Creativity has always been an essential thing for me. I know my life is the most stressed and unhealthy when I have no room to create. Whether it is writing essays or articles like this one, scribbling a poem, writing a song, or taking photos and videos: anyone who knows me knows that I have multiple creative endeavors continually mulling in my mind – often at different levels of process. For me, creativity is vital. It is the emotional and spiritual pulse that helps to indicate how I’m doing, and to describe where I am at.
Success is when it feels true
I released my first recording to CD in 1998 or so. It was rough in just about every aspect, and somewhere in my garage there is still of box of those critters. Honestly, I cringe when I listen to it! As I slowly released more and more albums, the songwriting improved, but there are songs out in the world that say things I no longer believe. As a faith based songwriter that has come out of an Evangelical cultural setting, there is a tendency to think that everything has to be ‘theologically correct’ to count. But what I’ve found is that creativity doesn’t need to make it through the gauntlet of systematic theology to be beautiful (after all, I’ve learned that my theology will be changing until I’m fully in Christ’s presence anyways. In some ways, I believe very differently than the way I did even 8 years ago). And actually, it is the rough and ugly that actually has a tendency to be quite beautiful. For instance, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” does not hold to the kind of ‘biblical accuracy’ and narrative that theologians may insist on, but it is a beautiful song. Not because of its perfection of theological content, but because of its unapologetic vulnerability and emotion. The truth in creativity can’t be in the information (or at least just in the information), rather it has to feel true to the creator. I remember when I finally felt like a song that I wrote was actually saying what I felt. It isn’t my ‘best’ song, but it was a landmark song for me because though all my musical and lyrical fumbling, I was actually saying what I meant. It felt true, and that is the goal of all I do.
It is healing
In a TED talk called, “Give yourself permission to be creative,” actor Ethan Hawke said,
“There’s a thing that worries me sometimes when we talk about creativity. Because it can have this kind of feel that it’s just ‘nice.’ You know, it’s warm and it’s something pleasant. It’s not. It’s vital. It’s the way we heal each other. It’s singing our song and telling our story. And inviting you to say, ‘Hey, listen to me, I’ll listen to you.’ We’re starting a dialogue, and when we do that this healing happens. And we come out of our cores, and we start to witness each other’s common humanity.”
I know that as a creative I feel the urgency of creativity. Not everyone experiences it that way. I don’t believe that creativity is reserved for the creatives, but rather for everyone. It looks different for everyone, for sure, but I believe that the act of creativity is a healing act when we each bring ourselves to it. Me in my quirks and weaknesses, and you in yours. A lyrical phrase that I’ve said for years, and eventually wrote into a song, goes: “We are an utterance in this song, so sing we must.”
Time to come home
Poet and author Joel McKerrow wrote a beautiful poem for the creatives out there that I listen to as a pep talk :-). The poem is beautiful, and is recorded on his album Joel McKerrow & the Mysterious Few, Welcome Home. The title track & poem Welcome Home is an invitation to create, and while the whole thing is beautiful, it ends with this lyric:
Enough with the talking, talking heads of the critics.
Critics are only cynics.
You start listening only to you.
You come home to yourself.
Take charge of the dreams you once thought too far past the horizon.
The simple joy of being here.
The art of creating when you no longer need an audience.
Create cause it makes your bones move.
Create cause it stirs the belly fire.
Create cause you dream.
Create because you see.
Create because the world needs you.
Create because it fills the sails, then let’s go fly a kite.
Create, cause this is what we do here.
Create, cause this is who we are here.
Welcome, welcome, welcome home.
I often talk about spiritual disciplines/practices/exercises as tools to help reset us back to our ‘factory settings’ – that is, engaging in activities that help us to learn how to live in the loving trust of relationship with God. Creativity for me is one of those places where I can be myself, in that trusting relationship. However, to get there it oftentimes requires practicing silence, solitude, or sabbath, or all of those things. As long as I am frantic and busy, I don’t ‘have room’ to create. Creating that room sometimes takes sacrifice, and definitely intentionality.