When I look at old maps I'm always more interested in looking at the illustrations in the margins than I am in what's at the centre of the map. That's because their margins always seem to have the most curious illustrations; images that represent the artists consciousness that this is the part of the map that represents the uncharted and unknown territory/
Sometimes the margins have sketches of scary sea monsters. Other times they have paintings of things like the heavens and celestial beings. Either way, it's the edge of the map that interests me most, because it represents the unknown stuff of life and where we could go in the world. These are the places filled with potential danger — but also possibility — which consequently implores us to explore it if we are daring enough to.
And as I thought about maps yesterday and shared these insights to a group of my artist friends/colleagues, the following notion came to mind...
If we're doing what we ought to be in our creative work, there are going to be moments in life when we reach the edge of the map, and it will become the start of a creative journey that leads us to a place where there are few if any resources we can find or people who can tell us what's out there and what to do next. Instead, we'll just be standing at the edge of the map alone, or with a few fellow artists, imagining sea monsters and/or the heavens with their celestial beings out there, waiting for us to discover them.
Some chosen few of us decide to go out into that unknown world with little support but our intuition and our few skills, while many more others decide to walk back to the centre of the map, where it's all safe and known, and other people are there who can tell you what to do, how to do it, and how to get there.
I think the great artists are the ones who make the first choice — they forge out without any directions or guidebooks. They just go off the edge of the map to see where they end up.