The Trajectory of Work

I like to throw things into the bin from afar. 

Mostly this happens in my kitchen, where the bin sits majestically in the corner over by the back door. I tend to throw non-food items, for good reason, which I’ll come to in a minute. 

The bin sits with its lid open, mostly because it no longer closes, and it is like an open mouth begging for a bacchanalian grape to be popped inside. 

I do what I can.

The reason that I don’t throw foodstuffs at my bin is pretty easy to figure out. It’s because I’m a bloody awful shot. If I threw everything that came into my hand in the kitchen, then the walls and floor  that adjoins the bin would be smeared with unmentionable stains of all shapes and sizes. That wouldn’t do at all. Mostly, I just restrict myself to packaging and balled-up kitchen roll.

My sons are kind in encouraging this little enthusiasm or at least in not berating me for it. There is often a quiet respectful nod when some errant piece of cellophane shoots its way above the kitchen table and hits home. By the same token, there is a quiet and understated 'looking the other way' for the majority of times when I miss.

(I’ve just realised, this is going to be one of the most blindingly obvious posts I’ve ever written. Better brace yourself.)

I’ve learned to adapt emotionally to my poor stats in hitting the bin. In the simplest terms, I take inordinate pleasure when my shot hits home and I immediately write off every attempt that fails. That pleasure I take does not manifest itself externally. I do not, for example, run circuits of the kitchen table with my jumper pulled over my head while whooping in an upper register. None of the above. I just do a small mental fist pump and feel better about myself, both as an athlete and a marksman. The failure routine just involves strolling over to the bin, picking up the misdirected missile, binning it, and getting on with things without further comment.

I have learned two things from my career of throwing things into the kitchen bin. I’d like to share them with you if that’s all right. After that, I’ll turn them into the most obvious metaphor in human history. Then we can all go home. Sound good? Great, let’s get it done.

Here’s the two things I’ve learned:

1) If I feel that it matters that I hit the bin, then I am far more likely to do so.

2) Whenever I shoot with a low trajectory, I invariably miss. 

To quote MC Hammer, let’s break it down.

I’m in the kitchen by myself. I have some redundant piece of detritus in my hand. I toss it carelessly at the bin. I will miss, it’s a given. If one or other of my family is in the room or, God help me, if all of them are there then I will most likely hit home. It’s about focus and about feeling that what I am about it do is important and that it matters. That’s the difference.

That second point is more technical. It’s about trajectory. I have a tendency to shoot straight for the bin. A hard straight shot that looks great when it goes in. But it doesn’t go in all that often. Whenever I choose a high looping trajectory, my chances of success increase by many times. The balled-up kitchen roll rises, rises, then drops neatly into the centre of the bin. It’s the best way.

Sermons and sitcoms are often the same in having this trait; they often drop a little ‘moral of the story' bit right at the end. This is also true with some of my blog posts. I tend to sermonise. Sorry about that. It is Sunday after all.

So here it is, the sermon bit.

These two lessons I’ve learned from hitting and missing my kitchen bin also serve as a useful guide in my attempts at having a creative life outside of my normal one. I write but I don’t write for a living, that work lies elsewhere. But my ‘Bin Theories’ help me with the writing part and can similarly be applied to whatever your creative endeavour is too.

You know how this will work already but let me spell it out, if only to further tick you off.

Whenever you’re doing your own creative thing, try thinking about throwing stuff in the bin… no, not like that. I mean the mechanics, and the emotional engagement of throwing stuff in the bin. Do 1) and 2).

Firstly, go about the work like it matters hugely, not like it’s some time killing exercise in a back room that will never go anywhere.

Secondly, aim high with your work. Aim exceedingly high.

When I write a little play or a film or something, I am not writing it for the local village hall or for a YouTube upload seen by twenty friends. I am writing for Broadway and Hollywood. Every time. This encourages me to keep my game up as much as I can. Second best will not do. A quick stab at it… will not do. It has to be the best it can be.

And in this aiming high and pretending it matters hugely, my work follows a similar trajectory to that ball of aluminium foil that I just hit the bin with. It soars high for a moment, it scrapes the ceiling, it touches Hollywood and Broadway for a brief moment… and then it comes back down to exactly where it belongs.

That final home for the work might well be the village hall or the limited YouTube viewing. That’s fine. That’s the nature of creative work for most of us and it's probably where it belongs. But if it hadn’t scraped the ceiling for a brief moment on its way there, it would not be nearly as good as it is and it might have never got there at all.

Here endeth the lesson. Turn to Hymn number 578 – ‘Why Can’t You just Drop It In, Like Everyone Else?’

The collection plate will be coming around shortly.


Jim Murdoch said...

I'm sitting at the desk in the kitchen just now. This is new. In the flat there was no room to swing a cat in the kitchen although why anyone would want to I have no idea. We disposed of an awful amount of stuff before the move but one of the things we did hang onto was our bin which is steel, shiny, with a lid that creaks open when you touch it. It's sitting on the other side of the desk from me, beside the back door. I also toss things into it but as the sink is about a yard away from it I never miss. In the flat what I missed most often was the recycling and I could be standing right over it and still miss. I'm not one of life's throwers although I did toy with darts for a while going so far as to buy my own set from a lovely wee dart shop in Edinburgh where they'd set up a board and you could take your time over your purchase. The ones I went for were quite heavy; they felt nice in my hand. But that's about it with me and throwing. I know they show writers onscreen screwing up paper and tossing it in a wastepaper basket but that's never been me stingy Scot that I am. But I do agree with you when it comes to the writing. I sit down with every intention of writing a masterpiece. When I was in my early teens I was convinced everything I wrote was a masterpiece. God, the ego I had back then. It's a word I think is vastly overused especially when it comes to classical music. Beethoven and Mozart were incapable of writing a bad tune but clearly some were better, more masterpiecey, than others. Of course it's not down to us to decide which, if any, of our works are masterpieces but every now and then I come across a poem or a few lines from a novel and I wonder how the hell I wrote something that good. That doesn't hurt.

Ken Armstrong said...

Now and again we've done all right, you and me. ;)