Five Things I’m Learning About the Creative Process

The last two weeks have been some of the best of my sabbatical by far. I think I’ve finally “settled in,” and I’m finding a rhythm that suits me. I spend the morning reading and writing, until sometime after lunch, then I go for a run and spend the evening with my family, doing homework and cooking dinner together. Earlier this week that time erupted into a twilight game of football in the middle of the street, until we couldn’t see the ball anymore. I can’t tell you how much joy and peace I feel playing all-time-QB with my boys in the street at dusk, facing west and a beautiful sunset. Jennifer and I were in bed by 9, we watched an episode of Gotham, and I was asleep before 10:30, so I could get up early and see the boys off to school and repeat. I’m recognizing all the ways I “hustle” for love and attention and right now, I feel free from those pressures. I’m really in “the sabbatical bubble” now, and I love it.

I’m nearly always reading multiple books at one time, but right now the book I’m most excited about is Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic. She might be near the top of my list of people-I’d-love-to-have-over-for-dinner. If you want a taste of Big Magic, you can watch her TED talk or listen to her “Magic Lessons” Podcast. Anyway, a whole bunch of thoughts are running through my mind this morning about creativity and the creative process.

Here’s what I’m learning about creating things:

  1. You have something to offer the world. I love the way Liz thinks about our “muse,” and how “genius” works (“you have a genius, you aren’t a genius”). In her way of thinking, all kinds of ideas surround us – creative, musical, literary, technical, relational – waiting to find a human host to bring them forth into the world. We all, simply by nature of being a human being can be conduits of birthing beauty into the world.
  2. You will have to make choices. The modern world is full of distractions. The news is on 24 hours a day, cable television always has a new series kicking off, Netflix is creating great content, Facebook and Twitter always have something to say. And for some of us, the allure of hanging out with friends, eating in cool restaurants, drinking in cool bars is always a temptation. None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they can all get in the way of the idea tapping on your shoulder wanting to find its way into the world.
  3. When you agree to work with an idea, work turns into play. In my experience, when I get tapped on the shoulder by a great idea, the “work” of writing a blog post or sermon or anything else, suddenly turns into play. There’s almost nothing I’d rather do than follow my muse, time flies by and it’s 10 minutes before the kids get home from school and I’m still in my pajamas.
  4. This will help you deal with disappointment. Here’s my truth. According to Google Analytics, very few people will actually read this post. But still, I feel compelled to write it simply because I felt inspired to and I’m trying to learn to say “yes” more often to ideas as they come, in hopes that it will open the floodgates to more ideas. I recently read The Alchemist and as much as I love the idea that “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it,” that idea kinda feels like a lot of bullshit to me these days. Mostly, I feel like the universe conspires against me, but I keep creating, because I’m most happy and fulfilled when I do so.
  5. This isn’t selfish, it’s for the people. If you’re having fun, and you’re doing the work, you might feel a little selfish (or some a-hole will tell you so), and in that moment you’ll be tempted to self-loathing. But according to Joseph Campbell, the hero’s journey isn’t just about the hero being transformed by an adventure, it’s also about the hero bringing back gifts for the people. Yes, when you submit yourself to the play of creation, you will be changed, but that change brings good things to the people you love. Over the last year or so, there have been people – who because they follow their muse – have been a gift to me. Micah Murray’s raw exploration of his escape from fundamentalsm, Addie Zierman’s vulnerability in her faith journey, Rob Bell and his continued faith journey – these people and their willingness to create even in their darkest moments have been gifts that Jennifer and I have savored, lying in bed reading to one another or discussing and voicing our agreements.

So, what idea is tapping you on the shoulder? What do you need to say “no” to today, in order to play with your idea?

We are all eagerly waiting for you.

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