I think that it was Leonard Cohen who said that to write, was akin to exorcising demons.
I’ve always liked that idea.
Last night, I spent the evening talking about creativity among a not small group of people at church. The church I go to is kind of different from other churches that I’ve been to. Actually, it’s a lot more like a community and a lot less like a church.
When I first started going, it annoyed me that no-one seemed to preach a sermon from the Bible (expository). I was used to that. But as I grew up a bit and learnt to think for myself, I realised, that knowing about stuff like that matters a lot less than I had previously thought. I like it a lot better this way.
My parents have always understood that I’m a creative person. They know how much I enjoy to create something from whatever is available to me. I love that about them. They’ve always encouraged me.
But I didn’t always feel like that about church.
I guess a lot of people can probably identify with that. In some Christian settings, identifying as a creative is a parallel experience to coming out: no one wants to hear it.
I think, for me, creativity is like going into a dark cave. You feel around you, reaching for walls, seeing less and less until you’re not really able to see anything except a pin of light where the world was.
When you reach the kernel of that cave and the silence is deafening, you shout, say hello, scream — you make a noise.
That noise that you made, goes out into the world. Sometimes it echoes, sometimes it finds a ear, sometimes you are shouting into a void. A void knows no echo.
But the cave is you.
In the time that it was really only my parents and some friends who knew that I was a creative person, I still thought that I wanted to be a pastor. Honestly, it’s funny to look back on that time now. I am the complete opposite of all the things that a pastor needs to be.
But Jonah had his fish.
I guess I was scared of the dark. I think that maybe I had looked into the cave but I was standing at the mouth, shouting in. The more I stood at the entrance, the more I began to think about what might be in there. It felt a little like seasickness as I began to walk back there. You’re kicking and kicking but the water is getting really high.
I also liked when David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech. And he told this great story about fish.
There are two fish swimming in a river. They meet this other fish. The one fish says to the two fishes:
— How’s the water today?
They kind of laugh nervously and smile before swimming off. And as they’re swimming off, one fish looks at the other and says:
— What the heck is water?
Then you’re not drowning anymore. You’re swimming. And you can breath. Better even. And it’s natural. And all is well.
So. So that’s what creativity is, I think. And that’s how I realised I was a creative person and yes, to a certain extent, all people are creative because everyone knows how to shout in a cave. It’s the most natural thing in the world.
But not everyone is a cave-dweller, right? It’s scary in here, but then, there’s kindness in the night. There is stillness.