The first rule of improv is you don’t talk about improv. No, wait. That’s Fight Club.
The first rule of improv is “Yes and…”
Okay, technically, some say there are three or even six rules, and some say there are no rules to improv at all. But ultimately, every school of thought will agree that the quintessential modus operandi of improv can be encapsulated in the single phrase “Yes and..” It’s about reacting, being fully present, and going along with whatever is thrown at you in a scene. There’s no room for denying, no negating, and no going back.
Creativity can be a lot like this too. If we want to fully awaken our creativity, we need to dive right in, saying “Yes and..”, swimming right past fear, doubt, and distraction.
Before you dismiss this blog and stop reading because “I’m not the creative type,” let me suggest that we are all creative in some way. We bear the Imago Dei of the Original Creator, after all.
Creativity can look like a lot of things. Artisans are the first that come to mind: writers, photographers, singers, decoupagers. But there is also creativity to be found in other, less obvious avenues: teaching, cooking, relational interaction, parenting. We could spend a whole blog just exploring the different expressions of creativity imprinted in each unique individual.
Wherever you find yourself on this creativity spectrum, there are always ways we can expand the quality, consistency, and effectiveness of our God-given creativity.
I’ve created a handy little acronym to help us dig deeper into this idea. Side note: I’m not really an acronym kind of guy, but I thought I’d give it a whirl, to expand my creativity in this area. ;)
Inspiration is all around us. The way the sun casts a shadow through a dirty window. The ebbs and flows of your upstairs neighbor’s too-loud music. The nuances in your best friend’s face as they recount a personal story, hoping you’ll read between the lines. How many of these things do we notice? How much of our life is spent on autopilot or in a perpetual rush hour kind of living? There is a beauty in stillness, in being fully present to the little things.
Let’s take this a step further. All inspiration comes from the Maker of the Universe. He is whispering through everything we encounter. Can we hear His voice in the little things? Are we being attentive to Him? We all bear the imprint of the Creator. Everything stems from Him. He is the Vine, we are the branches. Without Him, we can do nothing. When a pen runs out of ink, it cannot write anymore. And neither can we pour out creativity if we’re spiritually empty. Let’s pay attention to the needs of our soul by always returning to the One who breathes the life of creativity into us in the first place.
Abide in Me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
John 15:4 ESV
No to Doubt
(I’ll admit - this one’s clunky. I told you I’m not an acronym guy).
When I was asked to write this blog, doubt--as always--barged in, large and in charge. Me? You want me to write about expanding creativity? There are way more creative people out there, maybe they should write this. I’m not sure I have anything of value to say.
The irony here is that creativity is quite literally in my job description. As the Production Director here at Cornerstone, a large part of my responsibility is content creation - like the original artistic expressions for Easter and Christmas. And even after years of doing this, and even though I believe that the Lord has placed me here in this season for such a time as this, and even though I believe I have a unique God-given skill set, I still doubt myself and disqualify what I can bring to the table.
And that, folks, is how you shrink creativity.
Let’s not doubt the gifts the Lord has placed in us. Let’s not negate our contribution. Let’s not compare our creativity to others’.
He put a light in you. He put a song in you. Don’t let fear or self-doubt cripple you. Give your gifts back to the Giver and lean into His hands. You’ll be amazed at the story He can write through you.
God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.
2 Timothy 1:7 MSG
There’s nothing profound about this final idea. If you want to be more creative, you must just be creative more. It’s as simple as that.
But it’s often so hard to actually do.
For me, the hardest part about writing is starting. I know the time and energy it will require of me. I know the agony and ecstasy that awaits me. As Ernest Hemingway remarked: There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.
Creativity, like a muscle, will atrophy if we do not consistently work it out. And as hard as it is to just sit down and do it, we need to make time to exercise our creative gifts if we want to expand their effectiveness.
The same is true spiritually. If we do not even begin to enter into the Lord’s presence, if we do not consistently make time to read His Word, if we do not commit to prayer, worship, and even attending church on Sundays, our faith life will begin to stagnate.
Discipline is hard work. But we must do it. There’s no other way around it.
But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says.
James 19:22 NLT
If you’ve been keeping tabs, our acronym spells AND. So what is it that you need to say “Yes AND” to in your creative expressions or in your faith journey? Is God inviting you into a season of stillness and solitude to better remain attentive to His promptings? Is He inviting you to lean even more heavily on His promises of trust? Or maybe He’s saying to you, “The time is now - go and do.” Wherever you may be, let’s remember the first rule of improv.