Thursday, March 18, 2010

If It IS Broke

We’re having a contest here at our house. To see how long we can go without things when they break. Three months seems to be the record so far. That’s how long it took to replace my Geo Prizm when it quit on me. With over 200,000 miles on it, surely it can last a couple more years, right? Fred at Glendale Auto said no. Melody, my little (yet tall) sister sent us to a place in Upland that sells used cars, and it took awhile before one came available. We kept borrowing vehicles from family members until we found out we had a February deadline – our niece Danielle would be getting her license, and could (finally) drive herself to all of her various musical and dramatic rehearsals.

Before we had a replacement lined up, the electric mattress pad stopped heating. Of course, at the start of a very long winter. Luckily I have these “hot things,” these bean-filled fabric-covered things that I can heat up in the microwave. A couple of these in the bed at least helped me get to sleep, although I didn’t enjoy waking up cold and smelling like beans. I finally broke down after two months. I was trying to make it until spring, but then the microwave stopped waving its waves.

It’s funny (or not) that when some products and appliances stop working, our brains stop working. When the microwave wouldn’t heat anymore, my first thought was, “Oh great, now I can’t have soup.” I whined to one of my piano students, and she said “We don’t have a microwave.” Then I thought, wait a minute, we have a stove, we have burners with real fire under them. I CAN make soup! In fact, when I was a little girl, we didn’t have a microwave either, and we cooked all the time!!!

When we bake biscuits for breakfast, or cookies for dessert, we make extras and freeze them for the next day. But now, we can’t pop a biscuit in the microwave to reheat. So we put our thinking caps on and realized. . . that a biscuit can fit in the TOASTER OVEN! What a revelation! And it tastes better and stays crispier on the outside than when it is microwaved! A cookie, on the other hand, can’t be re-baked. How do we solve this important dilemma??????

You are probably wondering what this all has to do with music and creativity. Well, let me take The Thinker pose again. Creativity is about working within our limits and solving problems. Using our imaginations. Looking at things a different way. Perhaps even seeing our limits as our freedom.

It would make a better story if I said we skipped the car and bought used bikes, skipped the electric heating pad and wore layers to bed, and didn’t buy a microwave after all. The latter part is still possible – we’ll see.

Oh, and by the way, I've been thawing a fresh cookie for you all day.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I remember Dr. Leech, one of my favorite profs from Anderson University, talking about the pride we have in our own personal creations. The work we go through, the struggle to bring forth something unique from our deepest selves, and the satisfaction we have in admiring our product (and even sharing it with others). Dr. Leech wasn’t a professor of art or music – his forte was in psychology. And the creation he was referring to was something that each of us produces (or tries to produce) every day.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what sends me to the computer or the piano to start writing. What happens before the “idea” or the “light bulb.” It’s a lot more fun when it hits me full on, and I run to the blank page because it’s coming and I want to catch it in time. But often this only happens because I have practiced being present when nothing at all is coming.

A relative of mine, who was on a special med that caused constipation, was told by his doctor to find a time each day to sit there and wait. Make it a habit of waiting at the same time each day, for 5 or 10 minutes. Don’t give up, and eventually, the block will be released and everything will flow again.

One friend suggested that I write music in order to move people, but I’m not sure that that is true. I think that I write because I need to get something out, I need to work out an idea. Sometimes I feel a song coming on, sometimes I feel a story coming on, and I rush to the computer or piano (in the same way that we rush to the nearest bathroom when we feel the . . .need.) After I have "emptied" myself (and hopefully didn't make too much of a mess at the piano or the computer) then I feel compelled to share. And then I hope that people feel connected, feel that my work was honest, I hope that they are affected and moved by it, and hope that they feel inspired to be creative, too.

I know that sitting and waiting is such an important key. Being present with a blank page. Accepting the fact that something might not come. But you are there, just in case.

Keep practicing this technique, and be prepared to move quickly when the lightning bolt hits.

Gotta run,