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Spontaneity and Limitations

Creativity arises out of the tension between spontaneity and limitations, the latter – like the river banks – forcing the spontaneity into various forms which are essential to the work of art or poem.   – Rollo May

The creative life requires this gentle tension between freedom and structure, or spontaneity and limitations as May says.  This is where a Rule of Life can be helpful, providing a gentle trellis of structure for our lives.  When approached with freedom and playfulness, boundaries can really help spark our creativity.  I find in my teaching, I need to introduce participants gently and slowly to engaging the creative process.  We begin with more structure and guidelines and as the group becomes more comfortable and free with the materials, less is needed.  Sometimes facing that blank page or canvas can be intimidating.  Often all that is needed is a little prompting, something to help limit your focus.  This may be a lingering question, an image that has appeared in a dream or prayer, the support of a good friend, or a phrase that leaps off the page of your reading.

What are the river banks of your life that help nurture your creative expression and what are the prisons that serve to squelch it?  Where do you find the sparks that help to inspire you? Where do you desire to feel more freedom?  Where do you need more support?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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2 Responses

  1. Hi SM, Thank you for developing this riverbank image, “open, free, gently scultping” is indeed a wonderful image of God! What do you do with all that creative energy that you don’t have time or energy to follow through with? I find I struggle with far more creative ideas than I can ever give full expression to.
    Blessings, Christine

  2. Christine, these are good questions. Thank you. As a songwriter I find that I am constantly engaging ideas, images, sparks in the ovaries of my creativity. In the five years of my motherhood I have followed through with fewer of these creative impulses than before motherhood. And yet the sparks come faster and more often! I will ponder this image of the riverbanks for my creativity.

    On a side note, my husband (also a songwriter) wrote a congregational hymn likening God to the Riverbank – not rigid or strict or micro-managing. But open; free; gently sculpting the earth for our unique pathways and flows. Many traditions liken God to the River. I had never before conceptualized God in the RiverBank role. It is nice to encounter that memory here, too.