Do you have time to be creative? Or are you too busy? So many of my friends working or studying say they don’t even have time to read books, let alone write or play music or draw a picture. I felt the same, but I wanted it to be different. I felt like I was missing an important outlet. Then I heard Micah Bournes, a spoken word poet, speak about creativity as a spiritual discipline at the Justice Conference. He articulated exactly why I had been dragging my feet, and relegating ‘being creative’ to the sidelines. Here are some of his key lessons.
1. Examine your motivation
Why do you want to create in the first place? Is it because you want to win prizes? Make money? Get lots of likes? Essentially, is your primary motivation getting the affirmation of people around you? Because if it is, ready yourself for some discouragement! Whether you’re just starting out, or flexing an artistic muscle you haven’t used for a while, it’s unlikely your first efforts are going to be wowing anyone. Maybe they won’t even wow you. But that doesn’t mean you should stop, there are more important things than being good.
2. Your art should be honest
For your art to resonate with people, or even just for it to resonate with you, it needs to be honest. Micah used the example of the Psalms writer David. In Psalm 32 David is pouring out his gratefulness to God for forgiving his sins. Over thousands of years people have identified with the raw emotion that David expresses here. He says ‘when I kept silent, my bones wasted away’, and we nod and say ‘me too David’. But Micah reminded us that the sin David committed was raping a woman and then having her husband killed to cover up his crime. It’s not exactly a situation that we can all relate to. But David’s honesty in his art means that somehow, we do.
3. Find a story in the ordinary
David’s life was not ordinary. His highs were astronomical and his lows were on a par with the worst person you can think of. So maybe it’s not surprising that his art has endured for thousands of years. Where can we, with normal lives, find inspiration for our art? The answer is, everywhere! Even the most mundane places can contain inspiration. Micah’s revelation about this came from his experience of writing his most popular poem, about a bottle of shampoo. A shower at a white friend’s house, turned into a reflection on white privilege and being made in the image of God. You can watch ‘Normal Hair’ here.
4. Learn from the best
Micah recommended reading ‘Letters to a young poet’ by Rainer Maria Rilke, an Austrian poet to get even more perspective on this. In it, Rainer writes about how rubbish Rome is. To most, Rome is a dream destination, a place to marvel at art and history. To Rainer, it is place which ‘makes one feel stifled with sadness’. And yet, he says ‘there is much beauty here, because everywhere there is much beauty’. If beauty can be found everywhere, then beauty can be found in your life too, no matter how ‘ordinary’ it feels.
5. Try, try, try and then have another try
Your art probably isn’t very good (yet). But, it may one day be good. Until then, if it is honest then it is enough. If it helps you breathe easier in a world where it is sometimes difficult to breathe, then it is enough. If it helps you connect with the God who made you, and gave you the gift of creation, then it’s more than enough. Just get started, and keep going. Who knows where you’ll end up?