This Creative Thing -- Huntsville, Alabama Photographer
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the memoir Eat Pray Love (and more recently the novel The Signature of All Things) talks extensively about the concept of creativity and what exactly it is and has been believed to be over the course of history. It's rather a complex thing, Creativity -- and from here on I think I'll refer to it respectfully with a capital "C" -- complex because it is elusive and difficult to achieve and capture, yet simultaneously thick in the air around us, filling the nooks and crannies of our collective human presence, assuming responsibility for what is beautiful and ingenious and mind-blowing, invading consciousness in the wakeful hours of early morning yet slipping away just as dawn breaks and real life clamors for our time and attention. Creativity is a driving force in the lives of so many -- I would even venture to guess in the lives of most, if not all of us, even if some of us are the first to self-depricatingly murmur to the contrary. (If you believe yourself incapable of Creativity -- don't.) For me, Creativity has been the single most torturous -- and transcendent -- entity of my existence. It not only feeds the driving flashes of brilliance within me, it also nudges me in my darkest hours, when I least expect its presence, when I've given up all hope of it ever appearing again -- and just as I feel that glimmer of excitement at its return, it giggles before slipping away like so much smoke on a breeze. Creativity has been, for me, exactly as Elizabeth Gilbert describes it, a sort of demon spirit, irrational, inexplicable, otherworldly.
Otherworldly. Yes, now I am on to something . . .
I am tempted to describe the ache and torment of Creativity as a demon, taunting and cruel. If I think on it long enough I can even make up in my mind the sound of its derisive laughter as I grapple with this or that word to write, this or that visual image that just. isn't. appearing in the way I need it to. But if I am truly, deeply honest, maligning Creativity in that way feels so off. So wrong. So the antithesis of what Creativity is, a slander against its good name.
Grappling with Creativity then becomes more about grappling with the self -- the limitless inner self of spirit in juxtaposition with finite blood and bone. It ceases being "this internalized, tormented thing" and instead becomes "this peculiar, wondrous, bizarre collaboration, kind of conversation" between me and God. The reconciliation I make, when I wake up on those mornings where children have to be fed, and clients have to be called, and homeschool lessons have to be administered, and laundry has to be done -- it is on those mornings that I feel Creativity sitting idly by, ever present, watching me from a dark corner -- smirking at me? No, something within me insists on an understanding much deeper than appearances: that it is merely my inner turmoil doing the talking, my insecurities and fears. Suddenly the reality becomes what I know to be true and good and right: Creativity is more properly described as divine, as a calling belonging to and coming from Someone higher than me and my worries, my petty fears.
Child of God that I am, made in the image of the supreme master of all things miraculous and scientific, wondrous and beautiful, kind and inordinately breathtaking -- what I must concede is that God has made me as well -- fearfully and wonderfully (!) made to go out into the world and create fearful and wonderful things. And doesn't that transform the idea of Creativity from the imp I envision, chortling derisively at me in a corner, thwarting my every good desire, into something more accurate, something much higher, something filled with light and infinately more trustworthy? Oh yes, it does.
And there -- there it is, can you see it?
Creativity, the delightful, dancing spirit within -- not come to mock me, but invite me, come to rescue any average day and redeem it, perfect it, hone it, transform it. And just like that, all is put into its proper place. Laundry gets done (at least one load). Dinner gets made (even if it is a pre-packaged pizza tossed into an oven). And I give myself permission to slip away and into the intoxicating coma of Creation, channelling through my spirit the spirit of God, in large and small ways, feeling at peace in the act of capturing beauty in a photograph, sculpting words into a sentence, post-editing a perfect image. It's a partnership, my soul mingled with that of the Creator, and for one brief moment, a glimpse of who I truly am, who He truly is, and who we are truly together: Creator and Creation.