Stay on the Bus

Stay on the Bus, Lela Davidson

I recently learned about the Helsinki bus terminal theory. It's Finnish photographer Arno Minkkinen's advice (he's kind of a big deal) about attaining success in a creative career. The theory compares a body of creative work to the bus lines in Helsinki.

All the busses leaving the city travel a similar route through the city. Only after traveling a ways, stopping and starting again, do the busses branch off onto their unique paths. Artists are like these busses, Minkkinen contends, all traveling similar routes, learning from established forms, imitating our heroes even, until finally, after slogging along for a while, do we start to perceive and travel our unique route.

Stay on the bus.

Minkkinen says too many of us get frustrated when our work fails to be unique, or special, or deeply satisfying, early on in our pursuit of our craft of choice. But we don't realize that everyone else is on the same bus route, so to speak, that we've all got to pass through the same terrain to get out of the city. So instead of staying on the bus, riding out our creative commute to get to the good stuff, we get off the bus, head back to the station, and get on a different bus, in search of our true journey, only to find ourselves on a similar route again.

Stay on the bus.

Some artists do this over and over, Minkkinen says, always starting something new, never getting past the same familiar ground that has been covered by countless others. He advises us to stay on our busses. We have to keep moving past the things we create that are similar to what others create, past our teachers and those we admire, past the easy, the obvious. We have to keep at our craft until we get to what is really ours and ours alone to create.

Only by traveling through the mundane and not so original, do we break free into our true journey.

Stay on the bus.

I like this theory.

Here's the thing: Riding a bus in the city is the worst. Utter hell, on wheels. The diesel fumes, the people of various states of grooming, that weird sticky summer seat situation that makes you wonder why you'd ever allow any portion of your bare thighs to come in contact with a public surface.

So take precautions. Take one of those weird Michael Jackson face masks, an extra pair of earbuds, and for god's sake, wear pants. Do what you have to do to endure that city bus ride. Do not be afraid that you got on the wrong bus. If you did, you'll know. When you get out there past the city limits you'll see where you are. You can get off and Uber back. It's not a big deal. It's not so scary.

It's just art, kids.

Kindergarteners do it every day.

Stay on the bus.