The Artisan Soul: A Manifesto of Human Creativity by Erwin McManus

by | Nov 3, 2014 | Book Club, Books, Guest Post

I’m over the moon excited to welcome Erwin McManus to the blog today and give away a copy of his new book The Artisan Soul to one lucky person who leaves a comment in response to his thoughtful story. When I Googled a quote by Erwin recently, I was surprised to find my blog address as the second place to find it. True story. Guess you could say I’m a raging fan of his work. No, I’m certain of it.


Every day I interact with women and men who are haunted by the thought that they are living beneath their potential.  They range from driven and ambitious to discouraged and depressed.  As different as they may appear they all have this one element in common- an unexplainable sense of longing they can’t seem to satisfy.

This longing is rooted in that singular characteristic that distinguishes humans from all other species- imagination. Imagination is our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.  Our imagination can create an image of a world we have never known and imagine the world as it should be.  That image can become so compelling we are inspired and compelled to transform the world around us to match the world that only exists in our minds.

Many of us live enjoying the benefit of a world someone else imagined.  In a sense we are all living inside of someone’s imagination.  We find ourselves powerless when the world or our life is not what we imagined.  We are most alive when we are living out our dreams.

At the same time the world we imagine demands our response.  Our deepest and most powerful dreams will not allow themselves to be ignored.  To do so we soon discover it comes at a great cost.  We do not live well when we live beneath those dreams.  To ignore them is to awaken a phantom that will haunt us both when we sleep and while we are awake.

When we imagine but do not create we are left with an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction.  When we imagine a better world and do not risk to create it we find no fulfillment in our success.  When we imagine ourselves as better, or different than we are, but do not change we are in danger of despair and hopelessness.

We have been given a gift- the ability to dream.

We have been given a curse – the ability to dream.

The dream is meant to be the beginning.

The dream is not the end.

The dream is our hope.

Our dream for our future.

Our dream of love.

Our dream for significance.

Our dream of sobriety.

Our dream for a better world.

Our dream of success.

Our dream for a better us.

When our dreams remain unfulfilled or unattended we begin to experience life as a nightmare.  Our dreams are intended to serve as the material from which we create.  When we do not create we live beneath our intention.  When we live without intention we drift and lose ourselves.  Humans must create- not only to express ourselves but to find ourselves.

This is where the artisan soul is central to the human story.  We create not simply because we can, but because we must.  Humans are artisans.  We must live as artisans not simply for the purpose of fulfilling our creative potential, but for the health of our souls.  When we relinquish or deny our creative essence we put or souls to sleep and even sometimes to death.  We are most alive when we creating a world we can only imagine.

It all sounds easy enough except we all quickly learn that to create is to risk. A dream costs us nothing until it consumes us.  Then it costs us everything.  It is a dangerous thing to choose to make your life a work of art.  The artisan has no choice but to walk this path.

The artisan soul lives deeply and authentically.  The artist is always true to themselves.  The only material a true artisan needs is that which comes from the soul.  Everything we humans create is an extraversion of our internal universe.

The artisan soul lives fully aware of their creative essence.

They know that the creative act is a spiritual act.

They embrace their humanity as a gift and a stewardship.

After all, what creature is defined by their ability to create?

It is here that we touch the divine.

When we engage life as a creative act we are most like God- when we choose to create that which is good and beautiful and true.

One of the great ironies is that most people do not think of themselves as artists or believe that they are creative.  Yet we all have dreams and aspirations.  We all have, if only as a quiet whisper, a voice within our souls calling us to awaken our creative essence.   Too often the voice calling us to embrace our artisan soul is overshadowed by all the voices that tell us we are less.

Most people have been diminished by the voices that have silenced their childlike wonder and faith.  Here, by the way, is a good measure for when you are hearing the voice of God- God never makes you less human; He always make you most fully and beautifully human.

God always believes in you even when you do not believe in Him.

He created you out of love -which is always the inspiration for the greatest works of art.

He also created you to create.

When you realize that you are the product of the imagination of God you begin to imagine the possibilities for life and all of its implications.

You begin to understand how great a burden and responsibility and privilege you have been entrusted with.

Humans create.

The future of humanity rests in our hands.

The world’s best future exists in the mind of a child right now.

But do not be afraid… we are up for the task.

We are artisans.  This is what we do.

We create beautiful things…beautiful lives…beautiful futures.

The artisan understands that we are all both an artist at work and works of art.

This is the way of the artisan soul.

So dream, risk, create.

I imagine you will,

erwin raphael mcmanus

Erwin_IMG_9620 medium.jpgErwin Raphael McManus is an iconoclast known as a cultural pioneer for his integration of creativity and spirituality. He is also the author of Soul Cravings, Chasing Daylight, and other leading books on spirituality and creativity. His newest book, The Artisan Soul, is a Los Angeles Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller and is now available. He is an artist, entrepreneur, cultural thought leader and the founder of MOSAIC, a community of faith in Los Angeles, California. Known for its innovation, creativity, and artistry, MOSAIC has been named one of the most influential and innovative churches in America. . Visit him online at


Erwin is graciously giving away a signed copy of The Artisan Soul to one lucky person who leaves a comment on this post. Our next Redemptions Beauty Book Club will be on his amazing book. The minute I finished it, I wanted us to read and talk about it together. Put The Artisan Soul on your Christmas list and we’ll gather together after the New Year to discuss it.


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  1. Carla Patton

    I find that my desire to create is hampered by a fear of being imperfect, or not “doing it right”. I genuinely forget that my goal is not the end of the process, but enjoying the process as I go.
    Wonderfully written.

    • Shelly Miller

      Me too Carla, I am right there with you. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  2. Marie Bride

    Sounds like this will be a fabulous opportunity for creativity to grow into reality Shelly!

  3. Pat S.

    “Most people have been diminished by the voices that have silenced their childlike wonder and faith.”
    Love this. Sounds like a great book!

  4. Jennifer

    Truly knowing i am the imagination of God is a total blessing. Thx for this wonderful perspective!

  5. DeanneMoore

    I love this encouragement…now to get my dreams (imaginations) out of the clouds and into the world..can’t wait for this book discussion…love the word “artisan” paired with the word “soul” …

  6. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Shelly I am so thankful you are still doing this Book Study. After I heard and met Erwin in May at The Well Conference I was intrigued by his beautiful words and work. I’ve got til after Christmas to read it 🙂 yay. Thank you!

  7. Lynn D. Morrissey

    This is sooo amazing to read this, first, because it is so true (if painfully so), second, because I’ve read one of his books and love his art of writing, and third, because very recently I have been reminded of the truths McManus is conveying. I had literally just read a poem I had written some months ago for a dying poet friend. In this I describe how I had “met” his work very early in my life through his books (though I met him personally many years later). I relay in this poem how I “lost” my writing, and asked: . . . “at what cost?” I also was reading something I had written about losing my singing (not my voice, but rather professional singing in choruses), and about how something inside me had died when I did. God has graciously and miraculously resurrected that with my singing in a professional chorus again. I am utterly grateful to Him. But the point is that when our art dies, in some way, so do we. Perhaps we never emulate our Image-Maker as much as we do as when we make art; for He is the ultimate and Divine Artist. Wow! I must read this book. What an encouragement. Thank you for sharing, Shelly. I don’t want to die before I do…..if you know what I mean.

  8. Lisa Easterling

    I love that guy! Started reading his books about 7 years ago, and can’t wait to read the newest one.

  9. Diane Bailey

    Goodness! What a great post! ” we are most alive when we are creating a world we have only imagined.” Spectacular!

    Thank you for the introduction, Shelly.

  10. Kris Camealy

    Oh this is good! I hope I can make time to join you all for this study!!

  11. soulstops


    Reading your words here feel like a gift as I’ve been praying Ephesians 3:14-21 for the past 2 weeks and I’ve struggled with how God’s imagination is so beyond me (Ephes. 3:20) …and how I desperately need God to help me to have a better imagination so I can have a God-sized dream…I don’t know if I am making sense…part of it is the healing work God has been doing in my heart…I’ve been praying a lot about this topic…
    Thank you, Shelly 🙂 I have one of his earlier books, completely highlighted and tabbed.

  12. Maureen Briglio

    My first introduction to Erwin, thanks Shelly, I too have a prayer asking for my imagination to be set free! I hope to join the book club and share in these beautiful ideas. Blessings

  13. Teresa Richardson

    As children, we love to create. When what a child creates is criticized by an adult who views what he/she sees as flaws, then the child’s creativity dies and it is hard to revive that creativity when the child becomes an adult.

  14. Jennifer Bedley Hoos

    Shelly: I have three grown sons. One is married and has just changed departments in his company because he knows he is a creator and not a salesperson. I think he’s closer to the dream God designed for him than he has ever been before. My second son works construction just until he has enough money to travel, and then he is off again on another adventure, fulfilling his lifelong love and desire to create a community of internationals with whom he can be at home. And my baby is a rock star. Literally. None of my boys have taken the traditional path to where they find themselves today, and being a dreamer in a world of people who have forgotten how to dream makes them stick out like sore thumbs…or broken ankles. Yesterday, my husband fell and broke his ankle while racing for a train in an airport. Today, we are learning how to maneuver with a limb that doesn’t work like all the rest. Methinks this book might help at least two of my limb-challenged sons to be encouraged to persevere. Thanks for drawing it to our attention.

  15. Melody Reid

    I love Erwin McManus!!!! I met him at Willow Creek several years ago after he spoke at the Leadership Summit. He knew my mother, Esther Burroughs, and was so awesome. I think he cut a watermelon in half with a samarai sword!

  16. Lisa

    For several years I have informally studied the connection between creativity and faith and pursued avenues of prayer and praise through creative yearnings. These words and this title stirs great courage and deep assurance within me.

    • Shelly Miller

      Hi Lisa, I picked your name to win Erwin’s book. Can you please reply to me at with your address by Monday? We’ll get the book in the mail to you once I hear from you. Congratulations!

  17. Kristy Lynn Hanson

    Wow! This post spoke to right where I find myself at this moment in time. I am so frustrated with living a life that is not as I imagined. I want to do so much more for God with my life and love the way this spoke to being artists with our lives. I would love to read this book!

  18. Nancy Ruegg

    First, Erwin logically presents his case that God created us to create. Then he provides inspiration to keep dreaming, keep creating, keep taking risks. Thank you, Shelly, for introducing me to Erwin McManus!

  19. Jamie H

    I got to meet Erwin McManus once at his great church in LA. Would love to win this book. I am in a much better place to receive his words of wisdom.

  20. Jamie H

    Ps. I want to join in the book club for this one!

  21. Wendy Speake

    “When our dreams remain unfulfilled or unattended we begin to experience life as a nightmare. Our dreams are intended to serve as the material from which we create. When we do not create we live beneath our intention. When we live without intention we drift and lose ourselves. Humans must create- not only to express ourselves but to find ourselves.” Love!

  22. Susan

    Wow! One more reason to share the understanding that we cannot know who we are until we come to understand who He is.

  23. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Shelly, how does the book club work? Blog or FB?

  24. Lesa Mueller

    We are given gifts by the grace of God and not using them to full potential seems like we are once again rejecting our savior, not using our gifts fully to glorify him. I am most content when I am on purpose; his purpose. It isn’t an easy place to remain, but once you have a taste of it you’ll want more! I always enjoy hearing and reading from Erwin. His words help me keep things in perspective, inspire and challenge.

  25. Shannon McKee

    So excited to read this one! Thanks for sharing.

  26. Ahyana King

    During a brief visit home I was able to take my younger cousin out to lunch. As we talked about school and she shared abut art class I asked “What are you doing in art?” and she said “You mean what are we creating?”
    And s I read this post and read the word create over and over it was absolutely wonderful. Because it is what feels natural. Doing not so much. Yet we live in a world of to do lists and what do you do for a living and what are you doing this weekend. And just imagining a what are you creating list, and what are you creating for a living, and what are you creating this weekend just feels much more authentic, a little closer to who the Creator created us to be.
    Thanks for sharing

  27. Lisa

    I am so excited to learn of this book and its author. Thank you! I have been pounding away at the nagging frustration that there’s more to life than what I’ve been living thus far. I suspect this book will be the latest hammer God uses to hopefully eliminate whatever it is that’s holding me back.

  28. Glenda Childers

    I love the cover of this book, too.


  29. RJ

    Beautifully expressed!

  30. Katha VD

    What a great post! It really touched me and I am in awe of this God who created us so that we could create. May we not allow life to take away our dreams or stop our lives from being creators…
    I know I am way too late for the giveaway but I definitely want to read this book!

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