The secret of Eastenders and Church

When you (unwisely) let it slip that you’re a writer, or when someone cruelly exposes you as one, there are several common reactions. One of them is  “I have a wonderful story in my head, but I just can’t get it down on paper.”

But unless what is ‘in my head’ is brought out into the world, there is nothing. That’s the secret to writing. It’s the secret, the key to just about anything creative,  from art to writing to carpentry to architecture, to dressmaking, to craft, to engineering….. to church.  Creativity starts with an idea, a vision but nothing will be created until that vision is voiced and shared. Properly, openly, vulnerably, excitedly, with conviction, voiced and shared. Sometimes that ‘sharing’ is a blueprint, or a technical drawing, or an artist’s impression, sometimes it’s a pattern. And the person with the vision is the one who has to make it known.

The old King James version had Proverbs 29:18 as “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” On the grand Biblical scale, if the people of Israel have no vision, no shared purpose and goal, then they’ll fail.

In a more prosaic setting, let’s take an example from my world of writing drama; if today I have an idea for a drama, I can call my agent and tell him about it, and if I think there’s a friend who will understand my excitement I might talk to them too. They will come away from those conversations with a rough idea of what I want to write, very rough. But nothing exists, nothing can happen until the idea is given substance so the first step to realising my vision for any drama, film, TV or theatre, is to write a treatment. For me and for others. A document we can all look at and consider and discuss. This is a document that says to the world, and to the team who will help me to realise that vision, “Here it is – this is the new beast that we are together going to bring into the light! Look! Ain’t it scary/funny/exciting/weird……?” and it says “This is how I’m going to treat this story.’ In other words, this is what I want this story to be.

Only then, in the light of that document, can prospective members of the team sign up to share the vision, bringing their own ideas to strengthen and develop it. Only then will a broadcaster or producer be able to say “Ah! Now I get it! Count me in – let’s make this together.”

While it’s a cherished vision, locked in my head, or brokenly and inadequately shared in conversation, we won’t be in the same landscape. If I say  ‘Sci fi’ you could  imagine a dozen different dramas – if you’re my generation, it may be corny old Star Trek with Bill Shatner, if you’re a literary bod you may think of the genius of Isaac Asimov, if you’re the new generation your head will be full of action and alarm and special fx and CGI, while if you’re my dad’s generation you’ll be somewhere grey and silent with thoughtful HG Wells.

It’s only when the vision is brought into the light, laid out, that we all know we’re talking about the same thing. When the vision is made clear we know what questions to ask in order to fully understand it.

And you know, there are hundreds of meetings involved in the pre-production of a TV series, and dozens even for a simple theatre play, and these meetings are necessary and constructive but start the meetings too early, before the vision is really clarified, and the best meeting in the world is a waste of energy and time, causes confusion and the production to stumble. If we all come to the meeting unsure what we’re talking about, or why, then we’re not of one mind. A poorly shared vision doesn’t just hurt the production, it hurts people. If I’ve spent time and enthusiasm working on a premise which then turns out to be wrong, I am not just a bit fed up, I also feel rejected and unwanted and my creativity is damaged. We have to look after each other’s creativity. It’s a fragile thing! Get knocked back too many times and we lose the courage to bring ideas into the open, and then the growth just doesn’t happen and eventually people drift off the team and maybe the whole project goes down the plughole. Being a visionary, and particularly being the  ‘first visionary’, the person who will lead the team, means caring about the creativity of everyone in the team, and protecting it, encouraging it.

Vision shared is fabulous. It cuts to the heart of the matter, it illuminates where we’re going and why, it creates unity and enthusiasm. And vision is never set in concrete, because as it’s shared and discussed and the possibilities and potential are explored, it evolves.  The visionary, be she a writer or Gerald Ford with his cars, has a real responsibility, and with that comes vulnerability. If I take an idea to a producer and they hate it, I get knocked back. As the ‘first visionary’ I have to be willing to be knocked back. The visionary has to be prepared to be open, vulnerable and rejected.

That’s part of the job! The vision is the thing that matters, not the visionary.

The greatest vision the world has ever known or will ever know? The Bible.

I wonder if we have a vision for our church? For the family of Christ? If we do, do we share it? Do we share it adequately and with passion and excitement? Do we invite others to share the vision? I know that I don’t. I know that I lack the courage of my passion where Christ is concerned. I can sail into a TV production meeting with all the confidence and warmth and passion in the world, but in a church setting…. nope. Can’t do it.

I’m not sure why. It’s  a very different culture to the one I know; while we have passion and excitement running through drama production, and laughter and tears too,  there’s a real lack of this sort of rich life experience in church. Our buildings may not be hushed and lofty any more but somehow our culture is.

I don’t understand.

Do we even understand each other’s vision? Or are we confused and pulling in different directions?

Share a vision today. If you have a great idea in your head, put it into words and put those words down on paper or on screen. You don’t have to be a great writer. Just a visionary. If you have a vision for your life, put it in a journal, or a blog, or a letter to a friend. Be creative with all you believe and all you live for. The world doesn’t know about the vision we have of God’s love. And only we can share it.



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