Why Did You Start Creating in the First Place?

Why did you start creating in the first place?

It’s a useful question to ask ourselves. In this world where art is so often and easily productized, monetized and turned into — dare I say it: work — it’s easy to grow weary.

It was hard enough in the early stages when you were just starting out. And that first time you shared your art with others — maybe with a close friend or a family member. Do you remember how hard that was?!

We put our identities into our work. As artists, it’s one of the biggest, deepest traps — one of the first ones we run into in this line of life.

Please approve of me — I mean, my work…

But that spark — that initial flame that got you to start creating the thing in the first place — that’s what we want to focus on in times when our art becomes tired and work-like.

It’s much like in relationships. Things are fresh for a little while. And then on one of your most special dates, the night is going swimmingly when you suddenly realize you’ve had a bad meal. Something that doesn’t settle well in your stomach. So you go back to your place, walking faster than usual. And the fan in the bathroom stops working. And your endearing other (can we call them that?) is sitting mere feet away from the door. They’re not listening to music and the TV isn’t on. It’s a wide open cavern of silence between your violently emptying bowels and… them.

You’ve been there, right? No? Just me?…

Anyhow, essentially, there comes a point where you have to do something vulnerable. Something unplanned. Something that the other can scrutinize and judge.

Enough of these things wears down the freshness. You get to know each other — like, really know each other. Shields go up. Lines get drawn. You fix the fan after they move in, but there are other things. Soon, you’ll stop worrying about this stuff altogether, but that takes time. Right now, at the beginning stages, you want everything to go perfectly. And it’s not matching up to the ideal in your mind. The love is there, but it’s a bit more of a chore now.

It’s then that it helps to go back in memory lane to the first time you felt that spark.

Going back to creativity, what was it that triggered that curious itch that made you grab your pen or brush and take to the page? It was most likely an involuntary response. Something outside of you swooped in and drew you towards it. An image or a story in your head. The way the light spilled over that brownstone. The Bible verse that changed your paradigm in writing sermons.

You were flummoxed. Bewildered. Raptured.

Yeah, this is the stuff. It’s the catalyst for the whole thing. And it never goes away. It sticks around in case you need it.

So lay down the burden of the work. Let it lie for an evening or two. Do your thing out of the sheer joy and curiosity it sparks in you. Do it like you were independently wealthy and didn’t need a damn thing from anyone.

Your art needs no justification and pleasure isn’t a sin.

This is creativity as a devotional practice. God loves things. And the first thing God did was make stuff. And then made humans to make stuff with him. This is our creative inheritance — not a choice for only the privileged or elite but a human birthright.

Forget about the marketplace. Your allegiance isn’t to them. Your only allegiance is to God — the first mover who wants to know Godself through your art.

Seriously, your art isn’t about you. You’re merely a tool, a middle-person, a conduit that God makes stuff through. Trust me, God isn’t dumb enough to let the balance of creation hang on your incapable shoulders or mine.

But we humans are so good at co-opting God’s role. We like to act like we’re in charge and pretend that we actually have control. But we don’t. We are the children in this relationship, not the stressed-out parents. Thanks be to God. This is how we realign with our ultimate creative freedom and liberation from the illusory-but-seemingly-real hell of sole responsibility.

We are co-creators. Our only job is to show up. Ask why you started doing your art to begin with and let that spark reignite you as it draws you closer to the bewilderment of your creative birthright. Reclaim and enjoy the lifelong childlike relationship to the divine — the one who loves to watch you stroll through gardens and name things.

And consider Imodium next time. Just as a precautionary measure:)

. . .

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This post was previously published on A Sacramental Life and is republished here with permission from the author.

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