Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caution, Unicorn X-ing

I remember driving through North Carolina one Autumn on a cross-country trip and seeing a sign that sent chills down my spine. The sign, at a passing glance, was a warning for something that looked like a Unicorn! No way, Unicorns in America?

For the next ten miles or so, I kept my eyes peeled, eagerly awaiting a sight that would boggle my mind. (Look out Bigfoot, Unicorns had come to the US of A.) Then I saw it... No, it wasn't a Unicorn. Just another road sign. Boring, right? The image looked a little less like a monster and a little more like... Zoom. But, as soon as I saw it, it was gone. My eyes couldn't decipher the rest at 65MPH. What? Give me some slack, I'm don't have 20/20 vision.

Another thirty miles. Nothing. Just trees. Lots of trees. And then the sign. My head swiveled and eyes fixed on the sign in eager anticipation of discovery and possible horror. It was the same sign alright,  but the picture was completely different from what I'd seen at first glance. It was nothing more than a  sign for a Horse crossing zone. Yes, it was a major disappointment. Well, to me at least!

Ok, all kidding aside.

I once heard from a former instructor of mine: "Do you think that just holding your pen over paper and hoping notes will pour forth give you the material you need to write an orchestral composition to rival Bach's work? If you do, you don't realise that Inspiration comes in the 9th hour of labour. For that, I'm truly sorry." While I don't have musical expertise of any degree, my point is that signs of Unicorns/Horses tie into Inspiration and Labour. Why?

We tend to think that because something doesn't come easy, that it shouldn't come at all. Inspiration is one of those things. As part of the Western world, there must be a lightning bolt of inspiration that zaps us to make us do something remotely creative. Heaven forbid that we actually have to do hard work to accomplish something beautiful. We've become so oblivious to the result of inspiration that we disregard anything that doesn't have the appearance of being "inspired."

Inspiration's fruit comes from labour. But, most believe that the first outcome of an inspired idea one has when trying to be creative is "supreme," in short, the finished product. It might very well be. News flash, though, your first idea is probably not your best idea. Take Thomas Edison's efforts to create a lightbulb. It was a brilliant idea that he had. Did it work the first time? No. It took dozens of attempts to make it a reality. Don't be afraid to tweak, alter, toss out, or recreate ideas. That is the beauty of true Inspiration, working at it till it becomes something worthy of inspiring others. Because, created deep within us there is a desire, as C.S. Lewis put it,  to "Sub-create" to inspire others to do what we were made for.

Our ideas can be like us seeing those road signs. After that first sign/idea we see, we stare in disbelief, wondering how we will ever be able to do anything like that. We bemoan how we are to begin to recreate the Unicorn, when we don't realise that at it's core, it's simply a Horse. So after a few more signs/alterations to the original concept, the focus, image and point of the idea are a little clearer. We need to be constantly looking at our inspiration from multiple angles to figure out which avenue is most plausible for us to be successfully creative.

Can I also give one more tip? According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, this is the definition for inspiration, "The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, esp. to do something creative." Folks, that says nothing about your inspired idea being your final result. Something that is inspired doesn't have to be radically different from what is normal. Maybe if we thought a little less of ourselves, we wouldn't be so hesitant to alter something we did. After all, we are always so willing to critique and give suggestions on the works of others. Are we that willing for someone to do the same to our work, and for us to respond graciously on top of it?

Go. Be Inspired. Be Creative. Be Diligent. Be Willing to Change... You a little Scared? Me too!

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