13 Comments

Creativity

Remember all your peers in school who refused to conform? They wouldn’t dress or act like everyone else did.

Maybe you were one.

I used to chuckle at that notion (and still do) because those folks then congregated with others who dressed, talked, and acted just like they did.

What so often passes as free-thinking or rebellion is really piggybacking something that’s already been done.

And it seems to be a problem that plagues art. Those who do things “differently” are the true artists while anyone who fits the mold of a popular trend is a sellout.

Really? Who can honestly claim they haven’t been influenced by others?

creativity

Certainly there are those who stand out in their creativity or uniqueness, whether it be by their sound, artistic style, or literary voice. But even in those cases, we’re all standing on the shoulders of those who’ve influenced us.

I bring this up because there’s a trend in art which claims the only true creativity comes from those who  are “artists who are Christians” rather than “Christian artists”.

It states general market music, artwork, and writing is superior because the source of the art is the artist’s soul and not a corrupt industry that tries to fit everyone into its mold. One musician went so far as to say he can tell a “Christian” song nine out of ten times without knowing the artist because those songs lack a soul.

Aside from being a harsh assessment painted with a very broad brush, I would suggest such a statement might be a bit immature. I would daresay the reason I can pick a general market song out is because they have a different soul (not of the good kind many times), not because they have a soul and Christian market songs don’t.

Do the Christian art industries suffer from corruption, greed, and hypocrisy? Surely. Are they sometimes bogged down because of absurd rules and expectations? I imagine so.

But to suggest those who run general market art industries don’t struggle with these things seems a bit nieve. And to suggest everyone in either industry lacks a soul is a tad arrogant.

There’s as many people who “fit the mold” of what’s selling in both industries. Why? Because those industries are looking for people who will fit into that mold since their chief aim is make money. Not to give wings to my creativity.

“And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all.” – 1 Corinthians 12:6

God has gifted people with amazing talents. Those with similar talents aren’t necessarily called to use them the same way.

But doing it one way instead of another, as long as both fall within the parameter’s of scripture (i.e. I can’t be an axe-murderer for Jesus no matter how talented I might be at it), doesn’t make me more creative than another.

The true question concerns the operation of my gift (how I use it). Am I using it in such a way that people talk about how awesome God is, or how awesome I am? If the answer is the first one, then does it really matter whether I’m an “artist who is a Christian” or a “Christian artist”? Does one have to be superior to the other if people are glorifying God in both cases?

It’s been said every kind of story has already been written. True creativity is telling it in a fresh way that grabs others. Let’s check our pride at the door and stop thumping our chest as to why our method of doing so is more creative than someone else’s.

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About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

13 comments on “Creativity

  1. Good questions to ask, Will. I agree, sometimes it’s too easy to point to others and claim that “our way” is somehow better than “their way”.

    As to the guy claiming he could recognize Christian music because it lacked soul… I know what you’re referring to, and I have two thoughts on that.

    One, I agree with you that it’s not necessarily that secular music has more soul than Christian music but that it has a different soul. There’s a different spirit behind it, it attracts and creates a different atmosphere when you hear it because of what spirit(s) it was born out of and promotes.

    However, my second thought is this: While the guy may have said it in a way that does set well with you, it really resonated with me because what I see in it isn’t just a difference in creative expression. It’s a difference in authenticity. As you pointed out, secular pop songs that are written just to try and write a popular song have the same lack of soul (or authenticity) as the Christian ones that are written out of a shallow desire to express something that will be well-received in the Christian market.

    Sometimes we create shallow copies of what we’re used to out of ignorance and inexperience (much of early art, music and writing is thinly veiled copies of what the young creator admires and enjoys). Sometimes we do it because our agent or publisher (or any other source of advice) tells us we have to in order to “succeed”.

    I love that scripture you used: “And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which works all in all.” – 1 Corinthians 12:6

    One of my passions is to see creative people encountering the Creator and then discovering the unique life He planned for them and creative expression He designed them to produce from before the foundations of the earth. May more and more of us move in the fullness of that creative expression as we draw closer and closer to the Creator-in-us who enables our art.

    • “Diversities of operations” – a very good point 🙂 – implies that each of us is stronger by nature and gifting (and training) in what lies behind some Beatitudes than behind others. But whatever problem in life we address, including creativity, we ought to address it with every faculty of personality and character we have. Being influenced by others in art to me isn’t the point; not everyone has the gift of being a “stylist” (or should) and in days of yore lending tribute to other artists was revered, not disparaged. But we can all be true to what we have been made to be.

    • Totally loved how you expressed the last paragraph. It describes so much what I long for in myself and others as well.

      I’m extremely hesitant to question someone’s authenticity because I don’t even know my own heart half the time. I may be wrong, but hear me out 🙂 I tend to think we view authenticity through our own lens. By that I mean that our own experience of being blessed (or bothered) by an artistic expression can influence how authentic we think the artist is being.

      If an artist resonates with me, they must be a conduit of something bigger than themselves, right? But the same person’s art may resonate with one and not another. I found that musician’s opinion a bit short-sighted because it based a conclusion upon personal experience. If I provide an opposite experience in the same situation, then who is right?

      I think we all grow as artists, but is the writer of fan-fiction more shallow than the writer who creates their own worlds? Why is one way of doing things more authentic than others if the heart of the person is trying to do what God told them to do? I remember early on in the music industry that some people wouldn’t buy any CD’s from a Christian because they signed with a general market label. I don’t think I need to mention how much flack Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith took for trying to cross over. It seems so silly to me now.

      “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” – Galatians 5:15.

      And even if there are shortcomings of authenticity, God tells Jeremiah something that has fascinated me for years. Jeremiah so often lost hope and wanted to give up because of how bad things were around him, but God told him that He wasn’t like that. And if Jeremiah learned to extract the precious from the vile, then he’d have the same heart God does toward His people (Jeremiah 15:19).

      So even if there is a more spiritual or authentic way of doing things, I just don’t think scolding an entire section of the body of Christ is the answer. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1.

      I know I’m rambling, but these are my thoughts. We’re living in a world where Christianity is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The temptation seems to become “more relevant” somehow. But Jesus said the way we become relevant to the world is by loving one another. That’s how they know we’re different – That we belong to Him 🙂

      Sorry for the long post – This is something I’ve really been chewing on lately. Despite having a contract with a Christian publishing house, I’ve been wrestling about whether or not to remain in the CBA with my writing. Been an interesting few months hehe

      • Good points, Will. And I hear you on the question of where to publish.
        (And a whole other issue about ascribing our desires to what God wants us to do.)

        “And even if there are shortcomings of authenticity, God tells Jeremiah something that has fascinated me for years. Jeremiah so often lost hope and wanted to give up because of how bad things were around him, but God told him that He wasn’t like that. And if Jeremiah learned to extract the precious from the vile, then he’d have the same heart God does toward His people (Jeremiah 15:19).”

        Something I’ll be pondering now.

      • Great thoughts, Will. I agree. It’s such a dangerous thing to criticize or judge another person’s work. How do we know it is authentic or not? Even if it is “cliche”, it maybe absolutely sincere and true to their experience and what they are trying to express.

        I think blogging (and social media) makes it so easy and so tempting to judge others. To use another’s example as a jumping-off point for our own opinion or to express our pet peeve. I fall for it again and again, and yet am trying diligently to work that sort of judgement OUT of my vocabulary and thinking.

        Even the admonition to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness” seems like it ought to be private and personal (a la Matthew 18), at least at first. Not a broadcast to “all Christian musicians who don’t sound authentic” or “all Christian fiction writers”. Not a “this person’s opinion is wrong” and linking to their article.

        I’ve done both, either in actual articles / social media posts or in planned ones that I (mercifully) aborted before posting… but I’d like to stop. I want to find a way to discuss something I feel is important without making it about how I disagree with someone else. To get to the heart of the issue, whatever it may be, and exhort and encourage all towards that higher goal.

        Thanks for a great discussion, Will. May the Lord show us the way!

        • Heh, my wife and I regularly have this conversation because of all the craziness that occurs on social media. We actually just discussed the issue of social media in light of Matthew 18 so kinda encouraging for my thought processes to see you bring it up 🙂

          We’re both pretty light on our use of social media. If I wasn’t an author I don’t think I’d try to have a social media presence. I think my bride likes it more to connect with long distance friends/family.

          I do have an agreement with myself though – I’ll never get in an argument on it. Was awesome reading your thoughts!

  2. I’ve noticed there is one thing which many “artists who are Christians”, “Christian artists”, or whatever name one likes, do and at least some of the world at large knows better than to do: focus on one “Jungian cognitive process” in one’s mind rather than play on the whole octave of eight (nine if one includes the “Ego” corresponding to the biblical “spirit in man” itself). We can thank Charles Wesley for that one, folks. “Introverted Feeling” or moral conscience, and the sentimentality which naturally goes with it, is too often all what “Christian art/music” is all about, at least in the US, and Wesley more than any other one man is responsible for that trend. Others, influenced in other directions, may emphasize some other cognitive process at the expense of the rest. Doing so causes different problems.

    But Christian creativity worthy of the name is far, far more than what Wesley encouraged (or maybe to be fair, many have encouraged in his name – talk about being influenced unknowingly). It is more than expressing your personal feelings about Jesus Christ. That is merely being in tune with “Blessed are the pure in heart”, and that partially. There are eight other Beatitudes, and all of them ought to be engaged in everything we do – especially in art – just for starters. The reason is the Beatitudes show how “character is what you do about your personality” – how you use all nine of your mental faculties to discern good from evil with God’s guidance. And then there is the emotional expression and the temperamental drive. Spirit/brain, soul and body. Simple, but complete.

    Christianity isn’t harping on the same string all the time (pardon the pun). It is loving the One Being, more than One Person (I just wrote an apologetic piece from the Hebrew text about that) named “the Eternal your God” with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. And if I’m not doing that as a poet-composer and as a creative writer, then I’m not doing what I should and my work would count itself lucky to be merely soulless. 😀 In fact I’m pretty sure it would qualify as creative zombiehood. 😉

  3. Reblogged this on Tales of the Undying Singer and commented:
    A point worth making about how a Christian should view artistic creativity…

  4. On a side note, L.B. Graham gave a great presentation on worldviews and being a Christian Author vs an Author who is Christian at Realm Makers.

    Someone once made a note about how evil seems to have a limited number of ways to be evil, but good has infinite ways to manifest itself. Reflections of God’s creation.

    Along the lines of the Christian song comment, I’ve seen (and heard about) Christian books tending to not be as edited as secular books. Even though agents and editors despise the whole “This story is God’s word to me and should not be messed with”, it seems born out in several books I’ve read (one was written by a very prominent editor). It’s frustrating to realize we deserve some of our reputation for our art being somehow lesser since it’s “Christian.”

    • “Along the lines of the Christian song comment, I’ve seen (and heard about) Christian books tending to not be as edited as secular books.”

      I have heard this as well, However, I’m a bad person to give an opinion on this. One of the first pieces of advice I received was to read widely in the genre I’m writing. So, I started reading tons of epic fantasy. Sadly, there’s not a ton of it in the Christian market, so I’ve read more in the general market.

      What I have read in the Christian market is excellent (Jill Williamson, Stephen Lawhead, Anne Elisabeth Stengel, and Bryan Davis). But that’s the extent of my sample hehe.

      • Have you looked at the catalog of Marcher Lord Press lately? 😀 Who knows if I’ll ever have time to write a solo novel, but if I do that will be the first place I submit it.

        As for manifestations of good vs. evil, I’m not sure what the speaker means to say and I’m not sure I can agree with it. There is one truth, seemingly infinite ways of erring from that truth. But perhaps the most useful perspective is the one which lies at the core: we either acknowledge that only God can discern between good and evil or we arrogate to ourselves that ability. There are endless choices which follow from either branch of the first choice, but one branch leads to countless opportunities and the other to countless dead ends.

  5. Ironically, the post that I was referring to has the same title as this one, Will. What I put didn’t really make sense, because I hadn’t thought about it in 5 years. 😉

    “At its heart, evil is angry; it’s not creative. It does the same things the same way repeatedly. Goodness spins an idea around and derives new ways of answering old questions. Evil has the same old toxic answers every time.”
    http://philangelus.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/creativity/

    (This is the blog for the author of one of my favorite books The Guardian – now re-released as The Wrong Enemy by Jane Lebak. It’s about a guardian angel who kills his human charge – essentially the story of God’s mercy toward us, told in a new way.)

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