Tag Archives: creativity

Pay Attention

Writing Books
“He could go anyplace he wanted with a sense of purpose. One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches and tramps around. Writing taught my father to pay attention…”
– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I avoided writing whenever possible in high school and celebrated upon testing out of both required English composition courses in college. And now I love to write. For whatever reason I cannot seem to pick up the curveball in this game called life.

When my dad died in 1994 I experienced a strong urge to write—the first time I wanted to write an essay—and the urge returned not long afterward when the moms and dads of my elementary school daughter’s local soccer team acted completely insane and nearly drove me bonkers.  Around then it occurred to me that I should not have prayed so fervently to test out of English composition.  On both occasions writing was my way of processing the confusion of life.

And then, on the eighth day, God created a host of things like home computers and Microsoft Word, grammar check and spell check, print-on-demand publishing and blogs.  I became a writer in spite of poor life decisions.  Sort of like how Donald Trump became the president.

Somewhere along the way I purchased and devoured two wonderful books on the craft of writing: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King.  Both are chock full of hilarious, practical, and straight-shooting advice on this creative outlet that I now adore.  It was Lamott, however, who zeroed in on what I love the most: Writing teaches me to pay attention.

I shouldn’t need anything to make me pay attention to life, but then again, maybe I do.  Maybe my cousin, Amy, is right when she claims that we all have a creative side that needs exercising, and maybe it is that need to create that leads us to lean into this thing called life, to have a reason to head out into it, to use all of our senses, to take notes on everything that is there.

Maybe.  That’s all I’m saying.  I just know that writing is now a part of who I am—and that I am thankful.

Beauty from Chaos

IMG_0422It was a crazy idea, but I am generally a fan of crazy ideas.

Avery is a retired art professor and an incredible artist, and I approached him just before Christmas with the vision of creating an original painting for Easter Sunday that was inspired by his thoughts of Mary Magdalene from John 20. I could not believe that he said yes. His paintings sell for thousands and thousands of dollars, and I asked him to produce an original work of art for free. And he said yes. How crazy is that!

So the approach to Easter was extra exciting this year. Periodically I would get an update from the artist himself, which only heightened my anticipation. Avery let me know that it was the running of Mary, Peter, and John that struck him in his meditations on the text, so that provided the direction of the painting. He showed me pictures of his work in stages—and as an abstract, contemporary artist also shared his concerns about painting people and working with a looming deadline!

But then it was finished.  Fleet Feet at the Dawn of Redemption.  Even the title of the painting is awesome.

I interviewed Avery at the beginning of yesterday’s sermon just prior to the unveiling and asked if there was a spiritual connection to his work. He quickly said yes and then described his process of creating chaos and then watching a phoenix rise from the ashes, of witnessing something beautiful emerge out of chaos. He then asked if I understood, and I answered that I so badly wish that I did.

But I guess that I sort of do. In a sense that describes life itself—the attempt to create something beautiful out of the chaos. In that sense we are all artists, using our gifts to create something out of the mess day after day after day.

The artwork that is my life is surely a work in progress and a little bit messy, but that is what Avery finds interesting about art in the first place. He once said, “That’s where the joy is and the struggle is and where the meaning comes.”

Excuse me while I get back to work. I have unfinished art that needs attention.

Counter with Creativity

My dad would criticize a baseball umpire by saying: “He’s blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other.” Maybe I should look into umpire work.

I have been legally blind in my left eye since birth. This is my standard fun fact for party games because nothing says fun like eye disease! The formal title for the condition is amblyopia, but the common name is lazy eye.¹ If discovered when a baby, a simple patch over the good eye will kick start the lazy eye into action. When undiscovered, the damage is irreversible. Mine was discovered in the third grade. I may have been a slow child.

But this one-eye blind condition was never a problem. Despite two traumatic injuries to my useful eye (I will spare you the gory details) and ignoring doctor’s advice to wear protective eyewear when playing sports, my “good eye” seemed better by itself than others’ two eyes combined. I was rather smug about this.

Pride comes before a fall, and for me pride came before the combination of law school and my forties, and you guessed it, that “good” eye is now in search of a new adjective.

I do have reading glasses and even wear them sometimes, but for the most part I choose to be adventurous. For example, I now list random numbers on the tip line of the credit card receipt at local restaurants since I cannot see the receipt. As a result, I now have a hot-cold relationship with the wait staff.

I do have a dream, and surprisingly it is not to be able to see once again. Instead, my new goal in life is to own, and become proficient at using, and bring back into style, the monocle. I could use some help purchasing one since I no longer seem to be able to read the Internet, but my new life goal is to join the ranks of childhood heroes such as Colonels Klink and Mustard, The Penguin, and Mr. Peanut.

A monocle is distinguished, sure. It will accent my cheekbone, but of course. More importantly, however, it is both exactly what I need and very weird, and that my friends is a winning combination.

There are several options to consider when life tosses a new challenge your way. I propose countering with something outside the proverbial box. Not every challenge can be turned into something that creates smiles, but for the life of me I cannot come up with a reason not to give it a shot.

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¹ Before you feel too sorry for me, I join the ranks of fellow beautiful people: Melissa Joan Hart, Paris Hilton, Taylor Lautner, and Russell Crowe.