Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Creative Doldrums Pt. 2 (but actually 1199)

This is a story about ennui and inspiration. About hard work, about creating, about believing. About hope and it’s fundamental link to real passion and creativity.

About a year ago I developed my own belief of what I hope heaven is. Till then I’d been existing off of other people’s definitions and visions—a mashup of gold streets and big choirs and angels with a lot of wings and bad CCM. Didn’t sound terribly exciting, I mean, I think the angels will be cool, but gold’s not my favorite precious metal, and CCM…well…

Beneath that I knew heaven was better. Better. Had to be. I understood the people trying to describe heaven were reduced to metaphor and simile—how do you describe the indescribable? I knew that, knew they were doing the best they could, but at the end of the day it fell short, and that no matter how they described it with their finite minds and imperfect imaginations, heaven was better.

And I’ve lived long enough in this broken world to Long for Heaven, to have that deep tug from the center of your chest toward that place where suffering and conflict cease. There have been stretches in which I’ve said, “Lord, now’s not so bad…” But still then, even with a Biblical and seminalogical knowledge of heaven, even knowing it was better than anything I’d heard, even with the angels with the wings and the eyeballs, I still had reservations about it’s awesomeness.

But about a year ago I was driving to Ridgecrest by myself late one night, and I was listening to Peter Gabriel’s “Growing Up Live” concert. Towards the end of the concert he does “Solsbury Hill” and they’re on this giant circular stage in the middle of an arena and the stage is actually a revolve—it spins on a motor. Mr. Gabriel jumps on a very English bike and proceeds to peddle around the stage while the rest of the band skips merrily along. All the while singing:

“Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination
My heart going boom boom boom
"Son," he said "Grab your things,
I've come to take you home."

In that car in the dark by myself on the way to Ridgecrest. I’m singing at the top of my lungs and I’ve never had a truer epiphany. At the end of my days Jesus will show up on a very English bike singing Peter Gabriel songs. And I’ll skip merrily along into heaven. I don’t know. Maybe he’ll have a bike for me too. We’ll sing and skip and cackle like mad men and ride very English bikes and joy will burst from our pores.

Except it will be Better.

I hadn’t thought of this in a while, mainly because I’ve been living in the Creative Doldrums. Actually I’ve been in the Doldrums so long it had soured into what can only be described as ennui.

ennui (änˈwē)


a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement. (occupation meaning a way of spending time, not a job)

The color had slowly seeped out of my world. Nothing excited me and I began to see only the negative. I would fret about stuff I had no control over. But mostly I would trudge through each day hoping that no one would notice the stuff I was creating had no spark. I was a colorblind man painting by numbers with colors that had no names.

There were occasional bursts of color, mostly from my kids, or I’d get a temporary jolt from a new song or TV show. I consumed vast quantities of media, looking for that elusive inspiration. I’d get a jumpstart from some cleverly written dialogue only to suck all the marrow out of it and I’d be sustained for an afternoon or a day. But inevitably I’d be picking up the colors with no names, painting on numbers with no meaning.

I lost track of time.

Not to say I’d forgotten about Jesus or Relationship. I’ve been reading my Bible regularly, applying the Peterson method as I go: reading slowly, imaginatively, relationally. I read passages I’ve read dozens, even hundreds of times and still came away with new questions. Not really finding answers to them or my struggle with inspiration. I guess you could say my colorblindness seeped into my relationship. I couldn’t see the color in what I was reading. I couldn’t see the beauty, the hope.

Inspiration is a funny thing when you go looking for it. It’s like those floating microscopic things in your eyes. You can see them, but if you try to look at them they float away. So you go stumbling around on this constant search for inspiration, focused on your periphery, hoping the thing you’ve glimpsed that might be inspiration will stay still long enough for you to sidle up next to it. You’re afraid to look directly at it, to look it in the eye for fear that it’s not what you thought it was, that it might not be real, or rather that it is, but by turning your full attention to it you’ll jinx it or ruin the magic. You’ll cause it to float away.

This is how I felt with Don Miller’s new book. Everybody I know that’s read it has gushed about its awesomeness. It’s bad juju for something if everyone around you praises it. It can’t possibly live up to the hype. But I’d already bought my tickets to hear Mr. Miller talk about this book and I didn’t want to be the J-hole that shows up without having done his homework. I’d painted myself into a corner, but still haven’t even bought the book and now the date is only two weeks away. So I did the only thing I could: I crept through the bowels of the ‘Way to the secret entrance of the bookstore and plunked my employee discount card on the counter to get my copy. I took a deep breath and looked it in the eye.

Shannon and I got up at 3:30 Friday morning to get our kids farmed out before we caught a 7:00 flight to Maryland for marriage event we were performing at. I was planning to start it on the plane. But I was also planning on doing a bunch of other stuff, just in case…you know…just in case it floated away when I looked it in the eye.

Inspiration is a funny thing when you go looking for it. When you have great hope for something to be awesome and inspire you and you’ve finally sidled up next to it and worked up the courage to look it in the eye…sometimes it doesn’t float away. Sometimes it looks right back. Sometimes it smiles. Sometimes it winks and grabs your hand and whispers, “let’s go, we’ve got work to do.”

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Nicely put, Neil. I enjoyed that.