Chaos, Art & Revolution

Today’s guest post is from writer Mae Lynn Walker.  Check out her blog, Podium.

“Chaos often breeds life when order breeds habit.” – Henry Adams

Is there anything good about having chaos in your life? If your life begins to slip into chaos, is that such a terrible thing? When your life is not sustainable, and you can’t see your way out of it, chaos is bound to step in—it wakes you up!

Chaos is underappreciated, yet where would we be without it? Order is boring and chaos is interesting—this is where art and revolution begins.

I think of the recent revolution in Egypt—the young people so restless. Excuse the cliché, but isn’t it the tortured soul shouting out spiked words who speaks for the rest of us, who creates change? Isn’t it the agonized painter who finds a way to express something in a way that you cannot? Aren’t these our revolutionaries? Aren’t these our artists?

I’m not talking about high art or critically acclaimed art. I’m just talking about art that people make. I’m talking about your art – your doodles, your throw-away poems, your lump of purple clay.

You don’t have to be impoverished and hungry to revolutionize. Like Tracy Chapman, I’m talking about making a personal revolution to shake up our lives. If you don’t want to make a big deal, just say it in a whisper. “I want a divorce.” “I want to move.” “I want to quit my job.”

Is there a benefit in chaos—that churling, fuming monster that feeds upon itself. Before I even start to think about how this may help or impede one’s creativity, I have another thought – is chaos created on purpose?

What if your chaos looks like a Jackson Pollack? That’s kind of interesting.

I admire order and strive for it. My young boys require structure in their lives. I write out my goals, and I strive for accomplishment. I think order helps people to accomplish more; helps me do the same. A schedule allows children to feel safe. There is a reason for order. Can the same be said for chaos?

I’ll say this, chaos is not boring. People have fuck-ups. They arrive late and spill their coffee and fall out of love. They forget things – shoes, birthdays, grocery items. I am guilty of all of this. Orderliness breeds conformity and anxiety (have to keep up!) while chaos teaches people to relax about small stuff.


Personally, I start out my mornings by journaling—I write morning pages (thank you, Julia Cameron), which are three pages of long-hand dumpage written every morning. You just write whatever comes to your mind, and it helps to put things into perspective. I can do it in less than ten minutes. I don’t bother to spell out the words; an entire sentence might show up as a squiggle line on the page, and who knows what I was trying to say, I just woke up; give me a break!

When mornings are particularly afluster, I pull out three things I want to accomplish for that day. You cannot imagine how much of a relief this is.

My mind is a swirling tub of cotton candy – a sweet, pink chaos. The morning pages are the stick that I wrap my goals around. I pull out a few things from the muck, and admire the way the strands wind neatly around the stick. Sugar melts on my tongue—only three things to do today!

Typical goals: write, spend time with the boys, mail a package.

I will do a gathousand things – from making breakfast to taking the dog to the vet to working at the office. But when I get to the three things that I set out as my goals, I know it, and I feel accomplished. Being a full-time worker with two young sweeties to look after, the world is just set up in such a way that it’s near impossible to do everything at 100% speed with perfect execution. At least, I cannot do it.

And yet… I set some goals for myself today, and I accomplished them. I am successful. Happiness is mine!

Not taxes or bills or the DMV. What’s important is love, friends, kids, and art. I mean, you know this. You don’t need me to tell you that, just like I don’t need you to tell me. I just need to tell myself. Over and over.

Chaos is a beginning and order is an ending. It’s not about the extreme opposite nature of these two terms; it’s about the journey between them.

A writer picks up her pen. An artist dips his paintbrush in blue. A revolutionary opens her mouth to speak. Nothing is certain. So it begins.

*New words cobbled together for the blog: afluster, gathousand, churling, dumpage

Photo by Santa Rosa