Creativity Quiz #3…With A Church Musician and Songwriter

I first met John Marrs when he was in high school and his high school choir director asked me to chaperone a choir trip to Florida. Who, me? A free trip to Florida? I think I’ll take it.

It was already on that trip that John and I hit it off as great friends and creative spirits. John ended up going to the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston, and I even drove him out to school one year. It was en epic trip that involved Cool Ranch Doritos and middle of the night stops at rest areas to brush our teeth. Did you know that Cool Ranch Doritos contain MSG and will eat your tongue away? …But I digress.

John has had jobs in the music industry, as a church musician, and is an accomplished songwriter. He is now the lead Church Musician and Creative Director at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Houston.

John is a great friend and an all-around creative person. So here are seven questions on creativity for John Marrs:

Tom: Define creativity.

John: Seeing something from a new perspective. Using your uniqueness to express your thoughts and ideas. Being willing to try something new.

Tom: When did you first realize that you were “creative”?

John: When I was a teen and was learning about how music is constructed (chords, melodies, etc.). I started experimenting with writing my own songs. You were a part of those early efforts!! It is amazing to me that 25+ years later I am still studying and learning how to make a melody and a chord progression.

Tom: How do you cultivate your creativity?

John: It helps to have inspiring music to listen to and to have great authors to read, to get me thinking. Sometimes a new instrument or sound can inspire me to write something. Sometimes I need a deadline to make it happen. Actually, deadlines work really well for me.

Tom: How do you handle a creative block?

John: Since I don’t have to create constantly as part of my career (it’s more of a sideline thing) I can have the luxury to step away and forget about it for a while. Being away from writing can be the best thing to make me miss it and want to get back into it again.

Tom: When and where do you do your most creative work?

John: Typically at night for the music. For lyrics, things strike me all the time, and I try to jot them down right then and there. I always need to be alone, though. Too many distractions otherwise.

Tom: Who is your “creative inspiration”? Why?

John: I would honestly say God is my inspiration. Some of my best songs have just come from “nowhere”. Put the pen to the paper and 5 minutes later the thing was basically finished. That has to be God, not me.

If you’re asking for people who inspire me, Andrew Peterson is at the top of my list. He reminds me a little of Rich Mullins, only much better and deeper.

Tom: What advice do you have for aspiring “creatives”?

John: Well, it’s not like I’ve been a huge success or anything, but maybe just to keep at it. I wrote a lot of songs that are really bad to get to the ones that I feel are pretty good. But it took all the bad ones to help me get to the good ones.

In other words, sometimes creativity means “failing” until we succeed.

What do you think of John’s ideas about creativity? Any new insights?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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