I often hear about people who experience this wonderful creative flow. Something that writers would call the opposite of 'writers block'. People get this feeling from time to time, usually when they are doing something that involves an element of creativity. I have experienced this doing a number of things; writing, thinking, making surfboards and various other projects.
When you experience this "creative flow" it feels like the task you were doing has changed into more of a dance that you join, or a grove that you slot into. Some people call it being in the zone. Have you ever experienced this?
Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of the book Eat Pray Love, has some brilliant things to say about this in an interview on TED, I recommend you watch it — www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html.
She suggests that when you experience this surge in creativity you are having what the ancient Romans would have described as a "genius" experience. A "genius" experience went like this; basically a genius was an impersonal divine creative force that was believed to literally hide in the walls of an artist's house, and from time to time the genius would come out to inspire the artist and make the work marvellous.
Put another way a divine presence, a "Genius", joins with you in your work and the effect is amazing work. Work that is amazing. People who witnessed its creation would catch a glimpse of the divine, of the transcendent. They would say "genius", meaning the divine was somehow present in or around this work. I found that interesting.
This idea of the genius progressed into materialistic western thinking. The notion that there may be a "genius" watching you and literally hiding in your wall or ceiling (people actually thought this) has become a little creepy for most people. So it happened that people were no longer referred to as having a genius. Instead the artist started being referred to as a "genius" themselves (see the subtle change there). If you do great work, you are a genius, so it is said anyway.
However, you word it, the fact remains that people do great work from time to time, work that gives people a glimpse of something wonderfully beautiful. One word that we seem to use for people like this is "genius". We could also use brilliant, excellent, marvellous, glorious, or even divine — see the movement there...
The next time I get in a conversation with someone who has done great work, or a conversation with just any old person, I want to ask them about their creative process. I want to ask them about the times they felt like they did their best work. I want to tease out of people what they experience as they do this work and what or who they attribute it too.
The thing I really like about Elizabeth Gilbert's talk on TED, was that to a non-religious, spiritually skeptical audience, she gives a beautiful case for the divine. She helps people to see that there could be a God from which creativity comes in abundance. Unfortunately she created this idea of a god as a coping mechanism, as a mental tool, to stop herself from becoming a manic depressant at the thought that her greatest work may have been completed.
Now my basic idea in writing this is to suggest that this is not a foreign concept to the Christian gospel, nor does it develop the idea more fully than Christian thought already has.
There is this theme in Christian thinking, it is called "co-creating". The theme goes like this; God creates, and it is amazing. God looks at what he creates, and God says "that is amazing". Others look at what God creates and say "that is pretty cool". These people are inspired to do great work. These people then attempt to do great work, and suck at it for a bit. Then, one day, they have what could be described as a "genius" experience, and they do great work. God creates, and they "co-create".
Now the thing is that unless this "co-creating" experience happens, the work is just average work. Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but mainly it is average work. It is not until, what feels like, the divine shows up and creates with us that we really start to make magic happen. This work inspires us. We clap, and we laugh.
It is in this interplay of God creating first, inspiring people with His work, and then co-creating with others that I find such a beautiful reminder that God is active in our lives. This is something I would desperately love to turn people toward as they discover the greatness of their work as they have their so called "genius" experiences.
I want people to shift their praise from an abstract impersonal genius to the Master Craftsman who kneels beside the artist. A Master Craftsman who works with the artist and says "you like this work do you? Let me show you how to make something that will bring tears to peoples eyes".
This is not some pagan conception of a impersonal divine spirit that every now and then shows up. But a picture of how a loving God is actively involved in our work. This could also be a good reason why slavery, consumerism, materialism, outsourcing and the like can be problematic — the quantity of the work does not give space for people to be inspired workers, rather whipped slaves (literally or metaphorically) to the masters that drive them.
When were you last inspired? Seriously when did you last see something and think to yourself "oh my goodness"? (or similar phrase). To me it seems to clearly be a necessary part in the way God wants us to work. As we are inspired, so we create, and as we create perhaps we inspire again. And so it goes. We are not a genius, that my friends is idolatry.
We need to give God His rightful place in our lives! God is the first creator, the inspired inspirer, who wants us to create great things and gets in there and co-creates with us.
First published May 2, 2013
Jared Diprose is a graduate from Carey Baptist College in New Zealand. He has been a youth pastor, and currently is working as a freelance contractor. In his spare time he makes surfboards.
Jared Diprose' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html