If there’s something you want to create—a book, a song, a website, a business, a painting—that you aren’t creating, I bet you have a really good reason.
You have too much going on (work, commute, family responsibilities, mild terror), or not enough of something (time, money, expertise, cabins in the woods). You don’t know how to start, or your setup isn’t right, or you’ll get to it later.
I tell myself all of these.
Some days I sit down to write and suddenly nothing seems so important as the sink full of dishes in the other room, or the fact that my toenails might need trimming.
Or my youngest will wake up when she should be sleeping, or my oldest will ask for help deciphering the hieroglyphics that are high school geometry.
A distracting tree-trimming guy will set up his wood chipper in the street behind my house, or the coyotes in the canyon out front will start howling so close that I decide I probably ought to go check that they’re not in the yard. (Not that I would know what to do if they were.)
And that’s just on the outside.
On the inside, I see that cursor on the screen blinking at me and I imagine it’s asking, Do you even have anything worthwhile to say?
Fear starts talking, though sometimes it sounds like doubt or cynicism or insecurity:
- What if this doesn’t make sense?
- What if it doesn’t connect with anyone else?
- What if isn’t good enough?
Does this even matter?
You’ve probably heard this quote from early-twentieth-century theologian Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
If you are a person who comes alive through creativity, then creativity matters because coming alive matters.
The more you come alive, the more you see ways to use that life to serve the world. You become more yourself, and you see where your gifts and passions can meet the needs around you.
But there’s another reason that creativity matters that I learned from Howard Thurman’s teachings.
“There is in you something that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself… and if you cannot hear the sound of the genuine in you, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”
The sound of the genuine is your true identity and “the music God heard when He said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’”
Isn’t that beautiful?
The genuine, then, sounds like truth and love and an awareness of who you are. The sound of the genuine is not the voice of fear. If we’re following our fears instead of creating, we’re going in the wrong direction. And I’m guessing the rest of our excuses and distractions aren’t helping, either. All that talk about too-much and not-enough? That is us, listening to the wrong thing.
If you hear the “sound of the genuine” expressed in you when you paint, or write, or sing, or create, then the excuses don’t matter and the results aren’t the point. Listening is the point.
We have really good reasons for not creating. Sure we do.
But if we’re listening, we might find even better reasons to get to work.