Friday, June 29, 2007

Sing Your Song

So I was thinking how focused I have been, in thinking and writing on the reformed doctrines of grace, to the point that I have had difficulty shifting gears to writing or even thinking about other things (or so it seemed to me at first, as I began writing this). I thought-- maybe it's a male thing-- since men's brains supposedly get locked into thinking on only one thing at a time (wired to be problem-solvers, you know) and so, once we're "locked on" and focused on the problem at hand, it may be difficult for us masculine types to concurrently focus on other things. Now I think this is partly true about men, but still, I have noticed a creative process going on within myself, at the unconscious level. Even as my "left" brain has been preoccupied with wrestling through these doctrines, answering objections to them, thinking logically and formulating arguments, I am also semi-conscious of another part of my brain, quietly doing its own creative thing. What is it doing?

Well, for example, I write songs-- specifically, my strength is in coming up with melodies. Many times as I'm walking along, or perhaps, when I first wake up, my mind will be running through bits of melody and playing around with them, trying to come up with something that's pleasing. It may be that the melody my mind is re-arranging is something I've heard before, but now it is busy trying to change it around, to make it into something new. Eventually, I will focus my conscious mind on this process that is happening, and will try to "write a song"-- yet the catalyst or creative inspiration is something already happening within me (and apart from me, in a sense).

The part of my brain that strains to concentrate its focus, as it deals with argumentation, logic and systematically putting together ideas, sometimes seems to me at odds with the part of my brain that likes to improvise in this relaxed way, without strain, playing with ideas and musical notes. And yet, both ways of thinking are happening and both are expressions of the wonderful way God has made brains to work.

Music seems to be a medium perfectly suited for this "creative" side. Music has its own kind of logic, but to come up with a fresh, original sounding melody is different than merely solving a logical problem. There is the need for constant improvisation; to put together the same elements one may have used hundreds of times before, but in a way that creates something altogether different, something unheard. And it is interesting that so often such a process seems to happen on its own, when the brain is at play.

I began writing this piece with the purpose of stimulating my "creative" side and I was thinking that focusing upon just one subject all the time might be causing a creative rut. But in writing these thoughts I realize that I can learn something about the creative process from the workings of my own brain, which likes to be creative even when I'm off working on my logical essays. Actually I am probably making an artificial designation with my previous statement-- because writing a logical essay on reformed doctrine and writing an original melody might both be viewed as equally "creative"-- they just happen to involve different modes of thinking and perhaps, different parts of the brain.

The real lesson I want to learn from my musical activity is how to tap into that playful, relaxed, improvisatory mode of my brain. Perhaps if I just remember that my good God is in control-- sovereign over even my creative inspirations-- I can relax in the faith that if there's something creative and original within me that's meant to come out, it will. Such faith and hope will actually give me more courage to experiment and get past the fears generated by my perfectionism-- what if I haven't covered everything, what if I can't answer a question, what if I used the wrong phrase, what if someone else has already said this better than me, what if they don't like my song?

Stop worrying! If they don't like my "song", it's not the end of the world, right? Who do we write for anyway? Why do we write? The important thing is to use one's gifts to serve the Lord and others, to keep developing them, yes, but not wait until they're perfect before using them. Here's to your creativity and mine-- go write a song, fly a kite, sing a song, dance a dance, write a bad essay or a good one, but don't wait till it's perfect, my friend. Let your brain play; put it out there; sing your song!

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