Honest Talk About Creativity

We’ve talked a lot about creativity and the writing process at the blog I run with my wife, Kristen, My Song In The Night. So I thought I’d share quotes from several leading writers, editors, educators and thinkers, from a series of interviews I conducted with them at my church blog. These cover several aspects of the writing process, faith and art, and creativity. Click the links on each person’s name to read the full “3 Questions” interview with each person.

Bret Lott, about whether Christians tend to overthink “the message” in their stories:

“Yes. I believe that if Christ is within you, then you won’t have to laminate Him over your stories. Your vision of Christ, your knowledge of sin and sorrow and redemption and joy will be there. Writing is, for me, an eternal act of getting ME out of the way. Just as is being a believer in Christ. I must diminish as He increases. But His increase isn’t accomplished through my shouting about him. He Is. And He Is in me, as I diminish. I hope that makes sense. The hope is that the art I make glorifies Him, and not me. That’s all the more thinking about this that I tend to give.”

Gregory Wolfe, on Christians who ask, “Why read fiction? Why read anything other than the Bible?”

“If the Bible is a closed feedback loop—read me but read nothing else—then sign me up for another religion. I think it’s saying the opposite: Read me faithfully and you will be equipped to read everything. If scripture doesn’t send you out into the world with curiosity and compassion, then it’s not from God. Also, since scripture itself warns us about reading the “letter” while missing the “spirit,” we have a perfect rationale for the truth that can be found in “fiction.” Great fiction enables us to encounter the spirit (which is truth) through artfully arranged letters.”

Karen Swallow Prior, on a working definition of creativity:

“I actually don’t consider myself to be a truly creative person. So I see creativity a bit differently. Since as humans we cannot create out of nothing (as God did), I see creativity as the pen dipped into the well of life: our experiences, our reading, our conversations, our environment, our disappointments and our visions for the good life. Creativity is really about finding connections among these things in ways that are fresh because they reflect our own perceptions and experiences. In order to keep the pen of creativity flowing, we must not let the well run dry.”

Gregory Thornbury, on his favorite film of the past year:

Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch, starring Tilda Swinson, Tom Hiddelston and John Hurt. Why? Two vampires named Adam and Eve philosophize on the meaning of art, love, vintage musical instruments and the sanctity of human life as they seek to attenuate their lust for blood. It’s Pascal’s Pensees with fangs. Love.”

Mike Cosper, on the correlation between taking art in, and putting art out:

“It’s massive. If you don’t read well, you won’t write well. If you don’t take time to train your eye to see well, you won’t paint well. If you don’t learn to listen to music well, you won’t play well.

I’ve noticed this most acutely in music. The best musical experiences I’ve had as a guitar player are with bands where each member listened well—both to the other members of the band and to music more widely outside the sessions.

Stephen King hammers away at this in his book On Writing. Writers read a lot, and they read good writers. It’s the best thing you can do to help your own voice broaden.”

David Dark, on whether he believes everyone has the capacity to be creative:

“I certainly do. For better and worse, we’re never not making stuff up about ourselves and others. We’re constantly committing coherent acts of the imagination. We can’t know, so we have to imagine. It’s how we bless and it’s how we curse. Imagining one another well and truly is our only hope. And as Ron Sukenick liked to say, ‘if you don’t use your imagination someone else will use it for you.’”

What do you think about creativity? What resonates with you? 

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bobbygilles@churchleaders.com'
Bobby Gilles has written several of Sojourn Music’s popular worship songs for albums like The Water And The Blood, Over The Grave and Before The Throne. He is content manager for sojournmusic.com and has mentored songwriters and led many Sojourn songwriting workshops as part of Pastor Mike Cosper’s worship ministry. Bobby is also Sojourn Church Director Of Communications, and works with Lead Pastor Daniel Montgomery to communicate Sojourn’s mission and vision. He co-wrote the children’s book Our Home Is Like A Little Church, published by Christian Focus. As a former radio disc jockey and music director, he was twice named a National Top 10 Finalist for Gospel Music DJ of the Year.