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Inspiration as Grace

The other essay in the Theological Aesthetics book I am reading that has especially moved me is by the liberation theologian Leonardo Boff from his book Liberating Grace:

“The poet, the musician, and the writer feel overtaken by inspiration.  On the one hand, it is they who do the work. Their energy and their deepest selves are totally involved. The effort to express themselves often leads to complete exhaustion. On the other hand, they feel possessed by something that is above them, outside them, or within them. It drives them to create, compelling them to express their inner experience to the outside world. The poet exclaims that he is overtaken by words. The painter explains that forms and colours take possession of him. It is an experience of gratutitousness.

“Artistic creativity does not dispense us from effort, serious preparation, and discipline.  But these things merely pave the way for inspiration. Inspiration itself cannot be produced. It breaks in unexpectedly. This explains the importance of the right moment, when a host of imponderable factors come together to allow for the explosive emergence of creativity. That is why people make a distinction between technique and creativity. Technique can be exercised anytime.  Creativity has its own time, and cannot be compelled to show itself whenever one wills it.”

Do you ever experience inspiration as grace?

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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7 Responses

  1. In answer to your question: Yes, all the time.
    Many the times I have chafed for inspiration to come sooner! It comes when it comes and is always pure grace!

  2. Thanks Jenny. Tharp’s book is a great recommendation. I find great parallels in discipline for both the creative and spiritual journeys, both practices open me up to new possibilities.

    Rich, I hope you have a most wonderful time at the Glen! I really enjoyed the two times I went and have certainly enjoyed staying friends with you, one of the many gifts of that time. I am enjoying my own creative workshop this week learning Celtic art and design and have another workshop the week after next. Many blessings on your journey to NM, look forward to hearing all about it!

  3. I love this post and these comments. They really sing to me as I prepare to leave on Friday for the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe where I first met you, Christine. I’ll be taking the Poetry class with Scott Cairns. Can’t wait to renew old friendships, discover new ones, and be inspired by the amazing cross-pollination of creative disciplines. I am prepared to be abundantly blessed.

  4. I enjoy reading your posts whenever possible. I love this one and I look forward to looking up the book you’ve mentioned! This makes me think of Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit. Although not from a Christian perspective Tharp writes eloquently about the need for discipline. As I’ve matured, I’ve found being disicplined by following a daily routine allows those creative moments for the Spirit to use my gifts to the best of their ability come more often and easily. Thanks for the post.

  5. Milton, that is a great story! Thanks so much for sharing that. Yes, I agree, preparation is definitely a big part of the work!

    Thanks Timothy, you are most welcome. I am enjoying reading some wonderful food for thought these days.

  6. Christine

    I remember Henri Nouwen telling of going to a monastery for a personal retreat and being asked by the priest there to lead a retreat for a youth group whose leader had not shown up. Nouwen resisted, saying he had not prepared. The priest said something to the effect of, “You’ve spend your whole life preparing for moments like this. Just speak from the overflow.” Alongside of technique and creativity, I would add preparation. Inspiration, as grace, does show up on its own time, but we can prepare for its arrival.