The role of a creative director in a church setting can be repetitive the seasons are often marked by specific liturgies, traditions, rituals, and the goal of being "creative," within a context that repeats and recycles themes year after year. As a result, it can lead to frustrating patterns for creatives to embrace.
Take yourself off the hook from having the expectation of a brand-new idea every week.
If you are nailing it every season, fashioning brand new ideas and interpretations of the greatest story ever told with each passing year, then chances are, you are close to burnout. It can be difficult to manufacture energy at that scale. On the other hand, coasting on a previous year's success and settling to make traditions out of your best, but aging, ideas can lead to boredom. Sure, it works, but it worked last year and the year before that and the year before that big deal.
While burnout and boredom feel like different animals altogether, I tend to see them as flip sides on the same coin. Both are results of a frustrated creative mind, and there are two things I have found during my tenure as a creative director at a church, that have helped me in both phases.
Whether you are in a season of frustrating burnout or crippling boredom, allow these insights on rest and ways to relax to give you a chance to break free and start anew.
Rest (Make the Sabbath holy)
I hate to have to Bible you so quickly into this article, but even though it's one of the ten, it might be one of the most acceptably ignored commandments by American Christians. So to refresh your memory, here's what He said about this:
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." Exodus 20:8
Later He described the example He set, and why we should follow it: "For in six days, the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Exodus 20:11
Friends, I just want to remind us all that the Sabbath came out of six straight days of creating. God, our creator, took a day and made it holy after all of that creating. For us to think that we "don't have time" to rest, reflect and refocus is, well, pretty ridiculous.
And as is often the case with God's commandments, practicing a Sabbath has benefits beyond the obedience. Resting in this way does in fact recharge us recently a "mini-Sabbath" version of this kind of rejuvenation has been discovered in our creative circles. Scott Kaufman recently found in his research that 72 percent of us "get our best ideas in the shower." His study highlights the importance of relaxation for creative thinking, and the study provides a microcosm of Sabbath behavior. Kaufman said, “The relaxing, solitary, and nonjudgmental shower environment may afford creative thinking by allowing the mind to wander freely, and causing people to be more open to their inner stream of consciousness and daydreams.”
Rest is important as a response to burnout for obvious reasons moving too fast with too many projects while overwhelmed with stress, is something that can't be sustained. But boredom can be combated with rest as well allowing yourself to enter the relaxing and nonjudgemental environment will allow your mind to move more freely, where daydreams can be the beginning of brainstorms, new ideas that can live and breathe, even in familiar patterns.
Relax (You only have eight ideas)
This suggestion is less biblical perhaps, but over time, I've found comfort in understanding this important part of the creative process. Creatives come with a personality and a set of gifts that have been given by God, and honed by training and practice. What we bring to the table is unique and often, we are particularly good at a few things that really wow' people. We then feel trapped by those same ideas and spend most of the rest of our careers trying to run from them, as though their past success is the reason for our current frustration.
Here's what I've told myself for years, and it's helped me wrestle with this conundrum over time. I say something like, "Well, the fact is, I only have eight ideas. Eight really solid, unique to me, original ideas." That seems defeatist, but honestly, it's a badge of courage and something in which to be proud. Eight ideas! Many noncreatives would crave to have just one! I have eight! It's a huge win!
Because my job runs in cycles, and has repetitive seasons, my job as a creative director is to take those eight ideas, shape them, conceal them, mask them, and trick my audience into thinking that they're seeing a new one. When in truth, it's just one of the eight.
But even more fun, my actual job is to take my eight ideas, and morph them with my collaborators, and their eight ideas, so that with enough collaboration, we can disguise all our ideas year after year, so that every year, it feels like (and eventually becomes true) we are brainstorming new unique expressions of timeless truths.
Take yourself off the hook from having the expectation of a brand-new idea every week. You only have eight relax! Instead, recognize your strengths, what ideas are you drawn to create, and use collaboration to first conceal and then reveal a new path.
It doesn't have to hurt to make something new.
Feeling burnout or boredom? Rest and relax. Creatives in the church need it just as much as anyone, and giving yourself permission to do exactly that is perhaps the remedy you need in whichever season you find yourself.