Posts Tagged ‘Genesis 1’


IMAGO FLOW: Creative Limitations – Part I

February 11, 2013

Limitations can enrich or hinder creativity. The difference is in knowing how to make them work for, not against you. The following is the first of two posts on how limitations affect creativity.

I have a love-hate relationship with limitations.  Especially when creating.

When limitations work in my favor I allow them to participate in my creative process; but when they get in my way I spurn them like a Ferrari in Detroit.

Creative flow

Creating in-the-zone allows no stopping to eat… or sleep… or run to the bathroom. Until recently I thought this singular focus was artistic eccentricity.  Turns out there is a scientific reason for neglecting food and drink during a creative frenzy that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (how do you pronounce that?!?) calls spontaneous flow or flow experience.1

Mr. C says the human nervous system can process, or attend to, a total of 110 bits of info per second.  That’s not very much—listening to one person talk takes 60 bits. That’s why we can’t understand two people talking at once. It’s physiologically impossible. 2

Creating in-the-zone uses all 110 bits of human brain bandwidth. So hunger, sleepiness, and even being self-aware don’t register when creativity is humming like a V-8 engine firing on all cylinders fed with high-octane petrol.

When you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new… you don’t have enough attention left over to monitor how your body feels or [think about] your problems at home.  You can’t even feel that you are hungry or tired.  Your body disappears. Your identity disappears from your consciousness because you don’t have enough attention, none of us does, to do something really well that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time, to feel that you exist. So existence is temporarily suspended. 3

No time to eat

This was true for George F. Handel, composer of MESSIAH, which includes the Hallelujah Chorus, one of the most-loved choral works of all time.  Handel began composing the oratorio August 22, 1741. Part One was finished in six days. Nine days later, Part Two was completed. Another six days and Part Three was done. Two days later – 23 days, start to finish – he finalized the orchestration. The story goes that during the composing, he rarely left his room or touched his meals, writing like a mad man—most assuredly firing at 110 bits of information per second—and therefore, unable to notice his most basic needs.

I can’t compare myself to Handel, but I do know something of the intense concentration that makes hours fly with half-eaten meals long since forgotten and cold.


Like the time I worked on this mosaic for a sermon series at Trinity. I began working in the late afternoon, painted through the night, and finished the assembly in a stupor more than 36 hours later. The creative process during that weekend is still a blur to me. I moved from one task to another, as if the process was all decided, and I simply progressed to the next section or task. I don’t remember eating or doing much else except working.

I get like this when writing, too. It’s not uncommon for me to begin writing in the morning, only to realize “minutes” later that the sun has set and everyone wants dinner. On days like these I completely understand the disconnect of time between our world and Narnia!

Since watching Mr. C’s video, I now know there is a scientific explanation for ignoring everything except my current creative project. And I know I’m not loony! Where Mr. C and science fall short, however, is describing the reason for the intense focus.

Imago flow

I believe this drive is part of what it means to be created Imago Deiin the image of God. He created the world, and then made people in his creative image. He created for seven days straight—and then he rested.

Csikszentmihaly calls it “spontaneous flow” or “flow experience”.

I call it the image of God creating through me.


1. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Flow, the secret to happiness at 11:05.

2. Ibid; 8:30.

3. Ibid at 8:50. The tenses and broken English have been cleaned up a little for better readability.


Part 1: Creator Elohim

June 30, 2012

(This is the beginning of several articles entitled DIVINE CREATIVITY that will present a Biblical apologetic and study on why people are creative. This series contains Scripture passages to read and questions to answer.  Recording your insights in a creative journal may be a valuable exercise.)

Pretend you are seated on a tiny chair in the middle of several squirmy children during a Sunday School class, and the teacher asks the class to complete her sentence: “God is _______.”  Without waiting to be called on the little ones shout out, “Love!”  “Jesus!”  “Big!”  “In heaven!”  “In my heart!”

When they run out of ideas and the teacher calls on you, what is your answer?  Grace?  Omnipotent?  Agape love?  Worthy of worship?

How do you think God would finish the sentence?  How does God introduce Himself to the world?  As Maria in The Sound of Music would advise, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start!”

>>Read Genesis 1 – 2 and write down everything you learn about God.

Among some of God’s qualities mentioned in Genesis 1 is His first Hebrew name: Elohim (literally, powerful ones [1]). Translated simply as God in English, itis used 33 times in the chapter’s 31 verses.  Elohim is combined with created or made seven times and with other creative actions (was moving, separated, said, placed) eleven times.  Taken together Elohim is paired with a creating verb 18 times. [2]

This repetition is for emphasis.  Noticing what is repeated is foundational to studying the Bible.  God repeats what is important—what He wants us to notice.  To state the obvious, in Genesis 1: God wants us to notice that He is Creator God.

Another important Bible study principle is The Law of First Mention.  “The very first time any important word is mentioned in the Bible, Scripture gives that word its most complete and accurate meaning to not only serve as a key in understanding the word’s Biblical concept, but to also provide a foundation for its fuller development in later parts of the Bible.”

Applying this law to Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” again suggests that the first thing God wants us to know about Him, is that He created the world—that He is Creator God.

Therefore, while love, big, and grace are correct answers to a Sunday School teacher’s question about who God is, from the Bible’s perspective, Creator is perhaps a better answer, simply because the Bible first describes God as Creator, and that, multiple times.  When reading the Bible from the beginning, before we know that God is love[3], He wants us to know that He is Creator.

>> How does this change how you view God?  How you view creativity?

Next week: Image-Bearers

[1] The ending on the Hebrew word is plural.

[2] For further study on Elohim.

[3] It’s interesting to note that love, the most frequently given Sunday School answer to the question posed above, isn’t mentioned in the Bible until Genesis 22:2 describing Abraham’s love for Isaac; and we have to wait until Deuteronomy 7:7 for the Bible to tell us of God’s love for people.

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