Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Work of Art

There are at least two basic theories about creativity that you hear articulated in different ways by different people.

Theory #1: One theory is that a person creates something out of nothing. Sort of – poof – and they have some new idea or some new song or some new thing. They feel that what they have come up with came out of nowhere.

Theory #2: And then there is the theory that a person creates something out of a kajillion things that they can’t even necessarily understand. The mind is full of puzzle pieces that life has tossed in there, and somehow the mind or the spirit or both begin putting the pieces together until the picture starts to make sense.

I am a theory #2 person. To my way of thinking, only God is a theory #1 person. So I go with #2, and the reason is that I can sense the puzzle pieces floating around within me and in the world. I can sense when they are starting to connect. My job is to do things to help them connect. In my mind, that is the “work” of an artist. To develop the skills that enable you to bring about these connections.

If I’m right about this, it suggests that if you want to be “creative” and you’re waiting for some sudden flash of insight from out of nowhere, you’re not likely to create very much. And if you want to be creative, but you don’t train yourself to do the work necessary to put the pieces together, then I don’t think you’ll produce much either.

Art is not for sissies.

Being creative means developing skills. It’s about craft. Songs, poems, stories, needlepoint, paintings, relationships, cars – whatever – the created thing has to be crafted in one way or another. Albert Einstein did not wake up one morning with the theory of Relativity bouncing around in his head. He agonized over it for a long, long time. He found pieces of the puzzle in the work of other scientists, which he added to other pieces he observed in everyday life. He had to develop his math skills because it wasn’t his strong suit, and he knew he’d need to get the math right to present the theory. He pressed pieces thinking they would fit, but they didn’t, so he had to keep looking. Finally, he managed to put it together. He didn’t create a law of nature. He painted it into his mind and into the minds of other people. Well. A few people. The rest of us just scratch our heads.

But the point is the same. Every work of art takes work. You have to do the work. To my way of thinking, that includes your stories, your paintings, your children, your spouse, your church, your songs, your movies, your theories on life and death, your work, your play . . . everything.

Life is an art.

Colossians 3:23-24

Peace to you.

© LW Publishing 2010


  1. very good point. i would agree with the theory 2 perspective, but i act like a theory 1 person. i desire to create songs, poems or great philosophy but don't put the work into it. i just assume that i am just not one of those creative types when something cool doesn't come out in ten minutes. discouraged, i just drop the project altogether.

    another great song by the way.


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