Quaker Practice

The Spirituality of Creativity

Last month, Reno Friends gathered for a lively discussion on the spiritual aspects of creativity. Some in our group are artists, some musicians or writers or poets. Others said they tapped their creativity in less obvious ways, such as organizing their home or working on financial spreadsheets. But whether we paint or build or write or puzzle over math problems, all of us shared interesting ways that spirituality in general – and our Quaker faith in particular – enhanced our creative process.

Exploring a set of queries, which I’ve listed below, we considered a broad range of creative pursuits and methods. For many of us, observing and reflecting on God’s creation not only provides a foundation for our spiritual lives but also inspires our creativity. Whether savoring the hush of a cathedral grove, or delighting in a circle of friends, recognizing and appreciating that of God in both nature and each person shapes our creative lives.

“I find that life is the font of material for me,” said one writer in the group. “Then a mix of skill, creativity and intellectual assessment is what shapes it into art.”

Several people spoke of how the Quaker testimonies – especially Integrity, Community and Simplicity – can inform our creative work. For some, the Quaker interest in Integrity and Truth helps us identify and highlight the kernels of Truth in different narratives. Another Friend mentioned the principles of the Simplicity testimony (such as: right ordering of priorities, humility of spirit, avoiding self-indulgence) as great guideposts to the creative process. Another Friend said the testimonies can help us distinguish how to employ the artifice of art to tell the essential Truths. 

Another Friend said that, for him, art needs a strong dose of non-conformance to be original, something that runs deep in the Quaker tradition of honoring everyone’s individual experience of God. Others mentioned a supportive community of friends and artists as critical to weathering the inevitable challenges of being an artist in today’s world.

In terms of our creative processes, many said that the quiet of Silent Worship is where we learned to listen deeply to God and ourselves. As one Friend said, “The Quaker practice of silence enables me to deepen my focus on something, peeling back layers to get to the core of it.” Some said that creating feels to them like a flow state, even a “pressured stream of possession,” that is not unlike the intensity we sometimes feel in Silent Worship.

Others said that they find playfulness an important element to creativity, such as making a tree house out of a tree broken by a storm. Another shared the idea of doing mindful drawing to center oneself before starting more purposeful work. May of us shared the need for focus and relaxation “to tap into the subconscious and creative mind,” as one Friend said.

Those of us in the spiritual discussion that night were struck by the richness of creative efforts in our group, and the many links to our spiritual experience. One Friend summed it up beautifully: “Our artistic gifts are the way the Light refracts through all of us; maybe our creative efforts are the way our spirituality expresses itself.”

Here are the queries we considered:

  • What is creativity?
  • What do you do to express your creativity?
  • When are you at your most creative?
  • Does your creativity have a divine/spiritual basis?
  • How do original, interpretive and improvisational creativity differ?
  • What stifles creativity?
  • Is creativity innate or can it be taught?
  • Does Quakerism influence your creativity?

Wendy Swallow, Blog Editor, Reno Friends Meeting

The opinions expressed above are not necessarily those of Reno Friends Meeting.