“Art completes what nature cannot bring to finish. The artist gives us knowledge of nature’s unrealized ends.” — Aristotle
How do we prepare our hearts to create when met with headlines of tragic political unrest and devastating natural disasters? Before we press forward, please take a moment to truly pray for México, Puerto Rico, the marginalized, and the tragedies that never make it to the news in America.
As an artist, I must understand the responsibility of creating art. For me, art looks like writing to gain deeper understanding of my place in respect to our Creator.
For my friend S, it looks like graffiti art which breaks the stigma of spray paint on walls. For my friend J, it looks like poetry and memoir to shed light on systemic oppression and on chronic illness as an AfroLatina. For my friend A, it looks like memorizing Bible verses and remaining in deep flow with Jesus. For my friend L, it looks like truth in poetry and freeing Palestine.
Understanding creativity will allow us to nurture it when chaos grips us. Here is what I know:
Creativity is an act of resistance.
We are innovative beings made and gifted for a higher purpose whether you believe in God or not.
If we create art we refuse to accept that things can’t change. “That’s the way it’s always been” is a false statement and broken motive in the lives of creatives. We were meant to cross boundaries/borders. Anchoring our lives in Christ allows us to carve a path toward crossing emotional, spiritual, and physical boundaries/borders.
Creativity is our way of processing what surrounds us.
Because of chaos, we create. We were never meant to stay in the same mental head space for the rest of our lives. There is a deep flow of hope which emerges when chaos abounds loosely over the earth like a hunter ready prey on life. Even in a desperate situation, hope pushes through like a babe at birth.
When all which surrounds us looks destructive, the artist pulls from within her the gift of creativity to imagine hope but not before telling us the truth.
Creativity is an offering.
Gifts are meant to give. When God crafted into us the gift of creativity He meant for it to be given as an offering to the suffering, to the doubter, to the person hungry for hope.
Creativity is a gift. It is greatest when it is given to serve the world and beyond. Don’t hold creativity hostage. It was never meant to not breath on its own. And it was never meant to keep to oneself.
While brave folks take a knee, Kaepernick’s mom laughs off sexist remarks, and the marginalized cry out to be seen, artists serve a special role in shedding light on what we refuse to see. That can be in the form of writing, prayer, collage, song, dance, and many other forms of creative expression.
Artists feel like they carry the weight of the world when chaos abounds.
Preparing the fields of our hearts to bring truth to life takes radical self-care.
After understanding creativity as outlined above, here are three ways to maintain self-care to cultivate creativity while in chaos.
Take a social media reprieve
Stepping away from social media doesn’t make you apathetic. You may roll hard on social media or not roll at all but how you vote, who you have over for dinner, who you hug and welcome at church, and who/what you serve in your heart is far greater than what you can fit in 160 characters.
I don’t want to take away from the power of social media. We’ve seen its influence when keeping us informed and we’ve also seen its power to sap the life out of us. Be healthy about your intake.
Most artists tend to have a healthy bookshelf or access to one. Read what flushes your mind of urgency. What I mean here is not to read a trashy novel to escape from what’s happening but to read in such a way that alleviates the pressure of having to fix it all this very second.
For some of us it looks like the book of Psalm. For others it looks like picking up Lena Kahlaf Tuffaha‘s book of poetry title Water & Salt to remember the aroma of home and not forget the truth which that carries. And still for others it looks like picking up a book from an author you do not know and supporting the effort.
Reading is not fleeing the scene. Reading is waiting on the bridge for a moment.
Praying looks different for each of us and it’s all inherently good because it all points us back toward the Maker. Do you have a prayer closet, a prayer rug, a moment between the bathroom and the screaming child in her bouncer? Find the time to pray.
Recently, I heard someone on Super Soul Sunday podcast say that prayer is not about asking for anything. Prayer is about giving praise to God. This has radically altered the way I pray. When we ask God to fix something, we must understand He’s already answered that by creating us.
Artist, friend, comrade: I hope and pray you find peace in subtle moments before wielding your machete of art into the corn field. You make us all hunger for hope when it all seems worthless.
Thank you, artist. Your tireless efforts speak volumes of what God did on Day 1. He created. And on Day 7, He rested.
Suggested reading (affiliate links):