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Riding Off Without the Horse!

The creative mind is noisy, busy and always demanding attention. It is full of ideas, I know because I own such a mind or let’s just say it owns me. These creative ideas come and become addictive, and they have the power to bring us under their hold. One idea brings another idea.

The problem is most artists want to do everything they think about. Just plan a party and see how it goes, it starts with a small idea and it ends up bigger than life. Can we bridle these ideas and bring them under control? Al, my husband, tells me I am always riding off without the horse. If it wasn’t true, I would argue the point. Before I have thought it out, I have already done it. Quick decisions are easy, but sometimes the ramifications are brutal.

I have found that I am not the only one with this problem. A photographer recently spent a few days with us. Her memory card holds a thousand photos and it was full. She was downloading photos so that she would have more room for more pictures. By the way, she had three other cameras she was also using. She ended up with only a handful of photos that she found acceptable.

My poet friend from Cortez resolved to write a poem a day. Recently she told me it was almost five years since she started writing a poem a day. Do the math she has to have over 1,700 poems in her journal by now. Another friend, a writer of more than 60 published books thinks in dialogue, she has a continuous dialogue going on in her head all the time.

So after reading a great book about great men who contributed great things to the art world, I decided that it was time to bridle all my enthusiasm and wait for that one great idea that would produce that one great moment. I was not going to write until I had something important to say. I was sure that all these ideas that fill my head must get in the way of that one idea that would be effective and timely. A musician said, “One should never play a single note without hearing it, feeling that it is true, thinking it beautiful.” (I doubt if all musicians think that way. I’m sure they play many sour notes before they get good.)

So I thought, I wouldn’t write anything until I knew for sure I could feel it to be true and think it beautiful. I would think it through, I would know where it was going and of course it would be a great moment for me and you the reader and it would be a life changing experience for all of us. Another big idea!

So I began thinking of the next column. It was going to have humor, wisdom, truth and flare. Twenty ideas came across my mind, and as I began to over think them for greatness sake, they just seemed to dry up. They became trite and overworked. I frantically began pulling from every experience I have ever had, every story I have ever heard. The more I reined in my mind, the more the ideas stopped and my mind began to become more noisier than ever with arguments such as — Who wants to go deep all the time, have a life changing experience and be taught by everything one reads and sees? No one! Art should be fun. Be entertaining. We should be able to sit back and enjoy the moment. I am going to be out of a job before I start, I’ve got one week before I have to send in the next column. Oh me. I’ve never been without ideas. I love my mind with all its ideas, all the double metaphors, the half-thought ideas with no point, I need it back.

Then I began thinking of all the paintings I have done over all the years, recording all the different moments that I was thinking. Some turned out really good, some, not so good. They’ve been painted over, used as fuel for the fire, given away, sold, bartered for, even donated for good causes. They were all ideas that came from a noisy mind. But they represent me and who I am.

A friend recently reminded me of a couple of books that I wrote in the ’90s that never really got off the ground. She said she uses them continuously for the class she teaches. She is always quoting from them and they have been life changing for many of her students. I chuckled when she told me and I thought, “So that is who those books were written for. The effort was not lost. Maybe I had a good idea.”

And where am I going with this whole idea about noisy minds? Greatness can not be planned, it just happens. Greatness comes out of a mind that is free to run, think and play among all the colors in the paint box, or write words on a page or down loading memory cards. I have learned, if I am reined in, I will stop thinking creatively and start judging and second guessing myself.

So how do we deal with these noisy minds? Some things must be painted and written about, other things are just thoughts that need to be communicated so others with like-minds can say, “There is someone out there just like me and it’s OK. I’m not crazy, just a little odd.”

The Final Brushstroke: Let the noisy minds be like noisy children, let them play, learn, grow, have fun, and don’t expect everything they produce to be perfect. I just got another idea rolling around in my head. I’m going for it! What horse?

Comments from readers

I know you have lots of ideas, please jump in and write to

I just received these comments from Kathy, Southgate, Mich., and I had to laugh, I rest my case: another noisy artist’s mind indeed!

“Hi Betty, From time to time I have been reading your articles. I haven’t found a coherent way to search, except day by day.  Perhaps I am missing something.

“ The article on the trees and coffee table hit home, yet I still did not quite get the drift of what your readers were saying.  Then I read the article on concrete and random thinking.  And oh how I can relate.  Your poor daughter, married to a concrete person with two random thinking children! 

 “Between work and writing I suffer from traveling between right and left brain.  My work is very left-brained, answering phones, keeping log sheets, excel spreadsheets (though at a very simplistic level), lots of shuffling papers every day.  I find myself looking for ways to be creative...

“ The creative part of me suffers for that, as being left-handed and very right-brained, in theory, sometimes, and only when I am writing, and then the researcher (left brain) gets in the way, always asking questions and challenging the right brain to do something about finding the answers.  My painting and drawing fell by the wayside many years ago, and some days I wish I could bring it back, to feel the pencil on that textured paper again, to put color strokes on the big canvases I loved to work on in college.  Where is the time?

 “I find it hard to give myself permission to work from the right side of my brain.  My world is bound by grocery lists, working on the house with my carpenter husband (and hanging pictures is a whole other story).  Well, I will digress here.  When I wanted to hang something, my art or a photograph or poster, I found the wall the object fit on and didn’t measure one bit.  The work just fit the space and I’d put a nail in the wall and voila!  But did you know if you are a carpenter and thinker from the other side of the brain, you have to measure?  And oh, if you have plaster walls, you just can’t put a nail there, you have to get out the drill and mollies or plugs!  Don’t forget the tape measure!  It is all very scientific.  Heavens!

 “So I remembered clearly the argument brought about in art class back in the ’70s, regarding evolution in artist expression.  Remember process versus product?  Well, I was in West Texas at a university that had been in the past a technical college and the art department was still establishing itself.  Perhaps I was in a cocoon or time warp. 

 “In regard to the trees, the artist was considering process and product.  Does reality have anything to do with it?  What did the artist feel when she was revealing the trees?  Process is a fine and exhilarating feeling, it is getting into the right side of your brain, regardless if the product is representational or abstract.  The product is what the viewer sees.  Yet the artist knows when the product is complete, still bound in that process or expression of touch, color, stroke or pencil or brush, of movement on the surface.  (Can you tell I am not a 3-D artist?)  And, like good writing, there will be whimsy or surprise or teaching or mystery in a piece of art, for the reader and viewer to discover for themselves.

 “Is it okay for a person to choose something which goes with their carpet?  You bet.  Hopefully that choice was made with emotional discovery, pleasure, or just plain, “I like it!”  Enjoying art also is a process.  Keep looking at the work and you will see fine detail or brilliant color, loveliness in the little strokes or emotion in the broad ones.  Just going to a gallery and seeing art is not the same as living with it.  It is like choosing a book and then rereading it over the years, for the pure pleasure of the experience and memory.”

Artist’s quote

“If I didn’t start painting, I would have raised chickens.” — Grandma Moses.