The Rhythm of Creativity

“An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.” -Henri Matisse

To ensure your creativity survives in this world of radical discontinuity, a healthy understanding of rhythm is essential. Radical discontinuity is a fancy way of saying the world is changing so fast we can’t keep up with it.

We live in a world replete with what I call “cracks in time.” A crack in time is an event that changes the world as we know it. Historically, those cracks occurred every ten thousand years or so—the discovery of fire (200,000 BC), the bow and arrow (10,000 BC), the invention of the wheel (2,000 BC). Then cracks began to appear every hundreds of years—the Gutenberg printing press (1568 AD), the steam engine (1800), the atom (1897). And they began to snowball—the first micro chip (1958), personal computer (1975), first laptop computer (1981), USA Today (1982), first Macintosh computer (1984).

Today the cracks develop at warp speed. Consider this, Nokia’s first mobile (if you can call it that) phone was introduced in 1982, the Nokia Mobira Senator was designed for use in cars. After all, you wouldn’t want to use this phone while walking: It weighed about 21 pounds.

It’s hard to comprehend, but in 1993, we functioned somewhat normally in a world devoid of Internet, email, text messages, PDA’s, Facebook, and YouTube.

Radical discontinuity. You get the picture.

How many passwords do you have at this moment? I bet you can’t recall them all.

For your creativity to survive in this chaos, these three rhythms provide a catchy “drum loop” for life.

1. The Rhythm of Seasons — In “God’s Country,” otherwise known as Nashville, Tennessee, USA, we have four distinct seasons of approximately three months each. Winter, spring, summer and fall. These seasons represent death followed by life. An application of this natural rhythm to our physical, emotional and spiritual life provides exponential benefits.

A friend of mine would visit me a few years ago in Florida from the Chicago winter, and as we luxuriated in the endless summer, I would ask him how he survived the cold harsh winter in the windy city. I will never forget his answer. “It’s great. I hibernate like a big bear. Sometimes I feel sorry for all you suckers who live in Florida year-round. You don’t get a hibernation time. Everybody needs to hibernate once a year. It’s human nature.”

After 20 years of frenetic non-stop summer in Florida, it was a life-changing relief to experience the rhythmic seasonal changes of Tennessee.

Regular exercise, the liturgy, holidays, periodic vacations, festivals, harvest, the Sabbath, a shower in the morning, a cup of coffee on the porch before work, all provide seasonal rhythm in the chaos of life. It is no coincidence, these “seasons” result in our most creative times.

2. The Rhythm of Relationships — Even though it hurts, it is natural for relationships to come and go. In the transient world in which we live, it’s no surprise that we creatives fear cultivating deep relationships.

But cultivate we must. New relationships provide exciting and unique perceptual views. Only in deep relationships, are we able to look at the world through a new set of eyes. Healthy relationships provide not only a glimpse at the window of our soul – which in itself is invaluable – but also provide new ways of looking at the world as a whole.

And most importantly, in the dark nights of our soul, when we can’t see for ourselves, our true friends can see for us. Thus, the natural rhythm of our life is able to continue through suffering. Creatives must walk through the dark night of the soul, for it is in that crucible where sight and insight is recreated and restored. Very few people are truly creative, because they have a dearth of deep relationships, and therefore no guide through the dark night of the soul.

It is no coincidence, these “relationships” accompany our most creative times.

3. The Rhythm of Solitude — A rhythm for the chaos of a 24/7 world is solitude. The word is counter-cultural in our Western world. When a decision is made to invest in your creativity through solitude,  prepare to be misunderstood by employer, peers, friends, and yes, family.

But this rhythm is imperative in the creative life. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, “The rhythm of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”

If we are truly spiritual, in solitude is where we are least alone. It is only in solitude that we confront the source of our loneliness. And in rhythms of solitude, loneliness can become not only bearable, but a wellspring of creativity.

How much time have you spent in true solitude?

It is no coincidence, that “solitude” is the companion in our most creative times.

How About You?

Do You Consider Yourself Creative?

Do you “Got Rhythm?”

What Rhythms Inspire Your Creativity?

14 Responses to “The Rhythm of Creativity”

  1. I needed this. I seem to have fallen into a funk that I can’t seem to, don’t want to, shake. Like there’s something stirring right underneath the surface of my soul. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I’ve decided that instead of fighting it, I will fall into it and see where it takes me.

    Perhaps it’s the potential of an empty nest in my early 40s that has me in its grip. I’m finding myself thinking about long dead achievements — acting on stage, entertaining people over the radio, singing in a band — and wondering if the next chapter of my life holds any of these. Or none.

    One thing I know for sure of is that I will have my God who shows me how to dance.

    • @Thelma Bowlen, Yes, He is the ultimate dance partner. Thanks, Thelma. We have survived the empty nest as young adults and are now loving it!!

    • @Thelma Bowlen, First off – great post Randy, I love these thoughts. It took me years to realize and accept that having the soul of an artist is not a bad thing. Learning how to nurture that has awakened me in ways I can’t even describe right now.

      Thelma, I’m facing that empty nest, what is amazing to me, is the dance floor that God is opening up right before my eyes. It’s a scary jump. I cried for weeks when my oldest left for college last year. And I still have one at home for two more years. Finding ourselves, our personhood if you will, outside of motherhood and wifedom requires a courage that I believe only a true artist can acquire. It’s going to be awesome! Count on it.

  2. I’ve read this several times.What a great drum loop.

    I’d like to add the Rhythm of Simplicity–or a better title if you come up with it. I find my creativity soars when I can clear out surrounding clutter–all the extra stuff that accumulates, especially in my surroundings–physical collections, impulse buys, things that collect dust and require upkeep. Of course, there’s heart and head clutter, too.

    Living sleek and traveling light. That’s my goal.

  3. Randy:
    Thanks for writing this. After having spent 3 1/2 years in New England, I suspected that darkness and seasons really affected the Creative mind. I’ve never written more songs or struggled more spiritually than during that time.
    I recently moved back to coastal Georgia, and the songs aren’t flowing as freely as before
    I think I will increase some of the solitude in order to counter-balance the lack of seasons in life now.

  4. Oh, I didn’t know I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, USA? The title already makes me smile. Rhythm. of. creativity. Wow, I love that.

    I love the 4 seasons. The storms in the fall, the leaves on the trees changing colours, in the spring the trees start to blossom and all the flowers grow, in the winter the snow and again the trees. The colours of the sky in those seasons are magnificent.

    I know it’s good to have new friends but I hate it when a friendship ends. One friendship ended just two months ago (without fight). I start to love and trust them and than they leave. I don’t want them to leave. Just realizing there is one new friend who went with me and my neighbour on an art-tour nearby. All artists opened up their houses so we could see their works. It was fantastic and we decided to do this again. So maybe it’s not bad after all….nah, it still hurts.
    “Creatives must walk through the dark night of the soul, for it is in that crucible where sight and insight is recreated and restored.” this is so true. My best drawings and poems are created in the dark nights of my soul. But I don’t know it has to do with that I have deep relationships. I’m not sure. I don’t have many. I can count my deep relationships in one hand. Don’t get me wrong they are priceless. But I just can’t see that it has to do with my relationship to them.

    Rhythm of solitude is tough for me. I struggle the most with this one but when I’m in that moment the most amazing poems are created. I only know they are amazing because of the people who know my poems and drawings. But I don’t choose to be solitude, it’s just not me. It happens because I’m alone. But that time it’s when I’m most vulnerable and God breaks me and then the poems come up. It’s really strange they don’t come up when I’m with friends or when I’m fine. I really don’t get that. This blogpost is challenging me to go further than I am right now. Thanks.

  5. The rhythm of relationships is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. Investing in deep relationships is something I am willing to do even though it means I will experience pain. I have often been very inspired both by the pain and the look at the world through a new set of eyes that you spoke about here.
    I consider myself rich when it comes to seasons (I live in New England) and relationships and solitude.
    Thanks for pointing out the connection between these and creativity.


  1. Rhythm of Creativity | - June 30, 2010

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