I always thought creativity was a bit self-indulgent. Unless, of course, you were an artist, musician, or someone who had otherwise devoted his or her life to producing beautiful, complex things out of simple elements. To these people is delegated the right to create, and they pay for it in carving out meager subsistences, marketing their bared souls to cold and unappreciative public sensibilities.
This was something I had not resigned to do. I was a math major. Why, then, did I now find myself in a warehouse with a dozen people at my command, directing a film which I had written? How on earth had I come so presumptuously to assume the role of a creative person?
Two things: affirmation and impulse.
First, my film would never have happened if not for how encouraging and helpful certain friends have been, as well as the academic community at Malone. With events like Open Frame and the Writers Prize competition, not to mention the attention given by professors, Malone invites any and all students to be creative (and nothing quite motivates like positive feedback). For some reason, people here find these enterprises to be inherently valuable.
This gets into my second factor. In the Symposium, Plato speaks of the human potential to give birth not just in body but also in soul; we conceive ideas like embryos, which we must nurture and bring to life. There is thus an organic trait to this creative process most unlike rational deliberation, and a kind of necessity too. One does not write (or draw, sing, etc.) because one chooses to do so, but because there is a life, a color in one’s mind.
Suffice it to say that something of the sort occurred in me. I had an idea, or rather I was struck by it (if you’re curious, come to Open Frame). From that point on it has been a lot of work turning it into a film, but it’s work that I can’t recall ever choosing to do. A natural creative impulse, strangely involuntary, has pressed me onward. It is the need to see things to their fruition.
If you are a creative person, this all sounds very familiar to you. In telling a bit of my story, I mean not to suggest that I have been especially inspired. Indeed, I am convinced that creation is something we all can and should do. I should feel most guilty imposing my ideas upon the audience who will see my movie if I was not eager to view their movies as well. Like a true Platonic good, there is no scarcity; creativity is not diminished when individuals acquire it.
That, of course, does not make it less special. Christians can affirm that it is by the image of our Creator that human beings can create, as Plato himself suggests, for this act “is immortal in the animal that is mortal.” There is, at any rate, a vague sense of loftiness that the creative person encounters, and it is one that I highly recommend. Frank Lloyd Wright captures the sentiment well in this quote (which I wore on a t-shirt the day of our shoot): “An idea is salvation by imagination.”
Kyle McClellan is a junior mathematics and computer science major.