I’ve heard lots of people say things like…
“Oh, I’m not the creative type.”
“I wish I were creative like other people.”
“How do you come up with this stuff?”
“Some people are just creative, but I’m definitely not one of them.”
But I have a few thoughts on creativity and believe me, I’ve had more than my fair share of “creative blocks” that I’ve had to deal with. I’ve been in fulltime ministry for long enough to know that creativity is a powerful thing, but its also a universal thing. Lots of people (most perhaps) see a great deal of value in being creative and as the worn saying goes, “thinking outside the box”. First I want to address those who have thought anything along the lines of the statements above. Then I’ll address all of us as creative creatures.
Bruce Lee once said “As you think, so shall you become.” Bruce Lee is probably the most well-known martial artist ever and you gotta love that, but Mr. Lee was borrowing from the wisdom of Solomon in the King James version of the Old Testament Proverbs: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:…” (23:7)
Now, I’m not saying that if you simply think you’re Picasso, then you’ll be cranking out million-dollar masterpieces by this afternoon, but I do believe there is something to be said for the power of our thoughts. Most of your thoughts do nothing more than perpetuate your current state. Think about this: what would happen if you began to thinking positively about who you are, where you are, and where you’re going? I’m walking carefully here because quite frankly I strongly disagree with the pie-in-the-sky messages of communicators like Joel Osteen, Fred Price, and Creflo Dollar. I’m not saying your thoughts will change your situation; I’m saying that your thoughts serve to either move you forward, keep you stuck, or even move you backwards. Simply put, you’d do well to vow to not refer to yourself as uncreative or devoid of creativity. You’re simply not.
I can say this with certainty because you and I are created. Not only are we created, but our creative Creator has created us in the likeness of His own creative image. So, simply by virtue of the fact that you’ve been CREATED, you are then CREATIVE. You are. You can refute it, but that doesn’t make it less true.
Also, we tend to only use the word “creative” in reference to those who create aesthetically. We think of painters, artists, marketers, musicians, Bear Grylls, and sculptors. But what about engineers? Strategists? What about teachers? Mathematicians? Virtually anyone solving any problem in any context anywhere bears the creativity badge. In fact, I’d contend that you cannot live a single day without a strong dose of creativity. Its utilized in traffic, in conversations, in child-rearing, in conflict resolution, and in recreation to name just a few places. Creativity abounds wherever you are, whoever you are.
Now, once you reckon yourself as creative (because you are), you may find from time to time that your sense of creativity wanes. Don’t panic. You haven’t lost it; it hasn’t been used up. You just need to pick it up again. Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful in regaining creative thought:
1. Read. I’ve found fewer things that spark creative juices flowing like soaking in someone else’s thoughts on paper. And for me, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be related to anything I’m facing. Just the act of getting out of my own head and into someone else’s is a powerful act that brings back that creative spark. You might say, “I don’t have time to read a book.” Maybe you don’t, but a great tool I’ve found is an app called “Flipboard”. Flipboard is a digital magazine that is customized to whatever topics you choose. To the right is my Flipboard home page and a few of the topics I’ve chosen to flip through. It takes as much time as I choose to give it and I hardly ever come away without some new thoughts. And Iobviously can’t recommend the Bible highly enough. What’s today’s date? The 4th? Go to Proverbs chapter 4 (there are 31) and read it 3 times. Whatever the date, read that chapter in Proverbs. Good stuff!
2. Talk. Connect with someone in conversation, but aim at what they’re dealing with, not what you’re dealing with. Listen to them speak about their own life, their dilemmas, their joys, their path. Reflect back to them what you hear, asking them questions. The closer you are to this person the better because they’ll trust you enough to share nitty-gritty. Get yourself to a place where you’re listening to and helping someone else and you’ll be amazed at the outcome and the insights you gain about yourself. In the past couple of years, I’ve attended the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and this is a fantastic place to talk with people from all over the youth ministry universe and listen to the things they deal with and walk in. I couldn’t make it to SYMC this year, but I hope to return. That’s just one great example (albeit very large-scale) of what I’m talking about. Often times listening to others and engaging with where they are helps us more than we think it will.
3. Break routine. Sometimes its our surroundings that box us in. Getting a different physical view can help get a different mental and spiritual view as well. And don’t be picky; any change in scenery can help knock loose your gummed up creative gears. Are you usually working at a desk? Stand up, walk outside, and take nothing but a voice recorder for you. As you walk, you’ll think, as you think, talk and record what you say. There’s something called oxygenation and its a payoff of getting up and moving around. Your thoughts get clearer and even more creative.
4. Just start. This past week, my wife and I painted our livingroom. We moved into this house 4 1/2 years ago and when we first walked it, we swore painting the living would be the first thing we’d do. We often fear starting because we’re unsure of what the outcome will be. Will it be any better than where we are? Or will it be worse? The truth is, we are usually overblowing the likelihood of some negative outcome. We’re in fear that stepping out from where we are automatically equals stepping onto a tight rope over an inferno just waiting to consume us. Silly us. Start whatever it is and do it today. You’ll likely wonder why you waited this long.
If you’ve ever watched the show “Man VS. Wild” with Bear Grylls, you know that Bear goes nowhere without his knife and flint. Now, you may not find yourself making a sleeping sack out of a seal hide tonight, but the fact remains that we all need that “flint” to create that “spark” to start the fire of creativity. Which of the 4 sparks listed above to you need to try? Or is there another you can add to the list? How do you step back into creativity when you find it lacking? I’d love to hear your thoughts.