Isaiah 55: 1-5
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.
Last night I had dinner at a friend’s house before seeing Shakey Graves in concert. We sat around her vintage dining table, with her husband and daughter, eating the leftovers from her refrigerator. I smiled and laughed inside as I looked at a table covered with deviled eggs and cucumber slices adorned with dill, remembering the movie Mermaids, in which the mother exclusively made hors d’oeuvres for family meals.
My friend eventually began venting about the state of creative affairs in the world. She didn’t actually frame it this way. It was more of a, “I can’t believe people get away with creating that, and they’re successful.” She had just started watching the Harry Potter movies with her husband and lamented that the story was essentially more of the same, rehashing themes present throughout history. As she spoke her voice rose in volume and her hands became more animated. Her frustrations resonated with me but not simply as a commentary on the state of creative affairs. I thought of all the times I vented at other people’s perceived lack of originality. Only my venting is usually a “tell,” a sure and certain sign I'm not creating my own art. I once spent a good hour complaining to Micah that an art show in town hadn’t been done as well as it could have. What the hell do I know about putting on an art show? Underneath my righteous indignation was a fear that I lacked originality. If everyone else had already done it, what was left for me to create?
It’s a mentality of scarcity; a belief there aren’t enough creative ideas to go around. And it’s complete and utter bullshit.
I love these words from the prophet Isaiah which tell of an abundance that knows no limits. And, once more, everyone is able to eat and drink for free. It’s a message for anyone who feels poor in creative spirit. There is more than enough creative bounty to go around. If we fail to create it isn’t because we lack originality or gifts, it’s because we fail to show up.
Then the prophet speaks a word of warning. If we labor after that which does not satisfy we will end up eternally thirsty and hungry, and increasingly more resentful. We can stay at a job which does not satisfy us, but if we don’t use our free time to create something of our own, we will wither and fade into heartbreak. This is a very sad way to live indeed.
So, please, do not hide behind pontifications about other people’s creative work, which is really another form of giving in to fear and insecurity. Instead, delight yourself in the rich food of creating something all your own. Drink from the well of your creativity, and never be thirsty again. Because no one in the world will do it exactly as you have done it, and that is what makes the feast all the richer.
Do you ever fear a lack of originality?
What do you do to push this fear aside and honor your creative gifts?