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Alex Bartlett is a graphic design resident with The Austin Stone Community Church.

With a Stream of Consciousness

 

It's funny that I get compliments on my writing from friends telling me that I write with such clarity and simple linear thoughts; that's certainly not how my brain looks before I start hitting squares on the keyboard. My mind often feels like tangled web; trying to process one thing while feeling emotional about another thing all while trying to accomplish a task that has little to do with either of those things. I'll have a specific train of thought about something and then almost instantaneously lose it and spend the next minute trying to get it back. Then other times I don't seem to think about anything at all.

It seems there are always big things to process through and seemingly little attempt to organize and sift through them with direction and logic. So as I sat trying to figure out what and how to write this blog update I came up with the idea to show you instead. Why not visualize my attempts to process and dictate this month in review? So I made something. Literally. I made an art piece based on me typing my thoughts out. It's a bit unorthodox for a ministry blog update, sure, but I wanted to show you guys what's really been happening internally during this residency, especially this last month.

This is my Stream of Consciousness

Now it's likely that many of you just see some squiggly lines on a page. Don't worry I have a step-by-step walkthrough below that will help you better understand how I got from typing my thoughts into Microsoft Word to this graphic linear display of my consciousness. As you continually look back at this image above, I want you to slow down and understand where I'm coming from spiritually and emotionally more than just physically. More than ever do I feel attuned to who I am without Jesus and therefore how much I desperately need Him in every moment. He is the source of any and all comfort, power, stability, and confidence in this life. I have found myself convicted more strongly and encouraged more intentionally than seemingly ever before. Each month as I wrestle through sin that seems to hold me down, I have friends and community that speak life-giving words and help me understand things I'm struggling with. This month has been such a good reminder of how valuable and dangerously beneficial silence can be. As I drive to work and sit with the radio/music off or sit alone occasionally at a burger joint during lunch, I allow myself to think and process through anything and everything that comes to mind.

 The first step. I spent roughly an hour just typing my thoughts into Microsoft Word about what I was thinking and hoping to cover. Anytime I didn't have something in my mind to type down......I would hold down the space bar to represent that moment in time with literal space between my words. It was almost complete gibberish as it went in and out of many different topics and thoughts, but it felt accurate to how my mind works as I let myself sit and process the month.

The first step. I spent roughly an hour just typing my thoughts into Microsoft Word about what I was thinking and hoping to cover. Anytime I didn't have something in my mind to type down......I would hold down the space bar to represent that moment in time with literal space between my words. It was almost complete gibberish as it went in and out of many different topics and thoughts, but it felt accurate to how my mind works as I let myself sit and process the month.

 The second step. I brought the many pages of words and spaces into illustrator and reworked the typography; adjusting the leading, tracking,  kerning, font family, etc. Anytime there was a space, I substituted it with a period to help Adobe accurate recognize each character and to make sure than each space is given it's own physical representation of space. Now we start to see a bit of the fading in and out that occurs in my mind. Moments of multiple spaces in a row are where my mind wandered, searched for the right word, or tried to think of what would come next.

The second step. I brought the many pages of words and spaces into illustrator and reworked the typography; adjusting the leading, tracking,  kerning, font family, etc. Anytime there was a space, I substituted it with a period to help Adobe accurate recognize each character and to make sure than each space is given it's own physical representation of space. Now we start to see a bit of the fading in and out that occurs in my mind. Moments of multiple spaces in a row are where my mind wandered, searched for the right word, or tried to think of what would come next.

 The third step. I then drew lines over anything that was text and left gaps where there was just more than two periods next to each other. I wanted the gaps to convey that sense of going in and out of thought, so the line thickness typically feathers in and out as it comes to the ends. I took this to the bottom of the page and began to see fascinating patterns and gaps in my train of thought. It felt accurate to my experience that hour, trying to think and type what I was thinking and feeling. As you'll see in the animation below, the result, matched with color and a backing texture, was quite interesting.

The third step. I then drew lines over anything that was text and left gaps where there was just more than two periods next to each other. I wanted the gaps to convey that sense of going in and out of thought, so the line thickness typically feathers in and out as it comes to the ends. I took this to the bottom of the page and began to see fascinating patterns and gaps in my train of thought. It felt accurate to my experience that hour, trying to think and type what I was thinking and feeling. As you'll see in the animation below, the result, matched with color and a backing texture, was quite interesting.

Hopefully the design makes much more sense to you now. I would love to hear your thoughts on it and maybe even other parts of the creation process that I missed that you'd like to hear about.

Otherwise, this post will be short than most. I won't be typing out everything that happened or how I felt about a lot of the events that took place. The next post won't be like this, but February didn't have a lot of big significant life events take place for me personally so I really spent a lot of time just building on things that were already taking place. Gaining stronger community, better depth in intentionally with my LTG group, deeper spiritual awakening through MWDP, greater conviction of sin, etc. God has certainly been at work in me, but I don't have a thrilling story for you this time. February, for me, comes down to a greater desire and understanding of need for prayer and constant dependence on God.

As I sense my own thoughts and abilities to control life fail, I'm sensing more and more how much I really need to be praying for and receiving prayer my self. My mind can sometimes be fickle or act like a flickering bulb that goes in and out of power. Yet God is steady, sturdy, and eternally sure. Moments where I'm choosing to do life with God on the phone just make more sense. He's so strongly craving for that time with me, yet I seem to think of it as a task on a list more often than not. If you have a moment, would you pray for the Spirit to move in me powerfully and that God would be glorified through this list?

  • Pray that God would continue to change my desires away from selfish and lustful ones to desires to only glorify Him with my thoughts and desire.
  • Pray that God would give me full clarity in my decision in staying as a resident at The Austin Stone for a second year or not.
  • Pray for my younger siblings and our family as a whole as they have lost their grandfather and father this month. I am so thankful to have my younger siblings as I've seen how God has used their gifts and presence to force our family into deeper faith, honestly and intentionally with one and other. God is doing a great work in the Bartlett/Brooks household but that certainly doesn't negate the pain of loss.
  • Pray that I would finish MWDP (theology class) strong. It's the easiest and most tempting thing in the world to sit back and cruise through the last semester. I've done it many times. But this class is different and has been a powerful catalyst for me spiritually, so I don't want to take the easy way out of that growth.
  • Pray that God would strength my heart for the people of this city. I'm here in Austin for a reason beyond myself and my development.

So there you have it. There isn't much information here about what all has occurred in February but I think that's okay. Know that I'm finally at a point where I'm excited to get up in the morning and work harder than I did the day before; growing more and more eager to dive into time with the Lord and learn who He really is and how much I really do need Him. Let me know how I can be praying for you too!

 
Alex BartlettComment