I am currently reading “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Creativity talks about creativity in an interesting way by making an effort to understand the mysterious process by which people come up with new ideas. He has gathered information from over 90 successfully creative people from diverse subject areas concerning their creative process. While Csikszentmihalyi admits everyone is different he does find common themes among creative people. In the next few blog posts I want to explore different aspects of that common thread of creativity.
The first common thread Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi finds within creative people is that they are masters of their subject matter. These people are experts within their domain. The domain is the set of rules or procedures that govern the subject matter. Those rules can very strict and formal, such as in the domain of mathematics, or loose and informal, such as in the domain of painting. Regardless of what type of rules govern the subject area a creative person is an expert concerning the rules. You will never meet a creative mathematician who does not understand math. Nor will you find a creative product inventor that does not understand the domain of the problem he is trying to solve as well as the mechanics needed to solve the problem.
The creative person must have expert knowledge of the domain but that does not mean that he always plays by the rules. Picasso was known for pushing beyond the standard rules of painting, making the domain even larger. Einstein, who was also a master of the domain, did the same thing for the domain of physics which has stricter rules. No one creates in a vacuum, everyone does so within a given domain. And how can anyone know if their idea is novel if he does not thoroughly understand the domain? They cannot. A trivial idea is no different from a novel idea unless the an expert is able to determine which is needed and which is frivolous. For a person to be creative, he must know the domain inside and out.
There is another aspect of the domain that I found interesting. The author writes:
For most people, domains are primarily ways to make a living. We choose nursing or plumbing, medicine or business administration because of our ability and the chances of getting a well-paying job. But then there are individuals – and the creative ones are usually in this group – who choose certain domains because of a powerful calling to do so. For them the match is so perfect that acting within the rules of the domain is rewarding in itself; they would keep doing what they do even if there were not paid for it, just for the sake of doing the activity.(p. 37)
Not every person called to domain is creative, but most all creative people are called to domains. For some, youth ministry is about doing a job that for which one is well-suited. There is nothing wrong with that. I don’t really think it is wrong to do youth ministry if you aren’t called. (Personally, I’m not a fan, but God uses all kinds of intentions for his glory) But there are so many of us doing youth ministry because we are called to do so. And if we want to be a creative force within that domain we must become experts of youth ministry. This doesn’t mean you take a class or two. How many of you are math experts despite over 10 years of classes on the subject? I thought so. This means becoming immersed in the domain to which you are called. Moreover, this may mean focusing on one small piece of the domain for many years.
Are you called to your domain? (Youth ministry or not) Are you called to be creative within that domain? Are you willing to take the time to become an expert?