“You need to make time for writing. It’ll make you happier.”
I was giving advice to a young friend. Nicole is 26 and lives in Dublin, Ireland. She was home for a visit with her family and friends. She went to Ireland for a masters program in playwriting at Trinity University, shortly after graduating from college in the U.S. with a degree in theater production. Since earning her graduate degree, she has been working in an upscale beauty shop, specializing in eyebrows. Apparently, eyebrows are important in fashionable Dublin these days. Making a living and doing adult chores, like filing taxes in two countries, has limited her time for writing plays.
“I know, that’s true,” she replied. “I really did Halloween big this year. I made amazing costumes. . . .”
Weren’t we talking about writing? Yes, but what we really were talking about was creativity, which for Nicole requires many arenas for expression. Costumes, plays, poetry, eyebrows—this is a young woman who as a child could concoct fabulous stories in response to the simple question, “How was school today?”
“It was terrible. We had a substitute teacher. She only spoke Chinese.” Or, “The teacher made us all take naps, and then she walked on our heads.” Where did these ideas come from, I used to wonder when Nicole was 5 years old. And then I would try to keep up as this long-legged bundle of energy and ideas would lead my much shorter, but equally imaginative, 4-year-old daughter in hours of fantasy play.
There is no question that someone with Nicole’s gifts needs creative outlets to be happy in life. But those of us with different bents, who may be more analytical, or more practical, or more conventional than artistic, also need opportunities to be creative. Even as I spoke, I knew my advice was for myself as well as for Nicole. I’m happier when I’m creating, too. I think that’s the case for everyone. And I believe that’s true because I believe we are made in the image of a creator God.
A few days before the conversation with Nicole, I watched as an artist-theologian created brightly colored panels on a stage in a hotel ballroom with 750 onlookers.(see photo) In front of her, speakers and worship leaders did their thing, leading the conference. They had a lot to say, and behind them, she kept creating as they spoke. The speakers and the artist finished together, and the conference-goers went home to their busy lives. Long after the many wise words we heard are forgotten, those of us who were there are likely to retain a vivid visual memory of the conference theme, “God’s new thing: See it! Hear it! Live it!”
The artists among us often labor to make a living and make art on the side. The artist inside each one of us also asks for a venue, and valued time, in our crowded lives. See it. Hear it. Live it. God made us to be creative, and always creating.
Artist: Shawna Bowman, at Association of Presbyterian Church Educators Annual Event, Chicago, IL, January 27-30, 2016
Photograph by Dan Krebill