For years I have been in awe of the work of Peter Mead. Peter is Senior Editor at Creative Communications for the Parish, a publishing house that provides tools and resources for people doing everyday, real life ministry. I have used their materials for years. And, yes, they are creative.
Last summer I had the distinct privilege and opportunity to attend a “Faith and Creative Writing” seminar on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Peter Mead was one of the teachers. It was a wonderful couple of days away to simply concentrate on writing creatively.
More than that, it gave me the opportunity to sit at the feet of Peter Mead. He talked about theory, he spoke of the proper use of verbs, he had us write Midrash, and he provided art as inspiration for writing…all the while being incredibly affirming.
I wish there were the technology to crawl into Peter’s brain for a day and wander down all the creative paths and possibilities. He is a bundle of energy and passionate about his writing and his faith.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you are going to be greatly inspired by these responses:
Tom: Define creativity.
Peter: Creativity is synonymous with “different.” In worship, if you do something different, everyone says, “hey, that was creative.” Sometimes when you do something truly creative, everyone says, “Hmm, that was different.” But I like God’s twist on it: creativity involves ordering chaos. Whether in the beginning or at the cross, God’s creativity gives order where chaos reigns. Our creativity is sparked by God’s creativity, so in some way it must order chaos. Monkey’s banging on typewriters is different … but an explosive verb is creative. A three-year-old hammering on a piano is different … but “My Red And Blue” is creative. Dropping a bomb might be “something different,” but causes chaos. Acting diplomatically as the bullets are flying is creative.
Tom: When did you first realize that you were “creative”?
Peter: When Dad and I were working one day and he said, “By God, Peter, you’re so much better than I am. You paint pictures with words!” Felt I had somehow made it. Along the way there were lots of little experiences (first time I played piano at a coffee house, first published work, first time I heard one of my hymns sung in worship). But working with Dad was the clincher.
Tom: How do you cultivate your creativity?
Peter: Dad started it early by being a creative and sharing the things he loved: Abbot and Costello were necessary classes in the Mead household. We played imagination games and story-telling games. Playing “Favorites” was important in creativity and decision making. Nowadays I can best cultivate creativity by turning off the radio and exploring the vast storehouses of my mind—memories especially. Next time you’re on a road trip, turn off the radio and go through a childhood vacation in exacting detail. It’s a great exploration! Also, listen to children. They have incredibly loose synapses!
Tom: How do you handle a creative block?
Peter: I keep a LOT of balls in the air at any given time. When I even begin to feel like I’m blocking (even just slowing down), I switch to another project. Lay it aside … let it germinate. Having computers with these new browsers that can keep so many apps open at one time sure is helpful!
Tom: When and where do you do your most creative work?
Peter: Most definitely in the shower! Can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to towel off quickly and jot something down on paper. It’s amazing that I take really quick showers, but still have this little four-minutes of lightning thought every morning. Must say, too, that I’m often at my most creative when I’m a bit blue. I think a tiny dip of depression puts me in contact with my feelings.
Tom: Who is your “creative inspiration”? Why?
Peter: Both my Fathers. Dad was so supportive and fun. Never withheld, and celebrated creativity. But Scripture is endless in its depth, its connections (LOVE those) and its timeless ability to communicate. I lose myself in it.
Tom: What advice do you have for aspiring “creatives”?
Peter: Celebrate, don’t push. This only works when it’s fun. Dive down rabbit-holes of thought (even … especially … nutty ones)—explore them on paper … in music … with images. Get yourself into collaborative relationships with people whose creativity you respect (making sure they have respect for you, too). Cross platforms: If you’re a writer, work with musicians … if you’re a musician, work with web designers. Finally, never stop educating yourself: you will use everything inside of you, so make sure your “everything” is a LOT.
What do you think of Peter’s ideas about creativity? Any new insights?