The more I read about the creative process, the more I begin to realize how passive we are in it. Some of the most creative people in the world claim that their most amazingly brilliant creations were less products of sweat and toil and more gifts that were bestowed upon them.
My primary example of this is C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. In a short essay entitled “Creating Narnia,” Lewis explains how he came up with his most memorable characters for the book. For Lewis, “Everything began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion.” Lewis didn’t sit at his writing desk for days on end, pulling out his hair, trying to imagine the perfect images to embody evil, good, and represent Christ in an allegory for children. He didn’t turn to his vast collection of books or his Oxford education to seek out ancient characters for literary resonance.
The books began with the Faun, whom we now know as Mr. Tumnus. Lewis saw the faun since he was the ripe old age of 16, long before he became a Christian, got an Oxford education, or lived through many life shaping experiences. In his youth, his mind saw “a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood.”
There was no story yet, just pictures. Then, one day, when he was about forty, “Aslan came bounding into it.” That’s it. Out of nowhere, one of the greatest characters in children’s fiction runs into Lewis’ mind, and the rest is history.
This leads me to a question for all of us to consider: how much is God involved in the creative process? Did God ask Aslan to leap into Lewis’s mind? Long before God got hold of Lewis’s heart, did he begin speaking to Lewis through these characters?
I don’t want to remove Lewis from the equation, as much as Lewis seems to want himself removed from it (humble as he is). However, I do want to recognize the large role that God might play in putting characters or ideas into creative minds. Lewis knew he couldn’t take full responsibility for his work. Somebody has to get the glory. It might as well be God.
I have comfort in knowing that the creative process doesn’t rest completely on my strength alone. I’ll wait patiently for my Aslans to come bounding in.