This past week, I was in Dallas for the Echo Conference. It’s for artists, geeks, and storytellers in the church, and was my first time attending. It was pretty cool, and quite different from my usual conference experience. I tried to take good notes for you and me both, and while it would be a pretty long post if I included each and every note here, I will include some of the highlights.
Here are a few of the gems I appreciated most:
Cole NeSmith: Creativity Overcoming Safety
- “The Artist as Prophet” –A prophet is someone revealing the truth of God. In life and the church, we become subservient to someone else’s agenda, but God has given us our own unique things to say in a way that no one else can. God is revealing his manifold wisdom through the church. (Eph 3:10-11) There is still plenty for us to say.
- Creatives can sometimes see what others can’t. A Radio Lab podcast by NPR explained that the original Hebrew Bible and Homer, as well as other popular ancient texts, do not use the color blue. They do, however, use most other primary colors. So a tribe in Namibia was studied who only had five names for colors. When shown a color outside their only five, they couldn’t see it. Artists often can’t see what we don’t have words for.
- Artists have prophetic permission. We are expecting and ok with artists making us uncomfortable. Artists must respect authority, but are not subservient. The artist is a risk-taker who goes into new territory first to illuminate it. In fact, a Barna Study found that people were leaving the church because it is too safe!
- Success is related, not to outcome, but to obedience. Our willingness makes it a success.
The Amnesia Project: Marlon Hall
- Dream. Believe. Do.
- The heart of imagination is memory. Go backward to go forward. How can we imagine our future if we don’t know who we are? As amnesiacs, we must wake up from amnesia to remember the past so we can effectively shape the future.
- We tend to focus on what, who, where and how but not enough on why. Why is the source. Your heart is attacked when you don’t remember the why.
- We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. Perspective.
- Assess your failure. Use the crap of your past to fertilize your future. You must fail in order to succeed well.
Keynote 1: Todd Wagner
- Don’t look at someone’s success as your failure. It’s probably meant to bless you, so don’t take that opportunity for blessing away. God knew what He was doing when He made you. Be inspired and encouraged by those you see as great.
- Col 1:25 – God put Christ in us to reveal His glory. God has entrusted His glory and reputation in the form of us. He stakes His reputation as a Creator in us. We are fearfully and wonderfully made and remade daily. Our lives are meant to point to Christ and have others want to do the same.
- Two people can tell you the truth about yourself: an enemy who has lost his temper, or a friend that loves you dearly.
- The logo of the NBA is a real guy, not just a graphic or model. We are God’s logos that represent Him to the world. What would happen if someone pulled back the curtain of your life? (Wizard of Oz)
Keynote 2: Todd Henry
- Author of “Accidental Creative”
- Is it possible to be prolific, brilliant and healthy? Probably two, but rarely all three if at all. We usually end up fried. We can become unreliable because we can’t keep up the pace. We can become fired if we don’t constantly do great work. How are you doing on these? If you are missing one, it’s usually the healthy piece.
- Sometimes we don’t see the pressure because it’s been there for so long. The moment we have a great idea, the stakes are raised.
- We are in a create-on-demand world. The creative process is the perpetual assault on the beachhead of apathy.
- Five Steps: Define the problem. Explore the options. Choose the best option(s). Execute. Rinse and repeat.
- Are our ideas to appropriate (safe or close to us)?
- Creativity is rhythmic.
- Focus – Sometimes we think something out there is more important than what’s right in front of us. (Twitter, email, etc.) We think nothing of giving away our life 10 seconds at a time, but it adds up!
- Define Challenges – ask multiple questions.
- Relationships allow us to pursue meaningful things. Seek relationships that challenge you. Seek out people who inspire you. Seek mentors who help you define priorities and problems.
- Energy – Mange it effectively to be your best. Prune regularly. It may be good, but not right at the time. Think whole life, not compartments. Get good at sitting down and evaluation.
- Hours – Where you put your time can determine your success. Dedicate time to generate ideas for the things you love. Your priorities are with your calendar and checkbook.
Live Creatively: Amena Brown
- Live creatively, friends…Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. – Paul (Gal 6:1,4-5, Message)
- Artists need a place of prayer. Jesus climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. (Matt 14:22)
- Artists need a place to be creative. In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative. – Twyla Tharp. It may be your house or outside of it. Be consistent. Do your work.
- Artists need a place to be transparent. Make this your common practice. Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. (James 5:16) Be accountable to someone. Don’t surround yourself just with people who are impressed by you.
- Artists need a place to connect with other artists. Be around people who are better than you to inspire you to be better.
- Artists need a place to cultivate your craft. Who am I to think I can build a house adequate for God—burning incense to him is all about I’m good for! I need your help. Send me a master artisan…” – Solomon (2 Chron 2:6-7, Message. Getter better. Offer the best you have.
- Artists need a place to connect with your local art scene. Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night. – Paul (Phil 2:14-16, Message).
- Some thoughts on becoming a full-time artist: Completely surrender. Ask God what he wants to do with the gifts he’s given you. Be willing to scrub toilets. They are a means to an end. Remember you are serving God above all else. Study the artists who come before you. Push the art forward. Let them be your mentors. To be a full-time artist is to be an entrepreneur. If you don’t want to think about the biz side, keep it a hobby. Make the most of your day job. Save money. Decrease expenses. Live on less. Be yourself. Be who God called you to be.
- Establishing some sort of routine helps you get through the hard mental days. Also expose yourself to new things to keep you inspired and creative.
Good Idea, Now What: Charles Lee
- What do our ideas have to do with the real world? Ideas are a stewardship.
- We will work extra hard if we think our idea is valuable enough.
- Who are you, and who/what are you leading? Mission statements don’t cover these questions well, but they are crucial to understand. What do you bring to the table? Create a remarkable experience that people care about. Some of the best ideas come from those you serve. Consider the end user. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you hope to benefit.
- A study found that those who talk about their ideas and share them too quickly without writing them down and processing them will rarely pursue or accomplish them. Write them down process them. This task also allows you to plug others in faster when you’ve thought through the details and then share with others.
- Creativity and idea-making: Perseverance brings things to life. Ideas must be nurtured. Separate ideas may even come together over time.
- Think options first. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Speghetti Sauce” TED talk…there may not be a “best” way to get there. People respond to options.
- Simplicity and clarity. Take the concepts and prune them. People will connect to your core competency.
- Ideas create tension. This is a good thing.
- What are you waiting for?
Gaining Influence and Mobilizing Others for Good: Lindsay Nobles
- Influence: to be a compelling force on something. Influence is more important than authority in today’s world.
- In gaining influence, you need to be yourself and be authentic. Find your passion, and be a part of the story.
- Don’t let fear squelch your visions. Enlist others. Surround yourself with people who affirm and hold you accountable. Your online persona should match who you are. Be generous and kind. Give your time and resources away the way someone else did for you when you were starting out.
- Don’t talk about yourself all the time. (80% others, 20% yourself)
- There are three ways to pull people into a story. Logical appeals to their head. Emotional tells a story to compel their emotions. Cooperative draws parallels between people and situations
- How do you leverage influence? Focus on the people you naturally have influence with first. Deepen those connections. Let the broad come later. Let people see your flaws. Learn more about the things you love.
- Sometimes its not about getting answers, but more about formulating the right kinds of questions.
Keynote 3: Tony Hale
- You have to have a support system. He started The Haven in NYC as a Christian support system.
- Entertainment is a constant faith walk. You don’t know when/where your next job is coming. It’s awesome to know God has your back.
- His favorite movie is Lars and The Real Girl because it shows our desperation for connection.
- We can’t put Christian art in a box. It can be outside a Christian bookstore.
- If you are judging something or someone, ask yourself if those qualities also live in you. The answer is probably yes, so don’t judge too harshly.
- Character development can be a study of empathy.
- If you aren’t practicing contentment where you’re at, you’ll never be content when you get what you want. Contentment is a discipline. Practice it daily. When discontentment comes, tell it “not now.”
- If you don’t surround yourself with people you really know you, you’ll lose yourself when the people who only know and love your work are the only ones around. It becomes your identity.
- If I say yes to something I’m not comfortable with, they won’t get 100% of me. I’m doing them a favor saying no.
- Don’t put up a wall—collaborate.
Keynote 4: Scott Williams
- We are all storytellers.
- Unity can be expressed through diversity. Gal 3:28 – neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- Live the Great Commandment. Matt 22:7-9. Love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.
- John 4:27-30 – Woman at the Well. Why aren’t we more like the woman—going out telling everyone we meet about our life-changing experience with Jesus? Many believed because of what she said, and then went to hear Him themselves.
- What stories are you telling? We all have a powerful story to tell!
- Diversity matters to Coca-Cola and they are just selling sugar water. We have the Living Water. Diversity should matter.
- Do the Great Commission. Matt 28:19. GO and make disciples of ALL nations.
I also walked out of the conference with a reading list:
- The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry
- Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process by Blaine Hogan
- Good Idea. Now What? by Charles Lee
- The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Quitter by Jon Acuff
Hope you learned something! I sure did!