Monday, September 22, 2014

So Why Do You Create?

Has anyone ever asked you that question before? Have you ever thought about how you would answer? Certainly, there are many people who would do what they do because they enjoy it. Many of them would do it every day with or without getting paid for it. I certainly have, and maybe you've done the same. In fact, if a normal day starts for you with excitement, since you can't wait to jump into a creative project once you get out of bed, then there's a high probability that you're pursuing God's design for your life: You were created to create.

But that still doesn't answer the question of why we create. Sure, we may create because we want to, but what about those days when we don't feel like it? Is it possible to still give God our best on those days? I believe we can and we should. Some will say that creating for them is a form of therapy, helping them cope with difficult things. I know I've been there, and maybe you can also relate to that.

But let's see if we can take this beyond the immediate, personal benefits of creating, and the satisfaction that can bring. When it comes to what drives our need to create, there are certainly things that can be involved, and some of those are not always God's best for us. Sometimes we create in order to compete with other creative people. Sometimes we create in order to get attention or to be approved and popular. 

I'm going to challenge your thinking with this next part. You and I were made in the image of the Creator–not just any creator, but THE Creator. So if we're made in his image, then it should be no surprise that we want to create things. But you and I need to be in that place where we aren't moved by the applause of people or the lack of it. We need to be moved by the things that get God's applause in our lives. 

Why? Because If I have to get man's applause in order to be fulfilled, then eventually I'll do whatever it takes to get that applause. And that kind of mindset will almost always lead to compromise. I think we've all seen how desperately some child stars will strive for that kind of applause as they become adults. Sometimes that turns out very badly, depending on how fans respond.

But you and I don't have to go that route with our creativity. We can keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Not only can he guide our creative efforts, but he can be the source and motivation of our creativity. I encourage you today to invite him into your creative time, and allow him to help you make any adjustments necessary. Reminding ourselves that we create in a way that pleases our Savior can help us keep our creative efforts in the right place.

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
–Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Creativity is Not a Liability

     As creative people, sometimes we can be confused about some things. Sometimes we think we're being spontaneous, when in fact, we're simply being irresponsible. We may think that in order to create freely, we can't be constrained by schedules, rules, or any kind of limitation. When I was younger, I had this kind of attitude when it came time to create. I didn't always say it out loud, but it went something like this: Hey, don't tell me how to create. I already know that part. And don't limit my creativity. Give me some space. Whatever you do, don't fence me in.
     But things started to change. As I began to get paid to create, I often ran into a new kind of writer's block. I call this type of problem "infinite options", since having too many options can become its own burden. I quickly found that if I gave myself some parameters for a given project, then I was fencing myself in, but in a good way.
     For example, in my early days of writing music for a publisher, when a new assignment came in, I was always excited but also a little scared. But eventually I realized that most of these projects were not actually overwhelming, as I had first thought. In reality, the publisher was asking me to come up with music that only needed to last a couple of minutes. After all, I wasn't being asked to write an entire movie's worth of original music. Then, I later realized that my publications would be more successful if I wrote the music in keys that were more appropriate for young musicians. I think you get my point here. Some limitations are actually helpful when we sit down to create.
     But beyond setting proper boundaries for our creativity, let's look at part of the bigger picture. Is it possible that being known as a creative person has some built-in stigmas or stereotypes that you and I must overcome? In other words, have others fenced us in without us knowing it? Do some people on the outside of our world of creativity see us negatively? In short, yes. Some assume that because we are creative, then we must also be unreliable and not trustworthy, among other things.
    Is that fair? Probably not, but let's get some historical perspective. Before being named Israel, his name was Jacob. He was known as a deceiver. He was always up to something, running schemes and playing people. So it was a surprise to many when God changed him from this kind of person into the person of Israel. God transformed a man's reputation, taking him from a life of trickery to a life that allowed him to play a part in the creation of the twelve tribes of Israel.
     Now my question to you: when people think of you and how you're stewarding & managing your creativity, are they reminded more of Jacob, or more of Israel? Do people think twice before they put the offer in front of you? Sure, they know you have the ability to create amazing success. But are they hesitant to involve you because they've gotten burned before? Could you have actually done or said something that might now give them pause?
     If this is true of you, then be encouraged that things can change for the better. I should know, I found out the hard way. I was one of those who showed great promise early on, but I also burned lots of bridges. Sure, it was fun when I got applauded as a kid while performing music, and all the attention I got was kind of nice. But things didn't stay all that fun, mainly because I didn't know how to manage myself once I was older. In fact, it seemed that the more creativity filled my life, the more chaotic things became.
     Things got so bad that my musician friends started to adjust their plans because of me. This happened in a way I didn't catch at first. But eventually I realized what was going on. My pattern of being late all the time had caught up with me. Since I was reliably unreliable, my friends figured out a workable plan. If the music gig was to start at 7:30, I was told it started at 7:00. That way, when I showed up thirty minutes late, I was actually on time. Pretty smart, right? Yes, they were, but once I realized what was going on, I didn't like facing the reality of how I was handling my life and creativity. 
     Over time, I matured and made some positive changes in my life. In some cases I had the opportunity to go back and redeem myself with people and I got a second chance. Understandably, some were past working with me again, and had no interest. But in that season of my life, I also experienced the benefit of starting over in another zip code, with fresh opportunities and relationships.
    But though a fresh start was helpful, I wasn't quite done with my old tendencies. Finally one day a friend confronted me, and that allowed me to see a painful truth about myself. He said, "Tim, you've got a lot of horsepower. But the problem is that you have no steering wheel." From that point on I began to see myself a little more the way other people did, and honestly, I didn't like what I was seeing.
     We hear so often that God loves us just the way we are. I believe that to be true, but I'm also glad God cares too much to leave us in that condition. And this is the good news for Christians who also create: We have options.
     You and I have the chance to break out of the negative expectations and stereotypes. And we can overcome our own past mistakes. We can go a different way with our lives, talent and creativity. Scripture says that Jesus is the Author and Finisher of our faith. This means your story in life isn't over yet! Your creativity doesn't have to be a liability. 
     Further, as you and I keep our eyes on God and our trust in His direction in our lives, we allow Him to help us better navigate forward. When we manage our creative gifts the right way, we can begin to see our talent not as a liability, but as the asset God intended.

So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
–Matthew 25:20-21 (NKJV)