Censorship versus Editing: 5 Tips to Curb Cut & Paste Creativity

I am writing a “Part 3” to this “Cut and Paste Creativity” idea. I was humbled to have Worship Musician Magazine publish the first two posts in their current issue. (Links: Post 1 and Post 2)

There are two ways in a church setting that creativity is honed and prepared for public display. Censorship is when things are taken out because of fear that they may damage the mission. Editing is when things are pruned in order to highlight the mission. The truth is that us creatives need some filtering before we lay out our stuff before the masses, even if our own congregation or community is the scope of our platform.

I believe that we get into a “cut and paste” situation when we censor. What could have been unique, authentic, and captivating turns into mush? Our worship services fall flat, the artwork is boring, and our events end up in a coma. The spiritual mystery of what happens when people submit to each other and the Spirit in the process of creating is lost when fear decides rather than faith.

Censorship comes from the loss of trust or poor communication between leaders and their creatives. “We will never do a song like that again!” might be proclaimed by a leader. The focus is on limiting threats. The attitude is one of protection and moderation. Now, these things are not bad things. But, they do come from a negative perspective. And, often, they are arbitrary and drop as edicts from a dictatorship. Perhaps there is a better way to influence the outcome of creating in the church or any setting. Editing.

Editors are actual collaborators, contributors, and shareholders in the process as well as the end product. A leader can choose to be in the relationship of the creation rather than just one who manages and mitigates threats. But, the creatives must learn that this submission will make them better and more effective. Often, this is not easy to do when you are trained as an “artist” who in our culture equals being a diva.

A true artist is a servant, and therefore powerful creativity comes from the community rather than pure self-expression. We create because we are in the image of God. The humbling thought is that God himself is a team–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all present at the Creation. Even God himself is in a community when he creates!

 To the leader of us creatives, it means learning to suffer by entering the process. To the creative is means accepting and allowing editing of your work. Sharing your “baby” may be easier when you realize you both are together on it. Having each others backs is the goal here. While you may work for a manager who is not creative, he or she is ultimately responsible to own the results of what you do.

I have had the opportunity to make a few mistakes over the years, so in that context I trust you can learn a couple things from me. Here are five tips to help the creative invite editing rather than censorship:

  1. Decide at the beginning what you need to own as yours and what you must be open handed with. We all need to own our convictions, but where is that line? Understanding where you actually stand will help you “edit” your attitude before you even start work.
  2. Develop ahead of time a “creative team” that includes decision makers so your creative process is understood when editing time comes around. Community is needed to execute, but also to edit.
  3. Ask the following questions before designing your final draft: What is most important to communicate? What things are off-limits? What are my boundaries? Knowing these helps you submit.
  4. Invite feedback before the finished product is declared and do so with an open hand. Checking in at 50% progress might make you change course, but if you make the decision together it is better than redoing 100% at the end.
  5. It is nearly impossible to put a “metric” to creativity. Remind your leader gently of this fact and forgive yourself if you have done all you can the best you can.

Any other ideas or tips you have to curb the Cut and Paste madness?

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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