Creative people of all kinds – from writers to inventors, gardeners to entrepreneurs – are often asked a funny sort of question: How do you get all your ideas?
“They honestly didn’t know,” writes Isacc Asimov. “To them it was an impossibility to even think of one. … Could I say I don’t know? When I go to bed, I can’t sleep for ideas dancing in my head. When I shave, I cut myself; when I talk, I lose track of what I’m saying, when I drive, I take my life in my hands. And always because ideas… are spinning and twisting in my mind. Can you tell me, maybe, your trick of not getting ideas, so I, too, can have a little peace?”
My friend S.D. Smith plaintively wrote in an email, “I …sometimes feel like all I do is think. All ideas all the time. …It’s a constant battle to avoid letting this incurable condition overwhelm me.”
But it’s not the ideas that are a problem – it’s having more ideas than time. And it’s not just super-creative parents who struggle. In this interconnected, Pinteresting world, is there anyone without a list of good things we could, should, would like to do?
Loving my wife and children takes creativity of the highest sort. So does working my job, and loving my friends and neighbors. Yesterday’s affection cannot be recycled. Today’s bread must be fresh.
We battle against the deluge of ideas because love requires it. Love requires that we embrace duties which keep us from our ideas. We wash dishes to free counter space for art-time, only to fill it with snack-time instead.
So what to do with these ideas – these badgering, bullying, creative impulses that hammer at the windows of the house love built?
We can let them in one by one and insist they be house-broken, that they wait their turn behind boo-boos, yard work, ABCs, and PBJs, but what of the ones waiting outside? How to tune them out? And if we do – what if they go away?
Having too many ideas in my head makes me anxious and demanding, because I fear losing something. Keeping an actual list of ideas can help to empty them out, but it only partially soothes the fear of missing out on something good. Thus, I love this passage from Michael Card’s Scribbling in the Sand:
“Creativity is worship insofar as it is, at its essence, a response. I hear the Word, and I respond with silence, in adoration, in appreciation by picking up the basin and the towel. It is a romantic response to this Person whom I adore. He is beautiful! I want nothing more than to be in his presence. I love him! And so I sing and I write. If I could paint or dance I would do that as well. I forgive someone who couldn’t care less about being forgiven. I try to reach out across the vast distance between me and my brother or sister.
Because it is a response, it does not originate with me. He speaks. He moves. He is beautiful. We respond. We create. We worship.”
Card puts these ideas into their proper context – as part of an ongoing relationship with our Creator, not a natural resource to be milled into goods. They do not originate with us. They are not ours in any permanent sense, any more than are our bodies. In other words: Easy Come, Easy Go, and do not fear; His beauty is inexhaustible.
My list of ideas is long, and the time for executing them is short. But after years of grudgingly delayed gratification, I am becoming thankful.
I realize that the gift of ideas could be withheld, but it is not. And the opportunity to live as a “little Christ” is a mercy that was dearly bought. Reconciling them needs only time, and that, too, is a gift.