The Paradox of Things Planned

Being a “creative person” requires a basket full of skills and abilities; things like time-management, the ability to multitask, and faith.  I say faith because at some point in the process, when you are neck-deep in your project, there will come a point where you will be certain that it cannot be finished, that the project will not come to fruition, and in some way you will fail.

Yet as any person who has ever done theatre can tell you, the Monday before opening night it feels like things will not come together, but when the curtain falls after the first performance, there is a surge of surprise-mingled satisfaction that somehow it did. It is one of the magical things I happen to love about theatre.  But it spoils me.

It spoils me because this is not the case with all creative endeavors—even theatre can suffer from things not being done in time.  Sometimes our projects do not come to the fruition that we hoped for or imagined. Sometimes a deadline comes and goes, and yet there we are, still plugging away, trying to accomplish our goals. Sometimes we are tempted to believe we have failed.   Here is the tension that creativity can put in our lives: the finished product is what we aim for, but the process can be just as important—yet even knowing this cannot distract us from pushing toward completion. We can value the journey, but not to the exclusion of finishing what we start.  Faith comes into play in so many ways through the creative process.

I think creative people know a lot about faith.

This tension reminds us that though plans are so necessary, it wasn’t entirely the plan that got it done in the end.  In fact, sometimes our creative endeavors see life in spite of our plans, rather than because of them.

At least, that is how the creative experience seems to play out for me, time and time again. Has the experience been the same for you?

4 thoughts on “The Paradox of Things Planned

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  1. For grins, I added up all the shows on my various resumes. Not counting the concerts, special events, indie films, television, videos and the miscellany too miscellaneous to categorize…the total of live theatre productions I’ve worked on it one capacity or t’other well exceeds 100. More like 120. And the reason I’m not too sure is that the cat was helping me count and he’s worse at that sort of thing than I.

    I’m amongst the first in line to state categorically that I think it’s rude–insulting!–to reduce the significant offerings/demonstrations/explorations of the human mind, body, heart and soul to something as banal as a number. 120. What’s that? Minutes on a videocassette? (Those things we had before DVDs….;) Miles between here and there? Pounds of flesh hung on bone? Board feet of lumber needed to build a set? Pages in a script? How can one look at “120 shows” and immediately grasp what that number really represents: the producers, actors, designers, technicians and audience members who gathered together in celebration of the human spirit.

    I include the audience because, well, they’re essential. To my mind, a play isn’t finished until it’s got an audience. The script might be finished, the costumes might be finished, the learning of lines might be finished, the focusing of lights might be finished–but the play isn’t finished until it has spoken to someone(s).

    Truth be told, I have–to borrow from Steve Sondheim–“careered from career to career”. By design? Hardly. But opportunity has been a frequent visitor to my door, and my tendency to say “Yes!” just to see what will happen next has lead to some wondrous adventures. My URL is It has been a very susendipitous life.

    Which brings us to faith.

    Nicole wrote: “Faith comes into play in so many ways through the creative process…. I think creative people know a lot about faith.”

    I think Nicole’s on to something. We study. We train. We practice. We try. We fail. We try again. We fail again. We remind ourselves it’s not where we start, it’s where we finish. We try again–whether the trying is writing another draft, auditioning, going at a scene a from a different direction, re-cutting a costume until it fits properly, or re-editing the music or sound fx until it sounds “right”. We’re very good at trying. And failing. And trying again. We rustle up enough faith in ourselves to keep trying till we get it good. (I prefer “good” to “right” because, frankly, if two people agree on “right”–you should probably check for pulses.)

    Creative sorts are very often very public about their trials and their failures. I’m a theatre rat. I have been a theatre rat since I was 15, and no matter what else I’ve done, I was also doing theatre. Theatre is sun and wind and rain to me–without it, something inside withers and, well…it gets ugly. And since that’s true, you might want to imagine with 120+ shows, that I have put my failures on public display…oh…once or twice. 😉

    Live. Learn. Keep living. Keep learning.

    Theatre, like life, is a process that produces a product. (Say *that* three times fast!) Every moment in front of an audience is a risk. A chance we choose to take. It’s also an act of faith.


  2. That’s my experience, too. The most important thing is to be obedient to the process, to commit to making something beautiful and true. Rarely does the product present itself in its full and final form at the outset. The process parallels my experience of following God’s call.


  3. I don’t know if I can call myself creative, but I do agree that faith has a big part in my life. I see faith in almost everything that I do. There are days that I get discourged and do not know where or how things are going to work out. Then that voice inside says “Hey it is going to be okay, things are not as bad as it seems.” I keep plugging along trying to get to my destination. When I was in the hospital years back there were days I just wanted to give up. Here I was in Salt Lake City at least four tubes sticking out of my body not being able to eat or drink anything thinking to myself “Why I am here, God. What is the lesson that I am supposed to learn from this” It was a very long process, I had to have some faith that this marathon was going to end in a good manner. I just did not know when. Just when I thought the end was coming, bang another set back. But in the end I will never forget the last trip to Utah and the doctor saying “Nathan, I do not need to see you again.”

    I believe the processes that every person goes through will help their lives when they get to the finshed product. Now I am talking about life here, Do people ever make it to a finished product? I believe each person is still learning every day. The faith I have in this area is God is going to lead me down the path, I just have to follow. Are mistakes going to be made along the way? Of course there are going to be missteps in life. Are you going to know when they happen? I personally think you will, but I have faith that God will get me back on track. Heck if I did not have faith a long time ago I would have never been able to drive to Reno by myself and then I would have missed out on my first In and Out Burger. I thank the Lord for giving me the strength to make that happen.


  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. Some creative people see the whole project as a finished product ,but sometimes have trouble grasping and doing all of the intricate detailed things that are necessary to make it happen along the way. Meaning …you can envision what a painting looks like finished and complete in your mind, but you might struggle with the knowledge of how to get it from point A to B or taking the project from start to finish. I rely A LOT on faith when I’m starting a project. I pray that I am shown the path of detail all along my journey (since I struggle with that) and that what I envisioned in the first place will come to be. Without faith that I will be assisted with my entire focus along the way, I would probably never start anything for fear that it would end up being a skeleton in the boneyard of my creative backyard. haha


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