The Secret to a Successful Creative Career

B reaking In tells the stories of how 20 film directors got their start. Many of the featured filmmakers are A-listers, and it is fascinating to read how they got into the business. In fact, the book was written by a film student researching case studies for common attributes in directors who made a career out of their craft.

I only found one common attribute.

Successful creatives need to create.

It ain’t a hobby.

The thing is, there is no career track for creatives, in industry or in ministry. It is a career you must make for yourself.

Never say, “I want to be a writer” or “I want to be a movie director” or “I want to be a motion graphic artist”. This is a mistake. No one is going to bestow that title on you. Film studios don’t send recruiters to film schools. Publishing houses don’t troll English departments. Instead, say, “I am a writer” and then start writing. You have to begin by doing it. Make images. Write stories. Design sets. As you do it, and do it better, you will hone your craft. People will begin to notice. It will develop in time, as it should.

Keep success stories in front of you as sources of hope, but not as instruction manuals. Every creative’s story is different. You must make your own.

But there’s a hook. Random creativity in all directions won’t gain you traction.


It helps to be single-minded.

When I was “Media Minister” at Ginghamsburg Church in the 1990s, developing a ministry that most churches had never head of and experimenting with the use of visuals in worship, I had a vision for visual communication as ministry. I had to balance competing interests in producing, persuading, people-managing and handling new technology. I worked long, long hours.

Eventually, to avoid burning out, I started an intern program. I had seven interns roll through the church over a three year period. Two things I learned from that experience – one was that money was useless. I paid three interns, all of whom had to be coerced into something as easy as setting up a slide in Photoshop. The other four were volunteer. These were the passionate ones, doing it out of a single-mindedness to combine their desire for visual communication and their faith.

One of them became my long time creative collaborator and Midnight Oil Productions co-founder, Jason Moore. An art school graduate, he was assigned to do print work, primarily. But he saw that all of the creative action was happening on the worship design team, and he single-mindedly wormed his way on to the team. He stayed after hours working on 3D animations that no one asked for, in spite of objections from staff. He took risks. He demonstrated value where no one knew there was value to be demonstrated. He created a place for himself by doing work that could no longer be ignored. It was in fact because of this like-minded drive that we bonded.

So if you dream about a creative future, stop. Shut down the “someday” spirit. start creating.


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).