Friday, January 14, 2011

Creativity and Songwriting

for the Essentials Blue In Songwriting Certificate Course with Dan Wilt

I'm in the Certificate Phase of the worship theology courses I've been a part of these last two years, going back through the material and finishing the additional requirements that will earn me a Certificate in Worship Studies. Certainly, just a piece of paper. Most definitely much more than that in terms of growth in depth of understanding of many things related to worship, the passion of my life.

Yesterday I began a dvd series on songwriting for worship titled Worship Songwriting: Embracing Heart and Developing Skill by Brian Doerksen. Doerksen talks about the heart of a songwriter that says "There's got to be more. What I've written up until now is just a glimmer of what is in my heart to write," encouraging us to write, to be willing to take risks, to try anything, to look foolish, and to not fear mistakes.

He references Jimmy Webb who in his book Tunesmith tells of a time when he had been taken under the wing of Broadway master Michael Bennett. Mr. Bennett shows Jimmy the room where he will be composing music and says, "In this room, you can never make a mistake." [1]

At first read, I cringed and thought, "Wow, what a lot of pressure to have to work under, to never be able to make a mistake." But as Jimmy continues, he explains that what was really meant was that "there is no crossed-out, blotted word on paper or half-croaked note or stumbling, tripping step toward the songwriter's goal that is unseemly or shameful...creativity is a blameless exist at all it must function unselfconsciously and without guilt..." [2]

What a relief to hear, and Brian's encouragement to not fear mistakes seems a little more doable in light of there not being anything shameful or unseemly in creative attempts.

Now, creativity will be challenged, even opposed, particularly when it comes to worship songwriting done out of a passion to see God's Kingdom come here on earth as it is in Heaven. There is an opposing kingdom that would seek to destroy the heart of every sincere songwriter and leave it a mangled mess of discouragement, despair, and depression.

That's why it is so important to remember that everything we do out of love and service to God has a part in building for His Kingdom. I can guard my heart and mind with the truth that God delights in my feeble offerings of creativity, whether they be eloquent lines or scribbles of thought, and there is no shame in offering it to God.

Why not write a song today? Scripture says that we are to sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 33, 96, 98, 144, 149 - to name a few). Go ahead and sing Him a few lines from your heart. Risk a few moments of embarrassment and be willing to look foolish as you reflect the glory of the Lord back to Him in your creative offering.

1 Jimmy Webb, Tunesmith (Hyperion: New York, 1998), 21.
2 Ibid, 22.


  1. Excited about what you are doing and what will happen in this new season.

    You never had the certificate as an end in mind, I know - you are after the timeless and the eternal. And you are laying hold of it!

    May God give you every desire of your heart for worship, ministry and breakthrough!

  2. Thanks so much for the encouragement, Robb. Yes and amen. His plans for me succeed. Hanging on for the ride :-)