Blaine Hogan’s UNTITLED: Thoughts on the Creative Process is a declaration of war against the blank page.
In this interview with long-time creator Blaine (Creative Director at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL) you will get a taste of his insights on attacking the blank page, executing vision, getting more out of contemplation, and as Blaine writes, “creating beauty from the inside out.”
Full disclosure: Blaine’s UNTITLED eBook isn’t published by Zondervan, but I believe you creators (writers, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, and artists of all stripes) will be encouraged and empowered by Blaine’s perspective. I look forward to hearing your comments! -AF
ZBLOG: In UNTITLED you ask, “Is there anything in my work I love so much I would eat it?” That’s my first question: What are you hungry for?
BLAINE: Movement. Heart movement. In myself first and then in an audience. I’m starving for and always on the lookout for something that I find deeply moving. As I continue to explore this discipline of the creative process, I find that the more I can discipline myself to being open and to exploring various corners of things, the chances for finding things in this vein dramatically increase. And when I find something that moves me, I want to eat it. I want to internalize it, through the lens of my own story — then I want to figure out the best way to tell it.
ZBLOG: You support artistic “fringe exploration” and “rebellion,” but you also observe, “sometimes artists get so carried away with their rebellion they begin to wage war with their own center of gravity.” What is your center of gravity? And how do you recommend other artists stay centered?
BLAINE: Put simply, the continually refining work of Christ in my life. I grew up Catholic so I find myself repeating the Lord’s Prayer throughout the day without even knowing it. For me this has always been centering. Contemplation is another thing I use to stay centered. Probably everyone reading this works in a fast paced environment, and the opportunity for silence and meditation I imagine is rare. However, if we aren’t quiet, I’m not sure we can stay centered. When we stop we recognize our breath — something we didn’t “work” to do. It just happens. This is the cosmic mystery of Christ within us. We center ourselves when we stop.
ZBLOG: A good number of people I know, both non-Christians and Christians, believe that creative thinking and doctrinal thinking are at loggerheads. Do you see a tension between the artist’s work and the theologian’s? Or can Michaelangelo and Martin Luther sit at the same table?
BLAINE: That’s an interesting question since both would seem to work to “enlighten.” However, I’m not sure art is ever meant to be understand in the head. To me, art is a heart matter and the theologian’s work is often relegated to that of only knowledge. I think someone like Rob Bell or Erwin McManus or even Makato Fujimura are all theologians in that they interpret scripture in varying ways, however they are all true artists as well.
I think what’s missing in this conversation is instead of creating this binary at all, that we’d be asking if both the artist and theologian are integrated humans. Humans who integrate their past, present, and future, along with their heart, soul, and mind, aren’t interested in the artist vs. theologian dialogue. In my opinion, this is the third way Jesus calls us to. So, I suppose my answer to your question is that while I deeply hope they could sit at the same table, I wish they could do so as fellow humans on a journey, rather than two men from separate camps.
ZBLOG: You admit that creative work can sometimes be overwhelming; you write, “Airports don’t shut down and neither do big projects. The planes just keep coming.”
Then you take a surprising turn. You’ve realized, “This is the creative process — stop complaining! It’s messy! It’s rarely mappable! It is always dynamic and ever-changing! … So instead of holding my breath until ‘things are done,’ I’m starting to breathe while I’m ‘doing the things.’”
How would you counsel someone who’d like to breathe while doing hard work, but they aren’t sure how to begin?
BLAINE: I was watching the movie, HUGO, last night with my wife. There a scene between Hugo and his father played by Jude Law, where they are attempting to fix this robot they call an automaton. It seems like they are so close to making the thing work, when they realize they are missing a key that happens to be in the shape of a heart. Hugo is disappointed. They are so close to being finished! Then his father whispers in this wonderfully hopeful tone, “Ah. Another mystery to solve!” This is how you begin to breathe. We’ve been called by God to help order the chaos of this world, and yet we know the ground is cursed, so we should never be surprised if the work doesn’t happen easily. That’s the first thing.
The second thing is is what an honor it is to get to solve such beautiful mysteries — particularly for anyone who is making something that might be meant for another person. Sure this is going to be hard, but the mysteries to be solved, once done, make the work incredibly worth it. This is how you start to breathe.
ZBLOG: Imagine you’re walking down a forest path and you come to a fork. One way is labeled, “For creatives who minister.” The other way is labeled, “For ministers who make art.” Which path do you choose, and why?
BLAINE: I believe there is a third path being forged. Since we’ve moved from an agrarian culture; to industrial; to information; and now to an age of invention — creativity is now the dominant currency. Our lives, if lived well, are meant to be creative. And as ministers we are to bear witness to this life in all its fullness. This act of bearing witness, to me, is art. I’m trying not to live in the binary, but to be an artist who ministers and an minister who makes art. In this way, the artist is becoming the new pastor of the 21st century, and I hope to live this out.
Learn more about Blaine Hogan’s eBook UNTITLED: Thoughts on the Creative Process.
Find Blaine’s blog at www.blainehogan.com.
-Adam Forrest, Zondervan
(This post does not represent the views of Zondervan or any of its representatives. The writer’s personal opinions are shared only for information purposes. Want to receive more thought-provoking and spiritually enriching posts? Subscribe to Zondervan Blog.)