Elements and Attitude of the Creative Process

Matt Redman wrote the most quintessential worship song. For a longtime songwriter like me it is an attitude that I so rarely come to grips with. If I applied that attitude to the crafts that I pursue whether it is music, writing, comedy, or acting, or producing a radio program, then I know that by capturing that relationship with Christ with communication that I’ll be okay. How do we get to the heart of the matter?

“When the music fades, and all is stripped away, and I simply come. Longing just to bring something that’s of worth that will bless your heart.”

When you sit and stare at the empty page do you come to it with that attitude? Is it just a one on one with him brainstorming on what he wants you to communicate? Or is it just you in a vacuum of a room flying solo-where you’re the master? What is worthy? What does the aroma of His art smell like? Can you commit that to paper?

Are you willing to make the audience you are writing for an audience of one? When we narrow it down to whom we are writing to, when we have the band go home, and it is just a stool, spotlight, when we strip down the big production number, and we’re not concerned about technique or performance -just down to a one on one. Is that getting down to the heart of the matter?

“I’ll bring you more than a song. For a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, through the way things appear; you’re looking into my heart.”

Before we commit the pen to paper, what is the nature of what is on your mind? What is on your heart? What would you tell him when he asks-Where are you going on this piece? And then what does He want you to say?

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you. I’m sorry Lord for the thing I made it. When it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.”

Brad Stine is a comedian who does stand up. At one point of his career, he had it all mapped out- and he admits it just wasn’t happening. Oh sure, he had the right material and he seemed like he was at the right place at the right time. He even had the edge without being profane. He told good, clean edgy jokes-but he failedâÂ?¦on his own steam. Stine admits it was the first time he quit anything. So he loaded up family in the car and moved from Los Angeles to Nashville. It was time to bring the “knife down on his career.” And when he was willing to give it up-God made it a new thing. It was a dream bigger than Brad Stine could ever dream.

“I’m sorry Lord for the thing I made itâÂ?¦”

My job at Focus on the Family as a writer/producer and what I do in producing a film festival and a radio show is mainly write for products, programs, features, and radio specials. Before I got to Focus on the Family, I was composing music for television documentaries. I also was a traveling musician to health care facilities across the front range of Colorado. At one point I had sixty health care clients preparing and charting progress of patients and their reactions to the music, initiating programs for small groups, and going room to room working with the patients who needed it. One evening when we lived in Westcliffe, Colorado a Pastor asked if I would join their ministry team. I declined, saying that I was too busy to have one more music job. The Pastor bristled. Now he wasn’t my pastor, meaning I didn’t go to his church. But as we were walking out in the cold Sangre de Cristo air, he pointed a finger at me and his voice echoed down the corridor of an empty Main Street: “There’s more to your ministry than music,” he said. A few years later I found myself walking up the steps to Dawn Ministries. A man with a gentle accent answered the door, “May I help you?” he asked. “Does anyone need a guitar, some recording equipment.” “You didn’t steal it -or anything” and I said “No, but I’ve spent enough time chasing my dream and all this is just an obstacle to what God wants from me.” The knife had come down on my dream. I asked God to show me what he had in mind. I had taken a temporary job at Focus, wrapping the annual G. Harvey lithograph. We sold our house in the mountains and all 6 of us lived in a two bedroom apartment on Academy Boulevard. Leap of faithâÂ?¦ When the temporary job was over I got in to Cassette Duplication. That was one of the hardest jobs in my life. It was a night job. And at night when I was on the machines making cassettes of the daily radio program, I listened to the most anointed teachings. I started writing during breaks and my off hours. I was terrible at the job. I’m not mechanically inclined. A few times they let me know that I was not making the cut. I bit my tongue a lot that year. And then-a job opening in production came up. And I got it.

I was a lot better at this job, than the duplication job. In between the people who ran the Colorado Springs Pregnancy Center asked me to write a public service announcement for their “Walk for Life”. I provided a lot of production for the writers and producers at Focus and a t Briargate Media and they really began to rely on me. These are kind of what a friend of mine calls “Joseph moments”. When a producer job came up I would test for it. Twice, I was rejected. But part of the testing was writing promotional copy and when they saw this and heard my spots they encouraged me to apply for a copy writer position the next time one comes about. About five years ago there was an opening. I was encouraged by a lot of people to try. I did, and eventually the job was awarded to me.

“King of endless worth no one could express how much you deserve. Though I’m weak and poor all I have is yours, every single breath.”

Up until then I had been the humble servant. Everyone had the attitude- “Show me”! And I must tell you that that was the best thing for me. The death of ego, the humility to start by sweeping floors was my starting point. When I got an assignment, I’d write what I thought was pretty good that first year, red marks, or writing that said in bold red letters “START OVER” almost every time out. A co-writer sat on my desk one day and although she had nothing to do with the piece threw it at me- and said “This is crap!” I felt as though if I retaliated that I would get fired. I thought that if she said it was crap then it was. After six months they told me I was breaking all the rules of copyrighting and that I couldn’t possibly do that since I was knew and that I didn’t know the rules. But I did. And I wound up reading every book on advertising I could. I went back to school for journalism. By the end of the year I won a Tesla at National Radio Broadcasters, and three Addy Awards. Suddenly, I was being promoted and I was in stage two or three of my “Joseph Moments.” His strength and His victories have come through weakness. I knew that I couldn’t make these people my allies, and colleagues without His power. And respect was that I didn’t lash back, even when I was wounded. I continued to write daily and rewrite, the next day. I sought approval from other writers and producers, and I sweat the details.

“I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required. You search much deeper within, than the way things appear, you’re looking into my heart.”

When I stare at the empty page and I simply admit my shortcomings, when I rely on Him for the images, the words, the inner rhymes, and the stories-I am stronger in my weakness in admitting it.

In this session I have a little game that I learned that I call The Three Minute Drill. This is bound to shake you out of writers block. Take a theme- lets say the theme is “Laughter”. Choose a three minute piece of instrumental music and write down the images that come to your head about images that come to your mind regarding the theme of “Laughter”. Just words and phrases. And when the music stops – you stop. Underline phrases from your list that are provocative, funny, or poignant and let’s build from it. This is both a warm up when I am writing a song, a spot, a story, almost anything that jogs your brain into a creative mode. I developed this “image banking” game while working with a group of head and spinal injured patients in Lakewood. This group wrote songs together. Many could not speak without the aid of a letter board or a computer. It was interesting to see their minds come alive and I’ve been using this exercise when I’m stuck in what use to be writers block. Write to me and tell me how this exercise worked and if you added it to your writing tool chest.

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