Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Every artist has a different recipe for finding creativity in the mundane.
And, most people have really great ideas for staying creative and establishing a routine of disciplined and organized work in the creative arts. Create something every day, even if you don’t feel inspired. Write a piece of prose a few different times and wait to see what comes out of those three different versions. Write short stories. Doodle. All of those things work well for getting the creativity going.
But what inspires creativity in the first place? I want to backtrack to the initial problem: finding creativity in the mundane.
What makes life mundane for you, exactly? What is it about your surroundings, the people you interact with, and the things that you do that make life so unexciting for you that you are consistently bored, consistently writing or creating the same things (whether that’s inside your stories or outside of them), and consistently talking about the same things?
In college and among the other creative folks in my life, I’ve sometimes noticed a plateau in people’s creativity, and I believe that it comes from an illusion of mastery.
I’ll explain. We all start out as knowledge less, correct? We arrive into the world just learning how to breathe the air itself. We learn rapidly from there – we learn how to eat and do the essential-for-living things, but as we grow, we learn SO MUCH about the world and what we are to be doing in it, and the world is still new to us and there’s still so much to be discovered.
Artists may recall drawing everything all the time when they were little, whether things were real or imagined. Writers may recall starting epic and adventurous novels with high ambitions of becoming the world’s youngest writer. We were so inspired when we were little. There was no shortage of creativity to be had.
There are two things that kids are really good at, that I think we as artists and creative people need to bring back in order to revive our creativity (and really, our hearts along with).
Wonder and curiosity.
Wonder is your excitement about life. Wonder is when you collected autumn leaves as a kid because you thought they were beautiful. Wonder is the feeling you’re supposed to have whilst stargazing or ice skating or standing on top of a mountain. Wonder is, simply, our inborn recognition of the Lord’s beauty, power, and love in the world we live in. We’re naturally drawn to it. Wonder is easier when you’re small, and everything holds potential, and you’re free of a little thing called preconceived notions.
But when we grow older, we start to choose what we like – and more dangerously, what we don’t like – and we tend to stick to those things without allowing for new people or new experiences to fill us. We are content to be vaguely pleased with the things we’re pleased with, and content to be unhappy and complain about the things we aren’t pleased with. That is the easiest way to kill wonder – to basically say about your life, “Well, this is all there is and this thing is good and this thing is bad and that’s all I’m going to live by.” Run away from that. Run away from your life revolving around one thing, person, or idea.
C. S. Lewis explains the sense of wonder in The Great Divorce, when an angel tries to convince an artist to come with him to heaven:
“When you painted on earth–at least in your earlier days–it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too…Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”
And David Crowder explains why we are supposed to stay in a state of wonder in his book, Praise Habit:
When good is found and we embrace it with abandon, we embrace the Giver of it…Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is a choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment. This is the Praise Habit. Finding God moment by revelatory moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it. This is what we were made for.
When you belong to God, the world opens up for you because you don’t have to fear it or find your source of hope in it. You’re allowed to explore and enjoy and adventure with God on your side, and that makes for the very best creativity.
Curiosity is our innate desire to learn things. I have no idea how we get to a point where we think we don’t need to learn things anymore, but we do and it is the saddest thing I think we can encounter as creative people.
We live in a world where we can feel like we need to prove ourselves right, and sometimes the desire to be right can override the desire to learn. Admitting that we don’t have everything figured out is a humbling thing. It kills the pride of knowledge, the pride of being above others because you know more than them. When we get into that mindset of being superior in knowledge, then our personal desire to learn new things is silenced. And that’s not only kind of a hideous thing to happen, but if you don’t learn new things, you cannot create new things. Only God has the ability to continue to make new things even though he knows everything.
Wonder and curiosity both include a difficult concept that we may have trouble embracing – smallness. To open ourselves back up to a sense of wonder and a desire to learn, we must put down our pride and say that we have not yet discovered everything, and we have not yet learned everything.
This is hard. It just is. There is a certain power in feeling that you have figured out life. But we were not meant to be big. When we let go – and thus, let God and the world he’s created become bigger – your creativity will return to you in an overwhelming way.
Never lose the wonder, friends.
Friend and fellow OYAN alumni, Ellie is an artist, writer, photographer, musician, and hard-core Instagrammer. A freshman at Christopher Newport University, she is a deep thinker with many beautiful things to say. You can find her blogging at The Restored Artist.