Really Creative Writing

father christmasWhen did you first learn how to express yourself creatively? Some of us were blessed with parents who recognized the importance of things like music, art and literature. Others, alas, were not.

Most readers of Mere Inkling like to dabble in writing themselves. Many are quite skilled, and disciplined enough to persist with the demanding task of regularly composing interesting pieces for their own online columns. Some, in fact, are quite accomplished and successful in their personal literary efforts.

Becoming a good, truly good, writer requires experience. One may be born with the innate ability to become a Shakespeare or a Hemingway, but the skills need to be sharpened through effort. Study often helps, but it can never replace the necessity of practice in honing our writing.

It seems to me that the sooner we begin the process of unbridling our imaginations, translating our visions into words, and writing it all down in a way that engages the imaginings of others, the better we can become.

Many of you, especially Europeans, will be familiar with a gaming product that arose in the United Kingdom. They are called Top Trumps, and the cards come in a wide variety of themes. One set that I own is Narnia, from which the image at the top of this page comes.

Tolkien fans will be delighted to learn they just reissued a Lord of the Rings set that comes in an amazing Eye of Sauron tin. You can learn more about that unique item here.

It was while thinking about my Narnia cards when I got the idea to see if there was an online mechanism for making one’s own playing cards. I was toying with the idea of fashioning a C.S. Lewis card to illustrate one of my posts.

I was actually searching online for a site where I could “create” such a card. I found several. Only later did I consider the irony of using that particular word.

For theologians, the word create bears profound significance. When it comes to the human activity of bringing together in some novel shape pre-existing images or ideas, it is not truly accurate. Lewis wrote about that in a 1943 letter to Sister Penelope.

‘Creation’ as applied to human authorship . . . seems to me an entirely misleading term. We . . . re-arrange elements He has provided. There is not a vestige of real creativity de novo in us. Try to imagine a new primary colour, a third sex, a fourth dimension, or even a monster which does not consist of bits of existing animals stuck together! Nothing happens.

And that surely is why our works (as you said) never mean to others quite what we intended: because we are re-combining elements made by Him and already containing His meanings. Because of those divine meanings in our materials it is impossible we should ever know the whole meaning of our own works, and the meaning we never intended may be the best and truest one.

Writing a book is much less like creation than it is like planting a garden or begetting a child: in all three cases we are only entering as one cause into a causal stream which works, so to speak, in its own way. I would not wish it to be otherwise.

Still, even though we are not true “creators,” it is enjoyable to rearrange the mundane elements (or words) of this life in fresh ways.

That’s one reason I was pleased to discover a website devoted to offering a “Trading Card Creator” hosted by the International Reading Association. It “gives students an alternative way to demonstrate their literacy knowledge and skill when writing about popular culture texts or real world examples.”
Why didn’t they have cool stuff like this when I was growing up? (If they did, I might be able to express myself better than by having to rely on phrases like “cool stuff.”)

Below you will find their website, along with a second option. I was thinking that my grandchildren might find it interesting to create a set of cards about our family tree. Their own sketches could be used for ancestors for whom we have no photograph. The comprehensive trading card creator maker offers a variety of templates, including for people, places, events and objects.

The template offered by the second site is generic enough that the cards can be produced in similar categories.

Unleash your imagination. And, after you’ve had some fun, consider sharing these links with a child you may know.

ReadWriteThink Trading Cards

Big Huge Labs Trading Cards

C.S. Lewis Card 3C.S. Lewis Card 2C.S. Lewis Card 1C.S. Lewis Card 4

20 thoughts on “Really Creative Writing

  1. Ach, I have never encountered this passage of Lewis’s pen before, but it expresses something I often think about. This part, especially, voices something that has often comforted me, but that I could not express half so well: “Because of those divine meanings in our materials it is impossible we should ever know the whole meaning of our own works, and the meaning we never intended may be the best and truest one.”

  2. What an intriguing post. Ditto the previous comment about Lewis’s passage and especially that line singled out.
    There’s a big difference between “creating” and “producing”. Lots of people produce without that intangible creative spark…which frustrates, but that may be all that is possible sometimes?
    IRA is made up of very cool people – used to work with them from time to time. Will be passing on those links. Thanks for sharing the fun

    1. There are many levels of any activity, I suppose. Some people go through motions without comprehension. Others recognize the implications of what they are doing. I think all writers have a creative spark, to some degree. Even parodies require some wit (or at least some oblique thought).

      1. That spark is there, but we are mere shadows when compared to the creation in nature which changes every day – no problems …new and improved every single day….even Leno was pressed to be brilliant everyday (insert giggles)
        But we keep trying – that’s the important thing, right?

  3. I read your post on the day I was going to make 2 birthday cards for friends. I made trading cards for them and made the card out of that! It was mega fun and they really enjoyed it. In our community, many of us have studied the Enneagram, so I used that information from a website to inform some of what I wrote. Now everyone else asked, “Will we get trading cards too?” Thanks for the link. A great idea.

  4. I totally don’t get trading cards but I loved this post! It got me thinking that the impossibility of knowing “the whole meaning of our own works” pales into insignificance besides that of knowing the whole meaning of personal relationships during the course of our lives (as well as that most profound relationship with our Creator, of course). Not to get too mystical here, but I wonder sometimes if it is a mercy or a grace that we are half-blinded to it given our imperfections and failures.

    1. No reason to hesitate getting mystical here. :)

      As for trading cards, I grew up with lots of them. Still have many of them packed aways somewhere. In addition to sports (I preferred football cards which I’m sure are a lot less valuable than baseball cards) I loved television themed ones. I have some from Batman, The Outer Limits and Hogan’s Heroes, as well as a few others I can’t recall at the moment.

      1. I certainly hope you had one of the bug-eyed sargeant that Hogan kept getting into (and out of) trouble, He was my favorite character …. “I see nothing – NOTHING!”

    2. I think the half-blindness you mention cuts both ways. Without seeing the harm we do, it is easy to become self-satisfied, and without seeing the results of obedience to God and love for eachother, we can become discouraged.

      Maybe the blindness, as with everything else, is only safe/only serves a good purpose, when our trust is placed where it should be, in Him. :)

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