(Is for you to write for 10 minutes.)
Somewhere—I can’t remember where or even exactly when—I stumbled across the idea that my vocation, in general, is to “live creatively in response to the gospel.”
Actually, the implication was that this truth applies to all people who call themselves Christ followers (“Christians”).
Truth is, most of us don’t really do a good job of this.
We get the “living” part, and even though I’m convinced a lot of us don’t really understand what “good news” (that’s what “gospel” means, in case you didn’t know) actually means, many of us could quote a Bible verse or two about the term.
But what about that little adverb there: “creatively”?
Many of us would just ignore it, and pretend it’s not there. Just do the “living” part, and go to church, and hope that things get better.
We leave “creativity” to people with tattoos, funny hats, skinny jeans, and interesting glasses.
(Artists and hipsters.)
But let me push on that just a bit.
First, CREATIVITY AND ART ARE NOT THE SAME THING. “Art” is a subset of creativity. Creativity simply means bringing something into being, and for most of us it occurs when someone simply brings two things or concepts together that typically don’t belong together, and the result is somehow useful, or beautiful, or delightful, or just simply moves people in some way.
In this way, ALL OF US can be creative. It’s actually pretty easy.
(NOTE: It’s not always easy to get results that are amazing, or beautiful, or delightful, etc. But results ≠ process. We’re talking about PROCESS here.)
Second, I believe the world is begging for more faith-inspired, intentional creativity.
Well, Einstein said it best: “You can’t solve the world’s problems at the same level of consciousness that created them.”
We need new solutions to the problems that continue to plague our world: selfishness, greed, pride, anger, divisiveness, etc., etc.
I’m pretty convinced that all good people—even (especially?) Christians—want to do the right thing, but what we are faced with is the same approaches to the the same problems.
We need MORE. We need NEW.
We need more/new from our leaders, we need more/new from our preachers, we need more/new from EVERYONE.
(Including YOU and ME.)
Let me be clear: we don’t need MORE/NEW so that we can ONLY have more/new songs, paintings, poems, sculptures, etc. We need more/new so that we can have more/new IDEAS, INSPIRATION, APPROACHES, INNOVATION.
Because one of the great gifts of creativity is the increased ability to make “lateral leaps”—surprise linkages—in our thinking. THIS is how we stumble into new ways of thinking, new and innovative ways to approach old problems.
Over my years of creative exploration, one tool has emerged as an absolutely essential building block, a foundation for songwriting, leadership, blogging, problem-solving, etc., etc. I first discovered it in The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s seminal work, and I’ve continued to tweak the process as I’ve gotten older. Cameron called them “Morning Pages”, and the concept was actually pretty simple:
- Write three pages—absolutely no less—every single day. Even if the pages are filled with “I don’t know what to write,” etc., you have to fill the three pages.
- Do NOT stop to edit, or go back to read what you wrote. Immediately put the pages away (I used to put a time limit of a minimum of two weeks).
Later on, I combined Cameron’s approach with something I read in a book on lyric writing by Pat Pattison called “Object Writing,” where you take an object around you, and for ten minutes you write EVERYTHING you can about the object: it’s shape, it’s significance, it’s color, it’s position on the table, etc. Other principles remained the same: you HAD to write for ten minutes, not stopping, and you could NOT edit or go back and read.
(NOTE: You can ALSO use these same exercises—particularly the “Object Writing” approach—to solve more specific problems. You simply take whatever problem or challenge you’re trying to solve and write SPECIFICALLY about that problem for ten minutes, using the same rules. No editing, have to keep the words flowing, etc. In THIS context, you CAN go back and read what you wrote, but maybe give yourself an hour gap between writing and reading.)
This SIMPLE act is the foundational creative exercise: it’s like stretching in the morning for an athlete. Sports and training metaphors are often found in the New Testament, and I believe they apply—critically—to more than just our physical bodies. We need foundational “exercises” that prime and prepare our minds (AND hearts AND souls) for more unexpected (i.e., “creative”) thinking.
Remember: as best I can tell, Jesus says we are ALL—not just some of us, or the “good Christians—supposed to be the light of the world. That means ALL of us have a job to do, to do a little good in the world.
In other words, “to live creatively in response to the Good News.”
The world needs more CREATIVE action that is Good News.
So go: pick up your pen. Spend 10 minutes (or three pages, whichever you prefer). Then do it again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, etc.
And let the ideas come. We need them.
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