Monday, March 28, 2016

5 Great Books On Creativity & Faith

In his book An Experiment in Criticism, C.S. Lewis wrote, "The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way. (There is no good asking first whether the work before you deserves such surrender, for until you have surrendered you cannot possibly find out)." His words strike a chord with all of the following authors who have written about creativity and their faith. For any writer, any reader, any artist, or musician the first step must always be for them to get out of the way and surrender to the work itself and, ultimately, to the Creator in whom we join whenever we ourselves undertake to create art or to appreciate art. Art, ultimately, should draw us to God, even when it is secular.  The following books all show us this .

1. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L'Engle. This book tops my list and it's the one I go back to time and time again. I love how L'Engle writes that creating in any form (whether it be painting, composing, or writing) is an attempt towards wholeness. She writes, "But unless we are creators we are not fully alive. What do I mean by creators? Not only artists, whose acts of creation are the obvious ones of working with paint or clay or words. Creativity is a way of living life, no matter our vocation or how we earn our living. Creativity is not limited to the arts, or having some kind of career." To be an artist means one has to listen, to be aware, and to respond to God's creation through one's art form.

2. Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture by Makoto Fujimura. One of my favorite modern artists, Fujimura writes, "All artists depend on faith. By that, I mean all creativity requires a faith toward something in the future, or faith in communication itself." This work shows how an artist can impact culture. His meditations cover everything from Japanese aesthetics to 9/11 to William Blake to the film Finding Neverland. I love the line, "Beauty often resides in the peripheries of our lives," Like L'Engle, he stresses awareness: both listening to and noticing the world around us to create our art from. 

3. Mind of the Maker by Dorothy L. Sayers. Although she was best known for her Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, Sayers was also a poet, playwright, translator and good friend to both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. This book is a mediation on language and it's amazing how Sayers is able to present the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) with the three elements of creation (Idea, Creative Energy and Creative Power). When artists are compelled to create this draws them closer to God, the ultimate Creator.  As she writes about why man is impelled to make art, Sayers also answers questions such as "Why am I here?" and "Who am I?" 

4. Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O'Connor. She is one of my favorite writers and, like Habit of Being, this is a profound work by a writer who focuses on craft, creation, and Christianity. She writes, "There is something in us, as storytellers and as listeners to stories, that demands the redemptive act, that demands that what falls at least be offered the chance to be restored." Like all of O'Connor's work, I am constantly amazed each time I reread her fiction or nonfiction and I come away with my faith challenged and strengthed by her insights.

5. Scribbling in the Sand: Christ and Creativity by Michael Card. He writes that an artist struggles to take what is unseen and make it seen. Card believes that art can be an act of engaging in a redeemed vision, that this act of creation is at its root an act of faith, and that it correlates to the New Testament faith of "things hoped for." The artists translates these "things hoped for" using words or paint or music. These essays show how God is a creator and invites artists to join in this creation. 

These are my recommendations, if you have any of your own, please comment and let me know.

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