Living the Painting: Advent Week Four

If the Return of the Prodigal Son were a theater production, which part would I audition for?  After spending Advent immersed in the story, I know I could play either son well.  But do I have what it takes to play the father?

I set out on this writing project without knowing it would end where it started:    Continue reading “Living the Painting: Advent Week Four”

Child Again: Advent Week Two

The prodigal son was once an innocent child, and then he wasn’t.  And now he wants to be again.

Last week‘s Advent focused on Hope by sitting with the Father on the porch, “actively waiting for that moment when the child turns home.”  This week I’m inviting myself to return home with the son, who like the second week of Advent, is yearning for Peace.  I’m spending time with Rembrandt’s painting and Nouwen’s book to cast new light on my favorite parable.

The prodigal son was a child, a young man, who declared in the most dramatic way, “Myself.” My daughter as a toddler would pull Continue reading “Child Again: Advent Week Two”

Letting Go

What I learned in a watercolor class that was so good, I knew immediately that I had to drop the class and not go back:


There are four keys to being a good artist, he told us, swooshing his brush across the cotton paper.  He painted much faster than he spoke.

Learn to use your medium: how to mix, how it meets the paper – this would be the first step.

Standing at his camera tripod-turned-easel, working left to right, he painted the sky in less than a minute.  It looked scattered and messy, like a child’s first attempt at Chinese characters.

Step 2: Continue reading “Letting Go”

Creating Competitively?

By putting something onto the page I can see it more clearly and ask: Do I really think that?  Am I ready to put a period at the end of that sentence?

In my campaign for creativity, I’m lobbying myself to move the creative processing outside my head and into the world.  I wrote about shedding a fear of failure, and capturing the creative energy as ideas rush in and out like the tides.  Now I’m championing writing specifically, but there are complicating factors.

Get out of your head

Pen and paper are a gift because ideas can be more freely evaluated outside of my brain.  Inside the introvert’s brain, ‘thoughts’ are like an old circus tent – wanting to fly away, but tied down by ropes staked into the mind’s fear-grounds:  being wrong or unprepared or misunderstood.  To speak it out loud feels like a commitment, so too often I keep it inside just to be sure.  And it’s hard to separate the idea from the ropes.

But if I can put it out onto paper, it’s easier to see which ropes need cutting.

Flip the coin

Sometimes the rope is a gift of course – you might call it restraint – preventing an offensive comment or forcing me to listen further. But every strength coin has a flipside, heads or tails, with the weakness waiting underneath.   When an introvert’s coin is tossed, hesitancy often wins.

(Or maybe that coin is upside down. If someone’s first impulses were printed onto an ever-published ticker tape – we might call these tweets – then perhaps restraint would be the strength and the weakness speaking out?)

You probably know which side of your coin shows naturally, and if it’s hesitancy I’m here to encourage you to flip it.

Timely Writing

Wanting to “get it right” and be insightful presents a challenge when responding to issues of the day.

Numerous are the voices spouting timely information.  Later come the insights, for those who bother.

Admired is the creator who can offer something timely and insightful.

For instance, this week I’ve been unsettled by the open display of racism in Charlottesville, but it may be awhile until I have something in-depth to share on it. So far the timely writing I’ve seen has focused mainly on the protest event, but the insights are in the disturbing racism.

I’ll be writing quietly, to make sense of it all, but when to put it out there?  It takes time to form perspective, but I fear that waiting too long allows the tweeters to shape the world.

Change the world

Every creation is not going to change the world – contrary to my younger ideals, which only raised my standards to the point of non-publishing.

But creating and sharing something, while in and of itself is enough, also clears the way for the next creation.  Sometimes I think creativity resides in a pipe that gets blocked and must be unclogged in sequential order, first in, first out.  If you want to get to that brilliant thing you always imagined, you need to pump out the below-your-standards coal.

Even if you insist your masterpieces will change the world, perhaps that lofty staircase is built with uneventful creations that look to you like small blocks of plain concrete.

Creating Competitively?

I’ve half-written songs that stayed in my living room for years, only to later hear echoes of those same lyrics in another artists’ work.  I was frustrated when yet again I waited too long to share, and want to learn from this.

I carry the misconception that only one person gets to give the world an idea and my hesitancy meant it wasn’t me. Something seems wrong with this conclusion, but I wonder if “competitive creativity” could be useful to move things outside the studio sooner.  Is that crazy?

I have found writing to be the gift of a friend to try out ideas with.  I’m working through the above complications to champion creativity.  Do any of these affect you?  Please add a comment. BTW you don’t have to use your real name, you shy people, I’m not!)

Featured artwork this week and last by Heather Ridenour.  The art is transporting, and I am appreciating her “in process” presentation :  see for yourself

Creative Tides

This is one of the most creative years on record for me.  My last post described being bad at something long enough to improve.  Working through that fear of failure was the first part:

In the drive to create, embracing failure keeps my perfectionist foot away from the brake pedal.

But creating still requires the other foot to step on the gas. So what’s been driving that?

Shocked into disorientation, I’ve been driving to make sense of a shifting world and a shifting worldview.  Was it one specific thing?  It was so many things that it felt like one thing, as if the sound waves of countless quiet complaints finally converged into a sonic boom, all catching up at the same time to cause one large disruption.

Though years of routine input had formed a solid ground, it didn’t allow for a new openness to the world.  I’ve had to let some of that sure footing that drift out to sea.

That prompted me to create.

Looking for fresh voices I found a tidal wave of input from conversations, podcasts, blogs, and books.

That prompted me to create.

In both directions of this exchange – displacement and replacement – the human spirit spins like a turbine.

It is the human version of tidal power generation, where creative energy gets captured in both directions, as anger drives the old water out and excitement sees new ideas rushing in.


Both drive me to create.

I’ve had to find an outlet for all these new and swirling thoughts.  I wanted a new way to communicate into existing relationships that were thriving on implicit agreement.

Photo by Heather Ridenour. Click image for more.

Writing, painting, music – melding ideas into pictures – allow an introvert to work out the conversation in the solitude of the studio.  Then it can be shared, having finally united the bifurcated brain into something organized enough for the outside world.

The result has been a flurry of creative output.  The willingness to work at it is driven more by a need to express than having a clear audience. In the end, my creations may help others understand me, or know that they are understood.  But in the beginning, I create to understand.

I’ve been through enough phases, creative and otherwise, to know it won’t last.

But when the tides change, that’s the moment to go for it.  Not waiting for the water to settle.  I look back on letters from a couple years ago and I would not write them the same now.  Nor could I write as descriptively now about what it was like then.

Time itself doesn’t always move us forward:  it’s largely because I took the time to write then that I have been able to move forward to now.

So for now, in this tidal moment, I’m staying away from that perfectionist brake pedal and keeping my foot on the gas.

source for tidal power graphic above. A better one is below from different source: