As I’ve been interviewing and talking to creatives the last few months, one of the questions I ask is for them to lay out their creative process. There are many things I’m looking at as they explain to me how they accomplish creating something; one of those things is how personal they make their work.
Too often we see a creative process that looks like this:
brief > requirements > sketches > final execution
This gets the job done. You can mark it off in Basecamp as completed. But all you’ve really done is completed a project. You haven’t created art. In order to create art you have to add several steps.
While a creative brief is a good starting point, for me, it’s rarely enough. The best results come when you are involved very early on in the visioning process. This allows you to not just hear a vision but also be part of shaping the vision. This is part of the reason we transitioned the “creative team” to an “experience team”. It’s not just about some posters that we create, a video we produced, or a marketing plan, it’s about the full experience of our ministry.
It’s a balance of acting as an internal design agency and being part of ministry together.
At the very least, work toward creating a time when a ministry leader can download his heart for the event/class/weekend.
Not every ministry event you are a part of will resonate with you personally. We have a ministry here at Victory called Her Life Works. It is a ministry focused on working with women in the workplace to maintain a spirit of grace and but still mean business. Not something that relates to me as a man or the husband of wife not in the workplace, right?
I could certainly think that way and still produce something that gets the job done, but if I pause and intentionally purpose myself to relate, I will find relation points. As I spend time with the ministry leaders talking about the event to understand the vision and heart, I discover the strong need. I recall relationships I’ve had in the workplace with women who were strong but did not carry a spirit of grace or honor. I soon see what it looks like when this is carried out as I report to a woman in the workplace, Colleen Rouse, who is a senior leader and also shows respect and honor to my role.
By relating to this I can then cast that vision to my team. I can carry the torch so everyone involved understands why we are putting our energy and heart into the ministry.
By understanding and relating to the work that is in front of us, by being more than producers of materials and instead an extension of the ministries we serve, we add a critical element in creating great art – heart. Our work becomes more than a to-do check box or a portfolio piece. It becomes personal.
Great art requires you to pour all your emotion and heart into what you are working on – you don’t just like the work you are presenting, you feel it. As you look at it you see the personal side of the work, you understand the importance, you relate to the art you’ve created. That’s good, but now you must learn to release it.
As you pitch the work, you must disconnect yourself and your ownership from the work. The art no longer belongs to you – it belongs to the ministry. This is the only way you can receive critique in a way that will make the work even better. You still need to care about the work, but in a way that allows you to work in unison and in a way that allows you to change the work that is so personal.
Don’t Fall in Love
The only way you can release something is to not fall in love with it. I know, I know “if you love something let it go….” but come on, you and I know that only works on a postcard. I’ve seen many ideas and concepts pushed all the way through completion that shouldn’t have because people fell in love with the idea or art.
When you fall in love with your art you become blind to it and create an inability to hear sound critique. This will almost always result in mediocre work instead of work that is refined, simplified, and owned by everyone involved.
The big win that comes from art that is personal and yet not too personal is that you create art that everyone looks at and sees the work they did. It becomes bigger than you. This brings unity between the creative and the ministry. It moves beyond creativity and even art and becomes an experience before anyone outside of the team even sees it. As a part of a greater team, you’re a part of the beauty of ministry.