Making Room for Creativity
It started with silence. Nothing. Complete blackness.
BANG (if you will)
A word was spoken.
And it was so.
On it went for a few more days–things being made. Something from nothing.
The beauty was staggering.
We can see it still today, in fact.
And then the Creator’s greatest achievement, the thing the creator was most proud of…
Us. Humans. People. Two to start with and then millions to follow.
He knelt down to these first humans, like I do with my nine-month old little girl, pulled their faces to His, grabbed their chins, mussed their hair, kissed them on their foreheads, looked them straight in the eye, and said,
“I love you more than all the stars, now here is what you are to do…
Reign, rule, name, order, shape and create.”
“We are made to make. We are deeply wired by God to create.
At this point the world was in complete harmony. No strife. No shame. Just beauty for days and days.
Of course we know the rest of the story. We know the utopia didn’t last long.
The land is now cursed. Our work is hard. Chaos is everywhere.
The work of the artist is harder than it was before.
The world we live in is not how it was intended to be.
And yet, we are still called to our original task…
Reign, rule, name, order, shape and create.
Our work is to co-create and redeem the beauty in the midst of this chaos.
But how do we do so in this dark world of deadlines, egos, set lists, emails, family dysfunction, and a Sunday which seems to come every 7 days?
We begin by first remembering (and never forgetting) our original task.
Our work is to organize chaos into beauty and we do this by organizing our creative and inner lives first.
For much of my artistic life I’ve fought the beast of disorganization. And up until the last five years, I never worked really hard to combat the monster.
I secretly believed that being less organized meant I was being more creative.
As you might imagine, this is absolutely not the case. Being less organized just means you have more chaos in your life.
Most wise artists will tell you that chaos is the antithesis to creativity, not the other way around.
To paraphrase the indelible Scott Belsky,
Chaos literally subverts creativity.
Joan Rivers, in the documentary about her life (A Piece of Work), shows off an entire wall of old-school library card cases. From floor to ceiling the cases are filled with jokes. Every time she writes a new one she tries to type it on one of the cards and file it away. She’s not prolific just because she’s funny, but because she’s organized.
How can an artist get organized? Here are four random things to get you started:
- Get therapy.
Parker Palmer says, “If people skimp on their inner work, their outer work will suffer as well.” I could not agree more. If you don’t begin by organizing the chaos in your own life, you’ll never be able to organize the chaos in the world.
- Dedicate time to shape and create.
This is something I struggle with deeply. But lately I’ve been posting this to Twitter once a day: “Goodbye Internet, Twitter, Facebook, Email, Phone Calls, People. I’m making things now.” Feel free to use it yourself. It’s a reminder to myself and the world that I am unavailable to everything except what I see before me: the blank page. The work.
- Clean your workspace.
Every week and sometimes before any major project or blocked time for creating, I clean out my wastepaper basket and dust my desk. It’s therapy for me. It clears my head. It gives me space. I create a physical blank page. Some people work great in the middle of a pile of papers. I can’t do it.
- Breathe. Be Alone. Say “no” more.
If you don’t take time to breathe, enjoy some solitude, and start saying “no”, you will never organize chaos well. You will simply add to it.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention something I was reminded of recently:
The work of creativity and leading people into the presence of God is a mysterious calling.
Chaos, or busyness, gets in the way of that mystery.
It is a block – a fog – making it hard to see clearly.
This block must be removed in our own hearts before we endeavor to help unlock the hearts of others.
A friend of mine tweeted a Socrates quote the other day, “Wisdom begins in mystery.”
Another friend replied back, “mystery begins when you aren’t so [pardon the vulgarity] damn busy.”
Want to create beautiful services, songs that connect to your community, and art that moves? Make space by shaping and organizing the chaos in your own life first.
Then use that open space to invite people into the mystery of organizing the chaos in their own hearts.
We can still see it today – creating something from nothing.
After all, it is what we’re called to do.