Creativity Demands the Whole Self
One fact of being a successful artist or creative professional is this: creativity demands the whole self. Any other way produces anemic and lame art.
One of my early convictions about creativity, art and faith came from a jazz professor.
I studied jazz at Westmont College in the days when we would compete at U.C. Berkeley and beat schools like Stanford in jazz competitions. The genius behind the program was Dr. John Rapson, an avante garde jazz composer and trombonist. He was the first Christian I knew who had pinpointed why lazy, boring artists and lame art is so irritating to serious artists. He showed me creativity done God’s way demands the whole self.
One day in the chapel, as we practiced our solos and worked on our improvisational skills he challenged us to push ourselves. But he didn’t tell us to work harder for fame, for success, or for the applause. He challenged us to push ourselves because of our understanding of who God is. Then he hit us with an eternal concern and compared apathy in creativity to one of the deadly sins: He said, “Failure to grow creatively is the sin of Sloth.”
Dr. Rapson reminded all of us in the jazz band, of the times we had been in church and recited the words “we will love the Lord God with all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul.” We nodded yes. Then he called us out to take our craft seriously. He told us that if you are not always pushing yourself to do your best, to be the most creative and imaginative, finding new ways to communicate and express the joy, sorrow and beauty of the life God has given you – then you have failed to keep that promise.
Passion is critical. Without it you will never put in the time to become excellent, and you will never push yourself enough to find new ideas. God is not glorified when we are stuck in passivity or apathy. Christ died to give us freedom from the things that will kill our passion: guilt, shame, and anxiety. Christ came to set us free from sin and death, but that is not all. He also came to bring you joy, a sense of purpose, and a freedom to pursue your calling with abandon. This is the way God intended you to pursue your career and vocation.
Living and creating with wholeheartedness leads others around you to become intrigued and infected with the same joy and passion they see in you. They may not understand it, or know it is from God, but if they see it is authentic and not ‘put on’, they are drawn to it.
Creating with ‘all your heart’ not only results in higher quality and more creative artwork, it also amplifies the aroma of Christ in your life. To give only half your heart to God, or half your heart to your creative work does a disservice to everyone- yourself as well as your audience. God designed you to find joy in being fully committed to something, so commit your heart to him and commit you heart to creating passionately.
Your heart cannot work alone. It requires the structure of the mind. Passions alone often lead us into foolishness. Children often run into trouble because they are driven by their heart and their impulses without the governance of their mind. An adult knows better(at least we hope so).
Your ideas, thoughts, and imagination are important to both your art and to God. It is important to go to film school, art school, or an academy to learn your craft. You need to know the possibilities and the limits of the tools in your chosen profession.
It is also important to know the Bible, and to know how God has designed you and the world. God gave you a mind capable of reason, intuition and imagination. He wants you to use it. He has given you story after story in the Bible to help you understand how your mind works. Your mind can lead you astray or lead you in the path of righteousness. Like your training in art school, your mind becomes a better tool the more you use it and the more you take time to understand who God is and how He designed you. Pastor Rick Warren just did a great sermon on the training of your mind on YouTube. Check it out here.
There is a fine distinction between your heart and your soul, but the soul refers more to the seat of your emotions. What do you do with your sorrow, your anger, and your very deeply felt emotions? This is the layer underneath the heart that takes time to understand, though we cannot understand fully. These deeper layers are affected by our childhood, our friendships, and our successes and failures. We can’t share these with everyone, but we can share them with God in prayer and in community with people we trust.
To make great art we cannot avoid the pain or trauma of our past, nor can we minimize the evil in the world. God is big enough to take all of our tears, sorrow and grief. That is intimacy with God – baring our soul and sharing with him the very core of who we are.
Our art, to be all it can be, beckons us to bare our soul as well. Just as actors are required to be vulnerable in order to create powerful performances, so a writer or producer must be open to their own joys and fears so that they can communicate powerfully to their audience. Both your art and your faith grow as you address the desires and hopes that sit deep within your soul. Christ did not die for you to cover all that up. He died to heal you, and for you to share your journey with others. At our Arts & Entertainment Institute we discuss the integration of your whole self into your art in a very in-depth way. Check it out here.
Always Honor God with Excellent Work
There is never a reason to create art with half of our mind, half of our heart, and half of our soul. It does not honor God and it is a disservice to the craft. It ruins your witness with your colleagues as well as your audience. If you love God and you are an artist, then treasure the gifts he has given you. Develop your gifts, and grow in your love for God. Don’t ever stop pushing yourself spiritually and creatively. Remember, creativity demands the whole self and so does God!
Copyright © 2019 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.