Risky Creativity


Advice from Alan Briggs

Alan, in your book, Everyone’s a Genius, you have a section titled, “Go Ahead and Fail.” Failure is a concept that most people would rather avoid. Let’s talk a moment about how failure can be a positive experience.

Alan: Instead of “failure” what if we called it “experimentation”? It changes our perceptions and stigmas. Experiments give us the freedom to fail, but the goal is not to produce a big pile of failure. When we experiment we learn and grow. We also get to experience grace from the Father and often get invited to peek at new horizons.

You state that you can’t avoid risk in life. What do you mean by this? Can you give us some examples?

Alan: I’m not talking about risk as an insurance company might. Insurance companies measure risk differently than God does. All throughout scripture we get invited into stories of faith. Faith could be called “Holy risk”. We know without faith it’s impossible to please God. That’s a big deal.

You make an interesting comment: “We should change our inner dialog from ‘Will it work?’ to ‘Should I try it?’” How can this change of dialog affect our ability to be more productive in our lives, and to, perhaps, be more willing to take those risks?

Alan: You would be amazed how powerful it is to reframe the question. Our culture is obsessed with success. We need to trade our obsession for whether something will succeed for an obsession with being obedient to follow God in the next faith risk. Most people I meet are at the edge of life change, but paralyzed in their fear of failure. I coach church planters and entrepre-neurs at the edge of major life risks. No matter how well prepared and funded they are there is a moment where they simply must take the leap and figure some things out in the air.

You say that “every act of creativity is a risk.” How so?

Alan: By nature, artists are creating something that doesn’t exist. Sometimes it will resonate with a crowd or a gallery and sometimes it won’t. Copying others doesn’t take guts, but creating takes guts every time. No matter how long someone has been creating you don’t graduate from fear. You don’t just magically “get over it” some day. This is where we begin a beautiful dance of leaning on the Father as we do the creative work He has wired us for.

Let’s talk a moment about the creative process: You tell your readers, quoting Pastor Erwin McManus, “There is an order to the creative process: We dream, we risk, we create.” Why is it important to understand this process?

Alan: For years I tried to create without a process. I thought free form was the only option. Many artists live this way and spiral into chaos rendering them ineffective. Anyone who keeps creating in their craft has figured out a creative process that’s repeatable. I’ve begun to coach other writers this way. By the time we’ve gotten to the creating we’ve already done a lot of hard work. Then we muster the courage to keep repeating the process.

Your friend, Mike, makes a pretty heavy statement which you recite: “When we fail to take action, we forfeit the future.” Would you explain what this means to you?

Alan: Mike is a serial entrepreneur; he continually innovates. Innovators are the ones who keep trying things and learning. They keep taking the next right step until they’ve created something useful. We think those folks are simply born brilliant, but once we go behind the curtain we see they are relentless with experimentation and pushing themselves to take their next risk. You caution your readers about living out of their weaknesses.

You state: “When we live primarily out of our weaknesses, we find ourselves in moments, even seasons, of paralysis.” How do we live out of our weaknesses? Can you cite a few examples?

Alan: We live out of our weaknesses when we continually limp along in areas we are neither passionate about or competent in. We live here because of fear; we don’t know what else we would do with our lives, our career, our time. Sometimes we need to stay in the job we’re in but simply delegate responsibilities. Other times we need to move on. Living in our weaknesses for a majority of our week is the perfect recipe for burnout.

I’ve seen the school teacher stay three years too many, the young adult try to become a pastor because they thought it was more spiritual than social work and the aspiring doctor quit school because they hated studying biology. The consequences of living in our weaknesses can stifle us for a long time.

Why does living out of our strengths change our perspective on risk-taking and (i.e., loving the process of being pushed to our creative limits)?

Alan: Living in our strengths puts us as the best intersection to see the image of God in us. Many of our strengths are simply things God wired us to do, but our role is to hone them. We begin to take risks realizing we are stewards of the gifts of God and we must release them to bless the world. Talents aren’t supposed to live six feet underground.

Alan Briggs is the Director of Frontline Church Planting, a network and hub for connecting and equipping mission-centered leaders. He is also the Multiplying Pastor at Vanguard Church in Colorado Springs and a gospel conspirator in his neighborhood. In addition to his latest release, Everyone’s a Genius, he’s also the author of Staying Is the New Going and Guardrails, and speaks about unlocking the Body of Christ to serve inside and outside the walls.