Years before I’d ever heard of St. Ignatius Loyola and his Spiritual Exercises, I was learning spiritual principles through creative writing. I had been writing stories, poems, and songs since my early teens, and when I got serious about learning how to write, decades later, I discovered that creativity is in fact a spiritual function. Furthermore, Ignatian spirituality is a perfect fit for anyone for whom creative work is important.
Creativity is woven into all creation. It is but one of the many gifts I receive as a human being on this planet. And, because I find God in all things, I encounter the sacred while in the act of creating. Thus, creativity fits easily into the First Principle and Foundation; it is a gift of this life that God intends for the good of my soul and of others’ souls.
Creativity trains me to pay attention. In this way, creativity and prayer are bosom buddies. As I learn to see through Jesus’ eyes and pay attention to what God is doing all around me, I grow in wisdom, compassion, and every other virtue. As I draw or paint or build or put words together, I must attend to the details and grow in awareness. Creativity is, in a very Ignatian sense, a form of prayer—meditation perhaps, or in some cases contemplation.
Creativity encourages me to reflect on everything. For me as a writer, nothing is wasted. No matter what the experience, my creative gifts urge me to reflect on what I have witnessed or participated in. I will take a small, insignificant experience and turn it in my mind’s eye to see it from various angles. I’ll look for truth in it somewhere. I will allow that experience to stimulate questions. Creativity is in harmony with the Ignatian principle of reflecting on our experiences.
Creativity is a process much bigger than I. This means that when I do creative work, I am participating in a cosmic endeavor. When I write, I write smarter than I am. My characters end up teaching me things. I imagine what I have not yet done directly. And I learn to trust that this overarching process will bring itself to the best place. Creativity is a superb example of a person joining with Jesus to do great work in this world.
Creativity teaches me detachment. This means that I do the creative work but do not try to control the process or mandate the final product. Creativity just does not work that way. The process knows where it must go. Creativity is yet another aspect of life that trains me to be patient and to trust the Holy Spirit for the outcome. To do well in creative work, I must be spiritually free to allow the work to develop as God has designed it to develop.
I encourage you to approach any creative project with prayer and expectation. Whether you are writing a story, preparing a meal for friends, or creating a better system for doing your day job, you were meant for this! Whatever Ignatian practices you use for prayer, try using them in your creative work and see what happens. Human beings are designed to be creative, as we reflect God’s image into the world.