If you create within the church, you know the term Todd Henry uses all too well: “create on demand.” The challenge of finding and executing brilliant ideas at a moment’s notice can be exhausting, and eventually cause your work to be mediocre.
Good news, Todd Henry understands you, the environment you live in and wrote a book especially for you: The Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice.
While most artists don’t work well in a tightly scheduled box, we do need a healthy space to work within. As Todd points out, because we work with our minds we are always working. That project that you’re working on is always swimming around your mind. This book creates boundaries for those ideas and your creative flow, what Todd calls “creative rhythm.”
This book is divided into two sections. The first talks about the challenges you face working within this environment of creating brilliance in a moment’s notice.
One of his statements is that “your work is not your life.” I struggled with that a bit since for creatives within the church this is often not true. They have chosen to do what they do, where they do it and who they do it for because of their faith. Their work is an expression of this faith and life. I asked Todd if that changed things:
“There is an added layer of complexity because of mission and personal faith. It would be easy for church creatives to fall into the trap of believing that their work is their identity because so much of their work contains expression of personal belief and mission. (This isn’t typically the case for a designer creating an identity for a soap company or someone cranking out articles for a magazine.) However, that workplace expression can quickly begin to usurp their true understanding of identity if it becomes too intertwined. What if their job goes away? What if there is a fundamental disagreement about direction, and they have to submit or move on? What if they lose function in their hands or voice? For someone whose understanding of identity is wrapped up in a particular function this creates a crisis. If designing becomes intertwined with my identity, what happens when I lose my eyesight?
Church creatives are not their jobs. While their job may allow a tremendous amount of personal expression of faith and mission, this cannot be confused with identity or even with vocation. If that confusion is allowed room to grow, there could be a devastating faith crisis on the horizon when circumstances unexpectedly change.”
The rest of the book lays out the plan for “creative rhythm” in your work (and life).
Finding your creative rhythm is essential to not only produce great work but also not losing your mind doing the work. I’ve often used the analogy that as artists we have this creative sponge that we need to constantly be filling up so that we can squeeze out brilliance when need to. If we wait until the moment a project is given to us to fill up that sponge it’s just too late.
Todd outlines this rhythm in 5 parts:
- Focus: What you do is about more than what’s projected on Sunday or a to-do list.
- Relationships: Remember when your parents harped on how your friends influenced you? Still applies.
- Energy: For me this isn’t about work/life balance but finding the right work/life mix.
- Stimuli: This is that sponge and everything we experience gets soaked up.
- Hours: This isn’t your daddy’s Franklin planner.
Once you’ve digested all that he then helps bring it all together in actionable checkpoints. This is where you map out your rhythm. I really appreciate that this isn’t a book just full of ideas, but something you can put into play and that he shows you how.
The book is wrapped up with a great chapter, especially for the church, “Cover Bands Don’t Change The World.” Ever since I started this crazy idea of only working with churches I’ve had the goal of helping the church to find it’s voice and once again regain its place as the most creative place on the planet. If artists, and pastors, will grab a hold of these concepts, not just read the book and nod your head, but put it in practice, I believe we will once again capture people’s attention with the greatest story ever told (aka go buy the book).