Driving in the Dark
by Lindsey Maughan
I should not be allowed to drive at night.
It’s actually kind of embarrassing to admit, along with my other driving secrets–that I took driver’s ED twice passing with A’s both times but was somehow unable to keep side view mirrors on when backing out of the garage; that my thirteen year old brother taught me how to drive stick and helped me get all my required hours in before I got my license; that I learned to drive on freeways when I was 21, a missionary, and being guided by a sweet Russian gal whose map skills were honed for the Siberian forest—not downtown DC.
So in comparison to my my other driving secrets, my night driving may not seem all that bad. Still, it is just as frustrating for me to admit now as it will be when I am ninety, and my grandchildren are trying to hide the car keys so I won’t be known as the neighborhood mailbox mower.
It wouldn’t be so hard for me to swallow if I knew that it was difficult for everyone, but I’ve had enough conversations with my husband, and later the eye doctor, to know that I am just a weird case of astigmatisms gone wrong. (When are they ever right!)
So here is the honest truth. Oncoming traffic lights pretty much blind me. I stay between the lines, which are like bread crumbs to me, Hansel and Greta-ling after the break lights of the car ahead. My reaction time slows way down. Because it takes so long for my brain to register where the road is, I drive at least ten miles under the speed limit no matter what is posted. (Yes, I am that person you hate.)
This whole blind at night thing is just a mess I have to live with.
However, it dawned on me (Ha! dawned!), that I have CSNA, or “Creativity Stunted Night Astigmatism”. (I’m pretty sure I just made that up so don’t go an wiki it!)
Maybe, you can relate.
I am driving through life and I get this creative ambition–whatever it may be. Then suddenly night falls. I feel like I need to stay between the lines, but oncoming traffic is blinding me, so I start following someone’s break light.
Here is the creative challenge. You aren’t ever going to get something original when you are following someones break lights!
Why does the night come? I think it is because any true artistic epiphany, much like faith, doesn’t come to us with 100% clarity. It is more like the spirit of an idea without body or personality. Something about the idea is alluring to us, but we don’t quite know how to birth it into existence and are debilitated by the idea that the process won’t work, it won’t be appreciated, or we don’t have the skills to pull it off.
We are convinced that to survive without a creative crash we have to stay between the lines.
Sometimes we are lucky enough to have a 72 hour kit of courage stored up and we actually begin our quest. Its daring and feels exhilarating, so before our courage runs out we confide our excitement in someone else.
Look out for blinding oncoming “lights.”
Even the best of friends, loved ones, mentors, and teammates, can be too practical, skeptical, indifferent, and even critical to hold your wilting creative flower.
Before placing the blame on all the “Debby Downers” in your life, realize this: Creative inspiration is much like personal revelation.
You can’t describe the bold excitement you feel as intelligence rushes into you. Sometimes ideas truly do SOUND dumb even when they don’t FEEL dumb. Sometimes ideas are so unusual that if you were to have heard them yourself you would have shook your head and said, “Why even try, that sounds like it was made to fail.”
I am not talking about something too great here. It could be as simple as getting the urge to decoupage pictures of cars and trains to your toddlers dresser. Your loving spouse who has never decoupaged a day in his life may just look at you like you have been eating too much play dough with your kids.
You may decide to write your grandmother’s life history and find that even SHE is doubtful that the process is going to be worth your time.
Perhaps, at the age of 45, you decide that the world needs one more passionate accordion player. You will have to endure Steve Urkel jokes, gifts of suspenders, and Polka sheet music from your friends, before you fulfill your dream and prove to everyone that accordions are rocking awesome.
Once, after reading my husband’s thesis about Condensers (A custom tool for capturing and summarizing network traffic) I had this bizarre but really cool idea to choreograph a dance about it. I could SEE it in my mind and it was SO COOL. I explained the idea to my husband but even as I did so my tongue starting to jerk back like a rug on the words. To save face with my husband, who was looking really baffled at my outburst, I made a joke about the whole thing and tossed the idea aside.
The truth is, wonderful artistic promptings are like personal revelation. They are personal because sometimes there is no one in the world that has just the right experiences, just the right personality, just the right tools, to pull it off.
I doubt many modern dancers are reading about Botnets and Service Attacks and would have the imagery from it to choreograph said dance, but the idea was so frighteningly out there that I purged what could have been something that would have been visually android and awesome, and would actually have brought more computer engineers to modern dance performances. (And really, that would have been my greatest life accomplishment!)
It is troubling to think about how tempting it is to follow after someone’s headlights–to find someone who has done something similar and shadow their process. You photograph in the very same location as an iconic photographer. You write a love story about vampires. You CriCut deep thoughts and vinyl paste them to your walls. That’s great! But it is not original!
The tragedy in this is that you pay great compliments to your icon with your coping, but you don’t really fulfill your own unique artistic purpose. You may find joy in the “creative” process, but you won’t find yourself. You will also forever be plagued in criticizing your work by comparing it to those like your own. A truly original idea not only feels good, it can withstand individualistic scrutiny.
Who are you? What talents do you have that seem eclectic, but that fit together into your own awesome perspective? What experience do you have that makes it possible for you to do or see something in a completely different way?
Sometimes, following after headlights makes us feel like we will always get there after everyone else.
Time and time again, I get a crazy thought in my head, and it is this: “There are already enough successful people in the field I dream of being in. There is no space for someone starting from scratch, who has no training, no tools, no experience.”
What a stinking lie!
Do not let the success of others devalue the creativity rate of your own personal worth.
Someday, I will be a novel writer, even though I didn’t conjure up Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, or have dreams about frigid glittery vampires.
Someday you can be a business owner even though you don’t own an iphone and you aren’t sure if Donald Trump’s hair is real.
Someday you can be a photographer even if you don’t own pink tutu’s, knit beanies, and know all the best grunge locations.
Someday you can be a painter, decorator, landscaper, musician, poet, or gracious, you could be a professional street mime!
A recipe can be created, a poem can be written, a pillow can be so fringed, a wall can be so painted, a business can so be started…etc…
There will be growing pains.
Sometimes we need those tail lights, even for a small time to help us gain confidence. It is also rather overwhelming to try to unearth who you really are, and along the way you are likely to do a few u-turns or have to crawl along, much like me when I am night driving.
It takes courage, time, and night vision goggles, but be sure to this: When those unique ideas do start to come, they are yours, and whether it becomes the decoupaged-car-themed dresser that your toddler adores, or the business that feeds your family, only you can give this spirit idea a body.
Lindsey Maughan is a mango enthusiast with a degree in modern and ballroom dance from BYU. She believes that when you read books you should take notes in the margins, that sandwiches taste better when cut on the diagonal, and that most mundane tasks can be improved upon with the right background music.
She lives with her tall, dark, and logical husband, and her almond eyed, airplane loving daughter in Hawaii. In April of this year they will welcome a second child, a boy, into the family. Both parents hope he will grow to love hiking, vacuuming, and Indian food.
Lindsey loves her jogging stroller, her ipod, good books, her journal, music, writing, dancing, cooking, yoga, and going on dates with her husband.