Three Artist Quotes to Inspire Your Missional Creativity

Skim them, love them, use them. But don’t ignore them.  


By: Tim Schuster

Whether you’re a non-profit starter or business founder or church startup, discover below sage advice from artists whose work has stood the test of time.

"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else."

- Pablo Picasso

Oh, how easy it is to fall in love with our first idea. We love what we think it will be. But Picasso’s wisdom is to look for the idea after the idea. The invitation is to “go to market” with your first idea (totally fine) - but the real artists knows how to listen and observe. To let go of what isn’t there. The market will do what the market will do. People are who they are.

What this means: Very few people scale up their first idea. Either we need to pivot the project under our terms, or the project will pivot us on its terms. Why give all that power a mere first idea?

The good news is that the first idea gets us in the game. It’s a spark. Take the idea all the way through the process of refinement. Let it become what it is. Then, the best artists get out of their own way.

“Curiosity will conquer fear more than bravery will.”

- James Stephens

So now they tell us? For years I’ve gone through life thinking I needed to muster up courage and bravery to start new things and do good in the world. I lived under the weighted pressure of finding bravery to do the things I want to do and start what I wanted to start.

My world was changed when I ran into this quote in a gift shop the spring of 2016. Why? Because curiosity is a posture of learning. It’s a sustaining force because it is both humble and hungry. Curious people are the forces of nature. They learn, create, energize, and make an impact.

I’d rather have curious than bravery. Or courage. Or smart.

As I reflect more and more on the power of this quote, I can feel the weight being lifted from my shoulders. When I comes to finding a sustaining and lasting motivation, title, money, and status won’t get you to where you want to go. Curiosity wins the day.

Good-bye, bravado. Hello, curiosity.

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

- Ernest Hemingway

End with the silly quote? Actually, on second thought, Hemingway is getting after something here that is rather profound. At first glance, this quote is about the effects of alcohol, but underneath it’s about the creative process.

Because there are two parts to the creative process.

First, to “write drunk” is to diverge on possibilities. We need times to get crazy. To open up and dream. To think big and blue sky. It’s to let down the inhibitions. When we say “diverge,” we are talking about creating options. If we skip this step, we don’t have anything to edit. But if we stop here, we are at risk of publishing foolery. Shipping junk.

To Picasso above on adding ideas to the The Idea.

To “edit sober” is to make decisions. It means selecting from a list of possibilities what gets published. Editing isn’t about getting it right as much as it’s about finding clarity about intended audience. It’s about gathering evidence.

We get into trouble when we combine them into one step or get them out of order or neglect them in any way. Very practically: Separate brainstorming from decision-making. They are two separate meetings. Combining these meetings is like trying to get sober in a few minutes.

You can’t rush this stuff.

So, there you go - start with an idea, get curious (and a little drunk), and make it happen.


Tim Schuster is Founder of Popup Think Tank where they build communities around non-profit and small business founders. He also works with Thrivent Church Solutions where he and his teammates design, test, and launch social businesses. He lives in North Minneapolis with his family.



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