I have two children that just entered the final semester of their high school senior year. I’ve been concerned that excitement about college plans would lead to a lack of motivation in their current studies. However, it’s actually my twelve-year-old daughter who recently told us she has senioritis and doesn’t think she should clean her room during this semester—she’s over it!
Perhaps you’ve begun 2018 with energy and anticipation for the year ahead. Perhaps everything feels very normal. Or maybe you have senioritis too.
Over the years, I’ve found that maintaining energy and momentum as a creative in missions is something that’s not totally out of my control. Since my wife and I moved our family overseas to be on mission, we’ve lived in various contexts from Africa to Asia.
Living cross-culturally exposes a missionary to a number of influences that can be draining. Simple tasks like paying the bills or finding the groceries you need require a lot of energy, which leaves a dearth of energy for more important things. Missionaries need consistent reminders and help keeping energy high for the work at hand.
I’ve found that my energy and uninspiring or monotonous tasks have an inverse relationship—as one increases, the other predictably decreases. So, if I want to continually grow and offer my best in my creative ministry, I have to plan consistent ways to maintain momentum.
A Few Non-Negotiables for Creative Energy
When it comes to energy and momentum, pouring myself out in worship fills me with hope and renews my strength. Giving glory to the Lord changes my perspective every time. Gratefulness, thankfulness, peace, comfort—these are all outcomes of worship that shift my perspective without exception. And these are things found in communion with Jesus.
“Gratefulness, thankfulness, peace, comfort—these are all outcomes of worship that shift my perspective without exception.”
Maintain a growth mindset
This isn’t about being open-minded. Instead, it means that I am focused and diligently working to learn and grow because creativity and intelligence aren’t fixed commodities. Reading articles and books daily, as well as listening to podcasts or audiobooks, energizes my creativity with new perspectives and insights. Online courses such as those on udemy.com and plusacumen.org (several free options) are another quick path to adding a new skill or growing existing skills.
It’s amazing what a change in location, seating, and posture can do for creative energy. Always sitting at the same desk or coffee shop chair can cause stagnancy. Moving around adds energy. It’s ideal if you match your location, seating, and posture to how you need to work.
There’s a parable of sorts here, as well. The Bible commends posture changes to believers that reflect our spiritual state at the time and the desired outcome for our interaction with God. Prostration, kneeling, standing, and raised hands are among physical postures we find in the Scriptures and throughout Christian history utilized in accordance with the “work to be done”—repentance, mourning, celebration, etc. If posture changes can affect our spiritual lives (work), certainly, apart from the practicality of it all, there are lessons to be learned for our physical work as well.
Build creative confidence
“Creative confidence is like a muscle–it can be strengthened and nurtured through effort and experience.” If you aren’t creating consistently, you simply won’t grow and gain confidence. Side projects and exploration can help, so get out there and find your side hustle.
“[C]reative confidence, of course, is not achieved by reading, thinking, or talking about it alone. In our experience, the best way to gain confidence in your creative ability is through action—taken one step at a time—through experiencing a series of small successes.” Confidence comes from being willing to fail and learn from it over and over. The whole experience of failing, learning, and seeing success builds creative confidence.
Whether you’re leading a team or serving as a team member, you can maintain momentum by simply helping the project move along to completion on time. That may seem obvious, but creatives can easily fall into the habit of waiting for the next instruction or delivering only what’s expected.
Less immediately obvious benefits are found through proactively learning and exploring. Experimenting (read: failing over and over) with ideas or techniques on the side invigorates creatives and can inject new energy into your project or team.
Anticipate the next thing
There’s something energizing about facing a new opportunity. In fact, energized creatives are typically anxious to complete a project so they can move on to the next challenge. Before a project ends, actively seek the next opportunity. The anticipation leads to some healthy creative thinking in the back of the mind, which can give a great start when it’s time.
Seek a healthy work rhythm
Life is busy. We can easily be consumed by the tyranny of urgent tasks that define our day. So using helpful tools such as to-do lists and organization aids for daily, weekly, and monthly goals is a must. Even still, a creative worker needs to intentionally set aside time to be creative, to explore, to think, and to rest.
“My commitment to the Lord as a creative in missions is to work well by choosing to invest in ways that help me grow and maintain momentum along the way.”
Balance Is Vital to Creative Energy
Even missionaries need help to keep a healthy balance in time management. One method for creating balance is through the formation of daily and weekly rhythms—habits for how you spend your time. For example, if you are most energized in the morning, start each day (or certain days) doing something creative. After an hour, move to more mundane tasks such as answering emails and messages for an hour. Follow that activity with a couple of hours of project work. Build a routine and do your best to stick to it.
Work of any kind requires effort and energy, but it’s possible to actually be energized by the work we do and how we do it. My commitment to the Lord as a creative in missions is to work well by choosing to invest in ways that help me grow and maintain momentum along the way. I’ve found that to be fruitful and motivating both as a creative and a missionary. When I’m busy in this way, senioritis is unlikely to creep in. After all, I don’t want to be “over it.”
Bryson Holtson is a designer and artist who leads the IMB’s Media Network. He serves with his wife and children in Southeast Asia.