CH 5: The Creator
Note: the following is the second chapter in a book that I wrote called Ex Materia: How Faith Can Unleash Your Creativity in a World Where Nothing is New. If you haven't already, I would recommend reading Chapters 1-4 before launching into Chapter 5.
As I’ve explained, I’m a creator who struggles. Finding ideas and resources is hard work. I often wonder how other creatives are able to do it. Writing a new article or blog post each week is rough when I’m often unsure what to write about.
Despite this, people often praise me for how creative I am. I’m amused by such comments because, deep inside, I don’t feel very creative at times. In fact, it’s something I wrestle with on a weekly basis. I struggle to find things to write about. This often feels like a “thorn in the flesh”, and yes, I’ve asked Yahweh to remove it on several occasions.
I’m learning to accept my creative weaknesses. I’m beginning to see that they keep me in check. They are forcing me to rely upon Yahweh, the ultimate Creator, for help and guidance. Additionally, I hope that my creative life can serve as encouragement to fellow creators around me who might also be struggling.
If you don’t feel creative, or are having your inability thrown into your face, take heart. Yahweh is close to those who are lowly. He exalts the humble. He provides for those in need. In our creative weaknesses, God can be glorified, and we can be satisfied.
If you struggle with creativity like I do, don’t give up. Instead, start giving your creative burdens to Yahweh on a daily basis.
This chapter is completely devoted to learning about creativity from Yahweh.
Yahweh’s Creative Process
The creation account in Genesis is by far one of my favorite parts of the Bible. In it, I see Yahweh at work as a creative being. I like to call it “Yahweh’s Creative Process.”
Whether you think the creation account in Genesis is literal or not, I hope you’ll take this part seriously. From studying Yahweh’s creative process, I find inspiration and help when it comes to my own creative life.
I’m not saying creativity is the intended meaning of these passages, but through reading them I learned some valuable lessons.
Create in Order
Yahweh created the earth in a very specific way. It wasn’t by accident or luck; it was by design. Over the course of time, Yahweh brought his creation from start to finish, and it was very good.
Yahweh created things in a specific order. He didn’t make man and woman first. Before he made them, he created a world for them to live in. Before he made the sea creatures, he made the sea.
When you and I create, we too need to consider where we’re going before we get started. A lot of creative work requires planning and careful execution. You cannot do it in any order you want, at least if it is going to turn out correctly. For many things, there are specific steps and processes you have to go through.
Often, I’ll get a fantastic new idea and jump into working on it immediately. Before long, I’ll realize how much work is really involved, or I’ll lose my initial excitement, and the idea will fizzle out. I have too many unfinished projects that I killed because I didn’t take the time to think them through and plan them out before I got started.
Application: embrace the necessary steps. Spend extra time on the front end so that your project will succeed on the back end.
If you’re writing a book, take the time to organize all of your thoughts and plot a course for making it happen.
If you are making a short film, do not neglect pre-production. Storyboarding, writing, and finding the right talent all take time and careful attention, but it will pay off ten-fold during the production stage.
Observe and Analyze Your Work as You Go
With almost every step Yahweh made in the creation account, he took time to look back at what he had just done. Yahweh made the light, and he saw that the light was good. He made the earth and seas, and he saw that they were good. He made the animals, and he saw that they were good.
As we are creating and going through the creative process, we should take the time to analyze and look at what we are doing before moving on. If it’s good, then continue; if it’s not, then fix it.
I love hand making leather notebooks. There are specific steps I have to follow in order for them to work though. If I do a bad job on just one of the steps, the notebook might not work properly. Before I sell a notebook or give one away, I check that my stitching and binding are good. If they aren’t, the notebook might fall apart.
Application: check your work. It’s not always easy to admit that something is not good, but it’s necessary to evaluate. If you don’t, there might be bad consequences down the road.
Yahweh’s creation is a truly amazing and diverse place. When I was considering how Yahweh created plant life, I immediately thought about his attention to detail. God likes diversity. When he was creating, he didn't just make a tree; he made a multitude of different kinds of trees.
There are willows, maples, sycamores, spruces, cedars, elms, aspens, alders, yews, magnolias, chestnuts, hemlocks, beeches, ginkgos, palms, tupelos, and junipers. And that's just naming a few! Going further, there are sub-types of these trees. For instance, maple trees are in the Acer genus. Within this genus, there are numerous species of maple trees. Acer Palmatum is the Japanese maple. Acer Rubrum is the red maple. Just within the genus of Acer there are around 40 different species and 250 unique varieties. (1)
And that's just the maple tree! It's amazing to think that of all the thousands of trees that exist, they all have unique qualities and attributes that set them apart. They each are different; from the shapes of the leaves to the makeup of the wood. They even have different aromas.
So, how does this concept of diversity apply to the actual process of creativity?
Application: try something new. If you're continually creating the same basic concepts, change direction and reach for diversity.
Take your initial concept, even if it's cliché, and diversify it. Flip perspectives. Change colors. Try new styles. Make things shorter.
Odds are you'll find an idea that you are passionate about. Keep drafting new phases of the concept. Stop when you have several different types of the same idea.
Yahweh Loves Beautiful Things
The creation that Yahweh brought into being is a truly fascinating thing. It’s beauty is unsurpassable, and we’re constantly discovering new and marvelous aspects of it. By looking at all that Yahweh created, I see that He enjoys beautiful things: snowcapped mountains, foggy sunrises, microscopic insect life, and the wonder of human beings.
When Yahweh instructed the Israelites in the Bible to prepare the tabernacle, the emphasis was on the design. Usually, we tend to gloss over the passages in the Old Testament that talk about the construction of the tabernacle because of how hard they are to read. They are repetitive and slow going. If you’re like me, it’s very tempting to skip these long descriptions altogether. If we do though, we’re missing a very “creative” oriented passage in the Bible. (2)
Basically, what we’re reading is a creative design plan. And it’s not an ordinary one, it’s one designed by Yahweh Himself. Check out some of the stuff Yahweh has the Israelites create:
"You shall make an altar… You shall overlay it with pure gold… You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding…" (Parts from Exodus 30:1-4)
You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ (Exodus 28:36)
I could go on and on, but I won’t because I think you get the idea. Yahweh loves beautiful things.
Weaknesses Become Strengths
Creative people are often emotional people. Or maybe it’s just me.
Creativity is tied closely to expression and feeling. Great creativity can come out of extravagant honesty. This isn’t a bad thing, but it does have many side-effects. For instance, we as creators are more susceptible to being judged, to being criticized, and to being misunderstood. It can cause us to feel exposed and defenseless. Our hearts are breeding grounds for insecurities. If we aren’t careful, we’ll begin to instinctively build walls of protection to keep out these threats.
This is a natural reaction, but it’s one that will end up harming us instead of helping us. As creative people, we need to remember that Yahweh can be seen strong in our weaknesses. In our inability, we can learn that dependency upon Yahweh is our only means of salvation.
If you struggle with creating also, know that you are in a good place because Yahweh can be seen strong in your weakness.
Creativity Can’t Be Boxed
Just like Yahweh, we can’t put creativity in a box. We can research and find new ways to be creative and stimulate creativity, but we’ll never understand it. I believe it is something beyond our control.
The method you use to overcome writer’s block might work one day, but the next it won’t. Your brainstorming technique might give birth to brilliance every now and then, but it won’t always bring about success.
I tried for the longest time to figure out how to be creative. I even Googled it. I read many articles and suggestions. It never helped though because ultimately nothing was constant. Nothing was a guarantee. I was trying to put creativity in a box that I could control.
If you trust in your creative abilities, you’re ultimately going to be disappointed. Instead, seek Yahweh in your creating. Who better to inspire, teach, and help us than the One who created everything?
Safeguard Against Pride
Dependency upon the Creator not only allows us to break free of frustration and feelings of defeat, but it safeguards us against our own pride.
Creativity can be a prideful pursuit. When we invest hours of time into a project, we naturally want compensation for it, primarily in the form of praise. We want people to know how good we are. But here’s the thing, when we rely upon Yahweh for success and creative help, we can’t take all the credit. Or at least, we shouldn’t.
In our creative inabilities and weaknesses, Yahweh is most glorified.
Side note: even if we aren’t relying upon Yahweh, and even if we are taking the credit, Yahweh is still the one to whom the glory should be due. Without the life that He gives, the abilities He has bestowed upon us, and the resources we are blessed with, we would have nothing.
So, even if you aren’t one to struggle with creative ideas, Yahweh can still be glorified.
A God We Can Relate To
Before we go on to the next chapter in this book, take a moment to think about what we’ve just talked about. You are not alone in your creative struggles and difficulties. Yahweh experienced them too. In the form of Jesus, Yahweh became even more like you and I, so that he could further experience the sufferings that we do.
But what’s crazy about his “sufferings” is that they are entirely within his control, and yet he still endured them.
What does this mean on a practical level? Yahweh is not a distant god. He is up close and personal, and he can relate to our struggles.
Even our creative ones.
- Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer