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10 Ways to Grow as a Creative Leader

How many times have you seen a killer series graphic, a fresh design or a video that breaks all the rules (and still works) and found yourself jealous for not creating it yourself? If there’s one universal among creatives it’s this: We all have an insatiable desire to create better things. We want to push ourselves beyond our current boundaries in skill and talent to become stronger designers. 

This drive for excellence and growth is consistent with a God who charged his people with high standards when it comes to design. God never commanded anyone in Scripture to do shabby work. In Philip Ryken’s amazing little book Art for God’s Sake, he says, “God took whole chapters of Scripture to explain what to make and how to make it.” In short, design matters to God.
What does that mean for today’s church creative? It means that what you create matters. When we begin to see the things we create as a way to worship the Savior, suddenly, even that haphazard graphic, logo or Website copy becomes highly important because we’re creating for the Glory of God.
With that in mind, here are ten ways to challenge yourself as a creative to design better things and become more skilled in your craft, no matter what it might be, for the glory of God and the building up of the saints.

1. Pray.
 I know, I’m starting off with the pat Sunday school answer. But, seriously, your life as a creative isn’t disconnected from your life with Christ. The more you pray–and truly connect with God–between your work, the stronger your creative vision for worship will be. Remember, whenever anything in Scripture was created the Holy Spirit was there.Bottom Line: God wants to empower you for the work he’s created you to do. Stay connected to Him.

2. Be Your Best (or Worst) Critic.
Evaluate your work. Be willing to throw away good design to pursue the best. Don’t settle for done. Also, don’t worry about the time you feel you’ve wasted in an unsuccessful project. That time is valuable. Which leads me to me next point. 

3. Fail Better.
 Samuel Beckett once said, “Fail. Fail again. Fail Better.” If you don’t make mistakes how will you ever make anything of value? Want to create better things? Get cozy with failure. Make him/her your friend. 

4. Make Sticky Designs.
 Stephen Brewster says, “Really good creative pieces are sticky, tell stories, and carry the conversation beyond the reach of the creator.” If your design doesn’t move those who view it, chances are it’s not telling a compelling–or sticky–story. We have the most amazing story to tell; let’s do our best to make it just as compelling (from whatever angle) in our creations. 

5. Find What Moves You. 
Be careful not to distance your designs from real life. In a recent article for Entrepreneur magazine, Bruce Mau says, “The difference between great design and design that misses the mark is empathy–the ability to make the human connection.” Find out what moves you and embed that emotion into your design. Make the human connection one of your design filters and you will grow as a creative. 

6. Be Disciplined. 
Don’t fall for the myth of inspiration. Creativity is hard work. Anything worth it’s salt in design will probably have a long trail of pain, frustration, passion and pursuit. But the journey is worth it.
7. Break the Rules. It’s good to remind yourself that sometimes the rules of design are meant to be broken. If you find yourself at a creative roadblock try painting outside the lines. Get out of your creative comfort zone, stop using your go-to tricks and do the unexpected.

8. Challenge Yourself with New Media. 
Paul Arden once said, “If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.” If you want to grow as a creative the need to expand your skills on new platforms is essential. This takes time and can be extremely challenging and complex but learning a new media will make you a better artist. 

9. Study the Best. 
As a creative Ernest Hemingway studied the best writers and tried to defeat them at their strengths. He was cocky at times, but his goal was to beat every writer, living or dead, at their craft. Seek to be the best at what you do. Be competitive. Don’t be a wimp. (Don’t be a jerk either, but you get the idea.) 

10. Join the Community. 
Break the stereotype for creatives that says we like to work alone. Joining a community of creatives will give you an outlet to share your work, view what others are doing and engage in the conversation. Commit yourself to a creative community. Be vulnerable. Share your work. Grow.
Speaking of community–what would you add to the list? What are some things you’ve learned over time that have helped you create better things?
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Brian is a writer and editor from Ohio. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the top stories, resources and trends to equip and inspire the Church.