Creativity and Compromise

A couple of months ago, my friends Jesse and Becca began something at our church called Creative’s Night. It was a time and place carved out for anyone in the church to share their talents, and it was an ideal setup for folks who weren’t always in a position to demonstrate the creativity within. People shared cooking, scrapbooking, card-making, writing, original songs, dancing – all kinds of things that spoke to the spark of the Divine, the creativity inherently part of each of us.

It got me thinking, and I’ve really been trying to tie all the thoughts I’ve had together, but it has not been easy. You’d think that writing about creativity would be a simple thing – it’s writing, for crying out loud – but I am discovering that my own relationship with creativity is more complex that I would like to admit.

When it comes to being a creative, I have spent a lifetime somehow simultaneously wanting to be “a creative” while vehemently denying being anything close to one. Conversations over the years have gone something like this:

“But Jessie, you can play.” Yeah, I breathe across an instrument and sound comes out. I didn’t write the music. Not a creative.

“Ok, but you can sing.” Same answer. I open my mouth and sound comes out. The words and music aren’t mine. Again, not a creative.

“What about acting? You take a part and make it yours.” Is it creative if I’m taking a part someone else wrote and simply putting my actions and inflection to it?

“Fine. You can write, though. You can’t deny that.” I am perfectly capable of stringing words together that sound good, but I can’t come up with stories. “Creative writing” is called “creative writing” for a reason, and I can’t do it.

Looking back, it bothers me how much I pushed back against any suggestion that I might be a creative. Especially when my heart wanted deeply to be one, and I was convinced that one could not live in both worlds – you were either creative or logical, but you could not effectively be both. I think some of this comes from how we as a society tend to talk about what one traditionally calls “a creative.” For example, starving artists are a thing; starving doctors are not. Creatives are portrayed as free spirits, following their hearts, full of impractical whimsy and most often empty wallets. How many parents of college kids pursuing music or theater or anything else in the fine arts have begged those same kids to develop some kind of practical backup plan, because creativity won’t pay the bills? No one tells kids who are studying to be doctors or lawyers or engineers to have a backup plan; their financial security is assumed and assured. So we compromise. We compromise who we are and how we were made in order to fit what society says we should be and what success is. We bury our hearts and later wonder why there’s a void.

The irony is that creativity exists everywhere, even for those doctors and lawyers and engineers. It is in the numbers, in the approach to problems and illnesses, in the use of the law. Creativity is everywhere, in everyone. It is emblematic of our Creator, and we were designed for our individual creativity to complement that which exists in others. And when we are acting out of that spark, we tend to be happier and more fulfilled, because we are doing the very thing we were designed to do. When I am writing or making music, sometimes I get this overwhelming sense that these are some of the things I was born for, but I hid those things away for so long. In no way do they overshadow what I do in the rest of my life, but when I’m living in freedom – bridging the logical and the creative – I am better at being me, in all areas of my life. Additionally, when I am engaging in creative pursuits with others, there is a deeper connection, a sense that what we’re doing is so much more than the sum of its parts, and the result is so life-affirming.

So what about all of my responses to the earlier conversations, where people tried to point out my creative nature and I ran screaming the other direction? I have decided that it isn’t always about creating a new song or script or book. What if my creativity creates an emotion for someone? An experience? An environment? A perspective? What if I can put words to something someone has yet to find the vocabulary for? What if, in all the intangible ways that our giftings work, we can offer hope or a smile or a way to finally shed tears that have been held back for far too long? Friends, that is beautiful. That is something that I want to be part of, and it is why I am embracing whatever creativity is within me. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to do it.

Here’s another point to consider: we ascribe many things to God – Creator, Ruler, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Counselor, Comforter, etc.  God’s got a lot going on.  But none of His roles or attributes overshadows any other, nor do they undermine any other.  He’s multi-faceted, and He made us in His image, to be just as multi-faceted as He is.  Our creativity doesn’t have to negate anything else we do; it should complement it.

To that end, we were made to complement each other and not compare or compete.  If there’s this thing that you do, that you love to do, that you feel so incredibly alive doing…but so-and-so does it better, so you hold back, you’re missing out.  We’re all missing out on your part in an incredible masterpiece.  When I’m singing, I’m the embodiment of “amateur hour;” I’ve never had a vocal lesson in my life, and I’m surrounded by people with more training and talent in their pinky finger than I will ever have in my entire body.  But I bring whatever gifting and creativity I have in the hope that what we bring as a group is so much more than what we might bring as individuals.  I bring what I have because I want to be a part of the masterpiece God’s making.

Finally, as we’re complementing the creativity in each other, we need to speak it.  If you see creativity – in whatever form it takes – speak it.  Just as yoga practitioners say namaste, which loosely means “the soul in me recognizes the soul in you,” we should recognize the creativity around us.  “The creative in me recognizes the creative in you.”  For someone searching for where creativity fits in their lives, for what creativity even exists in their lives, speaking it out loud to them could be life changing.  This isn’t just speaking truth; it’s speaking life, and that’s ministry right there.