There’s a tension that all of us face when it comes to doing creative work. It’s the tension that exists between our ideas (or the lack thereof) and our deadlines. I think we’ve all been there before. I know I certainly have. Sunday’s looming and you haven’t the slightest idea of what you’re going to do. How do you force the creativity out? Can you force it out? Is it even possible to be creative on demand?
While it’s true that for most of us inspiration doesn’t just come like an eager dog at the snap of our fingers, it’s also true that there are a few practices that, if we put them to use, can indeed put us in position to draw on that creativity when we need it. Here are three ideas that have really worked for me.
1. Don’t let the work of God replace your relationship with God.
In Genesis, the Scriptures say that God made the universe from nothing. There was no light, and then there was. There were no trees, and then there were. There were no animals, and then there were. Before God ?created?, there was nothing.[quote]You and I will?never?create something out of nothing. Only God can do that.[/quote]
This highlights an important truth about the nature of our creativity: You and I will never create something out of nothing. Only God can do that. Our creativity is different. We make things out of things that have already been made. Every movie you’ve ever seen or ever will see was influenced by someone else or something else. Every piece of music you’ve ever heard was influenced by that which came before. None of it is original. Not completely. And if that’s true, then it means if we want to be creative, truly creative, we must remain intimately tied to the source of all creativity. God.
For too many artists in the church, the work of God has become a lousy substitute for a relationship with God. They are not the same. And the sad fact is that when we disconnect from God, we not only lose our relationship with Him, but we also lose our connection with the very one who inspired us to be creative in the first place. We have, in essence, cut ourselves off at the knees.[quote]For me, creativity is all about reliance on God.[/quote]
For me, creativity is all about reliance on God. If He truly is the source of all life, then everything I’m looking for creatively is in Him!
Here’s what this looks like practically for me. I ask God for wisdom and direction multiple times every day. James, the brother of Jesus, tells us that if we would but ask for wisdom, God gives it to us. I regularly talk to God to remind Him (and me) that I don’t have any good ideas and that anything good we’ve ever done came only because of Him. I let Him know that if we’re going to hit this deadline, it’s going to be because He gave us a great idea.
But it all starts with putting yourself in a position to receive from God. That begins with humbly recognizing you can’t do this on your own in the first place. So stop trying!
2. Inspiration is everywhere.
So often, the best ideas come when you aren?t ?trying? to be creative. You might be watching TV or taking a shower or listening to a favorite song and inspiration will strike. The question is, are you even aware that it?s striking, and if so, how are you capturing that inspiration?
Here?s what that looks like for me.
First off, I try to filter everything I see, hear, and experience through the filter of ?is this useful?? When I hear a song or take in a movie or go to a concert, I?m constantly asking myself, ?Is this useful?? I study songs, environments, designs, films, all of it constantly looking for things I can apply to our services and events. Remember, so much of the creative process is simply learning to consistently ask the question ?what if??
Secondly, if inspiration were to strike, are you ready for it? Do you have a method or a format for capturing those ideas?[quote]If we want God to entrust us with great ideas, we have to be ready to capture them when He gives them to us.[/quote]
It seems simple, but it?s huge. If we want God to entrust us with great ideas, we have to be ready to capture them when He gives them to us. Personally, I use an iPad and a Moleskine for keeping track of all the ideas that rattle around in my head. But whatever you use, don?t forget that you?re responsible for what God has placed in your hands. So carry a capture device wherever you go because you never know when creativity may strike.
3. Start small and show up everyday.
I think a big misconception about creative ideas is that they?re born almost fully formed. That is, that the genesis and the finished product somewhat closely resemble each other. Sure, we assume there?s going to be some tweaks made along the way, but we feel for the most part, the crux of the idea is born in tact. We think John Lassetter woke up one day with Woody and Buzz dueling in his head, that Steve Jobs had a miraculous vision of the iPhone in his sleep, that George Lucas knew Darth Vader was Luke?s father from the inception.
We want to believe it works that way, don?t we? Why? Because it?s sexier. Because it?s more fantastic. Because it?s more grand and mysterious. But above all else, this misconception persists because it let?s us off the hook.
Let?s suppose for a minute that ideas aren?t born fully formed and that great artists simply take inspiration from everything around them and not from some secret stash that you and I don?t have. And let?s suppose for a minute that their art isn?t the result of a stroke of genius but rather from years of study, dedication and hard work.
What if that were true? What would it mean for you and me? Well, it would rob us of our excuses wouldn?t it? If it all came down to hard work and study, we could no longer hide behind the notion that we just don?t have access to what they have, or we just aren?t as gifted as they are, right?
I?m not arguing that talent and gifting don?t play a role here, but when it comes to creativity, talent and gifting have been emphasized to exclusion of hard work for far too long. And it furthers the notion that the best ideas pop straight out of the mind of the genius fully formed, rather than the product of hard work.[quote]The secret to creativity is?about the hours upon hours that you?ll spend developing that idea?after?it?s come to you.[/quote]
You want to know the secret to creativity? It?s not about the moment an idea comes to you. It?s about the hours upon hours that you?ll spend developing that idea after it?s come to you.
Andrew Stanton, who is a member of the Pixar brain trust and the writer and director of many of Pixar?s best films, was asked about the writing process. This is what he said, ?Write. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite.?
I know my best ideas have all started off so small that most people would pass right over them. But the ?genius? of them (if you want to call it that) was in the development phase?not in the ?genesis? moment.
Yes you can schedule your creativity. You just might need to alter your perspective on the creative process a bit.
4 replies on “Scheduling Creativity”
This was helpful to me and I think compliments what you’re saying:
Thanks for the kind words and yes, I think that video totally relates. I love John Cleese’s thoughts on creativity.
What an awesome article. I’ve been struggling with trying to put our 5th Year Church’s Anniversary and have stressed over creativity under a set deadline. Thank you for reminding me where the real source of creavity comes from.
Thanks! So glad it was useful to you, and hey, everybody needs that reminder every now and again.