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Thoughts on Music, Community, and Spirituality
19 June 2014

Curbing Dysfunctional Creativity

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Photo Credit: Luvnish via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Luvnish via Compfight cc

Why do we create?

My journey as a song writer has been a mixed bag. To this day, when I sit down to write a song I feel an outside pressure. A pressure that creates an imaginary audience of my peers evaluating every chord I play and each word I sing.

It didn’t use to be that way. Not in the beginning. But in becoming a performing artist, I started to consider how people would respond to my music. While it is healthy and sometimes necessary to keep others in mind when you create, it can also be crippling. The enemy knows this and I believe it is one of his strategies against Christian artists.

What brings about Dysfunctional Creativity?

Are we lonely? When I first started playing guitar and writing songs, I was quiet and shy. I discovered that playing music helped me make friends. It helped me belong. In order to maintain that feeling, I would write more songs and keep playing. The problem with using your art to make friends is that you are not necessarily making friends – you are making fans. Fans like your art until they don’t, and then you are driven to find what they like to maintain their approval.

Are we attempting to cater to a particular audience? This ties closely to loneliness. Is there a group of people you are seeking to impress, or to appease? The scary thing about an “imaginary audience” is that it is often composed of real people in your life. You can see their faces, now can’t you? A family member, a record label, members of a church congregation. As a “professional” worship leader, there have been times where I have been urged to shift my art in order to appeal to particular segments of a congregation who didn’t connect with my style. While it is important that we serve others with our art and not become self-serving, we must not change who God has wired us to be as artists. The common thread in dysfunctional creativity is creating to be loved rather than creating because you are loved. To understand what it means to create from a healthy place we need to look to the example set by our Creator.

So why did God create the world? Since we bear the image of the Creator, this is an important question to ask. Was He lonely? This can’t be the case. God Himself exists in three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). God existed in perfect community with Himself. He exists in family. In fact He, in and of Himself, embodies family.

Was there a particular audience that He was trying to appease? Nothing else existed outside of God. There was no consumer market, no critics, no one to impress. And yet He was not self serving in His creativity. Look how mankind benefits from God’s art! He created as Himself and derived deep pleasure from what He made. “It was good.”

God created out of the overflow of love within Himself, within the Trinitarian relationship, bringing about the creation we see all around us. And the amazing thing is that as Christians, that same life flows through us! The divine life of God moving within the artist cures dysfunctional creativity. Are we creating from this overflow? Is our intimacy with God such that we are co-creating with Him?

-Ben

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