Boost your Creativity through Lent
Maybe you thought you’ve heard all the creativity boosters out there, but here is a new one: boost your creativity through Lent. It sounds counter-intuitive but it just might open up some new ideas and approaches to your art. The tradition of spiritual disciplines not only aids in developing your heart but also your art. This is very different than my upbringing. I grew up in a non-denominational church that didn’t follow the traditional church calendars except to observe Easter and Christmas. As great as those celebrations are, we can gain a lot for our heart and our art by observing some of the other holidays. Sometimes our art and our creativity need a new approach and a new way to look at our days and our seasons. Lent can provide just that boost by utilizing our church calendar.
Yesterday people celebrated Fat Tuesday. If your coworkers, or studio colleagues roll into the studio this morning with a carb hangover don’t be surprised. Fat Tuesday began because people were preparing to fast from all rich foods for the next forty days – all the way up until Easter. They are preparing to give up carbs, sugar filled syrups and pastries. Before the days of refrigeration, they had to eat all of these rich, fatty foods by Fat Tuesday so the food didn’t rot or grow mold over the next 40 days. Naturally, once an annual party gains a following, the wonders of refrigeration are not going to stop the tradition. Thus, the parties continue every year, and as you may know this is the original point of Mardi Gras.
The Story Behind Lent
Today is Ash Wednesday and it marks the beginning of Lent. This is an ecclesiastical (church) calendar event that lasts for 40 days. It is an opportunity for us to identify with Christ and his 40 days in the dessert. Most people don’t actually take 40 days to wander in the dessert and fast from all food, but they do take 40 days to fast in various ways. Some people fast from alcohol, others fast from sugar and sweets and others even fast from caffeine.
In recent years I have heard people fast from Facebook, Netflix, and all news. That alone would probably be a boost to your spiritual life, and it would be a great start, but I want to look at some specific ways to boost your creativity. If you want some great poetry to read as you experience Lent, consider this book of poetry: Word in the Wilderness (amazon affiliate link) by Malcom Guite, a chaplain at Cambridge University in the UK.
Limits and Creativity
We have taught this for years, but it resonates deeply with the season of lent – freedom and creativity are found through limits, boundaries and restrictions. Over and over we see illustrations of this. Igor Stravinsky passionately believed that there is no freedom without boundaries. Peter Gabriel said in a recent documentary, “One of the worst things to do for an artist is give them complete freedom.” Some restrictions are necessary to even create anything. Here is the point: as chaos gives way to direction and focus, creativity opens up. This is the key to Lent. As you restrict some of your choices and options, your heart and mind will begin to consider, in a new way, how Christ was challenged to adapt to his challenges, and the ways in which his spiritual life came more into focus.
In truth, every creative act is unique and every creative act encounters what Steven Pressfield calls resistance. He speaks of it in his great book, The War of Art.(amazon affiliate link) We are all limited in various ways. We are limited in our time, resources, and the colleagues we work with. Each can present new opportunities as well as challenges. The challenge during Lent is to choose your own specific limitations for 40 days.
Lent and Your Creativity
Take time to consider self-imposed limits on your creative craft. There a million options, but here are some ideas. Musicians may look to Peter Gabriel, who challenged his drummers by insisting they not use high hats or cymbals. This created a cleaner sound, and pushed the drummers to be more creative with the rest of the percussion options around them. Visual Artists may look to people like Pablo Picasso, who changed the art world by forcing himself to look at the forms a different way, and physical objects in a new light.
Practical Lenten Creativity Boosting Ideas
First, pick a book of the bible to read during these 40 days. It doesn’t have to be long, but take time to consider what Christ went through to discipline his body, and to focus on his spiritual life. Take time to read, pray, and journal about your spiritual journey and your creative journey.
Then, take time to think how you can apply the spiritual principles of Lent to your creative life.
A simple overarching question to keep before you is this: How can I learn to love God with all my art and heart,
and how can I love my neighbor better during this process?
Specific examples for different artists:
• Musicians limiting their choices:
o Don’t use particular chord progressions
o Switch up the music you listen to – and stop listening to your usual inspiration
o Don’t use certain sounds, loops, or effects in your production
• Visual Artists:
o Take certain paints and colors out of your studio for 40 days
o Change the ways in which you look for inspiration – try something new
o Don’t use certain brush strokes, media, or concepts
o Avoid a particular set of moves you usually go to
o Change up the music you use to inspire you
o Stop using certain props, or clothing styles you have preferred
o Stop using a particular technique to push the story forward
o Change up the literature you read for inspiration
o Try writing with a new writing partner
o Stop some choice you typically make to get the laugh, the cry, or the applause
o Change up who you rehearse lines with
o Try studying actors you usually don’t study – another race, gender, etc.
Naturally, I can’t cover all artists, styles, or genres. If your art does not fit one of the examples above, then take a few minutes. Get creative. Write down your own Lenten practices to push yourself creatively using the template below:
A template for every artist:
• List Your Creative Career
o Choose a habit or resource you rely on, and eliminate it for 40 days
o Utilize a new resource you wouldn’t ordinarily consider to spark creativity
o Change the people you collaborate with, discuss ideas with, etc.
o Read a book of the Bible, praying, and asking God to help you grow in a new way this season
o Choose a theme in the Bible to inspire your artwork for the next 40 days. This can be anything from the resurrection or creation, to more abstract ideas like the trinity, spiritual adoption into the family of God, or the invisible process of sanctification.
I encourage you to post on our Facebook page the ideas that inspire you and let us know how you are going to push yourself creatively and spiritually during this Lenten season. Christ was willing to endure the discomfort of fasting in order to discipline his body and to develop his spiritual life. If Christ could benefit from such measures, how much more might we also benefit. Imitating Christ in this manner can be a wonderful new discipline if you have never done it before.
My prayer is that God will encourage you and draw you near to his side as you take time to identify with Christ in this way and to pursue this form of spiritual discipline. May you experience new spiritual and creative growth in the process, and may it set the stage for new works of art, new audiences, and new communities.
Ad Gloria Deum
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.
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