Creativity or Integrity

Creativity or Integrity — Write RightI keep returning to the subjects of creativity and integrity—this marks the third occasion of writing about them in the span of a month. The predilection seems to indicate a new obsession, which I think is fine. The two topics, particularly their interactions with each other, matter. They relate to how I view work, art, and faith.

Creativity and integrity are qualities, or characteristics. An IBM survey says business executives view the former as more important than the latter. I disagree. I believe the latter, integrity, should be of more concern than creativity.

Integrity defines how I respond and act toward the world. It strengthens and steadies my actions, many of which are creative. Creativity, in contrast, isn’t steady. It starts and stutters. It occasionally sails along for days, weeks, and months at a time, but it eventually shudders to a stop. Creativity won’t ever see me through to end of an assignment. Integrity will.

Creativity Sputters and Stutters

Writers know what it is to be blocked. They desire to work on a novel, case study, or other project and find the words hard to grasp, if not missing. Writers may slog through the lack, but they usually still feel stymied. Some writers cease writing and wait for inspiration. Others…others continue writing, regardless. They find an inner reserve not sourced in creativity but in integrity.

Something similar occurs to artists and illustrators. At least, it happens to me. I sit before my artist pad and find nothing, not even if I have an idea for a comic in mind. I try to draw, but every arm and leg turns out deformed. I can’t get the characters placed correctly and get so frustrated that I slash through the figures with my mechanical pencil. I shove away from the table and drawing pad in disgust. I always return to the drawing, but in that moment, the creativity comes up wanting.

Integrity Steadies and Strengthens

Creativity, then, is not to be trusted. It always sputters and stutters if not undergirded by something stronger, namely, integrity. Integrity steadies me for the work ahead and strengthens my ambition to complete that work. Without integrity, I flail and hope for the creativity gods to cease their capriciousness. With it, I dismiss the gods and toil away.

The work isn’t fun, but fun and “feeling creative” aren’t the point. A mind set on integrity cares about doing good work in spite of emotions and circumstances. This mind aims for excellence in all things and times, good and bad. It grinds and lurches forward because it knows that integrity and perseverance don’t disappoint.

The two qualities always produce returns. They might not be immediate, but they come, and when they do, it’s glorious. Integrity and creativity join together to produce good, delightful works that glorify God and serve others—a friend, family member, client, or boss.

Because of that, I choose integrity over creativity. Integrity steadies and keeps me going when I want to give up. It says, “You will do the best work possible, because the best work honors the Father who gave you talents and gifts in the first place.” Integrity strengthens the work of my hands, both the works that come oh-so easily and the ones that devour every ounce of dedication and determination.

Image: Ken Sutton (Creative Commons)