How to Create What God Leads You to Create
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 13 Nov
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Michael Gungor's new book, The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse: A Book For Creators (Woodsley Press, 2012).
We’re all creators, since God – the ultimate Creator – has made in us His image. God is always speaking to us as we create, from inspiring us to write a thoughtful letter to giving us ideas for how to cook a delicious meal. The artists among us (from musicians and poets to painters and novelists) especially focus on creative work.
No matter what kind of work we do, we face a crucial choice when deciding what to create and how to create it: Out of all the voices calling out to us, to which should we listen and respond? Critics tell us we should create according to the standards of a certain genre. The crowd around us says we should create whatever will be most popular. But the only voice truly worth listening to is the Muse – God’s voice – because true creative work is the ordering of creation toward the Creator’s intention.
Your creative work can be good only when God inspires it within your soul. Here’s how you can learn how to listen and respond to God’s voice so you can create what He leads you to create:
Understand the cultural forces that influence your creative process. Your culture always shapes the way you think, which influences the creative work you do. Ask God to make you aware of the specific ways that cultural forces are guiding the decisions you make about what type of creative work to create, and how to create it.
Respond wisely to cultural noise. Our culture is filled with noise that comes from so many people trying anything to get others to pay attention to their creative work. Many songs on the radio and online posts simply try to grab your attention without providing much real substance. Movies and TV shows try to shock your senses in order to get you to watch. But the way to really motivate people to think about what you create isn’t to shout at them; it’s to listen to God’s guidance and create something that genuinely inspires them. Ask yourself what made you fall in love with your craft, and keep that in mind when you create. Choose to create from a place of listening to God so the work you create won’t just add to the cultural noise but instead will rise above it.
Respond wisely to technology. Technological advances have made it easy and inexpensive for anyone to make and distribute a film, write and publish a novel, or create and deliver many other types of creative work to others. But just because the technology makes it possible doesn’t eliminate the need for good human craft in the process. Make sure that technology is your servant, not your master. Use technology to help unlock more potential for your creative work, but don’t use technology to try to cover up your own shortcomings (such as by using a recording application to hide a weak singing voice on a song, or relying on a software program’s suggestions to help you write a novel rather than thinking it through well yourself). Create with integrity, using the unique talents that God has given you.
Respond wisely to the “first world” mindset. If you live in a “first world” nation (among the richest countries on the planet), beware of forces that can reduce your motivation for doing the hard work of creating something of value: laziness, comfort, entitlement, and boredom. Ask God to help you avoid being trite or sloppy when you create, and to empower you to create work that is marked by both complexity and profundity.
Respond wisely to capitalism. In a capitalistic economy, everything has a price, and you can find yourself thinking about your creative work primarily as a commodity to be bought and sold. But it’s dangerous to view your creative work’s money-making potential as its primary value, because when you do so, you’ll try to produce it as cheaply and easily as possible, which will harm the quality of your work. Rather than thinking mostly about marketing channels for your work, keep in mind more important considerations, such as beauty, emotion, truth, honesty, the exploration of the human spirit, and the expression of real love.
Respond wisely to celebrity. Our culture’s fascination with fame and celebrities means that the success that people enjoy with their creative work is unfortunately more about the marketability of their persona than it is about the quality of their work. Recognize, though, that such a preoccupation with celebrity is really meaningless. Don’t waste your time and energy comparing yourself to others who create. Instead, ask God to give you the confidence you need to be yourself and create in the distinctive ways that you create best, trusting that God will use what you create to accomplish good purposes.
Respond wisely to religion. Ask God to give you the wisdom to discern how to express your faith in healthy ways through your creative work. Avoid approaching your creative work from a closed-minded, arrogant, fundamentalist attitude – that will kill your creativity. Instead, pray for humility and openness to learning, growing, and changing to become more and more like Jesus every day. That kind of healthy attitude will benefit your creative work tremendously. Make sure that your faith isn’t just set of concepts rather than a relational way of living; invest in building a closer relationship with Jesus every day, and you’ll see your creative work improve in the process.
Plant your creative work in the right kind of soil so it can grow well. The key nutrients you need to include in your creative soil are: faith, doubt, hope, and love. For faith, know what you believe and why, and let the stories of how God works in your life inspire the creative work that you do. For doubt, let your doubt motivate you to ask questions so you can grow in your faith and your creative work can become more honest and pure. For hope, trust God’s promise that your creative work truly matters, and practice spiritual disciplines that help you hear God’s voice more clearly (such as solitude, prayer, Bible study, meditation, and spending time outdoors in nature). For love, keep in mind that God is love, so love should be the ultimate standard and aspiration for your creative work.
Adapted from The Crowd, The Critic, and The Muse: A Book for Creators, copyright 2012 by Michael Gungor. Published by Woodsley Press, Denver, Co., www.thecrowdthecriticandthemuse.com.
Michael Gungor is a singer/song writer living in Denver, Colorado United States. He leads a musical collective called Gungor that tours around the world performing and leading worship music in both mainstream and religious venues. Aside from his work with the band, he has written and produced music for other artists as well as help start a church in Denver called "Bloom". Visit his website at: www.thecrowdthecriticandthemuse.com.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.
Publication date: November 13, 2012