rebecca purcell

World Maker

Path Through the weeds

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By Pirin Ventpirnil

Some are born at the foot of a straight and narrow road. Perhaps bitten early by the angel of clarity, perhaps handed the gift of a singular focus, they proceed directly forward through life, rarely straying from their trajectory towards a known destination. This game is not for these happy few.

This game is for the rest of us whose lives look more like a riotous tangle of intersections, tangents, footpaths and alleyways. The purpose of this game is to sort through these snarled, weedy walks, and find a cohesive whole — a direction, a sense of a path:

1. Begin by making a list of all significant interests. This is the moment to really spend time trying to remember all the things that seemed as if they sparked a deep connection. The list should include objects and imagery, inspiring people, careers both fantasy and real, all creative projects and interests.

2. Get a large piece of blank paper and write the word “path” in the center. Then randomly place all items on your list around the center word. Make a circle or box around each item. The point here is to gather all the bits in one place and get an overhead view of who you are even if it doesn't make sense yet.

Now begin connecting everything that seems related with a line. If one of the interests seems a distinctly strong direction in your life connect it to the center “Path.” 

Here’s the tricky part, everything has to be connected to at least two things. There can be no dangling interests so this means some items will need to be coerced to work together. Open up, be receptive, and believe they can. Many lines may extend from one item, only a few from another, just get them all connected. The end result will look like a big tangle.

When all possible connections have been exhausted stop. 

Note: an item can be dropped from the tangle altogether but only if it is really a random interest or one that you feel certain will not play a part in your future life.

3. Turn to a new page and, referencing the tangle of connected interests, start grouping all items connected by a line into separated lists. Place these lists across the page in a row. Make as many lists as needed to cover all interests connected to each other. Some interests will be connected to several different lists just repeat in each list.

It may get confusing just do your best it isn’t a test. The main agenda is to get distinct groups of items that include everything on your list. 

4. Draw a rectangular box at the top of each list then find a single word or phrase — an all-encompassing concept — that best describes everything in that list. If you have a list of movies (your lists will most likely encompass a much more diverse array of items), instead of titling the list “films,” find the thread that ties all of the films together such as: “Gothic lighting” or “films centered around orphans.” In other words you are searching for an essence rather than a defined shape. 

Note: Pay particular attention to those items you connected to the word “path” as these should be directly linked to titles.

5. The next goal is to condense the lists down to a smaller amount of lists as if you were creating a seeding chart for the super-bowl. If you have fifteen lists you are now trying to create ten lists by combining titles that can work with each other in a single concept.

There are two ways of condensing: you can rename one of your titles to incorporate two or more concepts; or you can just merge a concept into another, adding that group to an already existing title – but it has to make sense. The titles should be making this easier than trying to squeeze entire lists together. Connecting two or more titles may require an entirely new perspective on your interests, but this is where the magic happens. 

Take it a step at a time but keep going until you have squeezed all of your titles into one all-encompassing sentence, phrase or word! If you get stuck at two titles, try having two contrasting elements in your final sentence/phrase, using the contrast as an integral part.

Note: O.K. you can have a couple final concepts if absolutely necessary…

And there it is! This is your path! Or at least a vital part of it.  This final title is not going to be specific like “you are an artist,” and it will most likely not be a direct career choice, it’s a direction — rarely  a specific destination. 

I strongly suggest keeping your original lists. These lists are an essential part of your history and will prove to be useful many times through out your life.

This exercise is great for smaller issues as well, such as sorting out a specific art project, working through a disparate conglomeration of writing themes or any project that has a cluster of ideas floating around needing to be harnessed into a whole.

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