Friday, January 8, 2010

Key Four of "Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity" by Hugh Macleod

Key Four:  "Good ideas have lonely childhoods.  This is the price you pay, every time.  There is no way of avoiding it."  ~ Hugh Macleod ~

One childhood summer at Y Camp, we repeatedly sang an old traditional spiritual around the camp fire, "Jesus Walked That Lonesome Valley."  As the embers glowed, I often got chills as we got to "You got to walk that lonesome valley - You got to walk it for yourself cause nobody else can walk it for you, you got to walk it by yourself." Here's Mississippi John Hurt's version of "You Got Walk That Lonesome Valley."

Basically the message continues to be - get down to it.  Do the work, don't parade it around before it's time. Protect your muse personally and professionally.  This also reminds me of Joni Mitchell's lyric in "A Case of You":  "I am a lonely painter, I live in a box of paints",  that her seemingly glamorous life is at the expense of many lonely hours.

Musicians in particular need to be careful with whom they share their business ideas.  We want to be rescued from the responsibilities that are included in the job-description of "artist."  We are sometimes lulled into the delusion that the details are being taken care of, and therefore fail to pay attention to important day to day details.
It's what you've learned in the dark, one day you may share in the light  - if you've truly done the work required.

Your thoughts on being a lonely artist?

Pam Mark Hall


  1. Christina Duane1/8/10, 9:07 PM

    I love Hugh McCleod's writing. Yes. There is a universal law, I am convinced that when we let the air into the vintage too soon, it is prevented from reaching it's full presentation.

    This happens whether we lay out our new project before friends we trust who love us or people who want to capitalize on our ideas. It happens because patience and seasoning before the unveiling of an project is an ingrediant and requirement in God's univeral law of creativity. Maybe this is because of the intimate communian we can have in exploring and developing our idea ourselves in communion with our creator and inner circle of our creative partners and the effect that has on the work.

    Their is a part of me that wants to test this principle and share the enthusiasm of the idea because why should I have to be so self protecting and why would the project not succeed just because I want to share something so exciting? But everytime the principle is tested. I learn the principle is non-negotiable.

  2. Christina,
    You've beautifully illustrated MacLeod's Key Four to Creativity that good ideas have lonely childhoods.
    Your post takes his point to a deeper level, i.e. that loneliness is not only due to upsetting the balance of power, you posit that there is a universal law refusing to bend to the superego's need for parental affirmation. Yes, yes, when the right time comes, there will be the reward of the deep satisfaction of having done the work - but the need to be affirmed at some stunted childhood development level must be acknowledged, comforted and quieted while we continue the work to completion.

  3. Christina Duane1/12/10, 10:12 AM

    I love what you said about the superego's need for parental affirmation. That need was at the core of the fall of the top angel and it all surrounded music the act of worship. It is no wonder God is so careful with our gift and how it is developed.

  4. It's been years since I read Calvin Seerveld's "Directing Imperatives" for artists (in his "Rainbows for the Fallen World.") But it seems I remember him calling for creativity to be nourished in the context of a community of artists. He may have been suggesting a community that cuts across artistic disciplines. Can't recall. Where do you think the balance is?

  5. Wow, Darrell. I remember Calvin Seerveld and "Rainbows for a Fallen World." I actually had the honor of doing a seminar on aesthetics with him and Bill Romanski - remember him? Music Historian?

    Yes, yes - the concept of creativity being nourished in the context of artistic community is not addressed in MacLeod's book, and I agree it is important. Where's the balance?

    I like what Christine says in the post prior to yours: "Maybe this is because of the intimate communion we can have in exploring and developing our idea ourselves in communion with our creator and inner circle of our creative partners and the effect that has on the work."

    That inner circle of creative partners is one that established through intuition? Trial and error? I have certainly been discovering a new sense of creative community via social media. Yet, the caution of being careful and deliberate about what to share is in place.

  6. I think having time to be alone and think... contemplate... without all the distractions we face in the modern world we live in, is crucial for our creative development. I'm really concerned that the generations growing up now are missing that. The kids I teach music to have virtually no down time to be creative. They are constantly being carted around from activity by their parents and always are texting with their ipods in their ears. The concept of turning away from all that and sitting with their thoughts and their instruments to write is so foreign to them. The more crazy my schedule gets, the more I try to set aside time to pursue my music and writing. I don't want the "tyranny of the urgent" to replace the creative part of my life.

  7. Linda,
    Again, I concur with you. Solitude is absolutely required in order to listen and hear what is there.
    And to be a conduit for that voice. Your thoughts are inspiring.

    Thank you. Pamelita

  8. One of the best books I've ever seen on creativity is "If You Want to Write" by Brenda Ueland. Its theological perspective will irk some of the more historically orthodox among us (i.e. her assumption is that creativity IS the holy spirit,) but her observations about creativity are spot on.

    She urges intentionally making time for what she calls "moodling," kind of a purposeful daydreaming. Then out of what bubbles up in those times of quiet reflection come the fodder for the actual creative work. She seems to think that real inspiration almost always occurs in those unplugged segments of life. I agree!

  9. Darrell, I've not read entire an Brenda Ueland book, only quotes - some via Julia Cameron's Artist Way series. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm not concerned about her spiritual assumptions as I am able to pass everything I see, hear or read through my own God & Truth filter.

  10. you'll dig brenda, amiga!
    no doubt!