All by myself, with no-one else at home, I worked from home one day and it was a peaceful environment. I was working on an excel spreadsheet which required my full concentration. It was for my ‘Construction Land’ week day job. This was no simple excel worksheet. It’s a complex connective multi-dimensional spreadsheet. I’ve been working on variations of it for years now! And it has at various times worked… to a point! But on this occasion … it more than worked – it did everything I wanted it to do… I actually got there! As I typed in the last equation by excitement was rising. I knew this was going in the right direction… my gut feeling was that it was good! And it was. It was good! All I could do was look at my screen in complete wonder. There was a sense of awe. I wanted to shout and cry and laugh. I’d done it. It worked. I sat back from my computer and just looked. And it was good!
The thrill didn’t leave me for hours. And the strange thing was, that there was no-one I could really tell about it. I could tell my brothers who are my bosses, and they would be pleased to know that I’ve finally got it to work and we can get the level of reporting they’ve been wanting. So they’d appreciate its results, but even they wouldn’t get the thrilled feeling that I had. They wouldn’t see the formulas, and layering beyond the numbers, and if they did, they’d just take it at face value; a bunch of formulas and spreadsheets with numbers. They would not appreciate the beauty that was in this creation. I could tell my husband and children and they’d be happy for me. (But they’d also groan about my love and obsession with excel!) No, for all of them, creative types that they each are, they would appreciate that I’d done the hard work and that I was satisfied, and they would relate to the thrill by understanding from their own creative endeavours what that feels like, but they wouldn’t feel it about this particular thing as I did. The thrill was mine alone.
We are a creative household. I remarked on this to our 17 year old the other day. He’s always making movies, creating props, designing things on the computer or composing music! He is often prowling around the house in the wee small hours of the morning before going to bed! Andrew is a night owl too, although not as much as he used to be, and these days he can get up quite early in the morning to make a start on writing his latest ‘Taking Flight’. Our daughter is also a night owl and a composer and crafter and creative, and although she’s only at home half the week, she does her share of creating when she is at home and although she is an owl, she is also an early riser. As for me, I have at least six creative projects on the go at any one time, and my own hours of sleep and sleep pattern is affected by my current health issues, so there’s no pattern at all to when I’m asleep or not. It appears that almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is at least one person in our household being creative at any one time. When I said this, our 17 year old agreed, although he does think we are probably lacking consistency in the 4am to 6am slot so we really need someone to take that slot for us to truly say we’re creative 24/7!
I put my head in the 17 year old’s door to say goodnight to him the other night. He was facing his computer and had his noise cancelling headphones on. He was editing the filming he’d done for the school show which had involved several different cameras filming at different angles over four night. He had hours and hours of footage to edit. When I spoke to him from the doorway he nodded his head. I didn’t think he was nodding at me, I thought it was co-incidence, so I called to him again and he turned, surprised to see me there. I laughed, and told him that the timing of his nodding was excellent. An embarrassed look passed across his face. “No, I was nodding to myself because the transition between the two shots that I just made was really good!” I could see he felt a bit foolish about this, but fresh from my thinking about my own creative success and the thrill it gave me, I told him that I could completely understand. And then I told him the application I was making from my musings so that I could write this blog. (keep reading you’ll get there). “I know exactly what you mean,” he said. He completely understood “And it was good.”
I love the poetry in chapter one in the book of Genesis. I love the creative feeling that underpins the words. The words are so minimal, yet to me they convey and evoke the same sensations that I had when I looked at my completed spreadsheet. The CEV uses the refrain, “And it was good.” I love those words. “And it was good.” What other words can begin to explain that creative sense of satisfaction, that awareness of the combination of sheer creative brilliance and the hard work paying off with what has been made. “And it was good” says everything and yet it is insufficient. It is so understated, yet so punchy. It says that words alone will not do justice to the situation. To me “And it was good,” are the words of a creator, who is alone in their complex understanding of just what they’ve created. To explain the detail is impossible, and would not be understood, to describe the feeling would take more words than have ever been invented, and so less is more, and rendered almost speechless the best way to describe the creative process and the result that has been achieved, is to say “And it was good.”
As an aside, I probably need to say I’m amazed that anyone today would take the book of Genesis as some kind of scientific textbook understanding of how God created the world. My blog isn’t about the arguments of creation vs evolution or to debate whether the bible is at odds with science or whether the world was indeed created in seven days. Let me just say that I do not accept the bible as providing a scientific explanation. This blog is about how when we are involved in our own creative processes and projects, we sometimes catch a glimpse of our Creator God in our own thrill at our creations.
It doesn’t always happen, this glimpse of the ‘and it was good’ sensation. I am always creating things, but I don’t always get that same thrill. I can be satisfied and pleased with my creative result without experiencing the, ‘and it was good’, glimpse of God. It doesn’t take anything away from what I’ve created, but it does mean when I do get that rare glimpse, that satisfying thrill, it is all the more special.
When I am saying creativity I am including two broad kinds of creating. The completely original creation, coming out of someone’s head or the creation of something following a set of instructions or a pattern. I always have several creative projects on the go of both types. Some of my projects are original to me, I’m making them up as I go, like my half-finished manuscripts, an autumn quilt I’m hand sewing or a painting of Banks Peninsula which I’m doing for our dining room wall. Other projects are still creative as in I am creating something, but it follows a pattern, a set of instructions or I’m replicating something I’ve picked up on Pinterest or something. I’m not the person who created the idea, such as the incomplete knitting projects I have on the go. Someone else designed the pattern and I’m following it, however, when I finally finish the baby cardigan which I started six years ago when my grandson was a baby it will still be one of a kind. The variables of colour and type of wool I’ve chosen and my knitting tension will mark it out, then add to that the stitches I’ve dropped, the extra rows I added to the bands will still make it a one-off creation, even if the base design is not original to me. But it will be unique. It will still be a one of a kind, a bespoke, creation.
I do not know if people who aren’t creative ever get the ‘And it was good’ thrill. I’ve grown up in a creative family as a child and my own family household today is creative. Creativity is around me. It is in the air that I breathe. I can’t see the world in any other way. Everything I view is through creative eyes. I think that is why I love the beach so much, why I love to go for walks just after it has rained, why growing and picking strawberries is so much more fulfilling than buying them in a punnet, why my favourite Avenues church service of the year, is in the semi-darkness of an olive grove, remembering Jesus’ final hours with his disciples before he died, why being under Niagara falls as a tourist shoulder to shoulder with other tourists was a spiritual moment, why I love caring for people, why I am restless and frustrated if I can’t be making something with my hands. I see the world through creative eyes. I live in it creatively.
The other day at work, one of our site managers came in to the office at the end of the day. On the wall next to my desk was a series of photos from a project where he’d been site manager. He was looking at a photo that showed some a building with concrete panelling, and he said to me, “That’s a beautiful panel.” I recognised in his voice the thrill of the creator. He’d site cast the panel. He’d been there every step of the way and he knew ‘that it was good.’ When the building is finished and inhabited with offices and shops, when the signage is in place and people are using it for its intended function, I do not think there will ever be another person in the whole world who would look at that project and say with a thrill in their voice, “That’s a beautiful concrete panel.” For years to come people will talk about the building because of the food they ate at the restaurant, or the haircut they had, the accountant they visited in his office, some might talk about the actual building and appreciate the complex design, the workmanship, the materials used or the colours the building has been painted. But those involved creatively in the process will see beyond these things. They will feel that remembered thrill of creativity.
What a privilege it is to catch a glimpse of our Creator God, to work together with our God to create a better world, to see and feel for a brief moment, the thrill of ‘And it was Good’. What love we feel for our own creations, how we can understand albeit briefly and in a small way, God’s love for his creation.
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. John 3:16Contemporary English Version (CEV)
(Photo credit: A sunbeam taken on a trip north of Auckland, enjoying God’s creation)