C.S. Lewis has had many good ideas, among them ideas concerning creativity and the imagination. If you’re stuck in a rut, perhaps these thoughts of his can help spur your own imagination to greater heights.
Providing Just the Right Image
Reason is the natural organ of truth, imagination is the organ of meaning.
– “Bluspels and Flalansferes”, Selected Essays
Lewis believed that we do not really grasp the meaning of words or concepts until we have clear pictures or images we can connect with them. Even in the midst of an apologetic argument, Lewis provided just the right picture, image, or metaphor to help the reader grasp the meaning of an argument.
Honoring the Dignity of Others
There are no ordinary people. You have never met a mere mortal.
– The Weight of Glory
Our creativity stems from being made in the image of God, our Creator. Being made in the image of God also means we have intrinsic worth, value, and dignity. Lewis’s productivity united these two beliefs – that we are creative beings and we have inherent worth. He understood that God created every single individual to be unique and to reflect his image. Lewis lived out this idea that “there are no ordinary people” in the above instance by writing personal, handwritten letters to everyone who wrote to him,
Overcoming Bias Against the Past
Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract if nonsense that pours from the press and the microphone of his own age.
– “Learning in Wartime”, The Weight of Glory
Sources from the past can ignite our creativity and our imaginations. Lewis knew that a bias against the past could be an obstacle not only to creativity, but to faith. As I wrote in one article for the C.S. Lewis Institute,
One obstacle that C.S. Lewis had to overcome was what he called his “chronological snobbery.” By that he meant the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is thereby discredited. For instance, people might ask, “What does a 2,000-year-old faith have to do with me?” One of Lewis’s friends helped him to ask about ideas that seemed outdated. Why did an idea go out of date and was it ever refuted? If so, where, by whom, and how conclusively? C.S. Lewis later argued that reading old books helped provide a corrective to the blindness induced by our own age. We ought, he maintained, to read one old book for every new one or if that’s too much, then one old one for every three new ones. Otherwise, we may be easily enslaved to the ideas of the recent past.
Our creativity will be hindered if we are only drawing on ideas of the recent past.