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Red light, green light

May 30, 2013

“You always have a green light until God turns it red.”  Graham Cooke

I don’t always find it easy to dream freely and without limitations.  That’s a bit of an internal train wreck for a creative person.  In order to find out where an idea could go and what it could become, it has to be given the space and freedom to expand until it either morphs into greatness or it runs out of steam.

It has to be birthed from a green light.

Most of my life I’ve accepted red light theology.  What I was taught, and fully believed for a very long time, is that I always had a red light until God turned it green.  And even then, I better be darned sure it was really green and not just a greenish pink from wishful thinking.  Assume no until the yes was irrefutable.

So much for “yes and amen” in Jesus, huh?

Red lights do no favors to artists and dreamers.  Few things shut down dreaming and creativity faster than fear and judgment.   We squelch, we compare, we judge…and creativity either rises up in rebellion (not good), or it conforms and plays small (not good).  Either way the pressure to create builds, and we begin to get squirrely.  We need a safe outlet.  Lacking one, we’ll almost surely end up doing something unsafe.  Like nothing.  Doing nothing is incredibly unsafe for a creative person.

I once did a seminar with Craig McNair Wilson who has worked as an actor, director, playwright, author, teacher, and one of Disney’s Imagineers.  The guy is a walking hotbed of creative activity.  I’m not sure he can keep up with his own brain.  He spoke of having a “yes, and…” attitude.  If it’s a good idea, tag on with “yes, and…”.  If it’s a bad idea, redirect it with “yes, and…” In short, employ the green light to weed through the artistic flotsam and jetsam and to climb into higher realms of creativity.

I tend to be a very practical person.  That in and of itself can shut down creativity.  How much does it cost?  How big of a mess does it make?  How long will it take to produce?  What is the fallout of failure?  Will is ruin the carpets?  How likely is it that someone will get an eye poked out? Because we know it’s all good and fun until someone gets an eye poked out.  These are not “yes, and…” questions.  These are “yes, but…” questions, and we know that “yes, but…” really means no.

I don’t want to be a no.  I don’t want to assume a red light until God actually gives one.

So maybe I don’t have to be so practical when dreaming.  Maybe I could give myself permission to dream without judging the ideas before they have time let their paint dry a little.  Maybe I could tolerate the mess and uncertainty of idea infancy long enough to see if they could grow up to be a little bit of awesome.  Or even a whole lot.  Maybe I could practice “yes, and…”

…and mean it.


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