On Being Creative
INTENSE, Aren't We?
Yes, You’re A Nut, but It’s Okay.
We All Know It, and It’s Actually Kind of Endearing ... occasionally

Yeah, I know. You’re different. Just a half step off from everybody else in the room. It’s all that intensity inside, like something’s about to come bubbling up from deep down, and who knows what’s coming next?

I’ve felt it, too. Read a good book, watch a good movie, hear a good sermon ... anything that’s stirred the intensity inside and has either sent you to the depths of despair or sent you soaring on the wings of joy to heights unknown ... so you look around the room for someone to share the moment with ... and they’re all trying to decide where they’re going to eat!!

Your first thought: Yikes!! Did you people just experience the same thing I did?!
Your second thought: Okay, there’s six of them. There’s one of me. Hmmmm ...
So you just throw in your vote for Mexican. Inside you’re a tad deflated. Stuff it and act normal. You’re with people you know and love, but it just feels very awkward. Were you born on a different planet? They told us where the men and the women come from ... which planet produces artists?

Now this isn’t your whole life. 95% of the time you are interested in eating and doing and living. But it’s that other 5% that can throw you for a loop. If you are especially creative, those percentages can change. If that 5% turns into 10%, 25%, or more, you will really have a problem. Because you can’t just keep stuffing all that intensity. You need a release valve to keep from exploding!

The main release is, naturally, your art. That’s when you feel most alive and real! There’s no acting or pretending when you are writing/ drawing/ painting/ composing/ sculpting or whatever it is you do. Now this feels normal! But look around you ... you’re all alone! That artist planet is a very distant planet!

Aaargh!!! I feel like I’m being split in two! Why can’t I feel this normal when I’m with people?!

A Very Special Gift

When a creation has a design flaw, the first and best place to go for a solution is to the Designer. So I did. God, what is wrong with me? Show me how to do this! Please!! And He did.

When God designs people, He designs them with a plan and a purpose in mind. Then He gives them gifts to facilitate that plan. In most people the gifts are usually some skill set, or some built-in inclinations to turn a person toward the plan and purpose He’s laid out for them.

Scientists, engineers, computer geeks and accountants get bents towards math, logical thinking, and figuring out stuff . Homemakers, nurses and teachers get gifts of compassion, hospitality and organization. Carpenters, contractors, and people in the construction industry like to build things and work with their hands.

Creative types like artists, writers and musicians get ponies.

If you are a parent, this can explain a lot, because:
If you have a kid with a pony, you will know it.
If you have more than one kid, and one of them has a pony, you will know which one.
If you have more than one kid, and more than one of them has a pony, may God have mercy on you! You are in our prayers!

Think of the pony as a kind of emotion enhancer.
Anyone with a pony will tell you, they don’t just feel, they feeeeeellll!!!
When they are sad, it is borderline devastation.
When they are happy, it is joy and ecstasy beyond comprehension.
When they are afraid, it is paralyzing.
And when they are angry, watch out!

In order to create like you are designed to do, you are going to need a bit more umph than regular people. Do you think it maybe took a little more umph for Andrew Lloyd Webber to write the hauntingly beautiful music for Phantom of the Opera? How about Michelangelo when he sculpted his famous David ... 17 feet tall! Da Vinci and his Mona Lisa? What about a Hemmingway? Or a Chaplin? Mikhail Baryshnikov? Charles Dickens or Herman Melville? The artists and creators of the world are so blessed! He chose us to give the ponies to!

And the purpose of the pony is not so you will be famous. You may not be remembered in history – or you may! – but I guarantee you that your art will have an impact on someone somewhere that will be very important. Even if you never know. God didn’t design you to create for no reason. Our job is to just do what He designed us to do. Leave the results to Him to work out. You may or may not be happy with whatever results or impact you think you have. But you will never be happy if you are not just doing it! Does this sound familiar? Go watch It’s A Wonderful Life again. You are having an impact!

Scary Ponies!

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night and across the room in the shadows ... yikes! Someone’s there! So you throw on the lights and ... good grief! It’s the treadmill with all your clothes piled on top! If it happens again tomorrow night, you’ll just roll over and ignore it.

That’s the way your pony is. Just identifying the wonderful gift God has placed inside of you will relieve 99% of your angst.

Because when you don’t understand your pony, all that intensity is very scary. You feel out of control. What awful things might happen if you just let loose? So you will likely turn inward, away from relationships that you need so much. The more you withdraw, the more intense the pony will get, then you withdraw more, and on and on. The pony has you.

But when you identify him, see him for what he is, know why he’s there, you’re not afraid of him anymore. It will take his power away and put you back in the driver’s seat. And when you take the fear out, something wonderful happens ... you will be more relaxed, you will enjoy yourself and other people more. Other people will enjoy you more because you are not so debilitatingly self-conscious. When it’s time to create your beautiful art, you can choose to withdraw and let all that energy flow into your creations. Being alone is not scary, because it’s not the same as being isolated. When you’re done, you can choose to go back to the company of others. Now you have balance. Now you have integrity and wholeness, no longer living a split up life. Because now you have the pony!

So the 1% that’s left means you have choices to make about your pony ...

You don’t want to “break” your pony. You don’t want a pony who stands quietly tied up outside the saloon waiting for you. Or harnessed to a wagon pulling some heavy load for you. Those kind of horses are useful and have their place in the world, but that’s not your pony.

This also isn’t the kind of horse that you saddle up and ride to the next town. You don’t want to tell him where to go. You want to climb on and see where he’s going to take you! Your pony is all raw emotion and energy! Wonderful energy! He wants to run free!

So, how can you harness all that energy? You can’t.

What about when he’s going to wonderful places?
Mount up, hang on, and enjoy the ride!

What about when he’s going to not so wonderful places?
Dismount. Let him go without you. You can’t make him not go. But you can decide whether or not you will join him!

If you have a pony, you can make decisions and choose the appropriate times to mount and ride, and appropriate times to dismount and let him go without you.
If the pony has you, your power to decide is gone and there will be pain. Maybe much pain.
This is when he is very destrucitve – make no mistake – dangerously destructive.

I first saw it on a bumper sticker: “You gotta’ be tough, if you’re gonna’ be stupid”.
It’s all about emotional maturity and pain.
The less emotional maturity we have, the more pain there will be. The longer you put off growing up emotionally, the more pain there will be. Put it off long enough and you could get to the point where you aren’t going to be able to muster up enough toughness to survive the pain. You see it all the time with brilliant, talented celebrities who are taken from us too soon for senseless reasons. Let’s not be those people!

Watching for the Rattlesnakes

When you are trying to make decisions about the appropriate times to ride or not, the more information you have the better. Know yourself and be aware of other people’s needs and interests, and also the settings you are in. It’s okay to be yourself, but be respectful of others.

Remember I said that your pony is an “emotion enhancer”? You are going to feel things so much more intensely than other people. Because you are an artist/writer/musician/sculptor, your work will be reflecting, illustrating and commenting about life. Therefore:

When the Pony has You:
You will be extremely interested in learning about yourself and other people. So you will tend to gaze too long, ask too many questions, make too many comments.

When You have the Pony:
You’re an observer and interpreter of life. Enjoy! But learn discretion and be respectful of other people and their boundaries. Get permission for all your prodding.

When the Pony has You:
You will be constantly over-thinking and over-analyzing everything, everybody and every situation. Before you actually know facts, you will have already decided: They like me. They don’t like me. I did great! I screwed up! I should’ve explained better/more. I said too much ....

When You have the Pony:
There is a place for all your analytical thinking when you are working on your art. Sometimes you do need to think about a situation and decide how you should respond. And sometimes you need to just back off and let life happen. Don’t fancy yourself to be a mindreader. Wait and give others their opportunity to tell you what they think. If they don’t tell you, perhaps it wasn’t your business to know. And that’s okay.

When the Pony has You:
You will probably have a hard time making decisions. Big things, little things, should you, should you not? This is part of the over-thinking, forever second-guessing yourself.

When You have the Pony:
Let’s learn to just make decisions, good or bad. Give yourself a time limit. The world won’t end if it wasn’t so good a choice. And the more you practice, the better you will get at making good choices.

When the Pony has You:
You will tend to over-communicate to people. They will be intrigued by what you do and will want to know about it. They would like to know what inspired your creations.

When You have the Pony:
Learn to give them the Reader’s Digest version. When their eyes glaze over and their breathing slows, you’ve probably overdone it! I have a problem with sending folks 3+ page emails (...please allow a brief aside to let me apologize publicly to anyone who’s ever passed out from trying to get through one of my long emails!)

When the Pony has You:
In spite of all your best intentions, there will occasionally be misunderstandings and embarrassing moments. Maybe moments when you’ve over-stepped your boundaries. There are going to be times when people will misjudge your motives and misunderstand you. You might make someone uncomfortable. Occasionally you will run into someone who is actually enjoying your scrutiny and will respond in ways that might make you uncomfortable!

When You have the Pony:
Keep your sense of humor and hope the folks around you have one, too. Sometimes a polite apology is in order, but don’t fall into the over-explaining trap and give them all the reasons why you did what you did. They really don’t care! When someone has had enough of you – believe me, you will know – respect them and yourself and back off.
And if the shoe is on the other foot, have a polite back-out strategy in place. Sometimes the unexpected attention is going to feel very good and very flattering ... so, okay ... go ahead and savor it ... but only for a few minutes! Then run for an exit!!

Whatever you are going through is spilling out onto people around you: family, friends, co-workers, business associates, waitresses, salespeople ... if it’s pain or joy, they are experiencing it with you. Get restraint and balance into your life, if not for yourself, then for them. Our ponies will lie to us and delude us into thinking we are so interesting, charming and fun to be with. The folks around us might be thinking more along the lines of self-absorbed bore, difficult to talk to and draining to be with. Jesus says the truth will set you free. He’s correct on all kinds of levels. Be willing to face it and take some responsibility. Pain now will result in joy later. So ... let’s learn how to live with these wonderful ponies. We want to be successful at our art without destroying ourselves and hurting people around us. It can be achieved!

So Mount Up!

And go make beautiful art that will rock somebody’s world!

And, yes. There will still be those times – especially when very joyful or gut-wrenching events are happening in your life – when you will fall off and screw up royally.

But remember what Alfred told the young Bruce Wayne in Batman?
“Why do we fall down? So we can get back up again!”

Ah, grace, grace, marvelous grace!

2 Artists Who Knew How to Ride Their Ponies

1. Check out the work of J.M.W. Turner, my favorite artist. The man didn’t paint landscapes, he painted light and emotion! My once-ever-weekend in New York City years ago to see live performances of Marcel Marceau, also included a visit to the Frick Collection: not one, but two large Turner’s, hanging opposite each other in a large hall ... oh, bliss! Oh, joy! Can I just stand here forever!!!

2. Google “The Wave” by Ivan Aivazovsky. You will find photos/videos of it online that will not even begin to do justice to a live viewing. Th is painting was hanging in a special exhibition at the High Museum in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics. Whoever staged the exhibition was a genius, because as you walked through the exhibit, at one point you turned a corner and bam! There it was! Ten feet by seventeen feet! Bigger than life, full of raging storm and ocean and weather! Standing before it, you can feel the wind, smell the rain, taste the salt air, and feel the desperation of the overwhelmed men in the lower right quadrant of the painting, dwarfed by the storm, huddling and clinging desperately for their lives in an over crowded life boat! And the colors!! Wow, wow, wow!!!

And sometimes the pony’s amok is all internal ...

I don’t know if an out-of-control pony can cause brain damage,
but most certainly it can cause a bit of brain frustration!
It’s okay ... go ahead and have a good hearty laugh at my expense ... but I bet you’ve done it, too!

Scenario 1
9 pm Brain: What a day! I’m worn out! Let’s go take a relaxing hot bath and go to bed.
Sherry: Okay. Just let me finish coloring this one area...
10:30 pm Brain: Aren’t you finished yet? I’m pooped!
Sherry: Just another few minutes...
12:15 am Brain: I thought you said “a few minutes”!
Sherry: Well, I was getting ready to shut everything down when I checked my email one last time. Ela sent me an email earlier this evening and I thought I’d just go ahead and knock this art out for her so she’ll have it first thing in the morning. Almost done...
1:00 am Brain: NOW what are you doing??!!
Sherry: I’m a little wired. Gonna’ watch just one Jordan Peterson video. Then, I promise, I’ll go to bed ... hey, even you like Jordan Peterson ...
Brain: Yeah, I do like Peterson ... okay ... just one quick 10 minu... wait a minute! What’s THAT??!!
Sherry: It’s the next installment of his Biblical series.
Brain: IT’S 2 HOURS LONG!!!
3:15 am Brain: FINALLY!! Now go to sleep ...
Sherry: Okay, but first let me tell you this great idea I had for an article for the website ...
Scenario 2
  Brain: What’s that in your hand?
Sherry: It’s a Dr. Pepper.
Brain: I thought you gave those up yesterday.
Sherry: I did. But I didn’t eat any breakfast and it’s gonna’ be a while until lunch. I needed a kick. This is the last one, I promise!
Brain: Right ... so why are there 8 more in the fridge?!
Sherry: Oh, those ... well, see, when I run down to the gas station to get one, it costs almost $2 for a 20 ounce drink. But then it occured to me that if I would go to the grocery store instead, it would only cost me $5 to get an entire 8 pack of 12 ounce drinks! And even less than that because at the store they were buy one get one free! Then they are in the fridge, and I don’t have to drive to the gas station. Plus, I’m only drinking 12 ounces at a time instead of 20 ounces! Wasn’t that brilliant!!
Brain: Oh, yes ... really, really brilliant ...

... ain’t having a pony GRAND!!