For this month’s Sunday| Mag articles, we asked some of our favorite writers this one question: What’s one thing you’ve been learning all year long that you’d like to share with Sunday| Mag’s readers? In this article, Jason Dyba talks about creating great work and getting it out to the masses—detailing even how he got one of his worship songs on Chris Tomlin’s newest album.
One of the highlights for me in 2014 was that one of my longtime inspirations, Chris Tomlin, heard a song I had written and considered including it on his album. This particular piece, entitled “In The End”, was very personal; it was about my pastor’s cancer diagnosis. In all honesty, I had no intention of releasing it outside my church. I hadn’t dreamt beyond that.
There are times when God intervenes in our plans and does extraordinarily greater things than we’d imagined. Still, this does not exempt us from doing what He’s tasked us with on the front-end. Experiences like this one remind me that I need to be faithful with creating and diligent with sharing these works.
I used to hate co-writing. However, I also used to have a lot more time.
Co-writing forces me to put something down on the page. It leverages my own pride, because I hate going into a co-writing session and being the weak link. Just by scheduling an appointment, I require myself to produce. The other person in the room is the catalyst for me to get some ideas going—even if it means verbalizing terrible ideas, just to get something out there.
Then, without fail, after an hour or so something comes out that neither writer was expecting.
It’s sort of the culmination of my favorite quote from Ira Glass:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. […] And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Co-writing gives me a deadline and forces me to fight my way through. It’s accountability. Accountability will feed your creativity.
This year, I’m living by this mantra: set time aside and be fierce with it. The accountability of being in the room with someone will help you take your work to the next level.
Displaying Your Work
At times, it makes me ill to promote my own work. I have to remind myself: if what I’m making embodies hope, then why would I want to contain it? Art is intended for a platform. And the platform needs to be practical.
For the song “In The End”, my platform was sharing it with my fellow staff members and friends—people who could connect directly to its content. It was one of these friends who had the idea to pass it onto Chris Tomlin, thinking that an even greater audience could benefit from its message.
Whether it’s regularly sharing your work with co-laborers, developing a website to display your content, or posting ideas to Instagram, you need to find a way to display your work.
One of the major benefits of sharing your work is that connects you with other people who have the same goals as you. If you want to be a part of the conversation, you have to actively contribute to it. You have to add something positive.
It’s easy to be a critic. But all critics do is take away from the conversation. There are a million editors who will tell you how to do things differently. I want to be one of the few who are adding to the table.
Creating For Tomorrow
One of the common hesitations I hear over and over is, “what if I create this and it doesn’t go anywhere?” This question implies that a prerequisite for creating is placement. As the Ira Glass excerpt indicates, this is a faulty way of thinking. Sometimes you have to create the bad stuff in order to get to the good stuff. And sometimes you have to create today what can only be appreciated tomorrow.
In late 2013, I wrote a music video parody of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling”. The idea was goofy: a story about bearded hipsters breaking free of commercialism and heading to the woodlands. Still, I had a feeling it’d go over well with my intended audience. I talked it over with the team, everyone liked it, and then we cut it. We didn’t have time.
Was this work important for me to have done? Absolutely. Even if it never got used, the process was allowing me to move the ball up the proverbial field.
Fast-forward to late 2014: the creative team was brainstorming new ideas for Christmas. We pulled out the parody script from the year before and everyone still liked it. I hadn’t planned on this being the case, but it reminded me: regardless of the outcome, it’s worth it to keep creating and keep sharing. Artists create because they know that the idea is good. Whether or not it gets shown or used, that’s secondary.
Here’s what we ended up with for the parody:
God has plans for all of us. Be diligent to the unique and incredible ideas He’s given you. Be willing to share those ideas and connect with others who want to do the same. Allow there to be accountability for your work. Celebrate the unimaginable milestones that God ordains and value the journey of all the moments in-between.