The Model for the Creative Process
By Fred Carpenter
Mars Hill was founded in 1977 by Fred Carpenter and Larry Kreider. Together they shared a vision for the potential of ministry through media. In this year, marking the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions, president, Fred Carpenter is taking the time to recount the important lessons God has taught us; lessons that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.
So, you have heard from the Lord and you believe that you have a “God Idea” that He wants you to implement. Now What?
Having been involved in the producing, writing and directing of film and video for more than 40 years, I have given much thought to the nature of the creative process. Several years ago, I was blessed to come across what I believe to be the best model for the creative process that one could ever find. It continues to shape our approach as a ministry today.
From Dorothy Sayers’ book, The Mind of the Maker, pp. 35-36…
“For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly.
First, [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration] there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father.
Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of the Idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word.
Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit.
And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without the other: and this is the image of the Trinity.”
Let’s take a few moments to look at these three “steps” in the creative process more closely.
The Creative Idea – The very first verse in the Bible reads “1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1. Before we know God as Father, Savior or Comforter, we know Him as Creator. The creative process begins with God. He is indeed, the “genesis” of everything.
It is significant that the word for God in Genesis 1:1, is the Hebrew word, “Elohim.” This is a plural name for God, which tell us the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all involved as God in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Applying Dorothy Sayers’ model, this process of creation began with the “Creative Idea”; the first Person of the Trinity, the Father.
From scripture, we know that no human has seen, or can see the Father (John 6:46). So it is with the “Creative Idea.” When the “Creative Idea” is born in a receptive soul, it is not seen by anyone. It may not even be clearly seen by the one in whom it is born. It is nonetheless very real.
For me, the process of creating a new media project starts with a “God Idea”, or in Sayers’ terminology, the “Creative Idea.” When the idea comes, it is often hard to articulate to others because it does not yet have form and shape, nevertheless, it is very real. I can almost identify with various elements and characteristics of the project as if they already exist, even though the project does not actually exist in time and space. I can almost envision the effect it will have on a viewer, even though no one has yet seen it.
The idea is usually accompanied with a conviction that it is something God wants me to pursue. An example is when God first gave me the idea for our film, The HOPE. As I wrote in the previous post, God Idea: Part 1, “From the onset, I had the conviction that “we were supposed to create a media tool that could easily be adapted for any culture or language group and used around the world to share the Gospel.” And though I had a deep connection with certain elements and characteristics that I knew would ultimately define The HOPE, I could not yet give anyone else a concrete picture of the idea.
The Creative Energy – The second part of the creative process corresponds to the second Person of the Trinity, the Son. It is the outworking of the “Creative Idea”. As the Son came to us in the form of human flesh, “with sweat and passion” as Sayers puts it, the “Creative Idea” began to materialize in a way that others could know it. In fact, in John 14:9 we read the word of Jesus, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” And in Colossians 1:15-16 we find, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through Him and for Him.”
Jesus is the Word made flesh (John 1:14) . . . or in the context of Sayers’ model, The “Creative Idea” manifested in time and space! As the team at Mars Hill began to work on The HOPE, with sweat and passion, in the scripting and then the production, others began to “get it”. The “Creative Idea” began to manifest and become visible.
The Creative Power – The Holy Spirit is the Person of the Godhead who indwells and empowers us. He gives us eyes to see and understanding to process and respond to what we see.
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:8a
The third step of the creative process mirrors the work of the Holy Spirit in that the Idea, which has been “worked out”, is now made available to be taken in and interpreted so that it might evoke the exact response that the “Creative Idea” intended. And even more, so that the one who experiences the creative work might become one with the “Creative Idea.”
Perhaps you’ve heard a song or read a poem, and experienced such a connection with it that you felt as though you knew exactly what the writer was thinking and feeling when he or she wrote it. In what we call, the upper room discourse, Jesus promised His disciples that, though He was leaving, He would send another (John 16:7), the Spirit, who would lead them into all truth (v.13). Jesus concluded His discourse with a prayer (John 17) in which He ask His Father to sanctify (consecrate or set apart) His disciples that “they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:21.)
Jesus is, in fact asking His Father to bring those whom He has been given into community and fellowship with the eternal triune Godhead. The Holy Spirt is the One who facilitates and makes this possible. The “Creative Power” makes the recipient of the “Creative Energy” one with the “Creative Idea,” causing the creative process to come full circle and thus become complete.
As a filmmaker, it so fulfilling to see or hear about those who have experienced the Creative Power in The HOPE or any one of our other projects. And to be clear, we understand that if and when they respond in the manner we hope and pray for, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that is causing it to be.
If Dorothy Sayers’ model for the Creative Process is Biblical (and I believe it is), then consider the following implications in light of God’s intention (as evidenced in Jesus’s prayer, John 17:21) that His children enter into the community and intimate fellowship of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
- There is no dichotomy between creativity and spirituality. They are one in the same.
- Society forces upon us, a definition of creativity that is way too narrow, as if some people have the capacity to engage in the creative process, while others do not. We were all created to be part of the creative process. Creativity is not just expressed in what we have come to identify as the creative arts, it is to be expressed in the whole of life. In his book, “Human Motivation,” Robert E. Franken defines creativity as “the tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others.” Creativity is part of everything we do.
- Leonardo Boff describes the interrelationship of the Trinity as “as infinite explosion of love and life from one to the other.” If this description of the Trinity is true, and if through Christ, we abide in this relationship, (John 15:5), then what are the limits of your creative potential?
It is somewhat incomplete to say that someone is a creative person, and it is in err that we say someone else is not creative. We are all made to be a part of God’s ongoing creative process as He reveals Himself and His plan to all mankind.