Conundrum of creativity

creative life

A conundrum, dear friends, is a dilemma, or in more complicated terms, a “paradoxical insoluble,” a  “logical postulation that evades resolution.” I’ve been evading resolution as long as I can remember. A conundrum is what I am and a conundrum forever I shall be.

So may it be with you.

I can’t help but think of Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” when I think about my life. “Girl” is a very long monologue that is a very short story, and while it seems to be from the mother’s point of view, I can hear Girl’s voice, speaking the words like her mama and seeing herself as she thinks her mama sees her.

Do all people, especially creative people, in moments of doubt, see themselves like that? Like characters in somebody’s else’s story? Reading the prescribed script? Playing the expected role?

Like Girl, I know the rules, when to do what and where. But I don’t hear my voice. I hear somebody else’s monologue. Don’t sing benna. Don’t play like a boy. Don’t pick people’s flowers.

There’s a part of me that wants to push past my fears to break the rules and to spit into the wind. But my fears won’t let me. Thus, resolution I can never find.

When my daddy was a little boy, his dog, a family pet, turned on him. Turns out, the dog had rabies, and the little boy who became my father had to go through rounds of shots in his stomach. And because of that bad experience, both my daddy and my mama warned me about ALL the dangers in the world.

And I listened, taking every precaution to avoid ANYTHING that could cause me harm.

I continue to listen. I’m very, very cautious. But creative people have a spirit within them that’s like a tornado. How can you tell the wind not to roar? The sun not to shine? The flowers not to bloom?

I grew up on the outskirts of town near a stock market where animals were bought and sold. My greatest desire as a little kid was to own a horse, and when one escaped from the market, I believed destiny had brought it to my door, or in this case, my backyard.

I remember it so well. My mama was literally hiding behind a tarnished picket fence, holding back the neighbor boy she used to babysit, and screaming at me, “Get back! Stay away!” And I was trying to catch it. I saw no dangers, just a horse.

Even though they mean well, sometimes there are people in our lives who warn us to get back or to stay away from the very thing God made us to be. I’m not saying we should trust our impulses. I’m saying we needed to lean on our instincts and discernment.

So, dear creative people, especially those of you who have a heart that desperately desires to use your talents for a greater purpose, here are words of encouragement.YOU are a writer, a painter, a musician, or a poet, you CREATE. Put down the coloring book and connect the dots, and find yourself fresh canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or a new day, fresh with morning dew. Then do what you do. Don’t be afraid.

I am a teacher, and I am a learner. And I have spent most of my life learning the rules and following them. Here is what I know.

  • You have to know the rules and master them before you break them. That goes for writing fiction, non-fiction, or song. A novice who marches into the industry with a first-attempt “masterpiece” that breaks all the rules will get NOWHERE. Fact is, you have to pay your dues, earn some respect. Bottom line–leave the arrogance at the door and slip into your humility. You’re going to need it if you’re going to fulfill your heart’s desire.
  • Once you truly know your skill, then you can try something new. Then, and only then, should you attempt to color outside the lines or to change the rhyme scheme. Choose your own metaphor here. You’re the artist. You know what works for you.

Once you learn the skill and pay your dues, let go of your fear and try something new. This is the part where you have to hush the monologue in your mind so you can hear your own voice. You may fail miserably, but you may succeed.

Isn’t it worth taking a chance?

The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.” ~ “I Hope You Dance,” recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers




Cooler than the flip side of my pillow

All right, class. School is back in session. I have to go to bed at reasonable hour tonight. No staying up until 4 a.m., no sleeping in until noon. So, I’m going to make you do a little work for a change. I’ve got a little assignment in creativity for you. I believe in catering to the individual, so I’ll let you choose from three opportunities to express yourself.

  1.  Imagine you are the star of your own show, sitcom, drama, romantic comedy, action-adventure. You get the picture. Now imagine you are in control of the soundtrack. What music would play in the background of your life?
  2. Not comfortable talking about you? All right then. Many of you are involved in your own writing projects. Tell us a little bit about your characters and the music that fits their lives.
  3. Maybe there is a song that takes you back to a certain time, just as Kenny Chesney sings in “I Go Back.” What song holds a special meaning for you? Tell us why.

While you’re at it, add a link to your blog if you like.  Share your talent!

There is nothing that motivates me more than music. In fact, much of my book was dreamed up on road trips with Kenny as I rode shotgun, listening to either country at the Big 98 WSIX or the Rock 105.9, depending on my mood. I like a song that communicates feeling as well as story. I think Taylor Swift does an amazing job of connecting with her audience. She adds that third dimension of imagery, in addition to visual and auditory. She really makes the listener FEEL the emotion.

Okay, I’ll admit it, there’s a minor character in one of her videos that inspired a minor character in my book. I won’t say which one. But her song “Fearless” could easily serve as a theme song for my female lead character, Megan, although I wouldn’t describe Megan as a country music fan. She’s more of an eclectic music fan, focusing primarily on music with a positive message that reflects her Christian beliefs. TJ, the male lead, is a hip hop fan.  Plus, he likes the blues, thanks to his Memphis roots. What do I know about hip hop? Nothing. If I had to choose a song for TJ, I’d choose “Smile” by Uncle Kracker even though TJ is definitely NOT a country music fan. TJ is just the type of guy who would tell the girl of his dreams that she’s “cooler than the flip side” of his pillow.  Yeah, that’s right. TJ possesses the same quirkiness that serves as the backbeat to this song.

It’s too bad that dreams rarely come true over night. If a movie were made of my book, I serendipitously discovered a song that coincidentally complements the theme of my story. If you get a chance, take a moment to listen to the song, not for the sake of my thoughts, but rather for the chance to hear a truly inspiring song with a great message. (Be sure to click on “The Edge.”)

So, what are you waiting on? Get to work. Chop, chop.

PS—EDGERS, check your Facebook messages.