Book Club Channel
Contemplation and Creativity: An Interview with Christine Valters Paintner
Christine Valters Paintner's new book The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom invites readers onto the path of the "inner monk" and the "inner artist" by offering practices for deepening both their spiritual and creative lives. Here, fellow artist and spiritual director Tim Mooney talks with Christine about her new book and the interplay between contemplation and creativity. (Visit the Patheos Book Club to read more about Christine and her book.)
Many people say they don't have a creative bone in their body. But you have a different take on that—why is this book important for "regular" people who may not consider themselves either monk or artist?
I believe that we all have a longing to make meaning of our lives, to create something that expresses our own deep longing and vision. The monk within is our inner longing for contemplative presence and spaciousness, the hunger we each have to discover the holy in each moment. The artist within is our inner desire for creative expression, to give form to our deeply felt experience, and to make things of beauty. Whether or not we live in a monastery or spend each day in an art studio, I think we can each identify the longings the inner monk and artist represent within ourselves. This book is an invitation to anyone who wants to cultivate these aspects more intentionally.
You speak of "resistance" in the book's introduction. Can you say more about that and how it might impact your readers?
We all encounter resistance in daily life to both the ordinary tasks as well as our bigger dreams. Resistance is an inner dynamic that can create a kind of confusion about what we most deeply want. So we may say that we want to be a writer, but we experience all kinds of resistance to actually sitting down to the blank page each day. I think this largely happens because the closer we come to what we most treasure, the more vulnerable we feel. It is a much bigger risk to make a sacrifice for a big dream because of all the unknowns, so we often settle for not following that path because then the risk isn't as high.
Living a creative and meaningful life is hard work because it means we have to stay awake to our own experience and not abandon ourselves.
You are an advocate of creative expression as a means of transformation and healing. Theologian Trevor Hart cautioned against too much creativity, calling for "responsible creativity." Are there dangers inherent in creative expression?
I would agree with Hart's call for "responsible creativity." Creativity alone is a neutral force that can be engaged for transformation and healing, but that can also be harmful if we create destructive things. As humans we continuously create new ideas and things in the world.
Christine Valters Paintner, Ph.D., is a Benedictine Oblate and the online Abbess of Abbey of the Arts, a virtual monastery without walls offering online classes and resources in contemplative practice and creative expression. She is the author of seven books on monastic spirituality and creativity including The Artist's Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom (Ave Maria Press), Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings (SkyLight Paths), and Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice (forthcoming 2013 from Ave Maria Press). Christine earned her Ph.D. in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, and her work focuses on the intersection of the arts, contemplative spirituality and practice, and the wisdom of the seasons. Visit her website Abbey of the Arts.