Creativity is a wonderful thing. It can be used as a form of therapy, or it can be tapped into for fun. It can also be an act of worship, as creativity is something that can draw people closer to God. I think it’s so beneficial because it has so many various practical uses.
I’d love to take you on a journey through my thoughts surrounding the wider topic of creativity. To do that, though, I have to first give a bit of a background on myself and my life in short.
My name is Matthew Whisker, and I’m a 24-year-old writer from Lincoln, England (a true born-and-bred yellowbelly!) I’m currently studying at university there whilst living with my dad. Although I had the best upbringing from parents who encouraged me to chase my dreams, throughout the first part of my life I was told by people from various walks of life that I wouldn’t amount to much. Teachers and child psychologists wrote me off as being too timid, too different, and too strange to ever do anything worthwhile.
At the age of ten, I was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, which eventually crippled me to the point of being trapped in my own house and not being able to socialise, as I was afraid of everything. Thankfully, Jesus had a different plan, and after being transformed at the age of fifteen, I ended up overcoming many of my fears practically overnight.
Recently, I graduated from the University of Winchester with a degree in Creative & Professional Writing (a strand of the core Creative Writing degree in which we were taught how to make a living from writing). Now, I’m back and living with my father in the house he rents, just outside of Lincoln.
One thing I love about creativity is it allows you to express yourself in ways nobody else can. The Bible tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). That includes all the things that make us unique. Whereas some people are incredible singers, and others are incredible painters, I like to use my God-given gift of writing to try and make people stop and think.
As well as this, I believe that through our different life experiences, God has made us all passionate about a wide range of things. For me, one thing I love to advocate is healthy, honest, and open discussion about mental health. It’s something that I feel like the media hasn’t always portrayed favourably, and even in some countries, it’s something that is either filled with misconceptions or just ignored. I want to help break the taboo of mental health. By giving exposure to the side of it that nobody sees, I believe this can be a huge step in the right direction.
I love the stories of people throughout the Bible who had their own struggles with mental health. Ezekiel struggled with depression (1 Kings 19), Moses had doubts surrounding his ability as a leader (Exodus 3:11), and Jesus even suffered great anxiety while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46.) These stories remind me that it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to feel anxious and sad, as long as you can process them in an emotionally healthy way.
As a result of my interest in this topic, much of my writing is themed around mental health. I’ve written stories that touch on it, and I also write poetry (none of which I have yet published.) In 2018, I self-published a short story collection. Some of the stories deal with paranoia and feelings of betrayal, which are very real feelings to have, and should not be dismissed as simply an act of madness. I also like to write songs; I have released an EP, titled ‘Forever.’ You can find it on all music streaming services. Many of my songs deal with the brokenness that is so prevalent in society. If you want to buy physical copies of my EP and short story collection, I have a Patreon page in which you can pledge a certain amount of money monthly to receive these gifts: www.patreon.com/matthewwhisker. I also have a SoundCloud account, if you wish to take a look at some of the other songs I’ve written: https://soundcloud.com/user-734522206.
I have also recently started a weekly podcast series, called ‘Let’s Talk About.’ In this podcast, I essentially ramble on about many things that I am passionate about, with each episode focusing on something different. (Listen to it here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2JI1xUHrTXKQfBeZ5tISqx?si=G04s7DI2RD6TXofej8pGRA.) While the show hasn’t dealt extensively with the topic of mental health (episode 1 focuses on dating; episode 2 on writing) it is an underlying factor that plays heavily into the discussion that I take, especially during the first episode of the series. In later episodes, I will be exploring the topics of mental health, and more specifically, autistic spectrum disorder. I believe this will provide the gateway I want the Holy Spirit to have in saying what I believe is God’s heart surrounding these issues, while trying to break down barriers surrounding the mental health debate.
That is, after all, something that I think is essential when thinking about creativity. For a lot of people, creativity is simply being good at drawing, writing, playing an instrument, or even something entirely different. But for me, creativity can come when we partner with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, to deliver what we feel called towards. This is what I would like to term ‘Inspired Creativity,’ and it should affect each and every Christian creative. When we are inspired, we can then go on to inspire others, both in the church and outside of it. People will become drawn to us as people, and they’ll ask the questions that could lead them directly to Christ. By using Inspired Creativity in our everyday lives, we can paint a picture of a true, unified body of Christ, free of any negative attitudes towards mental health.
Much of my creative work comes from this idea of Inspired Creativity. Many of the poems that I write take no more than fifteen minutes to write, and the songs that I have written have usually taken between twenty minutes and one hour to create. Below, I have attached some of the lyrics of the first verse, pre-chorus, and chorus to my song, ‘When the Party’s Over.’ I believe they highlight just how impactful having mental health can be.
When the Party’s Over
Laying on the bathroom floor again
I’m talking to the friends that are in my head
They’re telling me that I am not enough
They’re telling me that I am never loved
Will you be the one to call
When I’m standing at the altar
And when my backs against the wall
will you rush to help me
When the party’s over
When the spotlight fades
Will you be the one to take it all away
When the curtain closes
When it turns to grey
Will you be the one to wash my pain away
I believe that Inspired Creativity can also go on to inspire others. If a creative does not connect with their own work emotionally, how are others meant to be impacted if you can’t? This is something that I try to work with when making any piece of writing. There are two reasons for this. First: one of my core strengths is empathy, and I have a track record of being able to empathise with other’s life situations. With this in mind, if I can’t feel any sense of emotion from my writing, how can I expect others to? Second: I believe that, while creatives can, and usually do, dislike their art, they do ultimately form some sort of emotional connection to it, even if it is one of reproach. If the originators of a particular piece don’t feel any sort of emotion over their works, how will anybody else?
My faith also plays a huge part in my work. We all go through doubts. It’s okay to be unsure of the reality of God, and it’s okay to ask questions. I’ve written poems which deal with faith in a world of skepticism, and doubt in a world of faith. It’s a dynamic that interests me, most importantly as a Christian, but also as a writer. By tackling this topic, I hope to normalise conversations of doubt and faith among believers and not-yet-believers.
I want to close by talking about how all of this affects me as a person. Our experiences define us and every part of our lives, from the public image we portray, to the person we are in private, where only God can see us. As an enneagram type 4, I try to be the authentic me as much as possible, and part of this is sewn into my work. However, this has a two-fold effect. While my deepest thoughts are usually taken from my mind to the printed page, they also influence me. The results are interesting: I grow in my awareness of the world’s issues, and I also become much more self-aware. I become conscious of my doubts, my fears, and my anxieties.
But that’s okay. It’s okay to ask questions, as long as you get the answers. It’s okay to doubt, as long as you’ve got someone beside you to help you through it. For me, it’s my best friends. But it’s also the printed page.