MICHAEL JOHNSON (wonderful author of the amazing books, HEALING SHINE and THE TRIALS OF JOE BEN BLACK: Confessions of a Rope Horse – I love the audio CDs, too! ) often sends his monthly editorial columns to us.

I feel honored to receive these missives.  Michael’s honest life coaching, all infused with good humaness, always lifts my spirits.  This one today is titled, THE SECRET TO CREATIVITY.   Yup, right up my alley…

Here you go!


Michael Johnson


      How on earth do we do that? Tap into our creative spirit, I mean? Is it even in there? Most of us would say, “Oh no, I’m not creative at all. Never have been.” I think – I know – it’s always been in there. Problem is it’s a shy thing. If you trust me enough to consider the possibility “it’ might be in there, how then might we persuade this shy thing to come out? First, we must protect it. We must make it feel safe to show its face to the world.

     We have to be careful with our creative spirit. When we dare tell someone a “different idea” we are considering, if that person (almost always someone close to us) demeans our new thought, our creative spirit runs to the bedroom and hides in the closet and we think, “Well, why in the world did I ever say that?” Then we spend the rest of the day berating ourselves. A poor strategy, indeed. We need a “protector.” Enter the skilled and sensible mentor.

     There is a paradox about life. To do anything of value, we must be original and do it ourselves. (Quick, name me an Elvis impersonator.) We must not let others dissuade us from achieving our heart’s desire. To do that, we often have to stand alone in the face of criticism and trust – trust – our self. Sometimes difficult to do, but on occasion when we do…we are surprised. The courage to stand alone is key. Here’s the paradox. We must have help. We need mentors. Good ones.

     Most of us think if someone is smart enough to complete a terminal degree, i. e., M. D.,

PhD, Law degree, or become a world champion roper, then they must be equally competent in other areas of life. Unfortunately, that’s not true. We see a particular doctor breeze through medical school and yet unable to make a living practicing medicine because he or she has no idea how to treat people. Some attorneys are just squirrelly, some great ropers have no clue about training a horse, and don’t even get me started on psychiatrists. On the first day of my internship in a Dallas hospital, a psychiatric nurse pulled me aside…

     “Hey kid, did anyone tell you how to tell the psychiatrists from the patients around here?” she asked.

     “No, ma’am,” I said.

     “Sometimes the patients get a little better,” she said.

     Certainly, there are good doctors, lawyers, and cowboys who can help us…but we need to be careful and insure we are dealing with a good one. And there is one key to releasing our creative – and best – spirit above all others. Here is an illustration of a magnificent, splendid, kind, and brilliant example that we should all be so lucky to find.

     As she strode up the university steps, the young woman noticed her hands were shaking so and she wished they would stop. After making her way down the hall, she found his door, and knocked.

     “Come in,” he said.

     Seated in front of him with hands still shaking, she said, “I…I…w-w-rote this…uh… story, and it’s not very good, but I was just wondering – since we went to elementary school together and I’ve known you before you became a famous professor – I was just wondering if you would look at it for me and tell me…well, you know…what you think?”

     A few days later, she received her story in the mail with a note penned to the front.

Hands shaking again now, she removed the paper clip and began to read…

     Dear Annie,

     I read your story. I thought it quite good. But then again, it really doesn’t matter what I think. Here’s what really does…

     You write like you write.

     You talk like you talk.

     They will try to change you.

     Don’t let them.

     You write like you write.

     You talk like you talk.

     That – is – YOUR – voice.

     My goodness, have you ever read anything more beautiful in your life?

“Be not afraid.”

                              -Mark 5:36


In memory of Joe Fred Cox, Professor of History, Texas A&M University- Commerce

July 1931-December 2015


                                                                               —Michael Johnson




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