Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The genesis of creativity

A feeling is coming over me that-- miracle of miracles that I can detect this-- I am about to offend believers in fundamentalist Christianity. So I warn them right now-- come back next Saturday, you will be happier.

This week we had a delightful break at the Coast. Three nights with friends at a rental house that the four of us have had four times since 2008 (We have taken a photo like the one below each time and I will post them all sometime). Along with such a wonderful time of sitting and watching the ocean (I learned when there that I can watch the waves and birds for hours and not find it boring or too much), we had a lot of great conversations and good food.  

One of the conversation is about to morph into this blog as I woke up last night thinking about miracles, magic, magick, mystery, muses, or... the mundane.

At the house, i was sitting on the sofa watching the ocean waves and birds while Diane was painting and I brought up something I'd been reading. Mark Burnett, the producer of The Survivor (to me an icky show about profiting from manipulation), who has now put out a mini-series on the History Channel, The Bible, claimed miracles happened on the set proving God had his hand in the production and wanted it made. 

That he would say such a thing irked me for two reasons. One I've heard that talk throughout my life. When a shooter kills a bunch of people, often one of those who didn't get shot credits it to a miracle. When a hiker is lost and crews find them-- miracle. Miracles are thought to prove God's hand is on that person's life which is generally thought to mean they were spared because they were still needed here (what does that say about those who weren't spared?). This is the talk of a personal god, the kind who gets involved in productions of TV series because everybody knows He can't adequately publicize himself. 

This ignores what happened to those who did get shot, the hiker who didn't get found, the person the bear did kill. It ignores the one who needed a new car but it didn't suddenly appear (God takes great interest in providing material goods to his beloved). Well not totally ignores as then the spiel is-- it was for their own good that it (loss/disease/disappointment/etc.) happened. Always these things are miracles whichever way it goes.

In a week where a lot of talk was over a new Pope, religion is a topic of conversation anyway (good, bad, or no change for the Church?). I might forgive a reality TV show producer for claiming God blessed his new project by miraculous signs that he was looking for, but what really irked me is this supposedly creative person (I'll reserve judgment on that one but certainly successful), wouldn't understand how creativity works and his supposed miraculous events relate more to that then to some divine intervention.

Of course, believers would say I am about to be blasphemous (which is why I warned them away and take no responsibility for them being offended). I would be blasphemous if I believed God/god/deity had anything to do with his claimed miracles or that now the series is getting very high ratings which is shocking everybody-- supposedly -- or at least those who don't know how many claim to be Christians in our country. (on that link, check out the clip at the bottom for the trailer and the level of acting in the show-- more special effects than great acting was my take if that is the 'best' it has anyway).

My conversation with Diane, while i was sitting on the sofa watching the ocean to possibly photography the perfect ocean wave/pelicans/eagle and she was standing at her easel tweaking her painting of that ocean, was more my thinking on how creativity works than that a shyster might once again be scamming a bunch of people with his piety (seen it before, haven't we). 

When we are into a creative work, when we have put together the pieces that can make it happen, then is when the muse (which is a word I like but don't mean by it a being necessarily but the energy wave that comes with creative work) can bring into play more elements. Things happen that we didn't expect. 

Creativity doesn't happen when someone is not doing the work. It happens in the midst of it and the lucky accidents keep adding to what is possible. It's serendipity and those who do creative work learn to expect it.

When I carved, in stone I always thought the sculpture was inside and just needed me to carve away what was getting in its way. Then later working with clay, the same thing. A blob of clay that I would begin kneading to take out the air bubbles would begin to reveal what it was intended to be. If I had waited to work that clay until I had a plan, I'd likely have never sculpted.

Now it's true of my writing. I know the gist of where I am going but once I have set characters into that setting, as I am into the middle of it, lots of cool things come along that I enjoy very much. As the writer, I don't take credit for all this happening. I also don't know from where it really comes; however, I see as enriching for me as the creator and for what will come from my work. 

As an example with the story I am currently writing. I knew because of when/where the events were taking place that grizzly bears were potential in the area even though later they disappeared from Oregon (they're returning now into the northeastern corner or so I have been told by locals). Way ahead of where I was writing, I began thinking how the bear would impact the story. By the time I got to where it was going to happen, the events were just there. Nothing I originally imagined but far better. 

If someone wants to write, paint, sculpt, etc., and they think they are not creative, my advice is just start. It is in the doing that the chances come along that enrich the work, that can seem like a miracle but in reality is just a product of doing and being aware.

To me creative work always involves lucky accidents, recognizing a meaning beyond the obvious, and running with it. The fact that someone wants to make that into a miracle to bless their life or work over someone else's offends me. 

In the link above, there is a trailer to the movie Burnett created. It's worth taking a peek at what he considers the best of the shows. Farm Boss laughed when he saw it but his laughter also is likely blasphemy to the true believers-- where's a good lightning bolt when you need one or was god also laughing? 

Someone who is supposed to be doing God's work and has the hand of God on that work, wouldn't you expect the work to be superior and not enhanced by gimmicks and emotional tricks? Maybe not from the producer of The Survivor... 


Hattie said...

Is that sculpture your work? It is very fine.
I really loved seeing you and your husband and friends and imagining you enjoying your time on the Oregon Coast.
What you say about creativity and religion interests me, too. What is the muse, anyway? It's not something outside of us, but it feels as if it is from somewhere else. It's an odd sensation, isn't it? But it is not god, it's us.

Anonymous said...

I'm learning a new perspective while readng the Gnostic Gospels and the Gospel of Judas.

Tongue in cheek, when it comes to religion, once size doesn't fit all.


Anonymous said...

Rain--I agree with most of your writing on religion/god/etc; but, on muse/waves/etc, not so much. I don't really see the difference.

One of the things that first attracted me to Stu Savory is a snippet from the sidebar of his blog in which he says of himself, "Stubbornly he clings to his beliefs, e.g. that Faith does not give answers, it only prevents you doing any goddamn questioning. You are as atheist as he is. When you understand why you don't believe in all the other gods, you will know why he does not believe in yours :-)"
Cop Car

Rain Trueax said...

Good quote, cop car. What I like about life is mystery and I am content that it be that way. I had a time where I 'knew' but now I do not. I don't call myself an atheist but certainly am not a believer in other than what I experience which often is unexplainable especially where it comes to creative work. I use the term muse only because it seems unexplainable as it can be a person, a thing or some kind of spiritual power. It can be our own inner voice that wants to beat us over the head until we finally get whatever should have been obvious early on. What I am mostly against is religion but don't even have a problem with people gathering together to share their beliefs-- until they feel that gives them the right to dictate those beliefs onto me. So many things that religions demand today don't relate to what is better for the people but rather what is better for power in the religion.

I've read parts of the Gnostic Gospels some years back, Julie. I was so into religion at one time that I read a lot of what is out there looking for firm answers. As was said above, I am back to no firm answers but okay with it ;)

And the sculpture is mine, one of my clay works of which there are many. For a few years I did a LOT of sculpture. First was to do the ones you can have cast in bronze (cost kept me from it but I still have one I might someday have casted) and then came clay which I much preferred as you doubtless understand as you do ceramics as I recall.

Lynn said...

Hi Rain, just a note to tell you how much I’m enjoying your weekly blogs. You give me much to think about over the week . . . as always thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rain, I can understand what you mean about going through a stage of being so into religion. I'm going through that now. I'm reading Practicing Catholic by James Carroll. It's about Vatican II, the church's growth in the U.S. and the recent clergy scandal. I'm also reading his book Constantine's Sword which is about the church's relationship with the Jews. I like his books because they are written for everybody not only Catholics. Not preachy, preachy. - Julie

Anonymous said...

PS: I'm not looking for answers as much as I am looking for broader knowledge. -- Julie

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

About an interesting perspective on man's diverse idas of what God is and creativity: A few years back one of my fellow art students from the early 60's at Portland State College (a Black Muslim convert) was head of the art department there. In the common area by his office he conducted a creative survey where anyone could pin up an index card with graphic images and words on what god is to them. There must have been a hundred responses and not one was the same. The point being here god is an explanation for anything that can't be measured or tacked down as something of which we can universally agree. I haven't any difficulty with other people putting the god label on the energy of inspiration. I do have difficulty, however, with people being exclusive by saying other creative work is inferior to theirs because theirs is exclusively favored by their God concept. Basically I agree that no personally interested God is caring about and assisting in my art work. I do feel at times my painting ideas come from some pool of ideas outside of me. I agree that allowing for happy accidents and the character of the media to play in my journey to bring together a piece of work is pleasureable when it works.

Rain Trueax said...

Julie, I grew up without religion, didn't really feel a loss either but I remember feeling I could communicate with god, not so much to ask for something but to just talk. Then before I turned 20, I was very taken with Catholicism. I took instruction, was baptized for the first time and into the church in Tucson AZ. The next thirteen years, I was a Catholic and liked it except for the things that got to me-- like praying to saints to ask for intercession, like praying to Mary. Although we did have our children baptized Catholic, we didn't have them taught by the church for those reasons. Discussing it with a priest, he was fine with that as home instruction was best in his mind. Very different than many priests but I knew a lot who were-- as well as those very rigid with doctrine.

Then we moved to this farm and by then I was disillusioned with the concept of the need to go to a priest for forgiveness, as well as other issues and we joined the small country church where we were for the next thirteen years before that seemed all wrong for the fundamental approach to politics, etc. And that's when I began to explore metaphysics, asking questions, exploring things like reincarnation. At this point in my life I am not into any religion but don't feel a need for answers either. I liked different aspects of both the Catholic Church and our little local church. But unlike some, I can't go somewhere if I don't believe in it. It's nice for social and ritual but I just didn't buy the things that were important to believe. I don't assume I'll always feel the way I do now and don't have a problem with those who are into such organizations-- until they try to dictate their idea of 'truth' to me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rain! For me there is a difference between a relationship with the Divine and organized religion. Walked away from the RCC. Have no desire to return to it or any other church. I admire the faithful who stay and fight the good fight against hypercritical behavior. Whether they can encourage fundamental changes of the hierarchy will be interesting to see. Meanwhile, I enjoy reading your thoughts about this topic. -- Julie

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I haven't seen "THE BIBLE" on The History Channel, and don't intend to. I HAVE seen Mark Burnett and Roma Downey on a talk show or two discussing this mini series, and it's "miracles". It is hard for me to put together the man that produces "THE APPRENTICE" and "SURVIVOR" and "SHARK TANK"....with the Mini series and it's miracles.
As to "creativity",I am in agreement with you on the wonders of this process which I believe comes out of you even when you don't understand it....I LOVE this process and it's mystery....If "GOD" has anything to do with it, it is the "GOD" in you.

Anonymous said...

Rain, btw, I know what you mean about pushy religious people. lol. - Julie

Anonymous said...

PS: Their version of the truth isn't what I care to have shoved down my throat, either. To each his own. lol -- Julie

Anonymous said...

Rain, I'm still laughing about persistent religious types. Like you, I got involved with a group like the second group you were involved with. My husband and I were dating at the time. The elders (I was older than them) gave my now husband a proverb to read about me. Something to do with me being a harlot! That did it! We left. -- Julie

Rain Trueax said...

I am glad you like this once a week blog here, Lynn. I am liking it too and always wonder what it will be about with the week to come as it seems to kind of flow along with a natural rhythm. For anyone who wants more frequent entries, Rain Trueax is slowly building some numbers but it's more aimed toward the creative process as I have found it in my own life.

And Julie, you and I sound like kindred spirits. That thing about the harlot is funny but SO typical :)

Rain Trueax said...

Naomi, I am glad I don't watch daytime TV and so missed seeing them discuss this series. The more I think about what he has done to our culture, the more I think this latest series is more of the same with his manipulative tactics.

P.T. Barnum had some quotes that fit this-- 'There's a sucker born every minute.' and 'Nobody ever lost a dollar by underestimating the taste of the American public.' It pretty well says it all.

Anonymous said...

I liked the way Naomi put it. It's the God within.

My husband pointed out to me that the church people only directed the condemning Scripture towards me. A misogynist interpretation?

inkling777 said...

Sorry (in advance) for the heaviness of this reply. You reminded me of a pet peeve of my own.

If God exists, I think he's secure enough to handle any "blaspheme" we can throw at him. It's insecure people who can't seem to handle it, lol.

It's interesting to me that most who claim special favor due to some sort of survival use it to judge others instead of being grateful for the mercy they received and sharing that mercy with others.

"Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?" Luke 13:4

I wonder how many fundamentalists forget the parable of the wicked servant in Matthew 18.

"Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed."

C'est la vie.

Anonymous said...

Inkling, Beautiful said. -- Julie

Anonymous said...

Spelling error, make that "beautifully said".

Rain Trueax said...

Good thoughts, Inkling. I have a feeling a lot of fundamentalists don't really know their Scriptures. They know the pieces they want to suit their prejudices and that's it.

la peregrina said...

I once compared creativity to a can of Play-doh. If you gave everyone in the world a can of Play-Doh they would all do something different with it. Some would just put it on a shelf and forget about it. Some would admire the pretty label and then put it on a shelf and forget about it. Some would open it, not get the point of it, close it and put it on the shelf and forget about it.

Others would take it out of the can and play with for awhile then get bored with it and put on the shelf and forget about it.

Then there are the ones who take the Play-Doh out of the can, feel it, smell it, taste it, and then play with it and keep playing with because they are fascinated with the whole Play-Doh experience.

Those are the people who are creative. The ones who like playing with words or paints or clay or metal. The ones who let go and let be and follow the connections their subconscious makes- which can seem serendipitous at the time.

I've had this happen to me when I write but I don't believe God is whispering in my ear because he thinks that what I am writing is something that the world needs to read and that he will favor me with miracles because of it. You have got to have a pretty big ego to think God is using you or to think that you are so special God favors you over everyone else.

I've also noticed how the messages that people who get messages from God get are always ones that endorse their own beliefs. You never hear anyone say God gave them a verbal slap in the head and told them to straighten up and fly right.

Oh, and tell farm boss that I also started laughing at the cheesiness of the production when I saw the trailer for The Bible. I'm beginning to think that no one can make a film based on the bible without it coming out cheesy. Maybe God wants it that way.

Mike McLaren said...

I really enjoyed this post.