In a recent interview Steven Soderbergh, the acclaimed movie director with an unconventional style, dropped the bomb that he was done making movies. Soderbergh is perhaps most famous for the commercial success of his Ocean's Eleven franchise. I don't follow Hollywood, but he appears to be one of the few movie-makers with enough self confidence to make movies he would watch irrespective of their potential for commercial success. In an industry full of megalomaniacs, his unconventional style which leaves actors alone to determine how to play their characters is unusual but also attracts talent willing to work for less in exchange for artistic freedom.
His record of commercial success, the respect he's earned from peers, and the money he's guaranteed to make in future years have resulted in the kind of freedom that only comes when you master your craft. So, why is Soderbergh using that freedom to quit and pursue his interest in painting and directing stage plays?
It’s a combination of wanting a change personally and of feeling like I’ve hit a wall in my development that I don’t know how to break through. The tyranny of narrative is beginning to frustrate me, or at least narrative as we’re currently defining it. I’m convinced there’s a new grammar out there somewhere. But that could just be my form of theism.
As I read these lines, I couldn't help but wonder if and when I might "hit the wall in my development" as a preacher and not "know how to break through."
I just started practicing my craft and Soderbergh is 30 years into his career, so the comparison, at this point, is tenuous. Still, writing and then preaching a 2,000 word sermon almost every Sunday has already left me feeling like "I've run out of stuff to stay" on more than one occasion. A week off helps and a month off is even better but will the restrictions implicit in the craft of preaching feel tyrannical after ten years? After 30 years I'll still be a decade away from stopping if the conventional career trajectory remains true for me.
To put it plainly, the church is expecting me to say a whole lot more and it's hard to believe my development as a preacher will persist without breaking free, even if it's just for a season, from the restrictions inherent to the style. The content will never grow dull - the paradox of the gospel is too mysterious to ever be boring. But like Soderbergh, will a break be necessary to explore the challenge of other mediums in order to locate that elusive "new grammar" every preacher dreams of finding?