Authors as Sub-Creators

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Most of us are aware of J.R.R. Tolkien’s great literary works most recently embodied in Peter Jackson’s silver screen adaptations of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as well as The Hobbit (Trilogy). I am personally a huge fanatic and I presume that many of you are as well. Yet as many of us may be aware of his literary works, I gather that a much smaller remnant are aware of—and actually implement—his theory of sub-creation.

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Created to Create

Tolkien’s theory of sub-creation involves the ability of the human being to create within our own realms of influence much in the same way that we ourselves were created. Now if you don’t actually believe that you yourself were created then, hopefully, as a writer, you can at least imagine that you were.

Think of it: an entire people created in the likeness (characteristics) and image (appearance) of their Creator; endowed with His abilities and powers, one of those powers being the ability to create. Well my friend, if you consider yourself a writer in any capacity, then you have this ability! So how are you implementing it?

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What Are You Creating??

The concept of sub-creation should be of particular importance to those who write stories. When you are a storyteller, you create your own world, your own rules, your own inhabitants and other creatures, etc. I have a little saying that I like to employ that states:

The story is true within the context of the writer.

In my book Faith and the Imagination, I open up addressing the issue that many parents—Christian or otherwise—are concerned with: are fairytales evil? In short, the answer is yes and no. Why? Because what is written reflects the character and nature of the writer. Look at the works of C.S. Lewis and his friend Tolkien: they’re works were good because the authors themselves were good men. Similarly, if you find yourself reading something by a deranged author, the work itself is likely to show hints (at the very least) of that deranged-ness.

As the author, you have the power to create whatever you want and allow your heart, your intellect, your morals, and your particular giftings to shine through. It is an amazing power! So what are you creating? What are you pouring yourself into?

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My Business is to Create

In one of my favourite movies P.S. I Love You, Hilary Swank’s character “Holly” is in Ireland, at her dead husband’s (Gerry) parents’ home. She is reading one of Gerry’s letters and through it, she reminisces on how they first met. The movie then takes you to that to the endearing encounter wherein Holly is convincing her new friend Gerry that she knows poetry. She does not. She then, sadly, yet hilariously, butchers William Blake’s quote. The actual quote is as follows:

Again I ask: what are you creating? Too many of us are busy being “enslaved by another man’s will.” Others still are lost in reasoning and comparing themselves to others and it is not beneficial. When your business is to create, you compare yourself with where you were to where you are now, and more importantly, where you are now, to where you desire to be. You spend your time creating something beneficial, good, and relevant that helps to meet the need of another as well as to “have a little part of you outside of yourself so you know a little more about yourself.”

I will not ask you again what you are creating. Yet I will charge you to go out and create. Do it today! And if you are already creating, don’t stop there! Become better! Improve yourself in every way! You have the opportunity to make this year your own, to wipe the slate clean from last year’s mistakes, and to do better and more importantly be better than you ever were before. If you make this your purpose, what you do create will be just that much more amazing. Sub-create today!

We the Sub-Creators

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The following is an excerpt from my book, Faith and the Imagination! Be sure to get your own copy if you haven’t already!

My favourite author of all time (tied with his long-time friend, C.S. Lewis), Jonathan Ronald Reuel (J.R.R.) Tolkien, developed a theory that was true at the world’s inception and will remain so until its appointed end. That theory is Sub-Creation. Tolkien’s theory, simply put, is the ability of humanity to sub-create in the image and likeness of their Creator. I believe in the truth of this theory and if embraced, the many possibilities and potentialities that can come from it.

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Sub-Creators by Nature

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”…. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26, 27)

This is the original purpose of man: to look and act like God on earth. Therefore, by nature, we are gods. Please hear me out before you burn me for a heretic! When the physician-apostle Luke listed the genealogy of Christ for Theophilus, he listed Christ’s bloodline all the way up to Adam, then God.

Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)

This is not the “Son of God” in the sense that Jesus is, rather the “son of God” as the angels are: glorious created beings with the breath of God in us. We are the sons of God and thus, little gods just as the early Christians were called “little Christs”; not Christ themselves, but presumably, the image and likeness of Christ in the earth.

Furthermore, the Psalmist backs this claim up.

I said, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.” (Psalm 82:6)

He, prophetically, equates the children of the Most High (humans) with gods themselves. We do not reside on Olympus, neither are we demi-gods (half-gods), but again, we are the offspring of God. Therefore, as the “children of the Most High,” “son(s) of God,” are we not then expected and required to reflect our Source of life in our own spheres of influence? The answer is absolutely yes.

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Sub-Creators by Mandate

When King David described humans as “gods” he goes on to say this:

I said, “You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.  But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.” (Psalm 82:6-7)

He declares man’s divinely royal heritage and in the same breath, their eternal doom.  But why does he do this? Excellent question.

Just the other “sons of God,” the angels, left their “former estate” in Jude 1:6, we too forget and leave our former estates (mandates, positions) when we fail to -create in the world.

When God created us, it was a sovereign act of His unfathomable dominion. He created the universe and beyond to rule, yet as the Ultimate Father, gifted us with the rule of Earth.

The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s; but the earth He has given to the children of men. (Psalm 115:16)

In His first and eternal mandate to humanity, God entrusted us with the dominion and authority to rule over the earth and thus, sub-create.

Then God said…”Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  ….Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)

In our spheres of influence, we are to look and act like God: we are to have dominion over everything on the earth accept human beings themselves. And we are to not only have dominion over it, but to “be fruitful and multiply” it. Enter sub-creation.

Sub-Creators by Gift & Ability

Sub-creation, fruitfulness, multiplication—whatever term you like—is not merely procreation. It certainly includes that, yet it is so much more! God created us with the seed(s) of creativity already inside of us to beget not only biological children, but to conceive and beget spiritual children, dynamic inventions, ways to deal with and manage the psyche and emotions, business models, and much, much more (Genesis 1:29-30).

It’s like a Maple Tree: when the seed germinates and grows in the earth it doesn’t just produce roots; it produces the bark to cover the tree trunk, that grows limbs from the trunk, that grows leaves from the limbs, that has sap flowing through it’s veins that winds up as the nectar we smother our waffles and flapjacks with and all of it has the seed to produce millions upon millions of Maple Trees inside itself. Like Maple Trees, we too must flourish and reproduce in the arenas God has planted us in.

A more contemporary example is that of Tolkien himself. The arena God planted this particular man in was language and literature. He flourished and sub-created numerous books, namely The Hobbit and its sequel The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) along with several other accessory novels. Those “accessory novels” encompass The History of Middle-Earth which he also sub-created (Middle-Earth) in the LOTR series. He then sub-created five bona fide languages as a product of those books. And, years later, Peter Jackson, sub-created from Tolkien’s sub-creation the wildly popular LOTR movies series as well as the much-anticipated Hobbit movies in theaters. Movie guides and analyses have been further sub-created by many to serve as accessories and explanations of the movie series.

Sub-creation is something we are not only encouraged to do in life, but made and meant to do. And although it is best executed and appreciated when done from a Christian perspective, the abilities and imagination of God is still very evident in those who may not yet know Him because it is in their nature and because they have managed to connect with their mandate as a human being. So now I ask you: What has God created you to sub-create in the earth? You will never be fulfilled without the completion of that godly mandate.

What’s In a Name?

The following is an excerpt from my book How to Write Fiction That Doesn’t Suck, Chapter 2. You can get your own copy of the full book here

I am extremely particular about the names that I choose for my characters as well as the people groups, geographical places, etc. that show up throughout my stories. It’s actually an ancient, biblical concept to name a thing on purpose because there is a destiny attached to the name.

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The Importance of Naming a Thing

In my book Faith and the Imagination, I recount a story of my best friend Jessica coming to visit me. She had never been to my home before (we met in college and currently live in separate states). While looking around my bedroom, she saw a name plate that I’ve had since I was a little girl. My parents bought one for all three of us children. The plate reads as follows:

  • Name: Desiree
  • Root: Desitee
  • French: “longed for.”
  • Expression: a woman who is friendly with all she meets
  • Personality: a girl who has a strong fortitude
  • Natural: someone who enjoys being witty and carefree
  • Emotional: an individual who has a lot of compassion
  • Character: she provides comforting relief and sustenance
  • Physical: daring, dashing, creative, and inspiring
  • Mental: her family calls her the wise one
  • Motivation: is defiant and fearless in pursuit of her goals

When Jessica read the plate she said: “Dez! This thing describes you to a ‘T!’” And she was right!

I remember years ago when I would look at it and wonder when I would be those things that the name plate said I was or would be. And now in the latter part of my twenties, I can see that I really have grown into the phenomenal woman described on that name plate! I’m not perfect, but this name plate is pretty darn accurate indeed!

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In the Bible, you see that a person’s character was defined by what they were named; the destiny was shaped by what they answered to. Here are some biblical examples of “what’s in a name”:

  • Abram to Abraham: When God wanted to transform Abram into “a father of many nations” he changed his name to Abraham.
  • Jacob to Israel: When God wanted to change Jacob from a trickster into a prince, He changed his name.
  • Naomi to Mara: When Ruth’s mother-in-law, Naomi, was heartbroken over the death of her husband and two sons, she changed her name to “Mara” which means bitter.
  • Simon to Peter: When Jesus wanted to form the “rock” upon which He would build His church, He changed his disciple’s name from “Simon” which mean “reed” to “Peter” which means “rock.”
  • Saul to Paul: When God wanted to change a zealous persecutor into an apostolic (pioneering) powerhouse, He changed his name.

Place names in the Bible were also named for particular circumstances, promises, and more:

  • The Tower of Babel: We’ve all heard about the Tower of Babel in Ancient Babylon where God confused the languages of all the peoples of the earth; they couldn’t understand each other so it sounded like a bunch of “babble.”
  • Luz to Bethel: When Jacob awoke from the place where he saw a vision of the stairway to heaven, he renamed the place “Bethel” which means “House of God.”

There are countless more examples that I could think of:

  • Eber had his son right after the earth currently in “Pangaea form” (all one continent; a supercontinent) broke up and started to separate into the seven continents we now know. Therefore, his son was named “Peleg” which means “divided.”
  • The various wells Isaac dug in Canaan were named after the various situations he experienced whilst digging them
  • Rachel named her second born “Ben-Oni’ which meant “son of my sorrow” because she was dying in childbirth, yet Jacob changed his new son’s name to “Benjamin” which means “son of my right hand” and is an honoured name.
  • Jabez prayed for God to give him a new name because his mother, for whatever reason, had given him a name that meant “pain.”

You may wonder why I am going into such depth over this particular topic. It’s because one name could make—or break!—your entire story.

L.M. Montgomery’s wildly popular character Anne Shirley rebutted Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet speech “What’s in a name?” by saying this:

Well, I don’t know….I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage. (Anne of Green Gables)

Anne, throughout the entire Anne Series, had a habit of renaming people, place names, and anything else she could. Ms. Montgomery created her endearing character with the most amazing imagination, yet I highly doubt that the series would have been half so successful if she’d named her heroine “Ethel.” (I’m sorry Auntie Ethel!) So hopefully now that you understand the importance of naming a person or a thing, we’ll delve into how we come up with the names.

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The Perfect Name

When searching for “the perfect name,” you can allow a character trait to lead you as in 1) a character trait that a person has or 2) a character trait that you want them to have.

Example: If you have a male character that has a fiery nature, then you could name him “Aiden” because in Irish, “Aiden” means “little fire” (Babynames.com).

The number one way I like to find character names is through baby name searches. My family has a book that has logs of male, female, and surnames with their origins, meanings, and variants that I used to look through frequently for inspiration.

I also like searching the internet for various baby naming sites. Babynames.com is a site I like to use that is chocked full of thousands of names from numerous backgrounds that are divided into alphabetical, gender, and origin categories. Here are two examples.

  • William: English for “strong-willed warrior.”
  • Alexandra: Greek for “defender of the people”; see also Alejandra, Alessandra, Alixandra, Aleksandra; Alexander, and Alexzander; see also Alexandria and Alexandrea (Greek for “city of Alexander”).

There are also various ways you can search for a name. Here are some that I employ.

  • Search by Origin (i.e. Celtic, Latin, Teutonic, French, etc.)
  • Search by Meaning (i.e. a name that means “hope,” “pain,” “friendly,” “protector”, etc.)
  • Search by People Group or Occupation (i.e. names related to Elves such as “Elf-friend”, “Elf-warrior,” or “Elf-Prince,” or a name that means “farmer,” “baker,” “miller,” etc.)

You may employ these name search strategies similarly when you are looking for geographical names as well (i.e. place names, river names, mountain range names, city names, etc.).

Another way you can name your characters is based off of people you know or even those that you would have liked to know. This includes you. Here are a couple demonstrations.

  • A Play on My Name: There was a short story I wrote once and I knew it was loosely based off of a real relationship I had. Therefore, I wanted the main female character to reflect me so I gave her a name that started with a “D” like my own real name. Thus, I became “Delandra.” It fit the character and it fit the story.
  • The Name that Wrote a Story: In the story alluded to above, my ex’s middle name was just so perfect that I had to use it for his counterpart in the story. It wasn’t something I set out to do; it just happened. I was walking through the hallways of my university and all the sudden the title, given life through my ex’s name, Othniel, Warrior King, popped into my head.
  • My Late, Mysterious, Paternal Grandmother: My father’s mother died when he was about eleven years old. He barely knew her. So by the time I came around, I really didn’t know much about the woman she was. I’ve seen exactly one picture of her and I know her name. Yet this was enough to cause her to begin appearing in various roles through my own stories. My late Irish Grandmother Rosemary became the old Irish grandmotherly maid set in the 1920s also named “Rosemary” in Tumble into Faerie. She then morphed into the sweet middle-aged, mid-Victorian Era French mother “Rosemarie” in my story Pere Noel, the Christmas Faerie, and Petite Christelle. I’m sure she’ll continue to pop up in my work as I continue to write. It’s my way of getting to know the her that I imagine she was or would be.

Naming places can also be just as exciting as naming people. In the aforementioned story Pere Noel, the Christmas Faerie, and Petite Christelle, a major theme is the loss and regaining of hope and faith. I wanted the town’s name to reflect that since it is one of the major settings of the story. So here was my creative logic:

  1. I need a town name that denotes “hope.”
  2. I remember in the book The House on Mango Street there was a character whose name was “Esperanza.” “Esperanza” means “hope” en Espanol.
  3. I can’t use a Spanish name, so I’ll tweak it to sound French and name the town “Esperance.”

And just that quickly, I’d found the name for my dear little town. Places can also be named after a person such as a patron or the original pioneer who founded the town (another common biblical practice). They can be named after a circumstance, after a people group, after its physical location, and more. Be creative!

People groups are similar to the previously mentioned naming categories. Here’s a popular example that you may be familiar with.

Example: In Tolkien’s Silmarillion, it discusses the birth of the Elven peoples. The Elves are known as the “Eldar.” Why? Because they were the first or “eldest” among the Elves, men, and dwarves to be created.

It may be tricky for you, yet you can, again, pull out that old King James Bible (or whatever translation you have, including the Torah) and start researching those people names. Peoples in the Bible were usually named after the forefather that they descended from such as:

  • Moab: This was the son of Lot by his elder daughter; the Moabites descended from him. They dwelt in Moab.
  • Ben-Ammi: This was the son of Lot by his younger daughter; the Ammonites descended from him. They dwelt in Ammon.
  • Esau a.k.a Edom: This was the brother of Jacob/Israel from whom the Edomites descended; the name “Edom” means “red” because Esau was a red, hairy man. Also, his name was changed to Edom after he ate red pottage (stew of some kind).  They dwelt in Edom.
  • Amalek: This was the grandson of Esau/Edom who was the forefather of the infamous Amalekites from whom the even more infamous Hamaan of the Book of Esther descended.
  • Jacob a.k.a Israel: The Israelites were the descendants of Jacob/Israel’s twelve sons. “Israel” means “Prince of God.” To this day that vast majority of the Israelites dwell in Israel.

The name of a people group, as demonstrated by the above examples of the Edomites and Israelites, can denote a particular characteristic.

There is also another example found with the Jewish people. These Ancient Israelis from the lineage of Abraham have also been given the name “Jew” and to many this has sadly become an indicator of a person or people that will swindle or “jew” you because they have historically been extremely blessed in the area of finances (Rabbi Daniel Lapin).

However, I see the Jewish people and their financial blessings in a different light: if I connect, collaborate, or go into business with them, I am likely to be blessed because of their adeptness with money and their position in God’s eyes. Both concepts are two sides of the same coin; it just depends on how you see them and what you allow to influence your thoughts about them.

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Going back to my example of Tolkien’s Eldar, you can also see certain traits with these people groups. The Eldar or Elves are intuitively wise, prophetic, discerning, and overall otherworldly in nature. This trait can be enhanced and supported by the fact that they were the firstborn of creation—they’ve been around the longest so naturally, they would be the wisest. They are also extremely skilled musicians and artisans as can be seen in their creation of items such as mithril (ethereal Elvish chainmail); Elven swords such as “Sting,” “Glamdring,” and “Narsil” later reforged and renamed as “Andúril”; circlets (crowns), and much more.

I highly suggest that you find a way to keep a log of all the names for the various characters, peoples, and places somewhere so you can pull it out, add to it, and refer to it whenever necessary.

All of these names, meanings, and definitions also make great material for your book’s appendix.

The Name Denotes the Destiny

I have said before that the name of a thing shapes its destiny. You could see this illustrated in the examples of my own name as well as the examples given with the Eldar. I have yet another example of this for you.

In one of my favourite shows Merlin, the young servant of the equally young King Arthur is secretly a dragon lord. His father was a dragon lord and transferred his powers to his only son upon his death.

On one particular occasion, Merlin was able to rescue the last existing dragon egg. Arthur’s father, Uther, had done his utmost to rid the land of Albion (Britain) of its fiery flying reptiles and only one living dragon remained. When Merlin found the egg, he brought it to the wise old dragon and asked him when it would hatch. The dragon told Merlin that the dragon lord had to name the dragon and only then would it hatch from its shell. So that’s what he did.

Merlin spoke the name “Aithusa” and the little white dragon emerged. The old dragon was pleased and prophesied that white dragons were a rare occurrence, yet he believed that Aithusa was a good omen for Merlin, Arthur, and the future of Camelot.

In this illustration, you see two principles:

  • Choosing a Name is a Responsibility, Not a Whim: Merlin needed to discern that name of the dragon hatchling because the name would prophesy the future of the creature and all those connected to it.
  • Speaking the Name Ignites the Destiny: As soon as the dragon was named, the dragon was hatched. When you believe in and name a thing, it initiates the commencement of the course of that thing, person, or people.

These naming pointers are not just for fiction, they’re for life. Yet since you are sub-creating your own world in your own stories, you set the rules, boundaries, and destinies of your world and all that is in it.

If you want to read a great series about what interacting with your characters and actually living in your own sub-created world could be like, I highly recommend Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart Trilogy: Inkheart, Inkspell, and Inkdeath.

Divine Inspiration

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I once partook in a discussion in a LinkedIn writers’ group that referenced that statement of a man who refused to let God tell him what to write. The absolute arrogance! The utter ignorance!  *breathe Desiree* As I am sure you can tell, this declaration angers me to my core. As an author and entrepreneur, I have learned the immeasurable value of allowing God to inspire and direct my decisions.

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Godly Literary Inspiration

The first and foremost example of divine—godly—literary inspiration and also the most trustworthy inspiration is The Holy Bible. This book which has been around for thousands of years and was translated into English most popularly in 1611 (thanks King James), is the most solid example we have of the legendary and proven inspiration of the Most High throughout the ages. Regardless of what some nay-sayers and learned individuals who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth” (II Timothy 3:7) may say, the Word was, is, and ever will be true. And not only true, but relevant.

The Bible told us that the world was round before the “church” and many scientists accepted it as truth. Isaiah prophesied that God “sits on the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22). Empires that would rule the Ancient World and even Alexander the Great were prophesied in the Book of Daniel. Both the Gospels and Revelation speak of events that we see in our daily local and global news. These are just a few examples that prove the validity of the Bible. You cannot tell me that the Bible was not inspired by God (II Timothy 3:16).

Many other books besides the Bible have been written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Whether by ministers, businessmen, historians, or others, books are written every day by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we know this because not only do they line up with the Word of God, but God speaks to us through them as we read them. The result is confirmation, affirmation, encouragement, and growth for the readers in the arenas that the books cover. My Kingdom Mandates is one such book. The over 300 pages that form its contents were composed in two days shy of one month. How’s that for divine inspiration?

Theory of Sub-Creation     

If you know anything about me personally, you know that I am absolutely obsessed with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Trilogy author, J.R.R. Tolkien. I am also equally obsessed with his theory of sub-creation and as such often see its effect in the world. It most certainly adds a different, equally wonderful aspect to our discussion of Godly inspiration. Tolkien’s theory summed up simply states that “[Tolkien] could view sub-creation as a form of worship, a way for creatures to express the divine image in them by becoming creators” (“Sub-Creation or Smuggled Theory”).

Tolkien was a Christian, as am I, and saw sub-creation as an opportunity to exercise our God-like characteristics endowed in Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” God created, therefore, we in His image, have the ability to create as well. This is especially true for [fiction] authors who have the ability to create a world of their own with its own laws and beings in their literature. Yet we can also adopt this theory as entrepreneurs.

Your ability to create a business of your own should come from the inspiration above and allow you to sub-create in your own right. And although it is not the same as creating a story or movie, you can most certainly create a new niche in the world or re-create/re-define one that is already created.

What can you create this is uniquely your own? For DA Weddings, not only do I create fresh wedding-related content, but I revel in creating fantastically-fabulous wedding themes and inspirations and for this blog I seek to create equally fresh content that will motivate and inspire you to do what you were meant to. For my business, I assist others in their own sub-created literary pieces.

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How Does Inspiration Come?

In my experience, the best inspiration comes directly from God. Whether He “downloads” or “drops” it directly in my spirit such as in a picture or word image across my mind, or a direction to a particular item or subject. Oftentimes, I will sit in front of a blank piece of paper, ask God to speak, and start writing. He always comes through.

You can also be inspired by something you read, see, or hear. Oftentimes when you are inspired by God via literature, it can be described as illumination (light shed upon a thing) or revelation (a direct message or “lesson” from God). You are also able to see or hear something—whatever the source of it may be—and it can be harnessed as an inspiration for an idea.

The last way you can be inspired to write or build a business is to observe and be burdened by a need. Plato said “necessity is the mother of invention.” What needs in the world do you see that you believe you are meant to fill? What problems or dilemmas—whether they affect the quality or convenience of life—are you drawn to fulfill? Many of the greatest inventors were those who invented by inspiration of God.

The word tells us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” (James 1:17). This tells us that God, who changes not, can inspire us to create just as easily as He inspired the prophets and apostles of old to write the Bible; every good idea, no matter what it is, is absolutely from God.

The word also tells us that “…you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth…” (Deuteronomy 8:18). This verse shows us that not only does God care about our financial stability, but that He gave us—past tense—the power or ability to get the wealth that we desire. The ideas, inventions, and concepts He longs to give us are oftentimes the vehicles He uses to bless us financially. What an awesome encouragement and promise to us!

You were created in the image of God, and whether or not you serve Him—which I pray you do—you were endowed from before the foundations of time with the abilities of your Creator to sub-create in your own right. Allow God to inspire and direct your creations and you will be sure to build unique, relevant, and long-lasting businesses, literary empires, and the like if you simply trust God to guide you.

See also: “Sub-Creation or Smuggled Theology: Tolkien Contra Lewis on Christian Fantasy