Stuck on Creativity

Have you ever tried to do something new? Have you ever looked at an artist, musician or company that’s created something that feels fresh, something that feels “new” and felt like they’ve achieved the impossible?

We can desire to be creative yet stall out in the process because we’re afraid of not being authentic, or of not being truly creative or of imitating. Maybe it’s fear of the hard work of creativity or perhaps we just don’t want to fail but often we’re stalled before we even start.

If we’re honest – we can become more interested with the idea of creativity than we are with actually creating beautiful things. We can become obsessed with the idea of creativity but fearful to initiate it.

As a church we are doing something new: seeing fully established churches planted on university campuses. While there is some creativity in it for sure, fundamentally we are not doing anything new at all. The truth is that we didn’t invent church – God did. It’s his idea. He invented the church, he commissioned it and he, ultimately, leads it.

This same thing applies to worship, art, business, writing, poetry and the rest of the human endeavour – our creative potential is derived from the Creator in whose image we are made.

In the beautiful apocalyptic imagery of Revelation Jesus announces “Look, I am making everything new!” (Rev 21:5). He, Jesus, is the one that makes things new things. He is the creative well from which we are called to draw.

Jesus does new things. Our job, and our privilege, it to participate in it! Maybe we should be less concerned with doing something new and more concerned with allowing and discerning what Jesus want’s to do through and in us.

With that said, I’ve come to learn that creativity finds itself in two reticent processes imitation and iteration. Simply put: iteration and imitation can lead the way to innovation.

Someone expressed to me “I’m stuck trying to write music because I’m afraid of copying and not being authentic.” We don’t want to imitate because we don’t want to copy. But the truth is that every idea is derived from another idea. Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” – Mark Twain

Every idea finds itself in the process of looking at what has already been done. A better word than imitation would inspiration. Often times we can find encouragement, ideas and inspiration from those around us. However, the process of actually finding inspiration can find itself in starting by imitating.

Looking at the creative things that others have done and trying them out ourselves doesn’t equate to creative suicide – especially if it opens us to new potential. Almost every musician starts out by playing covers – other people’s songs – until they learn to write their own. The challenge is not allowing the fear of imitating from beginning the creative process.

The second dimension of initiating creativity is done through the process of iteration. The truth is that creative innovative things is extremely hard work. By it’s very nature there is no manual you can open up, there is no rule book. It requires a constant testing of ideas repeatedly until we find our way forward. This however is what makes it beautiful. We try an idea, it fails, we try again and it fails again. We keep iterating until we find a way to see what we envision in our minds eye or in our spirit made reality.

At LIFT we are constantly trying new ideas. They don’t always work. In fact, they often don’t work. But as we try, fail and repeat, we have found some very creative ideas and seen some truly beautiful things happen.

To those in our community: give yourself permission to imitate. Give your self permission to iterate and fail. Keep doing that and maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself doing something innovative.

What if Jesus desire to make new things starts today through you?