The creative process: What little I have learned

“In the beginning, God created….” (Genesis 1:1)

Real creativity is a God thing.

When you sit down to write or draw or whatever, remember that your Muse (the Spirit of God, the Original Muse!) has read it all and seen it all and inspired much of it, so He is your greatest Resource.

Those who want to learn to write should surround themselves with good writing (i.e., excellent reading material) and get to know inspired writers.

Those who want to think creatively should occasionally plant themselves among off-the-wall thinkers, people whose minds push the boundaries in every direction. They will loosen you up.

And then, pull back and spend a lot of time alone, thinking.

Go to bed thinking about whatever is bugging you, inspiring you, burdening you, pestering you, charming you, or puzzling you.  Your subconscious will keep at it while you recuperate.

If something occurs to you in the middle of the night, you absolutely must get up then and write it down.  If you plead that you are sleep deprived and insist that “this is such a great insight, I’ll surely remember it in the morning,” the single thing I can guarantee is that you will not remember it when the night is over.  Iron-clad promise.

You must get up when the idea occurs.  Write it down.

I am not suggesting you should live with the people whose minds are all over the place, whose thinking knows no limits, who challenge everything. Do this and you will soon lose touch with reality.

Just once in a while, associate with free-thinkers.

After exposure to your off-the-wall friends, you must withdraw to your own life and seclude yourself in your own space in order to keep your wits about you, retain your balance, and maintain your own identity.

If you want to be a writer, then write.  Write a great deal.  Expect that much of what you produce will be unworthy but keep on writing. You can decide later which is solid and which can be shredded. But at the moment you are writing; it’s all good.

I wish you could have known Calvin Miller.  This beloved brother–seminary professor, author of learned volumes for Bible students and ministers, producer of some of the most creative books and articles ever, and a preacher like no one else I’ve ever heard–left us too early just a few years ago.  He left behind perhaps forty books and a legacy of thousands of seminarians and pastors who were forever changed from having spent time with him.

Aardvarks and Arks is one of his lesser known but off-the-wall books that puts the reader in mind of Dr. Seuss.

Sometime in 1997 or 1998, I wrote the following and sent it to Calvin.  I wrote it as a poem; you can decide whether it’s one or not…


Calvin Miller, are you well?

I’ll ask your wife; I cannot tell.

I’ve read your verse of animals and arks.

If it gets any worse, I’m calling the narcs.

Do drugs this this? Or is it genius?

Is this a bliss, possibly contagious?

How do you do it– Think of such, I mean?

Can one exploit this wayward gene?

Take that stuff on page forty-nine

Of beavers and skunks and things asinine.

Did you sit down and think, ‘I believe I’ll compose

A poem about stink and poking one’s nose

Into other people’s faces.” Is this how it went?

Can that be the basis of a rhyme about scent?

Or did it occur as it has with me

You awakened at four, this time not to pee.

Your mind was astir with great inspiration.

You drank the elixir of poetic intoxication.

You sat at your desk and put it all down–

On tablet or disk–you really went to town.

Then, you sent it off to a company called Word,

Not very far-off, that much I’ve heard.

And they sent you big bucks; they wrote you such checks–

The neighbors were awe-struck in the other duplex.

Is this how it works with you all the time?

Are those the perks from writing those rhymes?

Then tell me please why it is more and more

I write with great ease til a quarter of four

And then I decide it’s not very good.

It doesn’t describe what I thought it should.

The muse soon departs while I sit at my table

Thinking of beaux-arts and why I’m not able.


I sent that to Calvin with the following inscription: “Calvin, please detect in these lines equal portions of admiration, envy, and resentment. (ha)  Margaret and I benefited from “Word, Story, Spirit” (a recent book) for one hour before breakfast last week.  Just what we needed. Best to  you and Barb. –Joe.”

Calvin Miller inspired that because I wrote it, but have written nothing at all like it since. (And no, nothing in my notes indicates that he responded.)

To keep turning out our creative best, I’m thinking, you and I will be needing regular infusions of inspiration and encouragement and even criticism.

That’s why writers conferences are great, and a local club of writers that meets monthly is an excellent encouragement.

I highly recommend the Southern Christian Writers Conference which meets at various locations in the Deep South.  Dr. David and Mrs. Joanne Sloan of Tuscaloosa began this wonderful conference a generation ago; their daughter Chery Sloan Wray (of the Birmingham area) continues it.  She brings in outstanding writers, editors, teachers and conference leaders.  (The website is  I have attended as a student and have been a speaker/teacher several times.

No one is so accomplished he/she cannot improve.  When a friend wrote last week asking me to suggest how he could improve his writing, my first counsel to him was this: Writing is a lifelong endeavor; you never quit learning.  

1 thought on “The creative process: What little I have learned

  1. Thankful for the one who wrote to you and ask the question. As well, thank you for your encouragement. I certainly will get “back” to the pen and paper. Stay well…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.