SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I brought our church's worship team to the home studio of a good friend and jazz fusion artist who's a part of our church. We had a simple request: Please re-arrange our current praise songs so that they have a more contemporary gospel or jazz feel to them. After telling us that it simply wasn't possible, he shocked us by encouraging us to write our own worship songs. No one responded at first, but I remember that we all sort of hung our heads, not wanting to make eye contact with him.
Finally, the team's leader blurted, "We can't. Any song that we write is going to suck." To which the pro replied, "Your problem is not that you can't write a great song. No, your problem is that you never finish the first verse of the first song you try to write. Before you've completed the first stanza, you give in to the inner voice that says 'This sucks', and then you stop writing. As a professional composer, I write on average one new song a day.
"But I'm not saying that I write a great song every day. I just keep telling myself to finish the song in front of me. After I've amassed about a month's worth of new songs, I review them to see if I've perhaps written a great one. Unless you find a way to get past those self-canceling thoughts, you'll never finish your first one, or the subsequent ones. And if that happens, you'll never find out whether anything you've created is truly great."
"Unless you find a way to get past those self-canceling thoughts, you’ll never finish your first one, or the subsequent ones."
One of the key distinctions of those who create is that they are able to ignore the incessant voices in their heads that try to convince them that they're just wasting their time. Some of these voices come from inside our Asian American familial circles. Critical voices. Shaming ones. And others are from the broader American society around us where we hardly see anyone who looks like us creating art, especially great art.
When Asian Americans refrain from creating, the rest of the world is robbed of our unique perspectives, gospel insights, and reflections that are rooted in our historical, cultural, racial, and even marginalized experiences. The diverse collective of Asian American creatives in this special edition of inheritance exemplify and underscore the crucial contributions that people like us need to make.
When Asian Americans refrain from creating, the rest of the world is robbed of our unique perspectives, gospel insights, and reflections that are rooted in our historical, cultural, racial, and even marginalized experiences.
Ultimately, however, we don't create for the sake of representation. These creative works are expressions of grace in that they are not out of practicality or even necessity. As renowned painter Makoto Fujimura states in his interview, "God doesn't need us, there's no utility, He didn't need to create the universe. But He created us because He wanted to. Because He loved."
Which is also a wonderful way of telling you why we jumped at the gracious invitation to guest-edit this issue. We want to see more of a love that creates.