Genesis and the Creative Process: The Concept

When I wrote the original draft of my last piece on Art & Fear in 2004, at the end I had this thought: What could be learned from looking at the Genesis account of creation from an artist’s perspective? At the time, I wrote some notes on what happened each day in the Genesis account, including application of these events to the creative process. It was pretty powerful. However, I think the Roaring Lion (See “Art & Fear” article, where I compare the Creative Process to a savage beast) began to scare me, and I stopped myself.

I mean if there is a God, and He did have some hand in creating this Beautiful World we live in, maybe we could learn something from how He did it. Maybe rather than looking at the story of Genesis as something to argue science and religion over, maybe instead we who are artists, writers and creative people are in a unique position to understand what the author was trying to say about the act of creation, and maybe in turn we can learn something ourselves as well as teach others about what it means to be a creator.

Think about it for a minute. Genesis is saying that God is a creator, AND that we are created in His Image! Do you get what I’m saying? We, humankind, all of us, if we are indeed created in the image of God are also meant to be creators!

When I was a child, my parents enrolled me for a time in free schools. The idea behind these schools was noble, and partly worked. The main idea (at least in the schools I attended) was that children start out right, but we (meaning adults) ruin them. I say “partly worked”, because I do agree we do a lot to ruin children, mostly through selfishness, but what the schools failed to understand is that kids do in fact need some structural framework in which to work. Boundaries are needed. We in the free schools were truly boundary-less, and thus we as children did probably as much to ruin each other as any adult did.

Though the experience was a mixed bag for many of us, I learned some things that I would not have in a more traditional school, among these lessons one is that people are all born creative. So, if we are all born creative, what happens?

What happens is we (all of us: adults, children, society) ruin this inborn creative impulse. We do it by laughing at their ideas, by saying “can’t” “won’t” “don’t”. We do it through school systems that discourage creativity. Sometimes perhaps it’s because we too fear the Roaring Lion, and when we see our children roaring its roar, the same roar we stifled in ourselves years ago, we become afraid. Maybe it will devour them just as we feared it would devour us. We may have caged the lion, but it is still not tame.

Even those of us who call ourselves “creative people”, often don’t let the beast totally free. We may call ourselves “lion tamers”, but just as the lions “tamed” by Sigfried and Roy showed themselves not to be truly tame, so is this inner beast we call the Creative Process. While we may not be able to tame the beast, maybe we can at least learn to understand it.

So back to Genesis, as I read the story of Genesis like an artist studying the process that another artist goes through, it hit me that there’s something there – something rich and powerful. So, from time to time I hope to post my reflections on how each of the 7 Days in the Genesis account have something to teach us as artists.  It’s pretty interesting what I saw there. I’ve only gotten through Day 3 in my own processing so far, and don’t know if the other 4 days will be as rich in imagery for an artist as the first 3 were, but there’s only one way to find out… keep looking.


Art & Fear

What is it in creating that fills an artist with FEAR? The flow of the creative life force is too much. It often feels as if it will overwhelm the artist – i.e. me. Sometimes I feel as if I will be eaten alive, devoured, by this thing inside me that is crying for release. Is it good or evil? Will it consume me? Is it a roaring lion that fools me now into thinking it will be benign, but when I release it will it tear me to pieces.

In the book Art & Fear, authors David Bayles and Ted Orland speak of the fear of annihilation, but they focus on this fear having to do with not creating. There is another fear of annihilation, however – it’s the fear that if one completely surrenders to this creative life force that one will be swallowed alive and will find no way to turn back. The creative force is frightening – terrifying.

The day I first started writing this piece (actually several years ago now), I had a very strong manic episode. I felt like a madman. I was running around and could barely stop myself. I would sit down to write in my creativity journal and then find myself jumping up one minute later to go search the Internet. I went down to my studio to work and suddenly started rearranging my house to display my art. Am I the ONLY one??? Or is it we just can’t admit to anyone that we are NUTS sometimes.

I did get some insight into what this “artists mania” is – and it’s not all good. I think sometimes when creative energy, fear and anxiety mix together they create this kind of weird manic energy. But what happens if we remove the fear and anxiety. I would like to feel the creative energy without the fear, without the anxiety. Would it be more peaceful? I think so. Thinking about it, I’ve had moments when I’ve experienced the creative force without the crazy weirdness. I call it “being in the groove”. Still the Creative Force is nothing to be trifled with. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ Aslan, the benevolent ruler of Narnia, about which the other animals have a saying: He’s not a tame lion! This creative force is not tame, it can be quite frightening in and of itself even without the inner critics (not to mention the outer ones). It is a bit like a Consuming Fire, yet if one simply surrenders oneself to it, peace does come.

I’ve recently been experiencing the peaceful creative flow without the anxiety as I am writing a novel. I’ve never written a novel before, and I have no idea if it will even be publishable when done. I’m not writing it for that, I’m writing it because I have to. I have been writing for the pure joy of it. Of course, I made the mistake of telling friends about it, and so now they expect something from me, and I can feel the anxiety coming in. I am walking forward anyway, and silencing the voices that seek to silence me.

Anxiety is not a popular word these days. I think few of us like to admit that we have it, but I think most of the time it’s become such background noise in our hearts and minds that we don’t think it’s there when it is – we just call it by other names – usually these days we call it “stress”, but calling it by another name doesn’t change its nature or its dynamics.

So what would it feel like to create without fear or anxiety? Without the voices in one’s head that say “What the hell are you doing, you fraud?” Or whatever else they decide to say in the moment to derail us from being creators, from acting in the image that we were made. What did God feel like when He was moving over the waters, over chaos, over void? What did it feel like, God, when you began to create? It must have been PURE joy.