Creatives are catalysts for violence

In a park two strangers sit on a bench in the dry heat of the afternoon. Beads of sweat gather on the their foreheads and upper lips and they stare off into the distance when one man says to the other some bit about his life, some small nugget of truth like, “I miss my daughter,” or “It’s hot,” or some other kind of cliched phrase one stranger might say to another.

To which the other replies, “Word.”

And here we’ve come into some kind of agreement, a pact, if you will, of two men saying truth has just spoken and we align ourselves with this truth. Hence the phrase, “Word,” which moves in and out of fashion (probably out by now), but which stays with me because of it’s irony, that “word” in its literalness is also truth, “Word-up,” or “For sure,” which is just music. We’re singing to each other now. We can say any number of variations which is all lyrical and musical and essentially poetry speak that’s created a reality between two people. Something that did not exist is now fully alive, yet, invisible.

Or we can answer silently, by nodding our head or in our hearts confirming, thus we are always creating new realities in twos and more, that interaction is based upon acceptance and rejection, deflection and disagreement.

We speak poetry to each other every day. In the mundane and unmemorable moments we’re singing poetic connection.

“The relationship between the poet, the poem, and the reader not as a static entity but as a dynamic unfolding. An emerging sacramental event. A relation between an I and a You. A relational process,” (Edward Hirsch). Like how reading Scripture places us within this process with our Creator. Or hearing the stories about a spouse’s day connects one to his/her feelings and emotions.

Roy Peter Clark expands on the idea of twos in connection:

The secret knowledge I seek, I now believe, is embodied by and embedded in the number two. Just as two defines the information coding of computer science and genetics, two has become in my mind the essential number to create meaning in all texts, most visibly in short texts: Jesus wept. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee…

We may have the analytical skills to slice a long work into several parts. But when we seek the sources of energy, again and again it seems to resolve itself to two.

Here is the idea of noun and verb colliding and connecting the way a reader connects and collides with stories and poems.

Creatives are catalysts for violence.

Revel in the Process and you’re more likely to make it to the finishing line

Nothing is ever completely abandoned.

I become discouraged from projects without much discouragement. I make lofty long term goals and remind myself of them to stay motivated. But I still get so discouraged. I learned I’m going about it all wrong. These scientists concluded,

External rewards can backfire. Offer a child treats for making pretty drawings and whereas they used to scribble away for the sheer joy of it, now they’ll only put pen to paper for that candy you promised. The difference here is that Fishbach and Choi believe that our intrinsic motivation can be imperilled even without the offer of rewards from a third party. By focusing on the ultimate goals of an activity, we risk destroying our intrinsic motivation all by ourselves…

Visualize your goals to help get yourself started in the first place, but once you’re underway, try to let your long-term mission fade a little into the background. Revel in the process and you’re more likely to make it to the finishing line. (via 99%)

I always thought it’d be the other way around. I focus on having a book finished and published. I don’t even think about it selling well, just published. But my focus should be in the moment of the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, the characters, etc.

But what happens when you get stuck, when it’s not any fun, when the present moment sucks and won’t make any progress?

One way to move toward creative thinking (heating the crystal) when your thinking has crystallized is to forget your problem and think about some other unrelated subject. Then conceptually blend the two dissimilar subjects to provoke different thinking patterns in your brain. These new patterns will make new connections which will give you different ways to focus your attention and different ways to interpret what you are focusing on. It is impossible to think of two or more dissimilar subjects, no matter how unrelated, without connections being formed.

Think for a moment about a pinecone. What relationship does a pinecone have with the processes of reading and writing? In France, in 1818, a 9-year-old boy accidentally blinded himself with a hole puncher while helping his father make horse harnesses. A few years later the boy was sitting in the yard thinking about his inability to read and write when a friend handed him a pinecone. He ran his fingers over the cone and noted the tiny differences between the scales. He conceptually blended the feel of different pinecone scales with reading and writing, and realized he could create an alphabet of raised dots on paper so the blind could feel and read what was written with it. In this way, Louis Braille opened up a whole new world for the blind. (via PT)

I did this very thing, started thinking about paintings on iPads and then my brain was making all kinds of connections and metaphors to the main subject on my mind.

What’s your intrinsic motivation?
or
What has you stuck?

Dialogue is almost too easy

The novelist James Jones on his fear of evading problems in his stories:

Dialogue is almost too easy. For me. So much so that it makes me suspicious of it, so I have to be careful with it. I could find myself evading problems of true expression because dialogue’s so easy for me to do. There are many important issues and points of subtlety about people, about human behavior, that I want to make in writing, and it’s easy to evade these—or do them superficially, do them halfway—by simply writing good dialogue. And it becomes increasingly easy as I get to know the people better. But good dialogue just isn’t enough to explain the subtler ramifications of the characters and incidents that I’m trying to work out now. Not realistic dialogue, anyway. Perhaps if you used some kind of surrealistic dialogue, but then it would read like a dream episode. It wouldn’t be real talk. For instance, it’s obvious enough that in almost any conversation things are happening to the people in the conversation that they do not and cannot express. In a play it is possible for a good actor to imply that he is thinking something other than what he is saying. But it’s pretty slipshod and half-assed, because he cannot convey what he’s thinking explicitly. In prose, and especially in the novel form, this can be done. If the man is using a subterfuge, it can be explained explicitly, and why. Actually, in life, conversation is more often likely to be an attempt at deliberate evasion, deliberate confusion, rather than communication. We’re all cheats and liars, really. And the novelist can show just how and why we are.

(via The Paris Review.)

Creativity Series: Tyler Braun “The Blinking Cursor and My Rising Pulse”

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Series asks 13 Creatives to wrestle with how they make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay? What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them? I’d also like to hear from YOU. Send me your thoughts or a link to your post wrestling with these questions at rossgale4@gmail.com.

If you comment on today’s post you will be entered into a drawing to win Tyler Braun’s debut book Why Holiness Matters. You have until Friday to enter and I’ll announce the winner over the weekend.

Download episodes or Subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

Listen to the podcast:

Those of us who write know the awful feeling of staring at a blinking cursor on a blank page. For those who paint, it’s the bristles of the paintbrush sitting in the paint while staring at a blank canvas. For those who write music, it’s the fingers resting on the keys of the piano waiting for inspiration to come.

I liken it to staring out into the empty expanse of the desert. We see seemingly no life. Everything around us is dead.

Something I can only describe as God-breathed or magical (depending on your worldview) happens between the blinking cursor, my rising pulse, and the finished product of beauty.

I could write about the four principles that drive me from beginning to end, but those principles won’t work for you. We love to create a formula for creating. The problem is each of us was made differently. We each have different passions, desires, and experiences. Why is it that we then try to formulate overcoming the blank page into tried and true principles and action steps? We should know better.

Here’s the reality I’ve come to know about creating out of emptiness: It takes humble submission.

Creatives don’t need more confidence or more inspiration to do the work. Nope, creatives need humility in order to create well.

Somewhere in the midst of the blinking cursor and my rising pulse I have a moment of clarity when I realize I’m incapable. I cannot do this creation on my own. I do not have the ability. My own worldview informs me that it is the God inside of me who begins His inspiring work once I’m able to get my own arrogant agenda out of the way. Why must I learn this lesson over and over I wonder?

In the creation account found in Genesis 1, God has created much of the world we see around us, even the cosmos our own eyes cannot see. He made it and called it good. But the work continued on as God created Adam and Eve.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26)

Think of the implications of this as it relates to our own ability to create:

1) We are created in the “likeness” of the Creator.

2) The same creative power that breathed the universe into existence lives in us.

We could translate Genesis 1:26 by saying God created us to be His “icons” or reflections or windows. We were made to point to Him.

So what does any of this have to do with overcoming the blank page? Everything.

As we lay down our own agendas and our own creative arrogance for the sake of serving the Creator we have an opportunity for Him to work through us. We were made by Him, with His creative imprint, to go about our lives creating for the sake of our Creator.

Between the blinking cursor and the finished product is the place where we humbly sacrifice ourselves for the sake of becoming people the Creator can use in order to create through us.

True creation comes through no other way.

Creatives need to humbly submit themselves to the Master Artist.


Tyler Braun is a 27-year-old INTJ living in Portland, Oregon with his wife Rose. He works full time as a worship leader, while also finding time to study at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in pursuit of a masters degree. Tyler’s first book releases in August of this year through Moody Publishers and is available for pre-order now. You can find Tyler on TwitterFacebook, or his blog.


Finding the Courage to Create: Inspiration from our Writing Community

Download episodes or Subscribe to the Podcast on Itunes by clicking here.

“Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity.” —Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Tomorrow our 2nd Creative, Derek Smith, will share with us his meditation titled, “19 Beginnings for a Blog About Beginnings.” You still have time to comment on Elizabeth Myhr’s post “Hello” and if you leave a comment you enter yourself into a chance to win her book the vanishings & other poems. I’ll announce the winner of the book tomorrow.

As a part of the Bereshit Bara Creativity Series I’ll be sharing posts and links from our writing community. Creatives are asking themselves difficult questions about what it means to be writers, painters, musicians, artists, photographers, etc. If you’d like to join the conversation go here to read about our series and email me a link to your post (rossgale4 at gmail dot com) where you wrestle with these questions about finding the courage to create. These questions are leading us to even deeper insight and further questions about the act of creation and how we’re creating the culture around us.

Please visit these courageous Creatives to read more of their hearts and minds.

• K.D. Byers “The Courage to Create

My secret is that I write because I am selfish. I can’t can’t help myself; I have to create. When my cross country season was over it dislocated me. My muscles jerked and twitched. I looked toward windows with the thought of when I could get a run in. Writing is like that, but bigger. I may be doing things, but I’d rather be writing. It is a guttural thing.

In Hebrew, the word for God’s creative energy is bara, but for human endeavors the verb asah, to make, is used. Only God can bara. Our creativity is always in the image of the Creator, whether we acknowledge it or not. I believe all of us are compelled to make, whether it be art or families or technology, so because we too were created. The act has sunk down into our marrow and seeps out, like vestiges from God’s bara. We can’t not create. It is in us.

• Lloyd’s of Rochester “Accepting the Creative Challenge

Am I a truly a Creative? I wonder… I write because I am a writer, a “teacher,” a sharer of insights, ideas and information – I am a Wordsmith. It takes no courage for me to write in the same way it takes no courage for a bird to fly – it is the outpouring of who I am, with no tinge of arrogance or indifference. So if I do not wrestle in this way, do I even qualify?

Bereshit Bara Creativity Blog Series: A Glimpse at the First Creative

The Bereshit Bara Creativity Blog Series

…is fast approaching. I’m actually scared about it because the 13 Creatives are sharing with us ideas and stories which challenge my own identity as a Creative.

It’s as if the ground beneath my feet is giving way to nothing. I’m falling and I don’t know when or if or how I’ll land.

I’m torn because these meditations need a much bigger platform than I can offer here at my blog. I’m so grateful these 13 Creatives are sharing with us.

The Creativity Series Opens June 4th

If you have written your own post struggling with the questions I set forth here, please send me the link. I’ll be sharing our community’s posts along with the 13 Creatives. I’ll be linking so it’s a great way to share with us your own blog and to connect with others who share your passion.

I want to just share the whole series with you now, but truthfully it’s too much to handle at once. I’m going to make a request that when you participate in the series, either by reading or commenting or sharing your own post (which I hope you do), that you come with an open mind and heart ready to be pushed and pulled and challenged. Come as a block of clay.

I know that’s a lot to ask. It’s a daunting task, but I think you might be changed through it. I have.

Here’s a teaser image for the first post on June 4th by the poet Elizabeth Myhr. At the end of the week I’ll let you know how you can win a copy of Elizabeth Myhr’s book the vanishings & other poems. (Yes, her book title is purposely spelled in all lower-case. That’s how rockstar she is.)

Creativity is a constant invitation to virtue

Gregory Wolfe on creativity,

I would argue that the truest, most unsentimental thing we can say about creativity is that it is a constant invitation to virtue, that if we step back and look for the deeper meanings of the creative urge, and the lessons of the creative process, we will discover myriad opportunities to develop our inner lives, whether we are makers ourselves or are simply responding to the creativity of others…

The undermining of traditional Western ideas about creativity has brought about a deep cultural impoverishment. Creativity may be only an invitation to virtue—an invitation that is not always accepted—but it exists only in individual souls, souls that must struggle to observe the world, empathize with its inhabitants, and shape an artifact into a form that communicates meaning to others.

Beauty Will Save the World by Gregory Wolfe

My Mom on Creativity Now She’s Facing an Empty Nest

This month my brother will move out of the house, the last child to do so, and my parents for the first time since the first few years of their marriage will have the house to themselves. They met in college, my mother an art education major. She’d planned to teach art in high school, but then had a son who became severely disabled and the only time she taught art was when she home-schooled us.

I remember her water color paintings of sheep in pastures, of hockey players, a night time baseball game, and intricate weaving hearts. I remember her pencil sketches of detailed faces and her doodles on napkins while she chatted on the phone. I can say she is an artist. But for the past decade or more her art has stalled and now, with an empty home, she’s buying art supplies.

My mother:

There’s an art store down on Hawthorne I found the other day. It was very small and intimate. The clerk shouted out a hello as I walked to the back. I acted like I knew what I was doing, but felt like I was in a foreign country unable to read the signs. I was very intimidated, but I found the printmaking stuff. It wasn’t much, just a small section about 2 feet by 2 feet. Everything seemed to be student quality, meaning cheap. That made me happy. I don’t want to invest too much money on something I might stare at for a couple of weeks or months. Paper always draws me, so I grabbed a stack of white printing paper. I asked the clerk which was better, the 10 set of cutting tools or the one tool for the same price (what an idiot!). I grabbed the one cutting tool.

When I looked at the Linoleum, which is what you use to carve your print, there were three kinds. One was too soft, one was too hard, and one was just right, or so I thought. The clerk said most printmakers will choose the hard one since it will make finer details. I mumbled “I wasn’t into that,” under my breath, hoping he didn’t hear the idiot speaking. I grabbed the linoleum that was just right. A whole piece about 1 foot by 1 foot in which I will cut smaller pieces so I can create more prints. At home I still had my brayer which rolls the ink on the linoleum and some other cutting tools that are just a few years old. I have had them since college. Quit COUNTING! They are not old, just vintage, as long as they do not fall to dust when I touch them.

Alas, that is the point. Every thing is sitting on the dining room table, mocking me. Waiting for that one creative thought in which I can start carving.

Maybe it will come today…but I really should clean the toilets.

That’s where the 13 Creatives enter the story, because they’ve faced the empty void. They’ll be an encouragement, an inspiration, and a spark for all us Creatives. Maybe even my Mom.

Go check out these 13 Creatives who will be guest posting here from June through August:

Tyler Braun, manofdepravity.com
David Clark, davidclarkart.com
Dyana Herron, dyanaherron.com
Diana Huey, possibly a hermit
Chris Hunter, possibly a recluse
Elizabeth Myhr, elizabethmyhr.wordpress.com
David Jacobsen, jacobsenwriting.com
Adele Konyndyk, adelekonyndyk.wordpress.com
Shannon Huffman Polson, aborderlife.com
Britt Tinsdale Staton, alivestudios.net
Chad Thomas Johnston, chadthomasjohnston.com
Derek Smith, magicalteaching.com
Alissa Wilkinson, alissawilkinson.com

“In The Beginning” Blog Series on Creativity

“Bereshit bara…” thus the book of Genesis opens. “In the beginning…”

I’ve asked 13 incredibly talented Creatives to share with us what gives them the courage to create. They are writers, authors, teachers, professors, doctors, waitresses, pastors, painters, musicians, editors, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands. I just like to call them Creatives.

Creating is a daunting task. But it’s also full of joy and meaning and mystery.

How do Creatives make the first move, write the first word, fling the first brush stroke, peel back the first layer of clay?

What inspires them, what moves them, what drives them?

These are questions I wrestle with every day. Beginning anew with a blank page or a fresh idea, battling fatigue and weariness and distractions and discouragement and lack of motivation.

I want to know how other Creatives create and about the forces that drive them.

The series will begin in June and continue through August. It’s intended to be a conversation, a meditation, and an inspiration.

But this is only the beginning of the conversation

I need YOU to take part. I need you to write a blog post that wrestles with these questions. THEN SEND ME THE LINK (rossgale4 at gmail dot com) so I can share it here with our community and we can extend the conversation beyond just blogs and comments and shares and likes. I want it to move the conversation beyond our computers to our family, friends, and communities. I hope the image sparks some more thought. Let me know if you’ll be participating.

The 13 Creatives

Tyler Braun, manofdepravity.com
David Clark, davidclarkart.com
Dyana Herron, dyanaherron.com
Diana Huey
Chris Hunter
Elizabeth Myhr, elizabethmyhr.wordpress.com
David Jacobsen, jacobsenwriting.com
Adele Konyndyk, adelekonyndyk.wordpress.com
Shannon Huffman Polson, aborderlife.com
Britt Tinsdale Staton, alivestudios.net
Chad Thomas Johnston, chadthomasjohnston.com
Derek Smith, magicalteaching.com
Alissa Wilkinson, alissawilkinson.com

The next time you find yourself resisting time spent with your creative passion, draw on the wisdom of monks

From “The Artist Begins Again and Again” by Christine Valters Painter:

There will be days when we don’t feel like coming to blank page or canvas or the meditation cushion. There will be days when life seems to conspire actively against this, and we begin to believe that the creative life just isn’t possible for us or that our lives are too full to cultivate this kind of free expression. This is acedia talking, a kind of dialogue with the inner critic that haunts most artists and sabotages our sincerest efforts. When this happens—and it will happen—our invitation is to gently notice this and begin yet again.

The next time you find yourself resisting time spent with your creative passion, draw on the wisdom of monks and make a commitment to start anew right now. Hold yourself lightly, perhaps even seeing humor in your patterns. Humor is rooted in the word humus, which means earthiness and is also the root of the word humility.  Acknowledge that you are human and to be human means to forget sometimes our deeper desires. Embrace your imperfections as the landscape of your journey.

Each morning ask where you need to begin and start there with humility, compassion, and with holy anticipation. Everything else follows this.