“Mom! Have you even researched what you’re writing about? You can’t just sit down and write.”
Not quite the support I was hoping for…
Usually, our families are the last people to understand our creative side. It is hard to imagine one of us stepping out of the norm and being creative—creativity is for other families, not for ours. Many times family nips talent in the bud, before it can develop and bloom. Thankfully my teenagers (now young adults) do support my writing—now that their initial shock has worn off.
Friends can kill creativity, too. When a friend saw my first published Bible study workbook sitting on my desk, he chuckled, saying,
“Who do you think you are, Beth Moore or something?” Again, not quite the support I was hoping for.
Sometimes, I tell others that I write and they look at me with grave concern or pity, as if to say, “you poor, deluded soul—medication might help,” (maybe so).
Still others pretend you don’t write, because writing is kind of vague, unlike being a barista or a doctor. Those jobs are easier to understand and categorize.
Many of us totally ignore creativity in others because we find it embarrassing or challenging—probably both.
I confess that I have been a bit negative about creativity, too—both in myself and in others. Now, I feel like God is teaching me to value it.
All forms of creativity (art, music, writing, etc.) originate from God, the first Creator. Using God-given abilities and developing talent is a holy thing to be celebrated and encouraged, not doused with ridicule or indifference.
I believe killing creativity is really easy—fostering it is much harder. Here are five ways to stomp out the creative fire:
- Neglect: Maybe we tend to criticize or squelch creativity because we don’t see it as great or important. But ignoring our creative self can lead to depression and a lack of purpose. Creativity must be exercised a lot before it wins awards or even the respect of others. It’s so easy to quit being creative and just coast—but neglecting a gift often results in losing it.
- Criticism: Critics sit back, criticize (laugh) and accomplish nothing. Creatives work, grow and achieve. Even though it is much harder, it’s best to be creating. Using intellect, passion and imagination to create something worthwhile is worthwhile, even if it has few admirers. I admit I am too often a critic and a secret admirer—I want to flip that around.
- Impatience: While the ability to create is God-given, it takes work to develop. I’d rather have instant success. It’s tempting to think only a Pavarotti should sing or a C.S. Lewis should write, but they didn’t start out being that good or that famous. I am glad a few others decided to sing and write, even if they are not as good as the greats, because they bless us, too.
Everyone has to learn and practice. It’s best to be creative first in small ways, because overnight success is hard to sustain long-term. The struggle of developing a gift achieves the needed depth to continue using it.
- Lack of vision: Our talent or gift may not seem very useful or exciting. Developing our creativity gains energy when we learn how to use it to bless others. Now, that’s exciting! Vision is understanding how to use creativity meaningfully to serve God and each other.
- Rejection: more than mocking or being indifferent, rejection is a creativity killer. When we toss aside someone’s work as useless, we toss his or her heart with it. Once my brutish English teacher put my manuscript on the overhead as the best example of the worst mistakes—the embarrassment was like a pan of cold water thrown on my creative fire. His public rejection of my work shut me down for the rest of the semester.
Being creative is risky—there are no guarantees of success or even acceptance. Creating something is like putting a slice of our heart on a busy sidewalk for everyone to either admire or step on.
Unfortunately, many people step over it—or on it. They may walk right on by without noticing any value or beauty at all.
Even so, we should create and develop the gifts God gave us. This is true success (and joy), because our gifts aren’t meant just for us. God gave them to us to serve Him and other people. When we use them for good, we glorify God and add value to the world.