Saturday, October 13, 2007

Random acts of creativity and kindness

I've mentioned swap-bot here a couple of times and decided it's time I write about it. I feel some reluctance to do so, I think because this means two parts of my life are intersecting - writing and craftiness. Like many people I have tended to keep my life somewhat compartmentalized so when those walls break down it can be uncomfortable. I think it's a good idea to break down those walls, and have been doing so with increasing frequency in the last few years (storytellers meet old friends from the drinking days meet work colleagues meet family) but it's still not comfortable. I'm doing this because I'm working on the theory that it's better to live as close to an integrated life as I can and being active about living is always better.

Enough of that digression. Swap-bot is a website where people all over the world trade things, often but not always stuff they make. My friend Joy turned me onto it. I am finding myself somewhat obsessed and for once I think it's a pretty good obsession. It's making me be creative in new ways, not just with language or cooking, but with color and physical objects. I used to do a lot of origami but got away from it and found myself with still hands, not a good thing. Now I'm making artist trading cards, altered boxes and books, handmade postcards, other mailart and so on. I'm also writing various things for these projects (such as the found letter and werewolf story) and sending all of this stuff out into the world. I've always liked the idea of making things, but then was just stuck with more stuff. This way I make stuff and give it away.

And I'm getting stuff back, some of which is very cool. Every day I come home anxious to see what's in the mail. Some of it is amazing art, some is clearly personalized to me (everyone fills out a profile so swap partners can do this if they choose) and some is just plain nifty. Regardless, it's a blast coming home and finding a package, a postcard, a letter almost every day.

Swap-bot also has a community associated with it, people who craft, people who write, people who care about one another. Recently the daughter of one participant posted on the forums that this particular swapper is dying of cancer. Many people wrote in with expressions of sympathy, offering to send stuff to her in her last days. Many others offered to finish up her swaps for her, so no one would think she didn't send out stuff she had promised to give. None of these people have ever met this woman in person. The internet repeatedly amazes me with its potential as an agent for community and I continue to find examples of this, swap-bot is no exception. I think it is one of the better parts of human nature, that we create community wherever we can.

I know that this odd little obsession is serving a wonderful purpose for me. By making me use other parts of my creative mind I am finding my imagination freed to do more in all areas. I am writing more, telling more and looking at the world with fresh eyes. If I remain limited to one creative outlet it's too easy to become stuck, jaded. With this additional outlet and community I can stretch. It feels good.

Writing this post has led me to other trains of thought I hope to explore later - community, how creativity in one area can be a catalyst in another, cooking, the role of the internet (oh, that little thing) and other, but for now I'm going to go make dinner and enjoy this autumnal evening.

(c) 2007 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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