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Don’t Believe This One Lie About Your Creativity

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I’ll just come right out with it.

“It’s all been done.”

And no, I’m not referencing that delightful bit of pop-rock from the Barenaked Ladies back in 1998, though it definitely got stuck in my head while writing this. What I’m talking about is a classic excuse to not make your art.

It’s a bit of angst that many an artist has felt in their pursuit to bring something fresh and new into the world. It’s easy to feel resigned to the idea that there are no new ideas to be had, nothing left to discover, nothing original and unique left for us. “It’s all been done.”

Have you ever heard someone say this? Perhaps you have said it to yourself in a moment of frustration. You may have even heard the idea defended with the scripture from Ecclesiastes 1:9, “…there’s nothing new under the sun.”

And here’s what’s really being said: that someone else, somewhere in the world, has already done what we are trying to do, and they’ve probably done it better than we ever could. So really, why bother?

This sentiment, whether offered merely as an excuse or as a firmly held belief, is a dangerous lie that we need to be free of. Believing this will keep us from stepping into the fullness of God’s plan for us.

Let me assure you, it has not all been done. In fact, it never will be. Here’s why:

Our God is boundlessly creative in everything He does. When He created the cosmos, He packed more stuff into it than we may ever discover (we literally haven’t scratched the surface). Then, He created mankind in His own image, making each of us absolutely unique in countless ways. Finally, He placed us into this incredibly diverse & complex creation with a specific mandate – to define, shape, and give order to what He had made. Sound, light, texture, taste, and aroma are all at our disposal in this assignment, and we have virtually unlimited resources to work with.

When we create, we stamp our image on the created order in the same way that He stamped His image on us. As we follow in our Father’s example and are true to our unique purpose, we have the ability each and every day to bring forth something new and different from anything the world has ever seen.

No, it hasn’t all been done. And next time you are tempted to think it has, consider some of the following:

God’s Creativity

  • Our universe is unimaginably large. The Milky Way galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, some of which are hundreds of times larger than our sun. But the Milky Way is just one out of hundreds of billions of galaxies in the observable universe. We live on a tiny blip of a planet, and yet there is still land on Earth that is unexplored (as well as 95% of the ocean floor). There’s plenty left to discover.
  • Our universe is unimaginably small. For all its grandiose size, the universe is made of tiny stuff we can’t even see. For a while, we thought the atom was the smallest particle. Then we found protons & neutrons inside. Now inside of those we have found quarks. Have we reached the basic building block? We don’t even know. The field of quantum physics shows us how little we actually understand about the world around us.
  • Our universe is unimaginably diverse. For example, there are about 200,000 species of marine wildlife that we know of (depending on who you ask), but the experts guess that there are literally millions more. We are constantly discovering new ones. Why would God make so many? Why not stop after 50,000 or 100,000?  Because God is an artist whose creativity knows no bounds.

God hasn’t felt the need to repeat Himself. Every snowflake is different. In fact, the universe God created may actually rule out the idea of any two things being identical.

“Well, that’s God – that’s not us. What about us?” I’m glad you asked.

Our Creativity

  • The human eye can differentiate between seven million different colors. How many different ways are there to combine those seven million colors into a painting?
  • The human ear can differentiate 330,000 tones or pitches. How many different chords could we make? How many melodies could be written?
  • The human nose can potentially differentiate up to a trillion different scents. And we thought dogs had good noses! How many fragrances or aromas could be created?
  • The human tongue can detect a handful of different flavor types, but this is an evolving science. There may be many more than the four or five we learned in school. Regardless, we all know from experience that we humans can discern a plethora of flavors. How many different recipes could we come with?
  • The human sense of touch can detect variations down to microscopic levels. Imagine how many possible textures there are. How many different fabrics could be created?
  • The English language contains close to 250,000 distinct words. If you add in regional/technical vocabulary, abbreviations, slang, and words with multiple senses, the number soars to upwards of 750,000. Not to mention there are 6,500 other languages. How many stories could be told? How many poems could be written?

This is just looking at each of our five senses in isolation. Imagine the creative possibilities when we combine them. The possibilities are endless:

  • The sights, sounds, and emotional storytelling of a movie
  • The colors, textures, and fragrances of a flower garden

Endless creativity and complexity are innate to our universe. Every moment breeds fresh new possibilities.

Consider the simple game of chess. Though relatively simple, we see how quickly creativity and complexity take over. After just 5 moves from each player, there are over 69 trillion game variations. And for an average length game of 40 moves each, there are 10120 possible game variations. That’s more than the number of atoms in our universe!

So what’s the point?

The point is not simply to be enthralled by the statistical improbability of ever repeating ourselves or someone else, though it sure is fun to geek out every now and then. Obviously, not every possible collection of sounds will make a pleasing melody, nor will every combination of colors make a beautiful painting. The point here is to break out of the limiting mindsets we box ourselves in with and realize the limitless potential we have to express who we are.

The next time you hear yourself (or someone else) say “it’s all been done”, stop and remind yourself of the absolute mind-blowing diversity and complexity we find all around us. Remind yourself that God Himself is endlessly creative and we are made in His image, infused with His creative spark, and mandated to co-create with Him in this world of amazing possibilities.

Now go create something that is you.

Be true to who He created you to be, and everything you create will be marked with your image, just like you are marked with God’s image.

It hasn’t all been done. And even if it had, it hasn’t been done by you. We haven’t heard what you have to say about it.

The world is waiting for you to make something brand new, and to do something that’s never been done.

Jonathan Fitt

Jonathan Fitt is a musician, author, speaker, and founder of Christian Artists Guild. His passion is empowering artists and contending for a renaissance in the church that leads to a reformation in culture.

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  • Miranda Fann says:

    Thank you for this encouragement! I have so many ideas in my heart, I just need a place to do it. 🙂

    • Jonathan Fitt says:

      That’s awesome Miranda! Be encouraged to do everything that the Lord has place in your heart!

  • […] as this article from the Christian Authors Guild attests, the “it’s all been done before” syndrome is a chronic symptom for aspiring and beginning […]

  • Tammy says:

    Yesss!! Thank you! Just the push I needed. I appreciate your encouragement. Sometimes it’s not just about us creating (although that’s super fun!), but about us coming into who He made us to be and sharpening us for the things that are eternal!

    • Jonathan Fitt says:

      So true Tammy! Blessings!

  • Craig Sibley says:

    I used to have a friend who would always say “why are you always trying to be so freaking “original” since it’s all been done before?”. My answer was, “because God made me unique, and that uniqueness enables me to do something that’s been “done before” in a new, fresh, unique and exciting way”. It is also my belief that as an artist, it is my responsibility to at least TRY to offer something that is not derivative of something else. Of course, this opens up the old argument that we are ALL derivative of something, or someone else’s influence and that we all (most of us in the west anyway) use the 12 tone scale, blah, blah, blah. But the fact of the matter is that God made me to make music and art… and because of that, I have HIS finger prints all over me. He is the potter, and I am the clay and he has formed me completely differently from anyone else on Earth. My life’s experiences cause me to approach life completely different than anyone else. And THAT’S something I take comfort and joy in when creating. The funny thing is that when I was writing music for film, the producer might ask for something like “so and so”. THAT is when I struggled the most. Try as I might, I found it very difficult to sound like someone else! ;o) hehehe. Good article Jonathon… keep up the good work! – Craig Sibley

  • sally young eslinger says:

    Have just been discussing your marvelous, erudite points with my husband ( scientist & engineer) and we got into the concept of the Singularity in relation to Creativity; just as you concluded, Creativity is infinite…Andpersonally, these days, I am called to act artistically by the Holy Spirit, who I doubt would call us to meaningless endeavor…In 1972, I had a pastor as my boss at a publisher’s and when he found out I was a cre “ative writer, he waved his bible at me and said, “Why? It’s all been written. There is nothing new.” It is my wrestled-with opinion that Originality is NOT the goal in Creativity, but that creative self or group expression IS. I wish I had been able to read your remarks in in 1970’s when the the student art world was all concerned with being Original over learning technique.

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