Shine On: God wants you to be creative
Kurt Vonnegut’s 2005 New York Times bestselling book, A Man Without a Country, changed my life. Without this book, I don’t know that I would have published two books, recorded an album, painted original works (that only my mother could love), written poetry or even if I would be writing this article. His collection of essays ranges on topics from modern technology to the importance of humor, but it was one section, one quote, that changed my life.
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
I suspect there are three main reasons why people do not create.
1. They believe they can’t.
2. They believe they shouldn’t.
3. They’re afraid of what other people will think.
People believe they can’t create because we have classes and “proper techniques.” These principles of theory are good in that they help us practice an art well, but they are never meant to discourage someone from starting or doing. Just because you can’t run a whole mile at once doesn’t mean you shouldn’t run.
Some believe they shouldn’t create because we elevate certain artists, forms of art and individual pieces and not others. We should recognize great works and those who excel in the practice of any activity, but recognizing excellence should never discourage someone from starting or doing.
People are afraid of what others will think because, well, some people are mean and some love to criticize. And some people, typically those who most strongly feel they can’t or shouldn’t practice an art, actually enjoy discouraging others from starting or doing. But, as Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds…”
In the beginning, God created. These are the first five words of the Bible. They are the foundation. The start. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 280 begins, “Creation is the foundation of ‘all God’s saving plans,’ the ‘beginning of the history of salvation’ that culminates in Christ.”
In the beginning, God created. In the end, Christ redeems. Vonnegut’s quote inspires me, not because of his wit and writing prowess, but because of the truth it echoes. “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”
God made us in His image, and He invites us to create. Creation is an act of God. It is the first, the foundation and, ultimately, the redemptive.
The world tries to dim you down. Do not say you can’t or you shouldn’t. Do not be afraid of what others will think or will say. Go. Write. Paint. Sculpt. Compose. Photograph. Sketch. Create and let your light shine!
This article appeared in the February 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.