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Working Backwards

Working Backwards

Brainstorming sessions can be amazing. People can bring ideas based on their own life experiences. Ideas can be batted around in a safe environment – building and escalating until it seems like the heavens part and doves descend. But there’s also another type of brainstorming session. One that makes my hands sweat.

I don’t like it, but it happens. And if you’ve been in church design for very long, it’s probably happened to you. It’s the moment when you’re handed your next design assignment that is full of the “what” but it doesn’t appear like a lot has gone into the “why”. It’s a design for the sake of the design. It’s a series based on the TV show Lost or Modern Family. It’s your church’s Harlem Shake video (two months late). It’s the imitation of what “awesome church X” did last month. It’s the attempt to have the first Downton Abbey teaching series.

As a designer, artist, or creative, these can be soul-numbing moments. You want to scream out, “We can do better than this!” You want to encourage the rest of the team to put their laptops away, stop Googling for ideas, and put pen to paper for a change. You even have a Bible study prepared on creativity and uniqueness.

But at the end of the day, you have a choice to make. How are you going to work backwards? How are you going to take something that has already been done and do it well even if you don’t understand why you’re doing it? These are moments that stretch you as a designer, but probably stretch you even more as a Christ follower. It will stretch you because in the process, you’ll probably have to face your struggles with pride, with ego, with insecurities – with humility and surrender.

I could easily throw out Colossians 3:17 where it says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” and call it a day. I could say, whether we understand the design or not, to work on it in the name of the Lord. And to some that read this, that will be enough. But my struggles run deeper.

Even though I shouldn’t, I can’t help but let what I design define who I am as an artist.

Even though I shouldn’t, I can’t help but let what I design define who I am as an artist. When I finish a design, it’s the equivalent of me putting a sliver of myself out there for the world to see. “This is who I am. This is what I do.” So how do I deal with the scales being out of balance?

Well, sometimes I need someone to tell me to put my big boy pants on – to remind me that I’m not too important to do this. As it says in Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG), “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

Those are pretty convicting words. And this is where it takes a little extra dose of humility on my part. When I strip away my own importance and when I stop comparing my assignments with others, I’m left with the command to do the creative best that I can. I can attempt to over-deliver on a series that in my heart I believe could be better. I can take on the challenge to add something that makes this version unique. I can do “this” thing that I may not enjoy very much with hopes that I might earn the right to speak into the “next” thing more.

When I strip away my own importance and when I stop comparing my assignments with others, I’m left with the command to do the creative best that I can.

These are all vastly different than stewing over the lack of creativity in your workplace and churning out a humdrum piece. When I churn out drivel, I know that I’m not engaged. I’m disconnected from the process. I refuse to invest myself. I’m the child that won’t share his toys because his friends aren’t playing the game he wants. But when I do the creative best I can in any project, things are different. My attitude is different. My approach is different. My connection to the project is different. I know that this may never be a portfolio piece, but I can still add my own dose of creativity to it.

When I strip away my own sense of self-importance, I can share my struggles with others that know what I’m going through. I can share my design with other designers that I trust, asking what they’d add to make this unique.

When I do my creative best, sometimes I realize I need others to speak into my life. And they might see something that I’d never see on my own.

When I’m closed to the whole process, I won’t even consider this step. But when I do my creative best, sometimes I realize I need others to speak into my life. And they might see something that I’d never see on my own.

I’ll be honest. I would much rather work creatively in a project that’s fresh and new and one that you can tell a lot of thought has gone into. I believe that it taps into a sense of who I am and what I’ve been created to do. But I can also get something out of the other projects. And in some ways these are the ones that are going to stretch me the most. They are going to stretch my maturity. They are going to force me to rely on others. They are going to force me to think differently.

So I ask you this. What’s your attitude going to be this week while you plan your church’s Duck Dynasty Pentecost service?

About The Author

Paul Snyder

Paul a self-taught designer and is currently Art Director at INSP Network. When he writes, he leans into his own identity as an introvert and as someone who felt like they had fallen from grace. He loves to run, make others laugh, and getting schooled by his 13-yr old son at all things Xbox.

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