Why Inspiration Matters

IMG_20171022_221813_524.jpgOnce a week, Darren takes the kids out of the house so I can sit and write. It’s magic and I’m so thankful for his help. Occasionally though, this doesn’t work out and if I want to write, I find myself doing so in all the moments I can find in between—like right now.

The house is quiet for a few more minutes before my son wakes and starts his day like a hurricane. He’s equal parts motion and noise so any activity requiring concentration or quiet must be done during the precious early morning hours before he wakes or while he naps in the afternoon (both assuming his sister is cooperating at the same time 😉 ).

Sometimes though, when the house is quiet and I have these valuable minutes to get things done, I feel a little guilty using the time to write a blog. I could be doing many other things, like pulling my life together for instance.

Is this a waste? Am I being selfish? Avoiding more pressing responsibilities? All of these are questions I’ve grappled with while hiding away with the laptop to tap out words. Words I write mostly for myself and will share with only a handful of people. Certainly I’m not changing the world over here so am I right to use my time in this way?

The answer and release of guilt I needed came for me after a few weeks of that evening alone I mentioned. I found that having a few hours to myself to do something I love refreshed me and filled my heart and mind with new inspiration. I’ve found too that being refreshed and inspired helps me be a better wife, mom, and homemaker.

Why?

Because burnout is no joke and can happen fast when all day every day you’re busy meeting the needs of other people (be it as a mother, teacher, doctor—whatever your vocation and calling may be). While our lives certainly shouldn’t be lived fully and exclusively unto ourselves—we are called to service and sacrifice without question. We also shouldn’t be so busy taking care of everyone else that we completely minimize the need for reasonable self-care.

I think we all know this, really. But I’m here to argue that finding and doing whatever it is that sets your heart on fire and fills your mind with energy and excitement for the next thing is a worthwhile endeavor and not a selfish waste of time.

I shared the picture of my daughter asleep in my lap, computer open, because this is often what writing looks like for me in this season. I write in the scrappy moments in between all the living and doing. And every word I tap out here gives me a little fresh energy and excitement to invest back into my family. My people are my top priority but I’m a better person for them when I take care of myself as well.

For me, this looks like getting up early so I can start my day slowly and quietly with a cup of coffee and my Bible. This gives me a minute to collect myself and prepare my heart before the day is underway. I get dressed in real clothes and put some mascara on because as tempting as yoga pants all day may be, they really don’t help my self-esteem ;). And as I said before, I try once a week to have a few uninterrupted hours to write and create.

Creativity is really so instrumental in raising children and running a home. Have you ever considered how often you, as a wife and mom in particular, use creativity day-to-day with your kids and in your home? In the meals you serve, the way you decorate, how you dress yourself and your family, the projects you do around the yard, house and with your kids—all of these are creative expressions of yourself—of what inspires you and makes you tick. So how worthy an investment then is the time you steal away to nurture your own heart, mind, and creativity? You’re helping yourself for sure but the dividends get invested right back into your home and family too.

Trust me, your family enjoys a happy, healthy wife and momma a whole lot more than a depleted one—I should know because I’ve been both and the difference I see in my family is staggering.

So if you’re struggling with guilt over making time for yourself, feel creative pursuits are a waste when there’s so much else to do, or just feel burnt-out and depleted in general, I hope you will give yourself permission to pursue something you love. This will look different for everyone—for me it’s this little corner of the internet where I can tap my heart onto the page once a week and connect with like-minds. What is it for you?

I can tell you for sure that sitting here writing and having some time alone to think is the fuel that powers so many of my other creative outlets. Typically by the time Darren leaves with the kids, I have made several threats about never having any more children and burning the house down. By the time he gets back, I’m ready to try again with the whole wife and momma things for another week at least 😉

Go do it. Get a cup of coffee. Give your babies to someone else for a minute and find that inner whatever that sets your heart on fire ❤

I Write Because I Want To

60a9ef4dc03ad22e48b521cd2481b779The rain is beating down outside; after months of dry weather I’m mesmerized by the sound—rap a tap tap, rap a tap tap. My son will be awake soon so I hurry with a cup of coffee to the computer to tap out words before my quiet, creative window closes for another day.

After my son was born, I stopped writing for a long time. I felt writing, for me, was a waste of time. I told myself I was too busy, had more pressing things to do, couldn’t spend time on a silly hobby that was going nowhere when I should be focused on more important work.

“Hardly anyone reads your words.” “You’re never going to be a writer,” I told myself. “You’re a blogger nothing more; stop wasting time playing around.” “If you’re not going to ‘make it’ as a writer then you shouldn’t be wasting your precious time fooling with words.”

I lost the magic and the joy in writing and stomped out any words that tried springing up in my heart; so the words stopped bothering me—for a while, anyway.

I made the mistake of thinking I was writing for other people, not realizing that really, all along, I had been writing for myself. I thought if other people weren’t reading my words, they’d have no meaning, never considering how much they meant to me alone. “If I’m not going to make it as a writer, I’m not going to write at all I said”— and the words tattooed all over my heart and soul had a good laugh, knowing, I was made to write and write I must.

Before I could read, I requested a journal for my birthday (a Princess Jasmine journal with a lock, mind you). Since I didn’t know how to spell and write the words myself, I would dictate to my mother what to write for me. Even before I could do the most basic tasks of reading and writing, I had words already pulsing and beating in my heart that I felt, as a little girl, must be recorded.

So perhaps I’m not a real writer, simply a mere blogger instead. Perhaps I’ll never “make it” or be able to tell people confidently, “I’m a writer.” Maybe this is it, this quiet little space in a dusty corner of the internet is the only place my words will live out their lives.

I’m ok with that.

I’m ok, because I understand now that I’m not writing to be known as “a writer” or “to make it” or for other people at all. I write because I like the way the keys feel beneath my fingers as I stroke out words. I like the way black words pop out behind that tyrant of a cursor ever blinking on my screen, seeming always to ask, “What’s next? What’s next?” I like the way my heart races when I’m writing and the way my fingers tremble over the publish button.

I love the cadence of words tumbling one after the other into life and meaning. Even if no one else reads my words, I read back over them a million times myself like a mother who can’t stop looking and marveling at her newborn baby.

Am I a writer then? Beats me. But I’ll keep on writing, simply, because I want to.

Image Credit: jasmine-marie.tumblr.com

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

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