The creative road

The Creative Road

I have a problem: I’m an impatient, procrastinating perfectionist (in recovery).  I like things to be a specific way, but my timing is often too late, and my attention span too short, to get me to where I want to be.

This problem manifests itself most clearly in my work as a writer and pastor.  I love the beginning of the creative process, when ideas are running through my mind like a Lamborghini on the Autobahn, because progress is rapid and smooth.

But the moment I choose a topic to address, progress begins to slow until I eventually feel like my mind is in a horse-cart on some cratered, back-country road.  It sucks, but I don’t think this feeling is unusual for people who do creative work.  In fact, I don’t even think it’s a problem, unless I start looking for a shortcut, an easy way off the road.

When you take the easy way out, when you don’t push through the potholes, you sacrifice the quality of your product.  When you procrastinate and start on a project too late, you almost force yourself to skip the struggle, on the other side of which is a greater product that has the potential to make a greater impact.

It's better to experience difficulty in the process than disappointment in the product.Listen to me: Even if you’re really skilled at what you do, don’t use your talent to justify turning off the road prematurely.  It’s better to experience difficulty in the process than disappointment in the product.

Earlier this week I was writing a sermon for this Sunday.  I had some good notes, and had invested a significant amount of time in explaining and illustrating two major points before I realized they weren’t really major points at all (it’s a long story).

In the past I might have told myself, “I can make this work.  I didn’t invest all this time in these points for nothing!”  But this time I took a step back, identified the main point of the text, and made my previous points sub-points of a sub-point!  And you  know what?  I’m really, truly excited to preach this weekend, because the product is good.

Don’t procrastinate.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Stick to the process so you can celebrate the product!

 

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Good execution is never easy (at least not at first)

good-execution-is-never-easy

This morning I started a 22-day pushup challenge to help raise awareness about the suicide rate among veterans (supposedly 22 former servicemembers kill themselves every day).  I recorded myself doing the pushups on Facebook Live, and one of the comments left under my video really got me thinking about life and leadership.

The comment was from a friend from church, who said, “Those were some really well executed pushups!”  Immediately I thought, Yeah, but it was a major struggle just to get through them all!

The more I thought about it the more I realized that good execution will always be a struggle, at least at first.

Think about it.  We’ve all seen people doing “pushups” that really look more like head-bobs.  Instead of moving their arms and working their chest muscles, these bobbers just move their heads up and down as they count, and while those “pushups” are much easier to do than those done in good form, they’re not nearly as beneficial.

But if you consistently push through the pain in order to do well-executed pushups (even if you do fewer of them), your muscles will eventually grow, allowing you to do more pushups more easily.  High-level execution practiced consistently will, over time, enable you to do more than you may have ever thought possible.

As a youth pastor I recently organized a big Christmas party for the students at my church.  I put a ton of effort, more than normal, into planning games, preparing a sermon, organizing the evening’s agenda, mobilizing volunteers, promoting the event, and executing all that we had put together.  And you know what?  I was exhausted afterward, but the party absolutely rocked.

I need to continue to execute at this high level, not only in the area of ministry, but also in my relationships, my writing, and my spiritual disciplines, because the prize that follows good execution is worth the pain.