Own It

Just as it’s important to not expect perfection of ourselves or other people, it’s also essential that we own our shortcomings. In the past several years I have been baffled by how a significant number of leaders whom I have observed have not acknowledged missteps. To take responsibility for malfunction is a sign of strength and not weakness. Discussion of deficiency with followers or subordinates is the setting of a good example by a leader. In the same way, addressing of incidents of breakdown shouldn’t include over-apologizing. It can include such statements as “I didn’t explain that as best as I could have”, “It wasn’t fair of me to expect that of you”, “I forgot”, “I dropped the ball” and so forth. It is healthy for leaders and followers alike to own shortcomings.

The Two Types of Mentoring

Mentoring is a training tool that is very much under used. There are two main types of mentoring – active and passive. Active mentoring occurs when there is an understood relationship of teaching between mentor and apprentice. The teacher must be aware that she is imparting and the student needs to know that she is receiving what is shared. In order for mentoring to be effective the learning must be welcomed and wanted by the understudy. Further, good tutelage doesn’t just happen. Both the trainer and trainee must do their best to ensure that planned mentoring sessions and meetings do not get squeezed out of their schedules due to the busyness of life. The second type, passive mentoring, occurs when there is not an understood instructional relationship and acquisition on the part of the person learning is primarily achieved through his observation. In fact, the two people concerned may never meet. A musician (or – dancer, videographer, singer, actor, painter and so forth) can learn a lot by observing, dissecting and reading about the art of others. Some mentoring relationships may involve both active and passive mentoring. However, nothing can replace a veteran musician intentionally sharing with a novice artist through a developing relationship how to be proficient. God created us to be in relationship and relationship is more important than any creation of art.

© Kev W Wood 2014

The Shortest Lesson I Teach

I sometimes lead in to teaching on ‘How to Receive a Compliment’ by saying that it’s the shortest lesson that I teach. That’s because all that a person needs in responding to hearing praise are two simple words – “Thank you.” However, it’s often difficult for people to accept adulation for at least two reasons. First, and unfortunately, many people are more accustomed to hearing destructive criticism than positive feedback. Second, it is natural for a person to want to clarify and justify any perceived shortcomings in herself or himself – why something was not A+, 100%, and so forth, and basically – perfect. In this way, the principle consists of two words and not the three of “Thank you but…”. As artists we can be extremely self-critical and hard on ourselves. We can almost always (quickly) point out how we could have done things better. However, we need to practice resisting this urge. It’s important to find our worth in who we are and not what we do or create.  It’s also important to do our best and to be able to leave it at.  The maturity of a person, and an artist, includes developing the skill of receiving a compliment with the two words above, and not three or more.

© Kev W Wood 2014

How Long Does It Take?

My post last week, ‘The Marinating of Art’, was regarding how created art needs to have time to ‘marinate’. This week I will address the question, ‘How long does it take for art to marinate?’ The answer is that it depends since different types of art require varying amounts of ‘lead time’ for preparation, and possibly creation also. A worship leader leading a song which both she and the congregation are familiar vs. a musician creating a new arrangement. Actors preparing execution of an existing work vs. a script being written and then performed. I encourage church service design teams to plan as far ahead as possible to allow for as many creative options as possible with different ideas and artistic disciplines needing different amounts of preparation time. How nice it was once to be booked at the beginning of September to minister in a Sunday morning worship service at the beginning of December with the pastor being able to tell me not only his topic and text but his main points as well. The advance notice and information helped me to prepare very well. In contrast, some excellent and creative ideas are conceived when it is too late to implement them, or to execute them with excellence. On this note, respecting volunteers (or even compensated artists) includes inviting them to be involved with sufficient notice. As I wrote last week – a commitment to excellence may result in an artist turning down an invitation to serve when there is not enough time to prepare well.  We perform for an Audience of One. As we prepare a feast of artistic worship for him, may we take the time, effort and care to ensure that it is as seasoned as possible.

© Kev W Wood 2014

The Marinating of Art

The creation of any type of art is much like the marinating of a steak. The famous mime Marcel Marceau was known to have told students that their new choreography was excellent and did not need to be changed. However, he would sometimes qualify, it needed to ‘marinate’ before it was ready for the stage. His feedback alludes to an excellent principle that is not only applicable to the arts but life overall. Rather than to simply meet deadlines, an approach that allows for greater excellence is to schedule completion of the creation of performance, literary or other art sufficiently in advance of the deadline or booking so that appropriate changes and revisions can be made. For example, a dancer will finalize choreography significantly sooner than the day when a new piece is presented. This is assuming that an artist is booked or engaged far enough in advance to allow for such planning. However, practice of this ideal may require an artist to turn down an invitation when a person would be rushed to prepare and there is not time for proper ‘marinating’. As the saying goes, ‘Failure to plan on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.’ If we expect our art to be anointed we need to allow for God’s timeline and not expect him to bless our ‘cramming’. Even the most talented and gifted chefs can’t rush marinating without compromising. The question asked by many cooks, ‘How long does it take to marinate?’ will be answered in next week’s post.

© Kev W Wood 2014

The Danger of ‘War Stories’

Some of the best advice that I received at one point during 21 years of working in group homes was to not tell ‘war stories’ to new staff. This wisdom also applies to arts ministry. War stories are those that often start with the words, “Well, when I was…” or “Well, I remember when…”. They are what veterans find tempting to share with novices; supervisors with subordinates; mentors with protégés. To not share war stories was good counsel since they may be the result of an urge in the teller but do not meet a need in the listener. Further, exchanging war stories can also lead to a back-and-forth conversational one-upmanship. A better use of communication is to support, affirm and encourage those whom we train, mentor and lead. Put another way, war stories are about reference points. If the resulting reference point helps the listener to have a more balanced, healthy and realistic perspective, the sharing of a war story has been beneficial (even if such a recalibration is difficult for the listener). On the other hand, if the new reference point is detrimentally and destructively disheartening and deflating, the teller likely should have resisted the urge and shown more discernment.

© Kev W Wood 2014

To Play the Right Notes

It goes without saying that one of the goals of a member of a church worship team is to sing or play the right notes. For somebody to miss this objective is distracting and affects a worshipper’s experience. In defining who constitutes a worship team most people think of those who play instruments and sing (even though the leading of worship can include spoken and other mediums also). In referring to the singers and musicians I believe that it’s more appropriate to use the term music team. I believe that a worship team, in any given setting, is everybody involved in the leading of worship – on and off the platform, both visible and behind the scenes. What good is it if the singers sing the correct notes and the musicians are in the right key if an audio operator overlooks turning on a microphone when needed? An actor forgets her lines? A computer operator advances a song slide prematurely? A dancer doesn’t become familiar with the stage beforehand? A lighting operator changes a cue at the wrong time? A stage hand doesn’t put the podium in place? And so on. By each person involved in the carrying out of a service plan being proficient in his or her area of responsibility and committed to striving for excellence (but not expecting perfection of one’s self) worshippers present will be able to focus on worshipping. May we each seek to consistently play the right notes in our respective roles of service.  May leadership expect excellence in each area of ministry.

© Kev W Wood 2014

The Start of the Blog

Kev will be posting at least once each week, by Monday morning, for the start of the week, starting August 18.  Posts include Kev’s reflections on the arts from 30 years of training and experience or with what he is interacting now.  This includes what he is reading or watching, interactions with people, or other experiences.  Kev will also be posting ‘devotional meditations for the artist’.  The postings will be written with the objective of only taking 1-2 minutes to read.