It seems like creativity will always have this push and pull between spontaneous and planned. How many times have I heard an artist (including myself!) say, “We’ll just figure it out in the moment!” For some reason we have allowed the power of creative spontaneity to overshadow the power of creative planning.
Whether or not you’re a fan of her music, if you were one of the 118 million people who watched Katy Perry’s halftime show at this year’s Super Bowl you likely came away impressed. The scale of the sets and props, the use of pyro and lighting, the quick changes in staging all helped to create an incredible performance.
Watching that show, it is clear to see that nothing was left to change. Every shot, every cue, every move of every participant is scripted down to the last detail. And the overall result? An incredible performance that wowed the whole world and set a new standard for global entertainment.
Think Katy told her people that she really wasn’t sure what she’d do to transition those two songs but that she’d figure it out in the moment? Think she had a rough idea of how she was going to enter the stadium but needed to feel the crowd to really go with the flow? Not a chance. That performance was planned, scripted, rehearsed, critiqued, edited, rehearsed again, over and over until the best possible outcome was produced.
The day after the Super Bowl one of the companies involved in the production released a bunch of renderings they had done to help design the event. Check out the rendering of Katy entering the stadium on this giant mechanical puppet lion (by the way.. one of the coolest moments in live production ever!) with a photo from that same moment happening during the halftime show:
Think that took some planning ahead? Of course it did. For bonus points, check the date in the bottom right hand corner of that rendering – 11.02.14. November 2, 2014. 91 days before the Super Bowl happened. How long before that November 2 do you think this team started working on the puppet lion idea? I guarantee that this was not a spontaneous idea that came up a few moments before it needed to happen.
So what do we do with this? Churches are not the Super Bowl. (If you email or comment about this fact, I’m just going to refer you back to this line.) Of course church services are not a halftime show. Worship leaders, you are not Katy Perry. (Maybe one day Katy Perry will be a worship leader!) We don’t have NFL resources or global audience or thousands of volunteers to help make this happen. And please don’t ever let your pastor convince you that he should enter on Sunday morning riding a giant mechanical puppet lion!
But what do we have?
We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.
So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing? I promise you I don’t have all the answers but here are three strong factors that I think are keeping you from creating your best work:
Do the work. Sometimes it comes down to lack of effort and an unwillingness to do the hard task of putting our creative work through the paces of preparation, drafts, critique, editing, repeat. For some of you, creative success has come easily since you were a kid and you’ve been riding the coattails of prodigy recognition for so long that you would rather let your first effort be your best effort. The reality is that your first effort is pretty darn good and you’re quite happy with that.
Several years ago I realized that I had become addicted to the adrenaline rush of pulling off good work at the last minute. I had subconsciously (consciously, sometimes) been sabotaging my own best work by chasing the rush rather than results. I craved the adrenaline I felt by cutting as close to deadlines as possible so I would intentionally procrastinate to force myself into a situation where I had to pull a rabbit out of the hat. I’m now learning to create early and often, getting a rush from producing better work.
This is not new but if you are an artist and you haven’t dealt with your own fear or insecurity you are either the best or the worst artist I have ever met. Nobody makes it out of here alive. We all have to wade through our own water of despair and sometimes we let fear win. If you are a Christian, you need to dig deep into the Psalms, into community and maybe into counselling to help you navigate these waters. A great book called “The War of Art” should also be in your bedside table. Read it often.
What can you do today or this week to take a step in the direction of creativity and putting your best work forward? How can you overcome laziness, procrastination, fear or The War of Art’s Resistance to give the world the gift of your best art?
Don’t buy the lie that creativity and spontaneity must go hand-in-hand. You are more than your best moment of creativity! Dig in to the work God has called you to do and be brave enough to share your best with the world. We need it!