The Collaboration of Creating

Many ask me what I love to write most. It’s true I enjoy writing for many different genres: children’s books, devotionals, blog posts, curriculum, fiction, and texts for music mingle with thank-you letters, shopping lists, and meeting notes.

The writing that continually fills me with the most wonder is writing texts for music: hymns, choral pieces, and songs. The reason for this is the constant reminder that I’m just one part of a larger collaboration. This can be said of all things: meeting notes are based on the thoughts and ideas of others and curriculum requires the participation of teachers and students alike. But with music, that magnifies as I know I simply cannot fill every role in making this creation come to life.

For example, it often starts with a text (even though this text might use the help of an existing tune at the start). That’s often my role. Then, someone must give my words life by deciding how my words should sound musically. I am no composer. The closest I’ve come is writing a few simple tunes for a project, but that is not my gift. My words require the creativity of another to give them life through a melody. The melody is then given an arrangement—sometimes by the same composer and sometimes not. Occasionally, the composer’s work will inform my own words as I tweak and edit them. An editor comes at varying stages to ensure that both the words and music serve each other well. Of course there are those who set (engrave), publish, print, and distribute. But even the simplest pieces require musicians. Often, someone must play the accompaniment. Others must sing. And even in a congregational or classroom setting, there are those who listen. Sometimes, the singers are the ones also listening, taking in the words and music, meditating on the meaning of the work.

I could have made the paragraph above much longer, but you get the idea. There is no way my words can stand alone when it comes to a hymn or song text. I am just one small part of a greater whole. This has been an exhilarating week for me as I have heard a soon-to-be-published piece sung by my alma mater’s premiere choir and as I watched viewers respond to the video. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a composer and our editor shared with me for the first time a stunning composition for other words of mine, which I hope I can share with you sometime in the future.

This creative process needs everyone, and the creation continues as each new group discovers, sings, listens, and responds to something that began with a few words written messily in a journal. It reminds me of the Body of Christ—how we all serve in our small roles and work together toward something that reaches far beyond us in ways we could never imagine.

If you’d like to hear some examples of a few of these collaborations, you’ll notice a link or two in my post above. Below, you’ll also find a playlist of six published choral arrangements. As you take part in the creative process, I hope each work blesses you.