Resources For Creatives – An Interview With Blaine Hogan

Photo Property of Blaine Hogan
Photo Courtesy of Blaine Hogan.

I am thrilled to share my interview with Blaine Hogan today as part of the Resources For Creatives series.  I first read Blaine’s blog after Jessica Heights suggested it to me at the Allume blogging conference.    I then read his book Untitled: Thoughts On The Creative Process this past Christmas. It was absolutely one of my favorite reads of last year.    Blaine is one of the most inspiring creatives out there for me.  I very much resonate with his background as an actor in plays and musicals, who has found his way to other creative mediums, including film and writing.   He is now a Creative Director at Willow Creek Church.  He resides in Chicago with his wife (an accomplished screenwriter) and daughter. 


Sarah: I love that your book is called “Untitled”, and the concept behind it.  What was the impetus to write this type of book in the first place?

Blaine: Basically I wrote it to help explain my own creative process to myself.  It began as an exercise to help me understand how I was made.  The title (or lack thereof) came from the fact that nearly every document you open on a computer is already named “UNTITLED” for you.  The book is, hopefully, an answer to the blank page.

Sarah: One of my favorite things you discuss in the book is the concept of ‘Scratching’, (inspired by Twyla Tharp) or ‘mood playlists’.   Can you talk a bit about the ‘Scratching’ concept and how you do it?   What music is part of your current ‘Scratching Playlists’?

Blaine: I try and surround myself with words, images and music as much as possible.  Practically, it can look like searching various words on Pinterest or following a rabbit trail in Spotify for music that is moving to me.  I work fast when I’m doing my inital scratches.  If it doesn’t move me in the first few seconds of seeing it or hearing it, I move on.  If I am moved, however, I tag it, pin it, or move it into a playlist.  Once I’ve got a good pile, I sort.  This takes more time.  I look & listen with a little more careful eye & ear.  From there the images and music start to make their way into actual projects.  A picture of snow or a board becomes the inspiration for a set.  A song becomes the basis for the score of a new scene.  A line of text turns into the beginning of a script. 

Currently, I’m listening to Carly Comando, an incredible pianist.

Sarah: Being an inspiration seeker, of course I must ask you this question: What inspires you, and where you do you find yourself most frequently drawing inspiration for your projects?

Blaine: My goal is simply to be open and available.  In a recent NPR  story on Martin Luther King Jr.’s style of preaching and speaking, it was said  the whole world was MLK’s sourcebook.  I like to think similiarly.  That said, I probably draw most of my inspiration from music.  While I’m not a musician, I see pictures and stories when I hear music and so that often becomes the basis of a certain project.

Sarah: I must talk to you about being a Christian artist.  You spoke previously in a prior interview about how Christian art can sometimes seem redundant or boring, in that we always know how it will end.  (I agree!)  How do you wrestle through that as a creative–to create something that is influenced by the divine, but doesn’t always come to to a presupposed, or safe conclusion?

Blaine: When my wife was in her screenwriting program, she learned a technique known as the “Sacred/Profane”.  The essential idea is that great storytelling has elements of things that [are] sacred but also profane.  Most “Christian” storytelling or stories told by Christians tend to lack the profane, or rather the profane is caricatured in some way that foretells the ending will be wrapped up in a nice clean bow.  Another thing that seems to be lacking is mystery, something I find desperately needed in all storytelling no matter the faith of the storyteller.

This may seem trite, but my goal is to tell the truth and truth is both holy and horrible – sacred & profane.

Sarah: I love that your job title is ‘Creative Director’.   Can you talk about the types of things that job entails?

Blaine: Luckily, I’m not the only one (we have a number of creative directors) and also, I work with an amazing team of people.  One of my main responsibilities is jumpstarting the creative process for what we do for Christmas and Easter.  I’ll start ‘scratching’ and from work from there on developing a treatment of what will actually happen in the service and then flesh it out with our set and music teams.

Sarah: What are some of your favorite books that inspire you?



Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Blaine:This [book] was loaned to me by a friend.  He has never asked for it back and I may never return it.  It’s essential reading if you want to make better art.




The Art of the Idea: And How It Can Change Your Life by John Hunt

Blaine: To begin with, the paper and cover are to die for!  The feel of the book alone is worth the price.  Truly an artifact, this lovely collection of observations from ad guru John Hunt is remarkable.




The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Blaine: I consider this mandatory reading! I read it every year, and you should too.  Tharp, often quite curtly, reminds us again that the creative act is not one of serendipity, but of work and ritual, and the the idea of work should not be fought but embraced.  The artist fails to do so at her own peril.


The War of Art  &  Turning Pro    by Steven Pressfield

Blaine: Both are manditory reading! Enough said.

Sarah: What advice can you give to someone who is just starting to reach out in a new creative venue/area of life?

Blaine: This is simplistic, but you just have to start.  And then you have to keep going through all of the shitty first drafts.  It will get better. I promise.

Sarah: In an interview with blogger/writer Jeff Goins you said that artists are the new pastors and prophets of the 21st century.  Tell us more of your thoughts on this subject.  Was any particular experience the impetus for that idea?

Blaine: When I first went to graduate school at the Seattle School for Theology & Psychology, I asked what the role of the artist was – in school and in culture.  My professor said artists will be pastors of the 21st century.  I believe this is true and it isn’t just about fine art.  As Seth Godin says, we are all artists and we are all creating something.  My belief is that the world isn’t finished and that the artist (the person who believes they are one) will help to finish it by “pastoring” culture in all aspects.

Sarah: Do you still take time to perform as an actor now that you are a creative director/writer?

Blaine: I’d love to act more in the future, but right now I love getting to make my own content.

Sarah: Just because I’m a musical theatre nerd/performer, I’d love to hear some of your favorite musicals or plays.

Blaine: I love The Last Five Years. (A musical by Jason Robert Brown)

Sarah: Being that your wife is a screenwriter, are you two working on any projects together?  Are there any specific projects that you would like to work on together?

Blaine: It is a blessing and a curse to have a creative household.  Things can get a bit dramatic at times!  We just finished working on a project called THE RIVER, a novel that was adapted into a live musical experience.  I would love to eventually direct one of her screenplays.

Sarah: What projects are up next for you?

Blaine: I’m working on a “Maker’s Manifesto” of sorts – again to help define what it is I’m trying to do with my work and how I’m trying to do it.  I’ve got another creative process book in the works and a project with my best friend creating mugs.

Sarah: Do you see your blog as an extension of the creative projects you’re doing?  What things are you planning on blogging about this year?

Blaine: I very much see my blog as an extension of my creative projects.  It’s also a great testing ground for ideas and for keeping up the discipline of writing.  I turn 33 later this week, I’m a Dad, I’ve been married 4 years, and I have a full-time job.  All that to say, I’m starting to create a little series about what it looks like to be a gentleman in the 21st century.  For me, this has a lot to do with clothes and fashion.  I’ll be detailing this process in my path toward gentility.

Sarah: I’m newly married, and my husband and I are planning to try for a baby this year.   Can you talk about how being a parent has changed you, and how it has influenced your creative process?

Blaine: This is such a great question.  Becoming a parent pretty much changes everything!  I also realize that Ruby, our daughter, is the best thing we’ve ever made.  My wife has a great post for parents-to-be here.  


I’m giving away a copy of Blaine’s book, Untitled, in ebook form to one lucky reader! 


To Enter:  (You may have up to two entries per person.)
  1. Leave me a comment telling me what topics you’d like to read more of in upcoming posts of this series
  2. Like All Manner Of Inspiration on Facebook (conveniently located on the right sidebar) and leave me a comment that you did

{I’ll choose the winner with Random.Org next week, and email the winner. FYI – I was not given this ebook for free, I’m treating one of you to it because I believe in its message.}

{I’m also linking this post with Holley today, because this interview and this blog series is an integral part of my God Sized Dreams.}




8 comments on “Resources For Creatives – An Interview With Blaine Hogan

    1. Thanks so much Jenny – it means a lot that you stopped by to read and shared this article. Writing is the part of my creativity that feels the newest and scariest to me, so I’m thrilled to be blogging about a topic so near and dear to my heart! If you don’t win this giveaway (right now you’re the winner 😉 ) please consider picking up this book – it was absolutely one of my FAVORITE reads of 2012. Love you, friend!

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback – it means alot! That’s a great topic! I feel I need to address fear & creativity for sure, and I think the fear of being open is such a huge part of that! Duly noted – please be watching for a future post with that subject. So glad you said hello! 🙂

  1. Awesome, awesome. We talked about the sacred/profane dichotomy in class this week, so it’s been on my brain! I was so thrilled to read more about it from Blaine and his apt observations… What else would I like to see? I would love to read more about your own processes and journaling through them {I’m not a journaler, other than what I reflect on for blogging!}… 🙂 So enjoying this topic on your blog! Happy weekend, dear friend.

    1. Thanks so much for reading friend! 🙂 You must be a mind reader – I was JUST thinking I wanted to put a journaling post in this series – glad that sounds interesting to someone else besides me! 🙂

  2. what a wonderful interview! thanks so much for sharing this book with us! i think hearing from a variety of voices for your series would be great. i for one, love to hear from lots of people because we all connect to different people in different ways! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading! 🙂 I’m glad to hear you say that – I want to interview as many different types of creatives as I can for this series! Working on another interview currently, and rounding up other folks as well. 🙂

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