Monday, September 28, 2015

Creativity and Fear

I recently heard an interview that has captivated my thoughts for over a week now.  It was an interview with the writer Elizabeth Gilbert (not the one from House on the Prairie).  Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the wildly best selling novel, "Eat, Pray, Love" which was later turned into a major motion picture - featuring Julia Roberts (which as usual, did not hold a candle to the incredible book).  "Eat, Pray, Love" sold over 10 million copies, and is one of the most popular works of fiction written in the last 50 years.

Even though the book, "Eat, Pray, Love" does not deal with any overtly Christian themes, I have quoted from it many times in my sermons through the years.  My favorite scene in the book is at the beginning when a couple are arguing and things aren't working out, and the main character, a young woman goes to the bathroom, and while she is kneeling by the toilet says a prayer [paraphrased], "Dear God, I don't know if you exist, I'm pretty sure you don't, and I am just talking to myself right now.  But I feel a need to talk to you now.  I am lost and I have no idea what I am doing..."  After the prayer, the main character goes on an Odyssey of self understanding and growth.

Among Gilbert's recent insights are the fact that she probably might never write another book that is quite as successful or well reviewed as "Eat, Pray, Love".  And so, she muses, I have the option of just starting to drink every morning at around 9:00AM, or move to the country to "raise Corgies" or to return to that thing which has brought me the most amount of love in my life - writing.

But it is Gilbert's ideas about:

Creativity and Fear

which are the subject of my blog this morning.  Gilbert says that as a writer, fear has always been a regular companion of hers.  Each day she sits at her computer and writes, and often says to herself, "This will be an awful book, just fact, it may not only be awful, but the worst book that has ever been written", "I might be the worst writer that has ever lived", "my career will most likely end in failure" - But she keeps on writing.  Because writing is her core love, it is her vocation, it is why she was placed on the planet, it is the thing that she loves to do even more than she loves herself, she must continue to do it.

Gilbert has come to terms with the fact that:

Creativity and Fear

are actually siblings.  They are brother and sister.  They live with one another all the time.  You cannot find a creative person anywhere in any genre (art, music, food, architecture, writing, poetry...) that does not experience a regular amount of fear.  And so, whenever Gilbert begins a book, she knows that if she wants creativity in the book, which all good books must have, she must also have fear.  Fear comes along for the ride.  Fear sits in the backseat, as creativity sits in the front seat.

In my own life, I have experienced the conjoined quality of creativity and fear.  My seven year old daughter asked me yesterday if I ever got nervous when I had to stand up in front of a church and give a message.  I said, "Yes, all the time".  Each new church that I have started has been an expression of creativity, and along with it comes a regular amount of fear.  "Maybe this won't work", "Maybe we won't get the money we need to keep this thing going", "Maybe my ministry will end in a flaming ball of fire, actually worse, maybe like the universe it will end with a whimper (J. Alfred Proofrock...TS Eliot....)"

Creativity and Fear

I find it interesting that arguably the most creative person ever to live - God - also talks about fear more than almost any other subject.  The same God that set the planets in motion, and that separated light from darkness, and water from dry land - creativity - must also have experienced fear.  God tells us - creative human beings - not to be afraid around 365 times in the Bible.  To Abraham and Sarah, beings that God placed creative life inside of, God said, "Do not be afraid".  To the disciples who think they see a ghost upon the lake of Galilee, Jesus said, "Do not be afraid".  To the women at the tomb on Easter Sunday, Jesus said, "Do not be afraid."

Perhaps God Himself knows the double bind of this life.  If you want to be creative, if you are creative, if you are human, then fear will be a part of your life.  But we should not be afraid.  For God is with us...

All For Now,



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