Creativity and Community

I am currently co-writing a book with Sister Lucy of St. Placid Priory, on the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina for Paulist Press.  The deadline for the completed manuscript is November and the publication date will be spring of 2008 – yes indeed, the publishing wheels turn slolwy. This process has been a gift to me.  I get to write about a topic I love — cultivating the contemplative life through a particular practice.  I have a writing partner who has wonderful research and notes, and we have fruitful conversations before each chapter about how to shape it.  Writing can be a very solitary endeavor.  This is part of what draws me to it, I love the long days sitting alone before the blank page crafting words, inviting the imagined reader more deeply into a subject.  Calling on the Spirit to be with me in the process, to midwife my birthing.  Sometimes, I can also get lost in my own thoughts and need the interaction with another person to keep me going.  This is part of what I am enjoying about blogging as well, I love the feedback and interaction with readers whether by comments or email. 

Sometimes though all of the words seem so self-indulgent.  There are so many words in the world, maybe too many in this age of information.   I wonder if I am contributing or cluttering.  And yet, I know I could not not write. 

I also believe that creativity is meant to be expressed within a community.  God did not create us as creative beings purely for our own enjoyment and indulgence, of that I am quite sure.  Certainly we are to enjoy and indulge in the pleasures of creating, but we are also to bring the newness that is sparked deep within out into the world, engaging with others, taking the risk to be visible and articulate what we feel passionate about.  In that exchange both you and the reader (in the case of writing) will somehow be changed.  Writing helps me to understand what is most important to me.  Sharing my writing honors that creative call within me and reaches out in the faith that somehow it will make a difference.  Maybe not every word, but over a lifetime of being true to one’s call to creativity, there are untold numbers of people touched and shaped and who touch you in their response. Am I making a difference? is a question we all ask ourselves at some point, in our lives and really all we can do is walk forward in faithfulness to the deepest desires of our heart trusting that the newness we bring forth does indeed matter.   

Bringing our creative expression to community also helps us to discern what is of God and what is not.  Creativity in itself is a neutral act, we can bring both great beauty and great suffering into being.  When we release our creative urgings into the community, we are asking for it to be received, held, and transformed into what is most deeply life-giving. 

What are the sparks within you that you hold back?   What would happen if you released your hold on those vulnerable, precious desires for expression you have and let them stream into the world helping in some small way to illuminate the darkness?

-Christine Valters Paintner (sacredcenter (at) aol.com)

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