Seven words you should never say to creatives

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There are certain words you should just never say.

My three-year-old son, for example, has yet to figure out that he should never say, “You get in the kitchen and get me some milk,” to his mother. Though he will. (I hope.)

Yes, my son is currently a misogynist. But like I said, we’re working on it. And the truth is, we grown-ups are just as bad. Sure, we usually aren’t declaring that a woman get back in the kitchen and make us some pie (if we’re sane); but we do say things we absolutely shouldn’t all the time. Things that, whether we realize it or not, are either insulting or just plain dumb. (And a pro-tip for gentlemen: If a woman is upset, for the love of all that is good and right and true, do not make any sort of comment about her reproductive cycle. It will not go well for you. And you look like a tool.)

For years, I worked as a graphic designer. And even though I stopped working as one almost eight years ago, I still work with graphic designers. And I work with writers and videographers. And the one thing I learned very early on was there are some things you should just never, ever say to any sort of creative individual.

If you say, for example, “This is what you’re giving me? I could’ve done that,” you’re likely not going to have a good day. And the person working for you will no longer be there within three months. But there are worse, although most are too crass to publish on a Christian blog. However, among the worst things you can say to any sort of creative individual are the following seven words:

“It will be great for your portfolio.”

As a designer, particularly in my early days, I heard this a lot. And what it means is not, “this will be a great boost for your career,” but “I’m cheap and don’t want to pay you.” An equivalent is that oft-heard promise to illustrators, “I’ve got a great idea for a children’s book; I can’t pay you now, but I’d be happy to split the royalties!” (This makes my wife’s eye twitch.)

And these are doubly damnable when they come from the lips of a professing Christian.

Christians tend to have a poor reputation among creatives—and usually it’s because we come across as cheap (and I know because I’ve experienced many a cheap client who happened to be a Christian). And this should never be. Christians should always strive to be generous in every way—not just in our giving to our churches and to charities, but in paying professionals what they’re worth. (And yes, that includes tipping your servers well, too.)

I’m thankful that, over the last several years with my current employer, I’ve seen them work hard to combat this stereotype. When we work with freelance creatives, we always do our best to pay fairly. It’s been rare when someone has said they can’t work with the budget we have, which is nice.

When I work on personal projects with independent creatives, and I know I don’t have what might be their standard rate available, I ask ahead of time what they can do with the money I do have. I’ve had some say they can’t do a project, and I’ve never been bothered by it (in fact, I greatly appreciate their honesty). I’ve had one or two surprise me by gifting me the project, even!

As a freelancing creative myself, I rarely have anyone mention this idea at this point. I just finished writing a magazine article for an organization that has a predetermined per word rate for writers—and it was a reasonable one, too! I’ve written for another organization that’s paid quite generously. And one of my favorite emails was one that said right up front, “We currently can’t pay for contributions, but here’s what we can offer…”

This, to my mind, is exactly what we should be doing. We should be up front and honest. We should be clear about what we’re asking for. And we should, at all costs, avoid any talk of “portfolio building”.

In the end, it really comes down to two things: honesty and integrity. Weasel-y talk of work being great for a portfolio lacks both. So please, unless your goal is to lose friends and alienate people, you should probably never, ever say this again.

 

Links I like (weekend edition)

Links

Kindle deals for Christian readers

Today is also the last day to take advantage of Crossway’s weekly deals:

Google’s Denominational Stereotypes

This is interesting.

Don’t Let Spontaneity Kill Your Creativity

Chris Vacher:

We have a brain that God has wired to be creative. We have a God who is the Creator. We have his spirit living inside of us and we have the invitation to be creative in the way that He also is creative. We have all the time that we need to do the work God has called us to do. We have every resource available to us to lead people in worship the way God has invited us.

So how has the power of spontaneity been allowed to have its way among so many churches, pushing away the strength of planning, critique and editing?

The Gospel in the Dominican Republic

Ivan Mesa interviews Miguel Núñez, senior pastor of the International Baptist Church in Santo Domingo and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition, about what God is doing in the Dominican Republic.

A briefer history of time

HT: Tim

A Crash Course on Influencers of Unbelief

Justin Taylor is starting a new (occasional) series on influencers who’ve shaped the thinking of our culture. First up is Sigmund Freud.

7 Helps for When One You’ve Been Discipling Turns Away

Mike Leake:

The Lord spoke of those who would fall on bad soil. When you experience that first hand it is painful. It’s painful to see the one who shoots up quickly, giving hope to many people, and then just as quickly drifts away. When you’ve baptized this person, started discipling them, and even started dreaming about how the Lord might use them—it is such a blow when they drift away from Christ and the gospel.

The courage to take a risk

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I spent the bulk of last week in Chicago for Story, a conference for those who are engaged in the creative world—storytellers, musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers, among others. I went to this event a couple years ago and found it… weird, but interesting, and a bit scattered in its message. This time around, it had its elements of pretension—the standard “You are creative and the world needs you!” type stuff—but it wasn’t all rah-rah this time. Instead, I noticed a pretty consistent theme come through all the speakers’ addresses: this idea of courageous creativity.

What do I mean by that? Being willing to take risks—real risks. Being willing to try something and fail.

This is something few of us are good at. In fact, it’s not something I’m entirely sure I know how to do. Working in the non-profit world, where we deal with money entrusted to us by donors, it sometimes feels as though we can’t afford to try something and have it fail. We can’t really take risks, which means we can’t really innovate.

Or so we think.

I wonder, though, how much would change for us if someone just said these five words: “You are free to fail”?

Would we be more willing to take risks? To experiment?

To maybe even have a little fun with our work?

And moving beyond creative work, consider how these words affect our relationship with God. Just as many of us who work in the non-profit world believe failure isn’t an option, many of us believe the same thing about following Jesus? That if we’re not “all-rise” in our approach to the Christian faith—always more baptisms, more bums in seats, more services—we’re blowing it?

Why do we keep forgetting that, although we will always progress on our march to holiness, it’s going to be of a stumbling, faltering sort? That there is a sense in which we are told in the gospel, we are free to fail? Not in a way that minimizes or blesses sin, but in the sense that it’s our failures more than our successes that we see our need for Christ—and God uses to shape us into the image of Christ?

This, too, requires courage. A kind of courage we too easily set aside for the sake of appearances. We want to be seen as godly, without actually wanting to take the risks associated with becoming godly. Confessing sin is a risk. Repenting of sin requires courage. But the reward—while it may never be fully seen in this world—makes the risk worth it, doesn’t it?

God, the original fashion designer (a theology of fashion, part 1)

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In my vanity, I’ve always liked to think of myself as a serious-minded woman. In high school, I didn’t go to parties; I stayed home and did my German homework. And although I like to consider myself an intellectual, I can’t help one thing:

I love clothes.

My favorite recurring dream is one in which I find my closet stuffed full of dresses I didn’t know I owned. I watch Downton Abbey episodes twice: the first time for the plot and the second time to stare at the costumes.

But I’ve always dismissed my love of fashion as flighty and shallow. The weak underbelly to my otherwise oh-so-wise self.

As I’ve grown older, my delight for clothing has only grown stronger, although my main accessories these days are spit-up and a diaper bag. What I’ve only begun to accept recently is that my love for fashion might not simply be a vain pursuit of youth—as I so snobbishly supposed—but a genuine, God- given love for creativity and beauty.

“See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28)

I often think of this verse as I hike in the mountains near my home in Colorado. The tiniest wildflower of the tundra will have the most extravagant and intricate design. Looking at nature and the animal world, it’s clear that God has a flair for design. A God who creates the peacock is not a purely utilitarian God.

Recognizing the God-given creative spirit, Christendom has often embraced the arts, from music to sculpture to painting.

But many of us still eschew the realm of fashion.

So often fashion is fraught with vice. Whether vanity, excess, immodesty or the backbiting world we envision in The Devil Wears Prada, clothing hardly seems like an arena for worship.

But zoom back from our own culture and picture the dress of past times and other places. The intricate beaded collars of the Maasai tribe in Tanzania and Kenya. The stately headdresses of Native Americans. The scarlet pomegranate tassels on the Israelite High Priest’s garments.

God is the original fashion designer. He specifically enumerated how Aaron’s garments should be made, from the turban to the tassels. He also gifted certain individuals in clothes making:

“Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest.” (Exodus 28:3)

Just as God gifted some to be wood cutters for His glory, He created others to be clothing makers. If we look at almost any culture, we see the inevitable desire to adorn the beautiful form God created with beautiful attire. Even the noble woman of Proverbs 31 is clothed in fine linen and purple.

But often, in an attempt to dodge the many moral trapdoors, we Christians have turned to asceticism when it comes to fashion. The Bible certainly does give guidelines and warnings when it comes to dress (more on that in the next post). But this doesn’t mean the wholesale abandonment of this expression of creativity.

My point is not that we should all run to the Banana Republic for some dangly earrings. But I think we should reclaim creativity—in all of its forms—for God. He is the one who put the seed of fashion within us.

If you aren’t the fashionable type—as I suspect some who read theology blogs might not be—that’s fine. But encourage the people around you whom God has gifted in creativity to embrace it for God’s glory. This might look different for different people.

In my own life, I’ve found an outlet in making paper dresses with my preschooler (whose current passion in life is twirling in circles wearing dresses). She loves it as a way to spend time with mommy and play with scissors. I love it as a way to infuse some creativity into my daily life with two kids.

God created us in His image and that implicitly means we are creative beings. When we allow ourselves to express that creativity in its various forms, we are paying homage and honoring His original design.


Amber Van Schooneveld is a writer, editor, wife, mom, nature lover, world traveler and follower of Jesus Christ. She is the author of Hope Lives: A Journey of Restoration and can be found online at ambervanschooneveld.com.

Photo credit: Alba Soler Photography via photopin cc