Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Reading Reflection:

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Sep• 14•12

The Midnight Disease, Alice W. Flaherty (Boston; NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004)

This is an interesting book that I picked up on sale a few years back. It had me at the subtitle: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain. Much of the book is about a brain state called hypergraphia, and it’s arch-enemy, writer’s block. It’s actually a fascinating read, although not from a Christian perspective. Every now and then, I thumb through some of the sections I’ve underlined for a re-read.

There’s a thought-provoking chapter on Literary Creativity and Drive, that I lingered around in today. I found myself having even more of a conversation with the author this time around, having recently written and reflected on the whole insane, creative genius topic lately. Flaherty introduces some theories from a psychologist, Dean Simonton, that transfers some of Darwin’s ideas about multiple offspring in survival of the fittest to creativity. I’m no proponent of Darwin, but this is an interesting theory when it comes to creativity. Drive to produce is a major quality of the creative genius:

…Simonton argues that even in complicated fields, leaders often have creativity that strongly reflects their productivity. He provocatively names this trait “the constant probability of success” and points out that of about 250 Western composers, three alone—Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach—are responsible for one-fifth of the standard repertoire. Simonton’s argument, that the volume of a writer’s or thinker’s total output is one of the best predictors of the amount of his or her truly creative work, has the interesting implication that if the number of great works is directly proportional to the total number of works, then the writers with the most masterpieces will also have the greatest number of justly ignored works. As the poet W. H. Auden put it, “The chances are that, in the course of his lifetime, the major poet will write more bad poems than the minor” (53).

What do you think? The author goes so far to claim that this proportion of  creativity and output is 99 percent perspiration, and yet the 1 percent of talent in the equation “separates the workaholic genius from the merely workaholic” (54). Pretty bold.

It really made me think about the repercussions of inhibition to creativity. There can be many reasons hiding behind this reticence: shyness, fear, laziness…pride. What if I’m only willing to present my best work before anyone who could offer critique? How do I know what my best work is? Sometimes you just know, other times you are informed by the recipients. But how can I ever get to the place to produce my best work if I’m not willing to go through the process to get me there?

Of course, God gifts people differently. And yet he expects us to produce with what he gave us. One thing that hurts my pride in the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30, is that I may not be given as much as another. God’s sovereignty gives us the ability, and the weight that goes along with it. That word, weight, or to bear, is part of the meaning of origin from this Greek word translated talent. We see that it is told as a sum of money in this parable, and yet the meaning goes beyond that. My study Bible tells me that our English word, talent, meaning exceptional capabilities, is derived from this parable. We are talking about stewardship. Are we satisfied with what God gives us? Are we thankful? If we are, we will invest it for the good of our neighbor. Our talents are not given to us for our own glory, but to serve others for the glory of God. We don’t get to decide what God is going to do with it:

But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed and gather where I scattered no seed?” (Matt. 25:26).

This should remove any shyness, fear, laziness, and pride. It really helps me with writing. Most of us aren’t going to be creative geniuses. I know some wonderfully gifted writers, and I also know that I am not of their caliber. Nonetheless, I began to feel compelled to write because I felt I had something to say—something to share. I don’t have to be the world’s most gifted writer to do this. Of course, I want to do my best work. But really, you have to have a quantity of work to have “best” work. In writing this can translate into the willingness to lay out the first draft, as well as the 2nd, and the 22nd. We always want to produce something of worth. And yet this idea can stifle us to not produce much at all.

Blogging has been a great venue to encourage production. Being disciplined to write regularly is a bit scary. I know that everything that I post is not going to be “my best.” None of them are masterpieces. This is also humbling enough for me to let God use my words the way that he will.

What about you? Do you feel like you are investing what God has given you for the benefit of others? 

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9 Comments

  1. Tim says:

    “Our talents are not given to us for our own glory, but to serve others for the glory of God. We don’t get to decide what God is going to do with it.”

    We don’t get to decide? True, true, Aimee, and so well put. It reminds me, too, that even those who think they are working against God are not able to thwart his purposes. God gets to deceide how everything works out.

    And as for your writing, I think you put out a lot more good reads than wrecks. My own blog can stand to benefit from your example here at HWT, Aimee.

    Tim

  2. Kim Shay says:

    Getting concerned with whether or not we’re the same caliber as another is a trap. There will always be someone better than we are. We also have to remember that writing for others is not the same as writing because we feel compelled to. I have boxes of old journals that will never see the light of day, because while I felt driven to write, they didn’t need to be broadcast. I write to process things; that doesn’t mean everything I write needs to be read by someone other than myself. I have learned over the past seven years of blogging that what I once thought “needed to be said” actually could have been kept quiet.

    I’ve learned the most from bloggers who blog very seldom.

    • Aimee Byrd says:

      Great points, Kim. And even when writing for others, the writing that we do privately actually improves the public writing, don’t you think?

      • Kim Shay says:

        Oh, definitely. Although, I have to say that what actually improves writing the most is going to school. I finished my university degree while my kids were small, and I found the demand of having someone better regularly reviewing my writing was very helpful. Plus, academic writing demands more discipline than blogging. I miss that, but when one has three kids in college, one must order priorities.

        • Helen says:

          Never yet heard of a Reformer or Puritan suffering writer’s block, and my husband has never suffered it, because he says he simply writes doctrinally what he is illumined to write, and he can write. I wish I had the theological understanding that he has. When God gives a vocation to be a teacher He does not then leave that very person to themselves, but carries through, continues to instruct the understanding.

          It is clear that writer’s block issues from the flesh, not from the Spirit of God with a man. So, yes, you could definitely say that a person that is not called to be an expositor of the word of God is not a Christian as all are taught of God, some to a greater degree than others.

    • Tim says:

      Kim, I’ve also discovered over the years that just because something needs to be said doesn’t mean it needs to be listened to! I can write something in order to get it out of me, but that may be as far as the idea needs to go.

      Tim

  3. Helen says:

    Matthew 25.26 has little to do with true Christians, but has everything to do with apostates. The servant was generally called, but remained a wicked and slothful servant. This is not the description of the saints of God. The other two servants were faithful because grace had made them so. The faithful were rewarded over the few things done, because much was done that was not taken into account because in all things we sin. The little good we do is done of God, who works within us and through us to do of His own good pleasure, being that there is none good, no not one, but God. In effect God is rewarding Himself through His servants, which is correct, as all the glory should go to God, whilst we work because we love God and will have Him to have all the glory, cast down our crown before His feet.

    Writer’s block is something not known by Christians because it is God who sets them upon literary works for Him, guiding them, illuminating their understanding. The world suffers writers block because no divine influence upon it.

    Another matter concernng the unprofitable servant. The man, the Ham, the Judas, the Demas, only had his talent taken away, not his profession of his lord, and that it was ordered that he should be blinded (v.30), and eventually, according to the wording of the verse, end up in hell. This blinding is the reason why some do not see what we are saying to them, though they may profess the name of the Lord. Not speaking of young Christians, but of those old in the faith, that have stood in a pulpit for many a year. The administrators of heaven are ordered of the Lord to blind hypocrites, the ministers employing the devil, the god of this world to do so, because blinding belongs to the devil, his speciality. A frightening thing to be handed over to the devil, as no way back

    • Tim says:

      “Writer’s block is something not known by Christians …”

      Does that mean that writer’s block is a sign that someone is not a Christian?

What do you think?