_____ like you don’t know how to ______


I admit it, I listen to NPR. My sons insist the only people who listen to NPR are either old or nerdy. Whatever. I get two radio stations in my car consistently: NPR being one of them. So I listen, and I learn things.

Miles Davis "In A Silent Way"

Sunday I listened to part of an interview with a jazz musician, a guitar player. He quoted Miles Davis as telling him, “Play like you don’t know how to play the guitar.” Davis was talking about playing music not according to notes written on a page, not according to the rules, but playing from the heart. Allowing the heart of the musician to come through in the music. Okay, I can see that. There’s a definite difference between music played by rote and music played from the heart.

But what if we approached OTHER activities according to that advice? Obviously, some things don’t fit well. Doing the dishes like I don’t know how to do the dishes will result in dishes washed the way my teenagers wash them (not well). Driving like I don’t know how to drive could go either way: either I’ll be more cautious and aware, which would be good, or I’ll drive like an idiot, which would be bad.

As I considered the phrase, a few particular activities jumped out at me, things that could be as revolutionized as playing music, things we learn to do according to an acquired skill set based on certain rules and guidelines.

wotd008Writing was the first thing I considered. The more I’ve “learned” about writing the more stifled my creativity has become. There’s a time and a place for following the rules and guidelines, but the first few drafts of a work are not that time and place. For writing to be creative and original, there must be a time when we give ourselves permission to “write like you don’t know how to write.”

kid prayingPrayer was the next thing I thought of, because prayer is supposed to be creative. Really. God is not looking for us to fill out IRS-style prayer forms. He’s looking for a dialogue, for a meeting of the minds, for intimacy with us. What if I prayed “like I didn’t know how to pray?” Would I approach God differently? Would you?

And what about things like kissing … what if you kissed your spouse like you didn’t already KNOW what his/her lips felt like, what the response would be, which direction you would tilt your head to avoid nose-bashing. You get the idea, right? Yeah. Carry that out as far as you need to.

It’s not so much a matter of throwing aside all the conventions we’ve learned over the years. It’s a matter of releasing our God-given creativity in places we have locked down tight because we’re afraid of failure, afraid of rejection, or afraid of reproach. Think about it:

  • What if you got dressed tomorrow like you didn’t know how to dress? 
  • What if you read your Bible like you’ve never read it before?
  • What if you talked to your child like you’ve never talked to him/her before?

Do you see the potential here? I’m looking forward to applying this thought to my next creative writing appointment! How about you? 

7 thoughts on “_____ like you don’t know how to ______

  1. Jeff Boutwell says:

    Amen to that I am always trying for perfection when I should be thriving for inocence. You really don't have to go far with the application of this. You are already writing in the Miles Davis style. very nice…

  2. Andrea says:

    I, too need to apply this principle. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Georgiana Daniels says:

    Great post! Really making me think.

    Last year I read the New Testament like I'd never read it before, and it really shook up my theology–in a good way!

  4. Niki Turner says:

    Jeff, thank you! That might be the nicest thing I've heard all year. I like the idea of perfection vs. innocence. Hmmm.

  5. Niki Turner says:

    Excellent! I try to do that each year by getting a new Bible in a different version. It keeps me from skimming over familiar passages and paying attention to things I've already highlighted or underlined.

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