Dreaming the Creative Process
Creating, by its nature, often escapes form or process. And while that’s great for making music in your garage or painting for enjoyment, it poses a much larger problem when ideas are under deadlines. Oh, the deadlines. Even the word – dead line – is so final and creepy. But we all have them and we all have the pressure to meet them. So we head out on the hunt – the hunt for those elusive ideas that can help us communicate truth, hope, love, and freedom. We search for the ideas that enhance what a communicator delivers, removes distractions, and helps people bump into a God who’s chasing after them harder than we’re chasing those ideas.
It’s smart to have a process for how our ideas are uncovered. But the secret is being aware enough to know the process in itself is part of the idea. It should always change, always adapt, and continually improve based on the artists involved and the data being discovered.
This is how we dream through the creative process.
There’s a little work that must be done to prepare for entering Door 1. We schedule time to meet with our pastor to talk about what God is telling him, what he is feeling, and any ideas we feel might connect with our church. Connection is massive. You can have the best idea in the world, but if the communicator can’t connect with the content, it won’t be maximized.
We meet about every three months and talk through the upcoming three months. That gives us some dates on calendars to work from and very overarching, 50,000-foot concepts. Then, a week before we enter Door 1, we get an overview of the series. This includes as much content as our pastor has – ideas we may have chatted about, and concepts that could work to help develop the identity, elements, and ideas around this series.
Door 1 – We Dream
Inside Door 1, we want to create motion and momentum. We start off by finding a dream location. We choose a location that fits the theme and is outside our typical meeting locations. We want the location itself to jar people into creativity and out of normality. Once we did a creative meeting in a cemetery because we were doing a series on Spiritual Warfare. Very jarring.
Next is the dream team. We want as many people as possible to be involved in this meeting. We invite volunteers, staff from other departments, people who don’t even go to our church; we want people to come to this meeting and dream. That is the only prerequisite. As part of the invitation we send them the overview of the series so they can come in already thinking about the subject.
To start the meetings off we always do a dream game. It’s a game that forces everyone to think creatively. We want them focused on creative thinking – not email or twitter. So a game that engages them creatively off the top shifts gears for them mentally.
In the meeting we have a dream catcher. This is someone that has one responsibility in the meeting, and that is to capture ideas. They are the note taker and they write everything down. In dream meetings there are no bad ideas, so we have to capture every idea.
The dream meeting is led by a dream director who’s responsible for making sure the right questions are asked, content is covered, and ideas are developed. The director should prepare in advance and come to the meeting ready to orchestrate an event that achieves the necessary goals. The director also manages the mood and energy in the room. They care for the process as much as the content and work to keep the right energy in the space.
A good dream meeting also has dream music. We have music playing the whole time that’s themed to the mood we’re trying to create.
Finally, if we are going to have a dream, lets have a dream atmosphere. An atmosphere that inspires helps create amazing ideas. Decorate, use scents, have snacks, bring toys…all of this matters.
Our director ends our dream session on time and makes sure the dream catcher has all the content that transitions us to Door 2.
Door 2 – We Edit
Behind Door 2 we move into the editing process. This is the bloody part of creativity. We usually enter this phase a couple of days after the first meeting so we have time to allow ideas to grow, morph, and settle.
Emotions and expectations should be set and measured from the beginning. Editing is not personal. It’s the process that helps us refine to a place where the best idea wins.
Behind Door 2 we have a much smaller group – usually two to four people. We review all the notes and begin to cut. “This idea works. This one is not affordable. This one is solid, but if we did this to it, it could be really cool.” The environment is less creative and more sterile. We want to approach this meeting with the intention of defining the best two ideas possible – two ideas we can sell and feel best represent the goal of the series – not the ambitions of the artist. We cut and edit, and combine and adjust ideas until we believe we have the best two ideas possible.
Often, a new idea morphs out of the combination of ideas from Door 1. The biggest rule here is the best idea wins. When we walk out of this room our goal is to make sure our idea works with our communicator, in print, on video, across social platforms, on the net, and on stage (when necessary). Often, when we walk out of this session we have ideas that help us extend the content past just the Sunday experience.
Door 3 – We Reveal
The third and final door is the reveal. We usually only have two or three priority decision makers behind this door. This is a safe place where everyone can speak honestly and transparently. Trust and honesty have to thrive behind the third door. We present the idea to help it connect with the communicator and support the content.
When we walk out of this meeting everyone should be on the same page and moving toward the same goals. There should be no questions left coming out of this meeting. Once we walk from this meeting and everyone has agreed on the idea, it’s important to go into production on the idea. Don’t allow momentum and excitement to slip away by waiting.
As pieces are developed it’s important to use them to cast vision to the rest of the staff. Make it sticky so they can share it with their teams, our church community, and ultimately the local community that we want to engage with this series.
This is the system that works for us today. It may not work exactly the same for you and your team. Be willing to adjust, edit, and adapt the principles of this process to your organization. We are always evaluating, measuring, testing, and refining because we want to be cautious that the system itself does not squelch ideas or creativity.
Stay on the hunt for your best ideas and use a process to cage them so you can maximize the use of teams, volunteers, and staff energy.