What is creation?

Art ought always to be a response.

What do you think of that?

I don’t yet know what I think of it truly. But a fresh conviction came to me tonight, timid but persistent, that the act of creation ought always to be a response. To grief perhaps, or joy; to beauty, to pain, to any possible force or fact in the universe that can prod the human self awake. A spiritual reaction driven to expression by the wondering that woke it. My every word should be born of a need to express some knowing or emotion that has burgeoned up within my soul. I write by way of response, I speak because something has spoken into me.

I could be stating the extremely obvious here, but I am beginning to see in my life how broken a thing it is to write apart from response. Because, for me to create something apart from response to some outside emotion or beauty means that I draw creation out of the foundation of my self. What’s wrong with that I ask? Only that to write from the basis of my small knowledge, my little strength is really, to write out of a void. I am aware of a dull shame in me that knows that often I have written from the heady love of my own self worth; my wisdom, my insight, my hoarded authority. I have written in response to myself. And while any skillful expression is always a form of accomplishment, it isn’t necessarily, or perhaps almost ever, true creation. There is a sharp polarity between the well-honed words of carefully displayed knowledge, and the fitful, gorgeous torrent of expression spilling from a brain startled into speech.

In that way, I think that the act of creation is profoundly sacred because it teaches me yet again, to know that my human heart was made in all things to respond to something entirely beyond it. I’m beginning to perceive that I bring very little to the table of life… or truly poignant creation. The sort of art that embodies the cry of the human heart must be at its core, a cry of response itself. It is a cry echoed out to the Reality that provokes our hearts, pricks our souls, draws words from our mute, stubborn lips. I am humbled tonight to understand, to assent to the fact that I cannot draw great beauty or even salvation out of myself. If I tried, my creation would be only a subtly disguised worship of my own being. Creation must always be born of my heart’s response to that which cries out in the world around me.

But oh, I don’t mean that writing, that the crafting of any art, doesn’t require discipline. It does. Art of any kind requires a grand and daily diligence to show up and explore, to watch, and to follow the wakings of my heart when they come. I think I must be in some way a steward of the wonder I encounter. There is some sort of merit in me that is measured by the faith and skill I bring to the act of responsive creation. Writing sure doesn’t seem to be rosebuds and window seats. It takes gritty work to create, to encapsulate wonder, to even be the sort of person capable of response.

Like I said, these are wispy, just forming thoughts. I’m not sure how absolutely to state them. But I’m curious… are you?



Filed under Musings, Random (and I do mean random) Thoughts

4 responses to “What is creation?

  1. Eve

    I recently finished reading Annie Dillard’s book, “The Writing Life,” in which she wrote, “. . . the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

    I’ll have to think about art being a response. However, I will say that art must be at the very least God breathing through me. That is a response.

  2. Wispy and forming, maybe, but really wonderful! Thanks for writing.

  3. I am curious. And I want to be that sort of person. It’s encouraging to find such thoughts coming from someplace besides my own head. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing a little of what’s going on inside of yours!

  4. Jeanne

    I’ve just now found your blog, and already am inspired! You are expressing thoughts that have been fermenting lately in my own brain. This post– this post. You’ve given words to my own very, very whispy thoughts on just what it means to create, on what– if anything– I have to say.

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