We were created to create, but that doesn't mean it always (or usually) comes easily.

S everal years ago, some friends and I were driving home from a game night when we witnessed a terrifying car accident. We were stopped at a major intersection when we noticed lights approaching fast in the rear view mirror. Within seconds our whole car shook as a sedan flew past us at over 100 mph, careening through the intersection. By God's grace it missed us and there was no cross traffic.
But the road had several dips, and the car was going too fast to keep control as it bounded over them. It started to fishtail. The car struck the median and rolled across the far lane until it crashed into a tree, finally bringing it to a stop. We looked on stunned at what we had just witnessed. Police soon arrived on the scene, and we later learned the car had been fleeing pursuit.

The tree remains, now with a bouquet of flowers.

We were all shaken by the event. That night I had vivid dreams, but not of the kind you would think. There was sadness in them, but also joy, and most profoundly a deep sense of hope. They were also not very realistic. "Fairy stories," one might call them.

I woke with a weight still on my shoulders, but it was more a weight of purpose than of grief. I felt God leading me back to what I had dreamt—not the specific story but the feeling of it. Something simple, childlike even, which at that time seemed so trivial compared with the events of the night before, but undeniably vital at the same time. That very morning I set out to write my first short story.

In that leap of creativity God opened up a new world to me and taught me some valuable lessons about creativity. The first is that creativity is hard. I had a burst of inspiration for what to write, but figuring out how to write it took great effort. Even after it was “finished,” I would go back and edit it several times. Since then, I’ve learned a lot about how to write but I struggle greatly with what to write. I’ve grown better at writing, but my creativity still takes time, energy and persistence. I take comfort in the fact that God, the perfect Artist, had to work to produce the universe we live in (Genesis 2:1-2).

But sometimes creativity feels borderlines impossible, relegated in our minds to those select few “right-brain” people. Maybe you’ve tried, perhaps finding an old set of paint brushes from your grade-school days, washing them off, sitting down with a piece of printer paper ready to light that spark again and…nothing. Maybe you don't believe you have the skills. Maybe you immediately compare the painting you haven't yet made with a Van Gough and think it not worth trying. Maybe, like me, you have a near impossible time even deciding what to paint and put the brushes down in frustration.

Creativity is hard. But more so, creativity is worth it. In that short story I wrote, God imparted many things to me. Practicing creativity, especially when it is exceedingly challenging, grows in yourself an appreciation for the creativity of others, and none more so than that of God. You start to see individual brushstrokes as intense decisions of color and motion and style. You hear the snare drum behind the crescendo of a song, giving a sense of urgency that the writers planned. You connect with the reality of hope that weaves its way through fantasy and history.

Creativity is important. In one sense I see it as part of our ultimate purpose. We are meant to be stewards of God's creation, meaning we are to care for it, better it, enrich it…ultimately, bring good into it. In our fallen world, we do that most prominently when we point back to its Creator. We can do this with stories of good and evil, with music that speaks truth and beauty, with work that emphasizes people over profits—even with sock puppets you use to teach your children how to share.

But how can we do these things if we can't get the brush to the paper?

When he was first creating Star Wars, George Lucas said that converting the pictures in his head to words on paper was the equivalent of bleeding on the page. He hated writing and struggled immensely with the script of Star Wars, spending over seven months on the first draft. We’ve all seen the results.

The hard work of creating is a choice and not an easy one. You’re going to face limitations, fears and failures. But it’s worth it. Not because you will create the next Star Wars or Lord of the Rings (though you may), but because you’re choosing to open your heart to God, others and perhaps even yourself.