Saturday, November 20, 2010

Creativity and The Spiritual Dimension

Well, folks, I've been working on formatting and editing my book, and so far so good.

I was wondering today - are all writers deep thinkers? It seems to me that certain characteristics are common to all writers, and deep thinking must be one of those. I'm sure that more than a few of us have been made the end of good-natured jokes, since being lost in thought is quite humorous for those watching it from the outside.

For example, how many of you have done at least one of the following:

~ Passed a turn while driving, because you were thinking of other things
~ Finished a meal and not been able to remember what it was you ate, because your mind was on your story plot, not the food.
~ Stood at the bathroom sink, mechanically brushing your teeth for over 5 minutes, because you were lost in thought. (My hand is waving high on this one.)
~ Read the same page three or more times because you were thinking of characters, not research. (Guilty on this one, too.)
~ Been working on something, and had someone walk by and talk to you, asking you some questions. You respond. A minute or two goes by, and you look up. "What did I just tell them?" you wonder.

Yes, it's amusing. In retrospect, anyway. (I refuse to say how many times that last one has happened to me.)

But thinking, meditating, and chewing on ideas is how books come to life. I confess that I actually consider this a weak point in my writing; I don't think I think deeply enough or often enough. My imagination was much stronger when I was younger. I used to read more, then, too.

Have you ever chastised yourself for not being creative enough? "Oh, if only I was as creative as they are! How do they ever think of such plots? Why didn't I think of that first? Why can't my imagination work today? Why am I so unoriginal?"

I've been there, done that, many times. God is creative, right? And I've been made in His image, right? And I believe He's made me a why can't I think up something totally original?

I can't seem to do it. Everything I think of is a combination of other things I've read, watched, or heard. And this saddened me.

But yesterday, I was reminded of a grand and glorious truth about ourselves.

We can't truly create.

What is "creating," anyway? How did God do it?

I don't know. He spoke, and things became. He made the elements, the laws of science and math, and time and space all from nothing. That's creation. That's creating.

Can you do that? Can you make something from nothing? Of course not. So you can't really create. You shouldn't expect yourself to create.

We are not creators. We are creative. We imitate God, like a child imitating a parent. But we don't start with emptiness; we start with the building blocks He's given us. So everything we humans "create" is simply a rearrangement of what He made in the first place.

That goes for stories, too. If you think about it, God has made history and real life; all stories are rearrangements of that. We think "what if this happened? What if that happened?" We rearrange the events, but it's all happened before. Wars. Death. Kidnappings. Falling in love. Finding courage to do something difficult. Coping with hardships. Poverty. Tyrants. Weak good guys. Dashing good guys. Betrayals. Strong families. Snowstorms. Shipwrecks. Knights on a mission. Escapes. Haven't these all happened in real life? Did you really think some human created the first "love story"?

So don't strive to be original in what you say; you'll fail. Seek to be original in how you say it.

And here's the key to making how "you say it" sound believable; real life events always have a spiritual side. A building block has three sides - it's 3D. A story-building block has a physical, mental, and spiritual side. Anything that doesn't is flat, the half-hearted imitation of an author who thought they could create something...and ended up only destroying something that would have worked, and calling the remains their own invention.

Don't try to work this element up in your story any more that you try to "work up" something else - it's already there. You are using building blocks that come from real life. How does God use those events in real life? A story told in only the physical and mental dimension will fall flat - there is always, always, always another dimension. And I don't care if you're writing fantasy stories, either - there's a spiritual dimension. Greek mythology has a spiritual dimension. Everything has a spiritual dimension, and you'd better account for that in your work, or you'll be a failure as a story teller. But how much better when it's a true spiritual dimension? How much better when you can use your story to reveal truths about the real God?

That's what story telling at its height of glory really is; an echo of a spiritual truth we know to be true.

That's why a daring knight fulfilling his quest against all odds can make our hearts sing even when we know he doesn't exist; we've been through struggles ourselves, and we know that such a thing can really happen. If the knight has relied on God for help, and God has stepped in and done something amazing, we are doubly entranced, because all humans are fascinated by the supernatural. And when the supernatural is real, when that supernatural thing could have actually happened....well, heartbeats triple in speed.

Make use of the building blocks God gives you. Grab story ideas from real life, and don't forget to grab their spiritual dimensions along with them. Keep those ideas 3D, and you'll have the foundations for a truly creative story.

...Well, as creative as any human can get.

1 comment:

  1. Agree, agree, agree, agree, and agree.

    I can totally identify with the being-distracted-or-deep-in-thought-about-your-story points that you mentioned at the beginning. Very often during dinner I drift away in my mind to the world of my story and come back in in the middle of a conversation and have no clue what has been being said. It happens all the time. :-)

    I had not thought of it that way, about creating. That is true, only God can create something out of nothing. Very good thoughts, all around!