Remember the first day on the job? You arrived early, butterflies running sprints in your belly, excitement in the air, and the belief that anything is possible. Being a rookie is not only awesome, it’s filled with potentially disastrous land mines. If only there was a manual for how to navigate the “new” parts of a job – a road map to walk us through the audacity to believe and the potential-filled clean slate free from jaded experience.
But then it happens…we make a mistake. Maybe big, maybe small. Regardless, it shakes our confidence. Mistakes are a funny thing. They can be the greatest teacher or our biggest enemy. I believe, as newbies, there are a few common rookie mistakes that we make as it pertains to creativity, and one lesson we should never forget.
Rookie Mistake 1. We value art/cool over connection.
Early in our careers, and maybe even later if we aren’t careful, we can put a premium on creating the absolutely most cool stuff and at times neglect the importance of our work connecting. There are few mediums where this is more true than church work. When we’re creating to accompany a message, theme, or event, if we don’t think connection first, we lose the context for our art in the first place. Then, all of our great art becomes more of a distraction than a benefit.
Rookie Mistake 2. We forget to proof.
Simple, easy, and often ignored. Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours tweaking, developing, and birthing great art only to have a speling…um spelling…error, missed fact, or bad punctuation. We are all guilty. The sad part is that proofing is an easy step that we sometimes don’t build into our creative process. When we neglect this step we make assumptions that we can’t be wrong. See, it’s not really about proofing, it is about staying coachable and never believing the hype. Proofing doesn’t just allow for us to correct an error before we ship our good, proofing reminds us of the need we have for others to helps us be better. Proofing is a gentle nudge toward humility and away from entitlement. And let someone else proof your work. You are too close to it, you have seen it a million times and in a million ways.
Rookie Mistake 3. We don’t spend enough time in “pre-work”.
Pre-work shortens the curve on creating something awesome. Rookies often overlook the importance of this step because they are so excited to start and create. But what is pre-work? It’s doing the due diligence on a project. It is about clarifying expectations, understand what the client (or ministry) and the end user both desire. It’s about taking the time to find the absolute best inspiration, then vetting that through to make sure it works with what we’re creating. It’s making sure we have all the tools necessary to create the best art before we start. When we do the pre-work, we increase the chances of our first draft being right – as opposed to chasing multiple drafts and spending countless hours chasing trails that lead to nowhere. Do the work before the work and you will have more time, win more equity with teams, and be better at your craft.
Rookie Mistake 4. Rookies forget to press pause.
Pause is an important step in the creative process that we easily forget. We get inspired, have an awesome idea, and rush it to production before we press pause and give that idea time to breathe. So often as a creator/producer, I have personally done this. I have become intoxicated by the idea and blind to its warts. Pressing pause is vital. Sometimes we can press pause for an hour, or a day, or a week – life and workflow often determine the duration – but the fact remains we have to find time to pause on an idea. When we walk away from an idea and come back to it, we start to see it for what it really is, and that will help us decide if it’s going to actually work. Don’t lose the power of pause in your creative process.
Rookie Mistake 5. Share the work.
Don’t be an art hog. Art is better created in community. The more we share the better our projects, designs, stages, services, and sets can be. Sharing also builds momentum that a single person can’t manufacture.
At the end of the day, Winston Churchill was right when he said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.” Being a rookie is not easy, but it is fun. Embrace the moment. Fail often and fail well. Learn from every win and every loss. And never forget that there is one trait that rookies have that, if veterans can keep, will change the way we approach our work. The love of the game. It’s the excitement and the understanding that this is special. It’s the joy of coming in and getting to do something rather than having to do something. Rookies see past the problems, because the problems have not had a chance to catch them. Rookies don’t know the politics, or the issues, or the personalities that sadly fight to destroy the joy artists should posses. No matter how long we work, we have to fight to find those butterflies just like it’s day one.