b : to heat and then cool (nucleic acid) in order to separate strands and induce combination at lower temperature especially with complementary strands of a different species

This process of annealing thought can be pictured if you imagine what your brain does when you are problem solving. All of the thoughts are static at first, then as you begin to solve the problem you move, organize and "heat" your thoughts with focused energy until a point when you have reached a mental rut or stumbling block. Then often you have to cool down, step back and allow the thoughts to dissapate and relax a bit. Then sometimes, when you've given your brain some rest, a new idea occurs that sends you off in a new direction with renewed purpose.

I am a visual thinker, so while he was describing this analogy I saw in my mind's eye the rugged hands of a metalsmith pounding a hammer onto a piece of glowing metal into a sword. The smith was forming and shaping the sword with sheer physical force until the metal was annealed to the right point to make it supple, into a weapon of great power.

Weyland the Smith is a character featured in myths and legends of the Norse and Saxon people. I have been thinking about him and about the anicent Celtic goddess Brighid, patroness of metalsmithing, poetic inspiration and healing, who later became a Christian saint known as St. Brigit of Kildare, Ireland. I think my Celtic and Northern European ancestors would have appreciated this "annealing of thought" metaphor. Thoughts must be honed and tempered like good steel so that your blade becomes a thing of power and of beauty. I am a very peaceful person by nature, but sometimes the ancient Celt in me lifts her head in defiance of circumstance and fights for what she feels is just. Sometimes you must fight to be creative in a world that wants you to stay inside the proverbial box, filed under the proper label, signed for, and copied in triplicate.

Hmmm. . . Annealing thoughts into powerful tools with sharpened edges. Edward Bulwer Lytton once wrote: "the pen is mightier than the sword." But isn't it the keyboard now that is the weapon of power a creative thinker and writer must wield in cyberspace?

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