Creativity: It’s All Part of Something Bigger

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the creative process and my artistic place in this world. One conclusion that I’ve come to is that our creativity is purely a human process. There may be some internal magic, but it’s all based on our own life experiences and our willingness to work hard.

In a recent post, I said that artists who claim that they have some kind of mystical process, or act as conduits to some greater power come off as pretentious or superstitious. After that post, someone asked me why I care. They asked why I can’t…

just let everyone believe what they believe and find joy in their own process?

My response was simple. I don’t really care what one’s creative process is. If you want to claim you wake up at midnight and sleepwalk to the graveyard and channel Robert Johnson through a direct connection with the devil, go for it. If you say you step inside a church and suddenly you’re writing down lyrics to the next best-selling praise song. Amen.

Why contemplate the creative process?

My look into my own process is deeper than just wanting to understand creativity. It’s “spiritual,” if you will. I was raised in a Christian family. I was the child victim of an extreme religious cult. I’ve spent at least 25 years of my adult life actively practicing Christianity, attending churches, reading the Bible (more than five times), actively prayerful, etc. But something started changing when I was in my 40s, and that change has slowly led to some deep contemplation about what we refer to as God.

If you’d have asked me 20 years ago where my songs came from, I might have claimed there was some external power that helped me. Call it God, the muse, whatever. Heck, I might have made that claim five years ago. But I’ve come to some personal realizations. And that’s what I’m referring to when I say my deep look into my own creative process is part of something bigger. It’s a shift.

It all started years ago when my dad told me two things that he had come to believe about God.

  1. God loves all people and all people will be “saved.”
  2. There is no literal devil.

If you’re religious, I know what you’re thinking. Heresy. But if you have an open mind, let’s set that thought aside for a few minutes. I love the idea of universal salvation and want to believe in a God that is that loving. If there is a God, I believe he/she is that loving. But it’s the second concept that has slowly changed the way I think about God, religion, and now creativity.

There is no literal devil.

I take this to mean that, not only is there no horny red guy with a tail and a pitchfork in a fiery place, but there is no external evil spirit that tempts you and lures you into sinful behavior. That’s all you, baby. You fall prey to immoral thoughts. You decide to do things that might be considered inappropriate or evil by any given society’s standards. You!

One thing leads to another.

Over the past ten years, this concept that the devil does not really exist has changed how I view God. If there’s no devil leading us astray and we actually need to take responsibility for our own behaviors and admit that we were wrong, then doesn’t that work in both directions?

Seriously, do you think there is a physical or spiritual God-like entity that blesses you for good behavior? I was taught if I just prayed hard enough, if I only believed strongly enough, that I would be blessed, that good things would happen to me. I think I’m safe to say that that is part of the basic Christian mindset.


And here’s where we get back to creativity.

Coming to the conclusion that creativity is a distinctly human activity has led me to understand that we are not spiritual conduits for some kind of magical process. We are that process. We are the “magic.” We are like God.

I’m teetering on the fence between believing in a God and becoming an atheist. Years of studying and practicing religion has actually led me to see how foolish it can be. Imagine grown adults all believing in a literal Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or the Devil? I’ve concluded that my life is no different, neither blessed nor cursed, whether or not I pray or read a certain book. Both good and bad things happen to everyone. Still, one thing continues to keep me on the side of believing in a God. Creativity.

But you said creativity is a strictly human process.

That’s right. I did. And I do believe that. There is no secret power that zaps us with the magic to write great songs or create great works of art. That comes from our genetical make up and a ton of hard work.

But one of the first things said in the Bible is simply that “God made us in his own image.” Bam. There it is. Creativity. If there is a God, a maker of the universe and all life, he or she is creative. And we were made in that image. That means we are internally and naturally creative beings. It also means that we have the power to decide when and how we use that creativity.

So as I said in the title of this essay, “it’s all part of something bigger” going on within me. I’ve come to two ultimate conclusions:

  1. Either there is no God and we control our own lives to the point that we can.
  2. Or there is a God, but rather than it being the God the modern church has shoved down our throats, he or she is solely a creator-God, and we in turn are creative beings.

So why do I care? Why does it matter if some creative people want to believe that they are blessed by God and have some sort of supernatural power coming through in their work? Personally, it doesn’t matter.

But collectively, I think it does. I think that an artist who makes claims of some kind of other-worldly process, magic, or spiritual insight is not bringing light to a “God,” they are only making pretentious claims about themselves. They paint themselves as being on a higher level than the “average creative.” They are claiming to have some kind of magic beyond our simple humanity. They are claiming that they don’t work for it, that they are magically gifted, and that makes them more worthy of praise and critical acclaim. See the problem? It’s disingenuous and ego-based.

As for me, I prefer humility. My ability to be creative may or may not be the result of a higher power. But I’m not special because I can write halfway decent poems and songs. There is no magical process. The words and music are not planted in me by some external spirit. I am human. I am creative. It’s part of how I comuunicate my humanity.

I am creativity. It’s in me. But I have to work hard to put that creativity onto paper and into music. I am human. My creative works are human. I’m proud of that. We should all be proud of our human experience and our ability to communicate that experience through art. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.