Pleasure of Creating

God’s Perfect First Draft

I create heeding Anne Lamott’s advice, but maybe I should also write and live according to Evelyn Underhill’s vision. She compares the artistic process to God’s creative activity in us.

Creation is the activity of the artist possessed by the vision of perfection; who, by means of the raw material with which he works, tries to give more and more perfect expression to his idea, his inspiration, or his love. 

I don’t know about you, but when I sit down to create art (in my case, write) I’m not usually possessed by a vision of perfection and I’m much less able to express it. I appreciate Underhill’s lofty goals, but I’m usually possessed by earthly (or earthy) thoughts and it’s a struggle to get them on paper.

Painting by Adolf Holzer 19th century
Painting by Adolf Holzer 19th century

My writing, at least in its early stages, is less like Underhill and more like Anne Lamott’s s***** first draft.  I’m often tempted to stop there because I’ll never attain the “perfection” of Underhill.  It’s not worth the struggle, the hours, or the effort.

But wait, there’s more from Underhill.

From this point of view, each human spirit is an unfinished product, on which the Creative Spirit is always at work.

What an amazing idea: God changes us not to revise a lousy “first draft,” but to craft in us—an unfinished product–his vision of love.  He is the Artist possessed by the vision of who we can be.

Lamott encourages writers to write and not worry about “perfection.” That’s what revision is for.

But I’m glad to know that no matter what we have done, God doesn’t look at us like an imperfect first draft that He needs to revise.  His creative work is to express his vision—of perfection–in us.

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7 thoughts on “God’s Perfect First Draft

  1. I love the way you have connected your writing life and your spiritual life. Thank you for talking about it. Perfectionism–I’m afraid I’ve been snakebit by it. When I have fallen into the trap of trying to accomplish anything perfectly (caring for my house, raising my children, becoming a good writer), I’ve become brittle and even broken when the results didn’t meet my expectations. I can’t write a “perfect” poem or make a “perfect” quilt or raise a perfect child. Now, in my old age, I tell myself that “perfect” has no definition. And God only wants me to be the best definition of myself that I can muster. That doesn’t mean that I don’t give it my best. It just means that I can do better when I’m kinder to myself. An important part of my faith is that the Holy Spirit is guiding me in the direction God desires, even when I’m not aware of it. One thing I’m sure of–I can never try harder and do everything right. I think I’m more likely to be the person God wants me to be when I surrender my own expectations and accept life as it comes. I don’t have to be Miss Wonderful any more. I laugh a lot now and have more fun. My house is as clean as it needs to be. I love to write, even if I will never write the great American novel. And my children? They are beautiful to me.

  2. Betty Spence, I appreciate Lamont and Underhill. But I like what you are doing–and saying.
    It gives me courage to be myself while learning and being inspired by good writers who take
    their writing seriously–but not so much so as to cut off the flow.

  3. Timely! I wrote a first draft yesterday and literally felt shocked at first reading re: how far it was from what I had expected to appear in print. I wanted to toss it and forget it, but I remembered how often this happens and how powerful “sleeping on it” can be.

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