by Stacy Tan
Since I was a young girl, I’ve always been fascinated by words. I collected words like one collected stamps or rare coins, circling them whilst I read & saying them out loud again & again. Later on, the idea that I could string these words into sentences to form poems & songs became something I loved & practiced regularly. Weirdly enough, I never used to think that this poetic side of me had anything to do with God, until recently.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
(Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
The word “workmanship” was originally written as “poiēma” in Greek, which is where we derive the English word “poem” from. This is more than simple etymology but a perfect depiction of a creative God. The word “poiēma” refers to something made, a beautiful handiwork that has been fashioned at the hands of a master craftsman.
Don’t you love that? Being God’s poem. There is a beatific mystery to the creation story & whenever I think of God as the original poet, it compels me to be all the more creative in my endeavours. Creativity is not a personality type but a reflection of our maker, & something all of us should strive to be.
“Whenever I think of God as the original poet, it compels me to be all the more creative in my endeavours.”
Here are a few tips which has helped me to foster my creative nature as a songwriter, a worshipper & a child of God:
My colleague & good friend Caleb (who happens to be an amazing sound engineer) pointed out recently that the problem with most songwriters & musicians nowadays is simply that they don’t listen to music, or rather, enough of it. I always tell our songwriting students that if they only listen to Hillsong or Planetshakers, their songs are ONLY going to sound like Hillsong or Planetshakers’ songs, which sort of defeats the purpose of being a unique, creative being!
So listen to things out of your comfort zone. Here’s a taste of what we’ve been listening to thus far in class – AG Songwriters 2016.
Read novels. Read poetry. Read the back of your cereal box. Read voraciously because as Annie Proulx once said, reading is the best example of how to write.
Read all things, but most importantly, read the WORD. Not just the psalms (as much as I love them) but the word in its entirety. As songwriters, our understanding of God’s nature is something we need to be rooted in because we paint pictures of who He is in our songs, which are in turn sung by congregations & the generations to come.
Don’t just look, but see – this was a mantra that my English teacher say. To look is a passive thing, but to see is to cultivate a sense of awareness at the beauty around us. When we learn to be immersed in the places God has put us in, mundane scenes transform into splendid landscapes. This is why I love to travel so much & always leave inspired – you see more, simply because you choose to.
With that, let me end with a simple prayer.
Oh marvellous one, the poet of skies & all living being. With your brush, you painted the world into existence. What glorious miracles spring from your breath! Teach me this lesson – that there is nothing greater that human hands could ever manufacture; indeed, I am the handiwork of the original Creator.
Stacy is a resident songwriting & guitar mentor at Awaken Generation where she also heads up communications & creative projects. She has a deep love for poetry & lyric, & endeavours to help songwriting students bring their writing craft to the next level. Her song Hiding Place was featured on AG’s 2015 Sons & Daughters EP.