This is the fourth post in our series, “On Becoming Creative.” The series centers on practical steps that readers can take towards developing creative practices in their lives and offers a Biblical framework for how to think about that process. You can read the first post here, the second post here and the third post here.
Somewhere along the way, creativity becomes a means to an end.
It’s not a hobby anymore; it’s a career.
It’s not an activity; it’s activism.
It’s not playtime; it’s productivity.
It’s not for leisure; it’s our legacy.
In a society where artists are idolized and then monetized, creativity is a valuable commodity.
It’s no wonder we experience burnout. We are frustrated when we fail to meet our goals. Disappointed when our work goes unrecognized. Afraid when it doesn’t pay the bills. We are left spent and tired and wondering why we create at all. There’s enough noise in the world. Why are we adding to it?
In those moments, it helps to think about the end and the beginning.
The End: What if you quit? Or rather, What keeps you from quitting?
The Beginning: Why did you start creating in the first place?
These two questions remind us of the curious energy that sprang out of us when we were young, and of the quiet urge that never fails to return even when we vow to silence it forever. Creativity always begins as an involuntary response to the world around us.
As creativity becomes intertwined with our identity and livelihood, we forget its intrinsic value. We think everything must have a practical purpose – but isn’t life more than a series of accomplishments? We’ve forgotten that pleasure isn’t sinful, and so we scramble for ways to justify that which brings us joy. II.
When we start seeing art as a means to an end, we forget that it was often small, childlike moments, that led us to God’s presence. When we approach creativity as a devotional practice, experiencing God’s presence is placed at the center of our process. To borrow the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, our chief end becomes to glorify God and to enjoy him.
God wanted to walk with us in the Garden in the cool of the day. He wanted to watch us name the animals. He wanted to enjoy us, and for us to enjoy him. When we create, we are fully present to God's presence. It calls us back to the childlike contentment of spending time with a parent. By laying down our burden of needing to be needed and surrendering our longing for significance, we strike down the lie that we must somehow earn our privilege to exist. We declare that any activity with God is sacred, no matter how frivolous it may seem to the outside world. And we are free to enjoy the simple act of creation because we know that every good and perfect gift comes from God.
Many of our stories began in the secrecy of our bedrooms, strumming an instrument or writing in the pages of our journal. For others, it was the meditative practice of exploring the world through a clear glass lens or painting with our fingers. These quiet moments gave us a glimpse of the divine, a gut feeling that God was sharing our space. Or maybe creativity felt like a wrestling match with God – more an argument than a conversation – or even a tense confrontation with ourselves. Either way, as we engaged with Him, we were changed.
We place enormous amounts of pressure on ourselves to be world-changing or to make art “productive”, but we can only really do what God has created us to do: spend time in his presence. Rather than burdening ourselves with yet another expectation, let us instead view creativity as a devotional practice for reconnecting with our first love. May it be so.
Words: Adrian Patenaude
Writer-by-night based in Austin, Texas with an affection for screenwriting, poetry, and photography. Having grown up in rural northern Thailand as a missionary kid, her work explores cultural nuances and the tension between faith and doubt.
Photos: Bryan Chung