The importance of structure

02/08/2012 § 2 Comments

Having given up this blog a few months ago, I have decided to pick it up again. I have missed it.

I’m fascinated with the dance between the inner and the outer world, which form part of one whole. This blog is a way for me to connect across the boundary between those two worlds and thus heal myself. But I have realized I need a structure for writing it.

For years I’ve been interested, nay obsessed, with organisational structures, particularly business structures. By structures I mean the frameworks, rules and habits that are established in an organisation and subtly shape its behaviour. I like to call it the social architecture.

Maybe my interest came because for years I lived within fairly inflexible structures (middle-class English family, private school, the legal profession, large corporations). At various times in my life I felt a strong need to break out and 10 years ago I struck out on my own, aiming to leave it all behind. Of course, you can’t leave yourself behind….

One thing I have learnt along the way is that structures don’t have to be confining. They can give us freedom. Somebody shared this formula with me one day:

creativity = spontaneity plus form.

Spontaneity is something that as humans we are pretty good at but it can easily be chaotic and messy. It only becomes creativity, something of value, when it is given shape. Structure, or form, provides that shape. Shakespeare for example, wrote sonnets, a specific form with 14 lines and a certain number of syllables per line. Mozart similarly wrote piano concertos that always had three movements. Using a form gave them a grounding, a basic shape to work with and within that they found a glorious freedom.

One of my challenges in recent times has been to provide structures for myself that work for me as the sonnet form did for Shakespeare. I have found it a struggle at times to ground myself as I wander around as a self-employed person. I don’t want to go back to the corporate world, but without structure I can become prey to whims and fancies of my mind and thus have limited freedom.

When I think of the happiest times I have experienced in my life, when I have been the most creative, the most adventurous, the most free, it has been within clear but flexible and forgiving structures – in a summer camp in my teens, in an ashram in India, in a social enterprise called Green and Away, in my marriage (mostly anyway!). I note that they all have a healthy male/female balance, and also that they share a connection with nature, a strong acknowledgement of the great wild and precious life that exists all around us and in us.

I am starting to think a crazy thought. Can we draw lessons from the way an ashram is organised and apply it in the business world? Maybe it sounds a bit bonkers. But I think it worth exploring. And in order to explore it properly I need to experiment with it myself, to live it myself. This blog is one way which I intend to do that. I started off writing it once a week, 800 words approximately each time. This was a structure but after a few months I found it too confining. Then for a while I just drifted, writing only when I felt like it. This lack of structure was for a while quite liberating but in the end I virtually stopped writing. Now I find I miss it.

To give myself the structure I need, I now commit to writing this blog once a week. At the same time I’ll allow myself to write just one line, or 800 words or more if I so feel.

The best bit of my blog was connecting with the readers. I look forward to meeting you again in my wanderings.

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