Spirituality and Creativity
January 15th 2012
Someone on a forum I’m part of posted the following question: “Is there a link between being spiritual and being creative?” This was my response:
Creativity is part of us, and part of us all whether we are specifically Christian, generally spiritual, or completely materialistic. Story-telling (the bit I’m most concerned with), like music or representative art, transcends both time and geography – people tell each other stories, make music together and daub pigments on things throughout history and across wildly different cultures.
The question arises, does spirituality feed creativity? The answer is sublimely simple – yes, of course it does, but then so does pretty much everything else. Certainly, a great deal of creativity can be expressed within a formal religious context (providing that isn’t taboo), and a society’s religion provides a context for creativity.
A further question, though, is whether spirituality can inspire sublime works of art in an individual who otherwise would be mediocre? This is a much trickier claim to pin down: if you pick some of history’s greatest artists, it’s often individual genius and a large sack of cash that’s the potent combination, rather than anything else more numinous. Despite the popular image, there’s nothing more likely to depress creativity than starving in a garret or being so dog-tired from the day job that all feelings of creativity are sapped. Patrons are critically important to the production of great art – and it’s often the patron who decides on the subject matter. You could even argue that it’s the spirituality of the patron that’s important here.
I’m lucky in this respect. My wife earned enough that when we were divvying up child-care duties, it made much more sense for her to keep going to work and for me to stay at home. When the kids got older and were at school during the day, it meant I had time to write – in the warm, with a full belly. And even luckier, no one tells me what I have to write except the publishers, and even they realise they don’t have me over the same barrel that a lot of authors find themselves bent over: I don’t rely on them for a roof over my head.
So I’m sorry to be so prosaic, but those are often the realities.
Which was pretty much an off-the-cuff response, but does include Morden’s 3rd Law of Writing “Marry someone rich”, so clearly I’ve been thinking along those lines before. I’m just wondering if part of the new publishing model that’s always just around the corner might include, how shall we term them, stipends for writers, rather than an advance?