Thinking Out Loud

June 15, 2017

Keeping Creativity When Originality is Elusive

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:24 am

Sometimes I relax at the end of the day listening to old songs on YouTube. I’ll hear something and be struck by the fact that they were doing whatever makes that song unique for the first time. “Just think;” I will passionately preach to my wife, “Nobody up to that point had ever done that before.” She just goes back to her knitting.

I would think for musicians and writers and fine artists, there must be a constant frustration that all the mountains have been climbed and the flags have been planted. In a competitive world, it’s hard to come with an idea that is a true first.

This is a guest post from my son Aaron’s latest blog Voice of One Whispering. Aaron is a writer, actor, and armchair theologian. Later on today I’ll ask him for permission to use it here.

Nothing Under the Sun

All creatives I have known have run into the situation where they set out to do a project and then find that it has already been done before. Someone had the same idea and got there first. You’ve worked weeks or maybe months on something only to discover that it’s not as original as you imagined.

I personally find that this experience is sort of like the stages of grief. Not step for step identical but we still wrestle through reviewing the value of our work which tends to involve a lot of denial and bargaining. I try to come up with new justifications for my work. “Do I approach the subject matter from a different angle? Do I present it in a unique style? Can I add insights that this other person can’t? Can I do it better in general?”

The objective is to not scrap everything you’ve accomplished so far but giving up can be awfully tempting.

Sometimes you do find that different angle, unique style, insight, or means of improvement. Sometimes it’s obvious and easy to build on what has already been done. I think that’s the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is when you can’t re-justify your work to yourself and your standing there staring at your notebook, computer, canvas, or whatever and honestly can’t see anything in your own work that hasn’t already been accomplished. Then what?

The trash can is right there. You could just give up and move on but something in you is reluctant. Why? Because you’re doing this for yourself. You didn’t sit down in front of the canvas or word document just to have this or that impact on society. That may be a big part of it but you’re also doing it for yourself. You’re doing it because you were made to make things and have works to call your own. Who cares if it’s identical to something else? Let someone else be the judge of that. Chances are your perspective is too clouded to see something that would be obvious to an outside observer.

Throw that trash can in the trash can where it belongs and finish what you started. You will likely find a purpose to your work when it’s done that you couldn’t see before. If you can, forget the other thing exists.

Do the best you can, wrap it up, put a bow on it. To respect and finish your own work, in the spirit in which it began, is a gift you give yourself. And I guarantee that at least one other person in the world will be glad you did.

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September 15, 2010

Wednesday Link List

This week's links lynx is actually an Iberian Lynx

A special blessing will come your way if you click all these links and then send the list to ten friends.   Seriously.   Would I lie to you?

Actually, it’s just a list of things I found worth reading this week.   This weekly list is now consider the #1 list of links published on a Wednesday by a blog called Thinking Out Loud.   BTW, the Iberian Lynx is making what is only his second appearance here.  The first was in January this year.

  • If 56 million Bibles are printed annual in China, why would you bother to smuggle any?   Maybe because the number of Bibles produced are often English Bibles and Bible story books for kids which are exported for sale here in the west.   So the need is still there.
  • She was the champion of the use of the arts in church worship.   And still is.   But right now, former Willow Creek creative arts guru Nancy Beach is sitting in a director’s chair in Toronto on the set of a movie.
  • Sometimes you hear about charity fund raising projects and you wonder if anything is actually being accomplished.   18 months ago, I wrote about one involving worship musicians, Compassionart.   (I still enjoy the CD/DVD combo, especially the DVD.)   This past week, Rick Apperson dug up the stats on the projects accomplished by the project so far.
  • You can vote in the comments section whether or not you love this week’s YouTube clip or hate it.   But how can you not like little Mary Margaret’s flawless dramatic narration of the story of Jonah?
  • Back to the heavy stuff.  Here’s a great piece at Think Christian that helps you identify American “civil religion” when you see it. Simple marker: “Any statement that identifies the USA as God’s unique instrument for the salvation of the world is by definition blasphemous and idolatrous for a Christian to make.”
  • Mandy Thompson’s husband discovers that he didn’t actually marry that Mandy Thompson.
  • Thirty seconds of thinking:  Seth Godin on why it matters that there’s a difference to jazz versus bowling.
  • David Fitch wants you think twice about church planting in an auditorium as opposed to church planting in a living room.   Your choice could have repercussions for decades.
  • Here’s a great 5-minute animation of the Casting Crowns song, Praise You In The Storm.
  • Actually, I’ll give you a bonus video this week.   This is by Aaron Niequist, former Mars Hill (Grand Rapids) now doing the same job at Willow Creek.   The song is simply titled Changed.
  • Then again, why not go three-for-three.   This one may not fit your definition of a worship song, but it earn the adjective as much as anything else.   Check out Owl City’s Meteor Shower.
  • It’s one thing to have a more gender-inclusive translation of the Bible, but T.C. Robinson wonders aloud what do you do when “elders” in Titus 1 is gender-neutral as it is in the Common English Bible?
  • Are you a book-review blogger?  Here’s some advice to put what you do in perspective.
  • Skye Jethani is concerned because there are people attending church each week who are just plain bored.   Certainly that shouldn’t be.
  • Personal link:  This is what my oldest son gets up to when we’re not looking.   The musical instrument he’s playing here is called a Sonome.   Elsewhere on his channel you can do a quick tutorial he posted and find out how they work.   (If you’re reading this months later, it’s the Super Mario clip that was upfront when I wrote this.)
  • Our comic this week should be familiar to you.  Here we have Dolly partially deep in prayer at The Family Circus by Bil Keane.   Do you ever pray like that?   I’ll bet Mary Margaret does.

August 16, 2010

Probability of Participation

My wife and I are both creative types who are always hatching ideas, but we also realize that sometimes you have to throw dozens of ideas against the wall before you get one that sticks.

Although there are some churches trying to meet the needs of the people they serve, there are not a lot of choices in a small town for fellowship, teaching or service; so many people fall through the cracks.

But the other aspect of this is that, in order to succeed, you need to know there will be a “buy in” factor; that the thing you’re doing has a chance of succeeding.

We’re currently looking at an idea, which in order to take shape needs three things:

  1. People — or at least one key leadership person besides ourselves
  2. Place — this concept requires a location that hasn’t existed before
  3. Potential — we need to know that we have some odds for success

I’ve just checked the weather forecast to make sure I can hang laundry outside today.   The thing I’m concerned about is the Probability of Precipitation.   The thing I’m concerned about in ministry is the Probability of Participation.

We have a (somewhat cynical) church planter friend who claims that in the U.S., if you want to plant a church, you just set up a sandwich board sign outside the building you want to use that says,

New Church

Starting Here

This Sunday

10:00 AM

and you’re guaranteed at least 100 people.   I know not every planter would concur with that, but it seems to be that the U.S. experience differs greatly from what we see here in Canada, where, all conditions being equal, you might not get anyone.

But there are needs, and I believe that as long as you’re aware that there are needs, you have to keep trying, even when the Probability of Participation is very, very low.


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