The creative process is schizophrenic, over-indulgent, and illusive. For me, the most common place I enjoy creating is writing. About a week ago, I was writing like a crazy man. This week? I struggle to get a few words out.
I wonder what the brain looks like when someone is creating. I’m sure some scientist has seen it and could point out to me what is going on. But, when I’m in a moment of intense creativity and inspiration, it doesn’t seem to be very controlled or scientific. It feels like a chaotic flurry of words and ideas and thoughts that somehow find their place on the page. And, if I look at myself and the situation objectively, I get thrown off balance and wind up off track. Word to the wise: when creating, don’t think about yourself. It’s dangerously halting.
It’s nearly impossible to force creating something. You can do it, of course, but the product is rarely valuable. Some of my most favorite things that I have created took the least time and the least difficulty. They simply came out. It sometimes feels like vomiting your thoughts onto the page. And it feels good. When you force creativity it feels more like there’s a cat in your stomach that is reluctant to go. And that cat is very angry.
They say that the best artists are thieves. I cannot believe how true that is. For example, if you research the influences of one of your favorite artists, you will begin to see those influences in his music. It’s not all that surprising that the best artists are thieves, though. After all, the only fodder we can use to create things are our own experiences; our own knowledge. And if some of our most prized experiences come from our favorite artists, then…of course we’re going to take their ideas!
Oh come on, it’s not like it’s their ideas, anyway. They’re only their ideas, because that’s the first place you heard about them. There’s nothing new under the sun. Pink Floyd didn’t invent darkness, just like Muddy Waters didn’t invent women and C.S. Lewis didn’t invent God. Okay, okay, I’m being a bit facetious.
But I’m really not. You can take any idea – any idea at all – no matter how particular and personal it might have been to an artist. If you take it and try to explain it using your own words and textures, it will be a product that is wholly different. We simply can’t help implanting our own worldviews onto what we create. If I were to take one of the surrahs of the Quran and try and explore the same themes it explores it would undoubtedly not be the same. While an artist initially gets “inspired” by another artist, the finished products are separate entities. Getting “inspired” is only the beginning, or the doorway, of the creative process.
I think the human experience is very similar to ideas and artists. There is a basic template to life; we are born, we grow up, we seek understanding, we build, we fear, we look back, we die. The template I just layed out might not be exact, but you get the point. We all have to go through the same stages. But, we live these stages out completely different from one another. We can’t help it. Our environment beckons us to do so. Our life is an idea that has been around since the beginning of time – an idea rooted in something outside of time – and we each live it out differently.
While, I guess, it’s true that we initially “steal” an idea from another artist, it’s not true that our lives are any less stolen.
Our lives are completely unwarranted. In a sense, we have cheated death a million times over. We have pulled ourselves up from the ground, only to temporarily beat the odds against gravity. Our lives are a little hiccup. And our lives are completely based on an incalculable amount of miracles. We have beaten the odds and have stolen our lives like the gambler who gets lucky.
But God looks down at the little creatures that meander about earth and laughs uproariously. Yes, our lives are the result of someone cheating death. Our lives are the result of grace cheating the odds. We have been stolen. We’re not the ones that have pulled ourselves up from the ground. We were pulled up. We have been fearlessly and helplessly stolen.
A lot of people might get finicky when God is labelled as a thief. But isn’t He? Christ didn’t die on the cross so we could be asked politely if we wanted to live. He died on the cross – and resurrected – so that we could be stolen from death. And when God cursed Adam and Eve with death, why didn’t He just kill them right then? Wouldn’t that have been the obvious thing to do? No, He let them live just a little longer, giving death what it craved later and more passingly.
People say that creation was perfectly ordered by God. I object. Creation was a flurry of activity, of fierce anticipation and love, of chaotic passion. It was over-indulgent, it was illusive. It was schizophrenic. But somehow, someway, it was humanity that ended up on the page.
When I create, I struggle to stay balanced in my mind. I struggle to keep everything straight, even though I know that what I am creating is coming out making sense. But I can falter and fail. If someone asks me to do something in the midst of the tornado, I freak out and can’t go back. I end up sounding and feeling like Christian Bale getting rudely interrupted on set. My failure shines through in my creations.
But God didn’t need any balance. He went all out. And He knew exactly what He was doing. He was looking at it all and said that it was very good. And, my, what a creation He has made, despite the odds. God’s creation was stolen from death.
And what He stole bears His unmistakable mark of grace.