Each week, the creative team that I work with gathers for the sole purpose of…creating. There are weekly service planning meetings. There are sermon series talks. Long-term visioning. Week-of meetings on how to execute creative plans.
I’m professionally required to be creative.
If you’ve spent more than an hour with me, you’ll know quite quickly that awkwardness doesn’t bother me. I think it’s a reflection of my public-extrovert, private-introvert personality. I literally am the awkwardness that I embrace. The tension of social situations – it’s me.
Creatively however, I love the tension.
What is the tension?
The tension is that frustration you feel in trying to create. It’s the list of ideas that don’t seem to be “it”. It’s the vulnerability you feel every time you throw an idea out there that you haven’t thought through, that you’re incredibly unsure of. The tension is feeling you’re battling – hard – for the ideas that you know are good.
Often, our creative meetings get the most intense in our last 10-15 minutes. I love that. On Thursdays, we plan our weekly services that are about 8-10 weeks out. Immediately following that meeting, we have staff prayer. I can’t tell you how often we’ve been in the heat of some epic creative tension and Dave Nelson, or another of our pastoral staff has come into the room and just listened into the tension and smiled while they were waiting to get rolling on the next meeting. This is good stuff. Wrestling over how to best creatively present God’s truths should be hard. It should be intense.
Here’s why I love it.
Left to my own devices, I’ll dream up an idea that may be decent, after awhile, and then try and execute it on my own vision. What the tension does is remove the slack from the rope.
One of my favorite moments in creative meetings is when you begin the hashing down of execution on ideas – what it looks like, what it sounds like, why it works, why it doesn’t. This is where decent ideas go through the refining fire. I fight HARD for my ideas that I like. I step on toes from time to time. I have this tendency to exhaust explanation before I give up. Yep, it creates tension.
The neat thing is, though, is that when other people bring the same heat, the same passion for their ideas, we generally land at an organic idea, backed with passion and forged (read: melded) from multiple sources. Good stuff.
Don’t snap the rope.
It’s worth noting that creating and pushing for this kind of tension in creative meetings comes with some parameters. If I start pushing hard and yanking on the creative rope, and I don’t have relationship with these people, I’m just a jerk. The people on our team bring experience, life and whole lot of personality and knowledge to the table. The trick is not pushing against them, but rather ideas on the table.
At the end of the day, our team has to be able to execute on these ideas. Practical steps to allow for the tension?
I love my team – I really do. And I try and communicate that often.
It’s really simple. Ask this, and ask it often: “What can I do to lighten your load?”
Put some slack back in the rope
We just can’t live that tight all the time. We laugh together. Alot.
We take our logistical meetings off-site. We go to a pub or a burger joint or a coffee shop.
Every team needs some breathing time, some elasticity, not just individually, but as a team.
This is an area that I’m looking to grow for our team. I really want to start compiling things that inspire us and make that part of our creative process. Even if it’s a great short video that we watch at the beginning of a meeting – that has NOTHING to do with what we’re planning. Gets the wheels spinning.