The thrum of the guitar strings rolls on in a seemingly never-ending loop. I've got a riff or maybe a few chords, but not much. A melody is hummed and mumbled over-and-over, a jumble of words and notes. I pace the room; circling, standing, sitting, strumming. I did the same thing two weeks ago, yet still the song is unrefined. That said, a few months ago I wrote Oh My Love, chords and lyrics all, in about one hour. And yet, that song moved from raw to refined in much the same way as a song written over a longer period of time. Is there a progression to every creative endeavor? And has it been so from eternity past?
Notice in the above verse from Genesis 1 that God had created, but, having created, he had not yet shaped nor defined the final form of his Creation. The material world he had just spoken into existence was "without form and void." Could God simply have spoken and "magicked" all of existence into its final, finished form? I would argue, quite simply, yes. But, he didn't. He built up his creation from the formless matter he created to give us an example of how we can create from the formless materials he has provided us.
At some point in my songwriting, the wind blows. Inspiration strikes. The Spirit moves. A lyric becomes more concrete. From there, I begin to organize the song into verses and choruses. From that first lyrical cornerstone, more lines of verse follow. The song takes on a life of its own. But having shaped it, I am not finished. I need feedback, constructive criticism, and maybe a bit of encouragement as well.
In Genesis 1, we see the Lord calling light into existence. He takes the formless materials of the cosmos and makes the sun, moon, and stars. He makes the planets. He organizes and fills. One easily overlooked detail found in Genesis 1:26 is the fellowship within the Trinity. The Lord says, "Let us make man in our image." The creation story has been building to this moment. This is the culmination of God's planning and work. We see here an infinitesimal glimpse into the council of the Godhead. Imagine the joy, deliberation, and planning among the Triune Lord of Creation. If our fellowship is filled with such splendid and joyful moments amid the broken, fallen time we live in, envision, if you can, the perfect fellowship of God.
My first audience is always Sherise, my wife. She has an uncanny ability to both encourage me in my work, but also to push me to further refine whatever I am working on. I'll try to improve on her comments and thoughts, or to incorporate them. The song-in-progress will then get a hearing from the A|C chaps. They'll bluntly put the song, or whatever else I (or anyone for that matter) present, through the ringer. Here are a few examples of some possible exchanges:
A|C #1: You slur your words on this lyric. Did you know that?
ME: Actually, I did not know that.
A|C #2: Yes, but I think that it's okay that you slur the line. I like it.
A|C #1: I just can't understand you. Is it important to you that your listener perfectly understand the words here?
Or another example:
A|C #3: I know I am not a songwriter or a musician, and that you are allowed some poetic license or freedom, but...the use of grammar here is just plain wrong.
ME: Well, that's not good.
A|C #3: I don't know. Something else, though. You're the songwriter. I mean, is it okay to use such poor grammar as that?
I find a quote from Diana Pavlac Glyer's Bandersnatch to be quite appropriate here:
This kind of feedback may take many different forms. It may emerge in conversation or be written in a letter. It can be brief or quite extensive, direct or indirect, serious or playful. But whatever the mood of the method, when the members of a writing group serve as editors, they offer advice that results in specific changes.
The feedback is invaluable. The criticism builds up the work. The encouragement pushes me on to refine the song and to improve upon it. And, eventually, to take up my guitar and write again.
It Is Finished
The goal of every creative is to reach the end of each project. At some point, a work needs to be finished. Has to be finished. For some of us, that's easier said than done. J.R.R. Tolkien never completed his mythology (his son Christopher edited into a final form for publication); on the other hand, C.S. Lewis kicked out all seven of his Narnia stories in seven years. I find each song I write has a different timeline from conception to completion. When God finished his work of Creation, he looked at his masterpiece and said it was "very good."
But just finishing a work is not the end goal of an inventor or writer or artist. Sharing the book with an audience, playing the song for listening ears, and distributing the electronic contraption to eager users is the end goal. After God created, he then rested and turned his work over to Mankind and all the wild things he had made to fill the earth. He created for us, not because he needed to, but because it pleased him. When I - or you, or anyone - creates, we imitate our Creator. When we encourage a friend's work, when we meet in fellowship to discuss and critique works in progress, we imitate unity and community just as God is one God, three persons. When we share our finished work with the world, we show love for our neighbor (and our God) by creating good and beautiful things for the benefit of all.
Adam is one of the founding members of A|C. He is a bookkeeper-by-day and artist-by-night. His secret weapon is an eBow and it is said he never goes anywhere without one.. Adam and his wife Sherise have three children, Elijah, Amelie, and Liam.