When Writing Isn’t Fun Anymore

I was watching a documentary yesterday about the modeling industry and one of the women being interviewed said something that I’m still thinking about. She said when you go through life being known for one particular thing {beauty, intelligence, a particular talent) then it can be quite devastating when you try to pursue a career in that area and find yourself faltering.

She was referring to people who are told all their lives how beautiful they are and how they should be a model. So the person begins to believe they are beautiful and attempts to build a life and career based on that belief only to be met with rejection by the modeling industry. Now everything this person believed about themselves is taken away and they’re left questioning who they really are and what they’re really good at.

This really resonates with me when I think about it in relation to writing and creativity. I’ve been told all my life that words are my thing, my gift. So I started writing and believing I would be successful with sharing words and stories. Sometimes I am; most of the time I’m not. I’m always surprised by how much it bothers me when my writing falls flat and fails to reach people in the way I hoped. I take it to heart because I believe writing is a part of who I am and I’m putting a part of myself and my heart out there every time I bleed words onto the page. It feels personal when I put my heart on the line with writing and people hand it right back to me. It makes me question who I am and what {if anything} I’m really good at if this isn’t it.

I’m not saying any of this so you will feel sorry for me and leave comments telling me not to worry because you think I’m really great. Actually, please don’t do that. My intention is not to feel sorry for myself or to garner pity. I just think it’s an interesting thing to think through.
This has me thinking about how I see myself and how much I allow other people to speak into and influence who I think I am and what I think I’m good at. It also has me thinking about how much I let my expectation and the expectations of others influence the joy I take in writing and creativity.

“Where I create, there I am true.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

I used to enjoy writing and creating more before people were watching. Originally words and creativity were just things I pursued because they brought me peace and pleasure, not because I felt the weight of proving anything by their merit. Blogging has changed this in some ways.
Blogging gives me a public platform to share my words and pictures and allows me to connect with others—and I love that.
But blogging also means I notice and take to heart every time my words or pictures fail to connect with others and I end up second-guessing myself instead of just enjoying the creative process for its own sake. I lose the joy of creating when I let the stats, the likes, and the comments define whether my words have value or not.

“It is both a blessing and

And a curse

To feel everything

So very deeply.”

In the end, I’m not going to stop blogging just because it can be a little deflating sometimes. I probably need to be deflated sometimes :] What I need to work on is how much I let my writing and creativity define who I am and what I’m worth. I can’t build my whole life around the expectation that I’ll excel at this one thing and then lose the pleasure of creating just because I sometimes fail to connect with people in the way I was hoping.

There is so much more to creating that just succeeding. And perhaps the worst failure of all would be to succeed without having enjoyed the creative process itself.

 

Instant Gratification

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My dad sometimes {affectionately, I think} calls me a space cadet…because I am flighty, as flighty as a butterfly. My mind is a busy place and I can never seem to focus on one thing for very long.

One time I got sick in college and the doctor put me on a prescription for a couple of days. I remember sitting in class when I was taking that medicine and it felt like everything was moving very slowly, like my mind was so quiet and still. I could concentrate on every word the teacher was saying without getting distracted by a million other thoughts. I wanted to take those drugs all the time and always have a quiet mind like that. Isn’t that awful, wishing for drugs to quiet my mind? But it’s true.

I really drive myself crazy with all this flightiness because I never get anything substantial done. I see a pattern in myself: I get an idea about something I want to do or be good at. I buy the supplies to do that thing. I try that thing for about a week. I get busy or distracted or decide it’s too hard and move on to something else.

I do this with cameras and photography. I do it with words and blogging. I do it with art and creativity and things I want to make with my hands. Over and over and over again.

One thing I really want to be good at is photography. I have always loved cameras and taking pictures and I get completely lost in beautiful images. I was looking at a blog the other day that has gorgeous photography and I kept thinking, “I want to take pictures like that. I want to capture life and the world the way she does.” But the problem is I don’t want to take the time and develop the discipline necessary for the kind of beauty and art she creates. I just want to pick up my camera, point it at something, and bam—my pictures look like hers.

There’s this other photography blog I love too, the one that really got me interested in DSLR cameras, and people are always asking the girl how she gets such beautiful images. Over and over and over again she tells people there’s no trick or shortcut to the images she produces; it’s just a matter of time and work and of learning about photography and how to best use the instrument in your hands. She tells people to read and practice and to take tons and tons of pictures until they start to get a feel for the camera and what does and doesn’t work.

That’s it. Practice. Patience. Hard word. No tricks. No fancy equipment. No apps or instant anything. Just enough love for and dedication to a craft to really master whatever it is you want to do.

This, of course, requires a little stick-to-it-ness and a little less flightiness. This requires patience and discipline and mastery over the monster we call instant gratification.

And that right there is a big part of my problem: Instant Gratification. It’s not that I don’t already enjoy photography enough to practice and learn and slowly develop my skill. It’s not that I don’t already love words enough to carefully string them together and slowly create a body of work I’m proud of.

The problem is I look at images and read words that are so far beyond my skill right now and I let it frustrate and discourage me because I want to be that good RIGHT NOW. I want to take pictures like that right now, this instant, not after patiently learning and practicing.

I don’t want to wait for anything. I want what I want and I want it right this instant.

But you know what I think? I think we lose out when we get what we want right when we want it. Because in spite of the time and work it takes, there is something very fulfilling and inspiring about the actual learning process and not just the end result. There is something about picking up my camera and taking 57 shots of the exact same thing, changing the settings, trying again…and then finally capturing the image I see in my head. There’s this little triumph, this little moment when everything comes together and I know I’ve learned something and I’ve advanced just a little bit towards my goal. That feeling of learning and growing is almost better than acquiring whatever it was I wanted in the first place.

We live in a world of instant everything. We are told all the time that we can have what we want when we want it. And unfortunately, I think I’ve started believing and living as if all the ads that try to sell me everything right now are actually gospel truth. And in the process I’m losing the pleasure of simply learning and growing and advancing at a steady, healthy pace.

I don’t need everything right now. I don’t need to be the best at wielding a camera or writing words. I just need to be growing, learning, practicing, changing…and taking the time to actually enjoy the experience and feel the moments of triumph instead of always running, running, running towards the next best thing.

The Bee’s Knees

I, like most people probably, sometimes think I need something new, something different, something more to be happy. I was really quite convinced that I needed a newer, better camera to take any photos worth having. I got that new camera a while ago and I do really like it. But a funny thing happened….

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I came across a camera we have had for years and started looking through the pictures on it…pictures I forgot all about when I got my newer, fancier, better camera. I found pictures of days at the beach and walks in the woods and I found a whole collection of pictures I took when Darren was helping his dad with the bees.

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Darren’s dad owns a bee pollination business, so if you ask me, he might as well be a snake charmer…but nobody asked me. I just take the pictures and swat at the angry, furry little bees…that’s all.

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I’m getting sidetracked though because the point of this post is that I like these pictures. I like the colors and texture. I like the sun flair and the little black blurs flying around everywhere. I like these pictures even though they were taken on an old camera and forgotten about for a couple of years after I moved on to newer, better things.

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Which just goes to prove that even though there is nothing wrong with new stuff, there is nothing wrong with old stuff either. Actually, in some ways, I think I used to be more creative when I was taking pictures because I was working with cheap point-and-shoot cameras and I had to be clever about getting artistic shots instead of just depending on all the fancy settings on my new camera.

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So there you go, life lesson #57: New is not always better.

Life lesson #56 was to not swat at the bees.

And life lesson #55 was to never, like ever, fry chicken in flip flops…unrelated, but true.

100_2302{Crates full of jars used to feed the fat cheeky little bees}

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Waiting for Perfection

I often catch myself putting life on hold while I sit and wait for the perfect moment to begin. I waste lots of little snippets of time because, by themselves, they don’t feel substantial enough to get anything done. I say I’m too tired. I say I’m too busy. I’ll get so much done later…when I have time.

But time doesn’t come later. All the time we have is the time we have right now. So I’m learning to begin in the small moments in between the hustle and bustle of life. I read, even if there’s only time for a page or two. I write, even if I only get a few words down.

There is no perfect time to begin. And I’m starting to think life might not ever really slow down either. So I’m beginning in the middle, working with the time I have, and getting more done in all those small moments than I ever will while waiting for perfection.

The Hard Work of Creating

Creativity is hard work. It’s one thing to be inspired; it’s another thing entirely to be productive. I find myself lately full of ideas backed by zero action. What’s holding me back?

  • Laziness and procrastination
  • Fear of failing or being misunderstood
  • Getting bogged down by distractions
  • Making excuses about not having enough time or not having enough to say
  • Waiting for the perfect set of circumstances to start instead of just starting where I am

It’s nice to sit around thinking pretty thoughts but it’s also very nearly useless if I never actually birth those thoughts into some form of creative reality.

Sometimes the most important thing I can do is…start. I can stop thinking about what I want and start creating it. I can stop wishing things were different and change them. I can type the first word. I can take the first step. I can begin where I am with what I have.

Creativity is a hard and a beautiful thing; but it’s worth the beauty and it’s worth the work.

So let’s get started.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Michelangelo

Why Do You Read the Blogs You Do?

What is it about a particular blog that draws you in and makes you want to read more? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Why do I read some blogs and skip over others?

For me it comes down to whether or not I’m interested in and inspired by the person behind the blog.

My favorite blog is by a girl named Aura and I can’t get enough of her writing and photography—but why? She’s just a person telling stories and sharing snap shots of her life so why do I care what this stranger does with her days?

I care because I’m fascinated and inspired by her. I’m inspired by all the beauty she creates in her life and fascinated by the way she lives. Watching her life through the stories and pictures shared on her blog inspire me to go out and do more with myself—and I like that.

Another one of my favorite bloggers/artists is Katie Daisy. Katie is my favorite artist because what she creates fascinates and inspires me—just like Aura’s words and photos do. I love the way Katie combines colors and textures into whimsical little paintings and her work makes me want to transform everything around me into something dripping with color and beauty.

I also read blogs that resonate with me and the way I live.

Blogs about nature and the outdoors, photography and art, faith and family—these are just a few of the things that speak deeply to me and draw me into the writing of others with similar interest.

Both Aura and Katie are Midwest girls who grew up in the prairies of Oklahoma and Illinois. The words they write and the art they create resound deeply with my love for the prairies. I feel connected to these artists in a way because we each share a deep love of this one common thing—the flatlands, the woods, the birds and trees…the places and things that speak to us about where we are from and who we have become.

Both of these artists inspire me to create more beauty in my life. They inspire me to live better, write better, and create from a place deep inside my soul that is genuine and true.

There are very few bloggers who reach me in this way but whenever I come across someone who does, I can’t get enough of their words and stories. I want to dive into their world and understand everything that makes them who they are. I want to go away from their words and pictures and create something just as beautiful and inspiring with my own words and stories.

What draws you into a blog? What determines who your favorite writers and artists are?

Something Out Of Nothing

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Sometimes I think I’m wasting time blogging and taking pictures. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting other people’s time expecting them to read what I write and share in the stories I tell. Sometimes I think about walking away from it all and doing something “useful” with myself. And then I think about God. I think about how he likes to write and paint and doing so is never a waste of his time.

Something out of nothing—that is what God does.

He creates and delights in creation. And he has filled our hearts with the desire to create too.

Something out of nothing—that is what art is.

Words and colors shaped into stories and meaning.

Nothing God does is a waste and God likes to create.

So I create too.

And it is not a waste.

Find Yourself

The best of me comes from within not from without. My most inspired, creative work happens when I work from within myself rather than looking for inspiration from others. Other people do inspire me, but when I try to follow after them and do what they do, I always lose myself along the way and lose any authentic inspiration too. I admire people but that does not mean I need follow them. We are each our own and when we are not, we lose ourselves in each other.

I struggle with this in the realm of social media. There are so many beautiful blogs and pictures and ideas. There are so many ways to share ourselves with each other using Pinterest, Etsy, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., etc.

Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing—I’m sharing these very thoughts with you right now using social media—but sometimes I find it eats me alive. Sometimes I lose my own inspiration in the inspiration of others and nothing I do rings true for a time.

My best work happens when I am quiet and alone, when I look within instead of without, when I walk away from the internet and into the woods, when I feel the world pulsing around me in all my senses—tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, feeling the world for myself in my own living senses.

I am never more inspired to garden and nurture life than when I go outside and feel the cool spring air on my skin, smell the dirt as it’s dug up and prepared for planting—nobody, however inspiring, can replace the inspiration that comes from living your own life in awareness of yourself and your own surroundings.

Sometimes I forget to be inspired in myself, outside of others. But I am finding the best way to live happily, peacefully, fully, is to live truly to myself and outside of others. To live within my senses and live out my own inspiration. Nothing is more inspiring than a person who has found themselves and is living authentically from within, not from without.

I don’t think being creative is so much about being original as it is about being authentic—being true to your own inspiration and living out of your own senses and awareness. Sometimes I have to step away from the people who inspire me to actually find any inspiration of my own.

“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.” -Rumi

For the Love of Words

Words are the pixels that put together an understandable picture of my world. Words are the brushstrokes in a masterpiece—the fine lines, nearly meaningless alone, culminating in beauty and understanding together.

I simply love words.

I sit down at my computer and start typing—slowly at first, and then the flood comes over me. Words stream and flow, bubble up and mingle—until, at last, I step back from the strokes and see the picture. I see beauty. I see creation. I see a part of myself in black ink on the page.

Sometimes I feel like god when I write and can make all those unruly letters do and say whatever I want. Just like God in the beginning when he spoke—when He said the words “Let it be”—and it was.

So I speak, “Let it be”—and it is. Letters, pictures, stories, truth, emotion—all painted together onto the blank canvas of a page. All coming from nothing as the cursor gives birth to word after word. Words turned to sentences. Sentences to paragraphs. Paragraphs to the page. The page to a story. The story to a life all its own—a world, a place that never was before the words came together and said it is so.

I love words. I love blank pages. Blankness is merely a call to creation. Something out of nothing. Worlds out of words.

But sometimes I forget how much I love words. Sometimes I think the worth of words is entirely in the number of likes and responses those words receive. Sometimes I write something I love—something of myself that I gave up to the page. And even though  I loved the words, others do not. And I start to think the words lost their meaning. I start to think the words are no good. I think of quitting. I think it’s too hard. I only think these things because I forgot.

I forgot how much I loved the words.

I loved the words as they percolated and came together in my brain. I loved the words as I gave birth to them on the page. I loved the creation from something out of nothing.

And really, that should be enough. The words and the love I have for them—not the love they receive from others.

So, today, I start again with this blank canvas—this empty vastness yearning for creation. Something out of nothing.

I write because I love writing. I love the words. I love the blankness. I love the fine strokes of creation.

Even if you don’t like them too. That’s okay. Because I can’t leave the canvas blank. I can’t leave the cursor….cursing? I can’t. I have to write. I have to create.

Maybe I just like feeling like god for a few hours in the day.

The Potter and the Clay

 

“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

When I was in college I decided to take a pottery class. I thought pottery would be easy and who wouldn’t want to get college credit for playing in the mud? Well, pottery ended up being one of the hardest, most time-consuming classes I ever took–and one of the most enjoyable too. In molding pottery with my own hands, I came to better understand the heart of God when he refers to himself as the potter and we as the clay.

Molding pottery is an intimate, messy labor of love. The part I love the most about pottery is the way the artist’s fingerprints end up on every part of their creation. As the soft clay spins between my hands on the wheel, my every movement changes the shape of what I create. My fingerprints weave in and out along the surface of the clay and what I am creating becomes as unique as the pattern of my fingerprints.

God is the potter molding our lives in his hands. His fingerprints write a unique story on our hearts as we are molded and shaped by his creative plan. He is as intimately involved in the shaping of our lives as the potter is in the shaping of the messy clay.

Clay is delicate and fragile. All it takes to destroy a work of art is one wrong move when the clay is spinning on the wheel or an accidental drop and the whole thing is shattered. After all the time and labor that goes into making a piece of pottery, the artist is quite protective of his work and is extremely proud of the beauty that has been formed from a simple lump of mud. God labors in his creation–and he carefully protects that which he has created. Why would he so labor only to shatter what he has made? He doesn’t–he protects and takes pride in his creation–in what he has formed from the dust of the earth.

When you are making pottery, you start with a lumpy ball of clay full of flaws and imperfections. To even begin forming anything of value, you first have to work the clay into a balanced circle on the wheel that is free of bumps and air bubbles. To do this, you knead the clay with both hands by pressing it hard against the wheel and slowly working the outside walls in until the whole thing is balanced and centered. Like the clay, we too start out as lumpy mounds of imperfection. But God gathers us up in his hands and begins his creative work. To work the flaws out of us, he must push, pressure, and pull us into usable pieces of clay–this is a messy, exhausting labor of love but it is essential if we are to ever become useful in the potter’s hands.

Once the clay is balanced you open it up in the middle and begin pulling it up from the sides into the shape you want. Once it is pushed and pulled into shape, you carefully remove it from the wheel and let it dry to the “leather-hard” stage. At this stage you put the clay back on the wheel upside-down and trim away excess, rough edges, and give the piece more shape and character. Like the clay, after working on us for a time, God often gives us times of rest and refreshment so we don’t grow overwhelmed–but his work is not done. There is still much trimming to do and this sometimes means putting us on our heads and turning our world upside-down to trim away the excess and rough spots so that he may ultimately add more beauty and character to our muddy lives.

Once the piece is trimmed you are ready for the first firing which hardens the clay and prepares the surface for glazing.  Again, like clay in the potter’s hands, God puts us through “fires” of testing to make us stronger. Even though it seems like the fire is destructive, it is actually the only way a piece of pottery can reach its full potential and be prepared for what makes it really beautiful–the glaze. Out of the fire comes a beautiful piece of pottery well worth all the mess and labor.

“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD.” Psalm 40:1-3 (italics mine)

Note: None of these pictures portray me making pottery or anything that I have made. All credit for both the pictures and the pottery go to the individual artists.

Other Scripture regarding the potter and the clay: Isaiah 45:9,  Jon 10:8-9 and 33:6 and Romans 9:20-21.