There was a time when that question struck fear into the hearts of every young man on a first date. The father would look you in the eye and ask “What are your intentions…” Truthfully I have not ever had to face that question down in the dating world, but it’s a question I ask myself nearly every time I create. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with doing art for art’s sake, but as a Christian creative, I usually have a larger purpose behind what I create. I think these questions will help us focus our creative efforts:
What’s my motivation? We’ve probably all seen the movies and TV shows where some obnoxious actor will ask “What’s my motivation?” They always sound pompous when they say it but there is a valid point behind the question. What he’s really asking is “How should I be reacting in this situation? What is the stimulus that causes the action?” And so it is with our work. What is motivating you to create this piece? What do you want it to accomplish? Knowing why we are creating will help us to create with greater focus and help us to edit and filter the creation.
Who is this for? I truly believe that art is a gift we give to the world. Oh maybe only one person (or in some cases no one) will actually pay for it, but everyone who sees it should receive something from it. That being said we buy different gifts for different people. A gift I would give my nearly two-year old grandson is different than what I would give to my wife. Knowing who I am creating for helps me to zero in on how to create the piece of work, especially in the case of work designed to communicate a message (like the Gospel) or something focused on outreach. Different people are reached in different ways. It’s always been that way. “Who is this designed to reach?” is another way of asking this question. We need to create creations that fit our intended recipients while the rest of the world is also free to look in.
What do I want to accomplish? Of course this could be followed up with the more important question, “What does God want this to accomplish?” The idea is the simple, we create to induce a reaction. How do we want others to react to what we have created? What do we want them to do as a result of seeing or experiencing this creation? What emotions to we want to trigger? How do we want them to feel? A great way to get a handle on all of this is to go to the greeting card aisle at your local store. Notice the different kinds of art created on the different cards. Some are serious, some are funny, some are touching, but all are trying to touch the emotions in some way. The best art does that. It makes us feel.
These three questions and all the related ones will help us all to be better more focused and as a result more effective creatives. What are your intentions is a great way of finding out why we are doing what we’re doing.
Now go create intentionally!