Keep it Simple: How to Achieve Your Dream Part 2

Everything in life should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~Albert Einstein

When it comes to doing anything, especially taking a dream and birthing it into the tangible, keeping things simple is a very crucial admonition to keep in mind.

For most of us, our knee-jerk reaction to anything new is to overthink it. We begin to compare our ‘pearl’ with oyster farms of others who have similar dreams already up and running. We begin to add extra bells and whistles to our end products and we haven’t even actually ‘made’ them yet.

We take precious ideas, born in a moment of genius, and think it from the mustard seed it began as, and transform it into craggy, dark mountains that we feel ill-equipped to climb.

Yes, most dreams, especially those that will involve creative income, do come with seeming miles of information that needs to be learned. All of it is important, but none of it is necessary at the very beginning of the dream.

What is important is to take the first step.

With whatever we aim to do, whatever we have taken the step to believe to do, we must remember to keep it simple. It is so easy to overcomplicate things and make what should have been an enjoyable task or journey something loathsome.

But at the same time, as we are keeping things simple by not overcomplicating them, we need to remember NOT to make them simpler.

To me, this means to not dumb down our dreams to the point that they have transformed into cheap counterfeits of our original visions. Don’t cut necessary corners of the process in order to catch up with the so-called competition.

Simple means, again, to be uncomplicated. Choose to Believe without all the complication.

You don’t have to have all the answers yet. Let your seed be a seed, then a sapling, and then tend it until it grows into a tree. Step by step. Worry about ‘racking the leaves’ the moment your tree is big enough to produce some shade.

Keep it simple. Allow your dream to grow in stages. Each step counts. Things only get complicated when you try to leap over more than one step at a time.

Simply write your first draft, create your preliminary sketch, sing your song until the notes come naturally, build your business by creating a starter plan, live your life…simply.

Our dreams are developed by means of a process. There are steps to climb but we do best taking one step at a time. Simple.

* For Part 1 of this series, see Believe You Can: How to Achieve your Dream Part 1

*Originally published May 15, 2017.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

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Letting Go: How I Learned to Step Into My Dreams

Perfection has a price, but I cannot afford to live that life. It always ends the same; a fight I never win. Oh control. It’s time, time to let you go.” -JJ Heller

A few years back, on my birthday, I woke up after having an incredible dream. The dream was prophetic for my personal future. It hit straight to the core of some inner struggles I had been having. It gave me a greater hope for the future that I am now living.

For several years I had felt like I had fallen into a dark well or a completely lifeless creative downward spiral. Sure, I had been making art, commissions, and though I was pleased with the outcome of each, I have to say they were indeed lifeless … to me.

I was so detached from these paintings that I didn’t even really bother archiving them for my own portfolio. That says something. It says a lot.  My writing was like swimming through mud.

I had gone on a rampage to control everything in my life that I could. My art was controlled. There could be no mistakes in it, which meant I hardly ever created anything. My writing had to be flawless. And because it wasn’t, because I couldn’t really control it, I began to grow duller.

Spiritually, I felt like I had been traversing a craggy wasteland, always walking forward in the direction of the sun (Son), waiting for this storm of torrential rains and floods to come, but I was always waiting, always walking, and there was never a drop of rain in sight nor a cloud in the sky.

I began to grow used to the desert, both the spiritual and the creative. Oddly enough, my inner spirit man never really felt like it was in a drought, just thirsty, content, but never satisfied. No matter how much I fought to be satisfied.

As years passed in my reality, circumstances not changing, my hope for a better future, for the flood rains in my creative life and spiritual life to come, became like an old plane ticket in my hand. It had no expiration date, but neither did it have a date of departure, and so I ceased looking for one.

I was a desert-wanderer. This was my reality. But on my 31st birthday, waking up from that hope-reviving dream, remembering other dreams that partnered with it, I began to smell the scent of rain in the air again. A change was coming and it was right on the horizon. Christ Jesus even led me to a verse in the Scriptures to solidify this newly revived hope and expectation.

Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing what is new, let it now spring forth. Do you not know it? I am even making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Now, for several years I had been having a connected series of dreams about living in a trash bag tent in the desert amongst many others who were fearful of a coming flood.  So when I read this verse, and the images of those old dreams of my desert lands being flooded out with enough water to fill the oceans,  I knew it was a Word of life for me from Him.

This, however, is where faith gets tricky. People of faith LOVE a word about CHANGE and BREAKTHROUGH, but they never take into consideration what CHANGE and BREAKTHROUGH really mean.

Simple analogy, think of how a child who has come to the end of his or her stay within the womb feels when they are are BREAKING THROUGH to their new place. It is not a comfortable transition.  The very fluid they had been thriving on for nine months is squeezed out of them as they pass through from one existence to the other.

Isaiah 43:19 is awesome, but there is a verse that comes before it. This verse was the training breakthrough verse from me.

Isaiah 43:18 Do not remember the former, nor consider that of old.”

STEP 1: Confront your past disappointments.

In order for me to move forward out of my desert, I had to forget the things that were behind. I had a lot of disappointments and false starts,  a lot of heartaches, a lot of wounds, and all of those things not only blocked my creativity but stifled me spiritually and emotionally.

Art doesn’t thrive in a box. Creativity is organic and grows how it grows.

I was in agreement with ‘forgetting’ all of those things. I had buried them for a reason, but I had not healed from them. I was still carrying them with me, and the load was rotting lot gangrene and affecting every creative part of me.

I began to think I was a failure because I could not make myself forget these things that Christ Jesus had let out of the bag. I cried. I didn’t understand until He gently and lovingly told me a simple truth.

In order to forget what is behind, you have to confront it, heal from it, so that it never has power over you again.

You know what it is like when a clogged pipe has been treated and all that grime comes out before the clear water flows? That is what had been taking place with me ever since. I began to allow my pains to be redeemed, and I am talking about those old pains, the-school-bully-that-scared-you-when-you-were-nine kind of pains.

STEP 2: Embrace your unique path and timing.

Then there were the pains of not feeling good enough and trying to achieve those superficial plateaus that society has put in place, but failing every time. And why was I failing? Because these things are not part of His design or rather they were not part of His design for my life back then. Striving for those things (marriage, children, nest, 9 to 5 job … not really on the 9 to 5) at the WRONG time was creative suicide.

Because of my wounds, the ones that were sneaking up on me even though I had pressed them down, I had gone on a rampage to control everything in my life that I could. My art was controlled. There could be no mistakes in it, which meant I hardly ever created anything. My writing had to be flawless. And because it wasn’t, because I couldn’t really control it, I began to grow duller.

STEP 3: Divorce yourself from perfectionism.

Art doesn’t thrive in a box. Creativity is organic and grows how it grows. I was trying to control all of these things because I could not control the pain that I refused to confront. But now I know better. I was blessed with the chance to journey far away from home, away from the familiar noise and get a glimpse of the creative woman I once was and am in the process of becoming.

I leave you to take another listen to the song that makes my heart dance. It’s one of my anthems. It comes from the “When I’m with You.” Album by JJ Heller. The song is called “Control.” I have let go of the control now. I have ceased to clip my own wings out of fear and the need to control something, anything, just to feel secure.

I gave Jesus permission to heal my hidden hurts and to draw out the creativity that had been backed up.

BONUS: LET GO OF THE NEED TO CONTROL!

I gave up control and I am getting to know me again and you don’t need control for that. It’s actually best to let it go.

COMMUNITY QUESTIONS:

  • What steps have you taken to walk into your creative dreams?
  • What were some things that were holding you back?
  • What advice would you share with others who have struggled to take hold of or regain their footing in conquering their dreams and goals?

Please share your wisdom and advice in the comments below.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

The Art of Tireless Pursuit: The Expression of Faith in Creativity pt 3

Faith is not only defined by giant leaps but is often reflected in the tiny steps.” ~Candice Coates

A few years back, I was sitting in front of my television, watching some show on HGTV, eating a plate full of room temperature leftovers (good leftovers nonetheless,) when a thought popped in my head:

You will never know where you are going if you never take a step.” ~Candice Coates

The thought seemed simple enough, for, as I was watching HGTV, eating room temperature leftovers, I was also thinking about this creative platform, my writing career,  my art, and all the other things I had planned to do in that year which seemed to have been getting derailed from every angle. Truth be told, I am still thinking about all of these things.

But when I first had these thoughts, I was thinking about my serial-blog-novel, ASCENSION GRAVEYARD. I will be honest, AG (for those of you who are just now tuning in, AG is my blog novel that I started writing in June of 2014…it is still a work in process and progress,) had given me some reason for creative pause.

I felt like it might have turned out to be a far longer novel than I planned for it to be, and coming to terms with that had been difficult. I have said this before. But even with my previous mention, I felt like the thought alone had caused me to stop my creative motions.

Even now, I am planning to charge at this unfinished body of work with full faith and force this summer. This will be my fourth attempt at writing this novel. If that is not fighting tirelessly, I don’t know what is. But still, there are some questions that remain unanswered, that need answering, as I continue on with my creative pursuit.

What do I want for this novel? What do I want for this creative platform, for my art, for myself? Where am I going?

I want a lot and sometimes I feel like the chasm between here and there is just so wide. But that only leads to the next question.

How do I know it is wide unless I take a step? 

It’s like looking into the rippling waters of a pool and trusting my first impression that the waters aren’t that deep when in reality they might actually go twelve feet down.

The realization that I have come to, is that none of it really matters, the true depth or my perception if I never take a step forward at all. And how will I have the faith to step? I have to want it enough and be willing to fight for it until I get it. I have to be willing to count the cost and press until I have a breakthrough. (Luke 14:28)

We all must step forward. We all must have the faith and tenacity to pursue our dreams even at the risk of error. Sure, we will reach moments where we look at how far we have come, scan over our maps and wonder if we have gone the wrong direction. That is part of the faith process.

But even if we have gone the wrong direction, that is not a cause for us to cease proceeding forward, to set up shop in the place of the unknown just for fear of having lost our way. It is all about recalibrating, getting your bearings and then stepping forward in the right direction, again.

So what you may not know where you want to end up exactly. Maybe the answers will only come once you start walking.

So many biblical pictures come to mind; Abraham being told to leave his home by God and go to a place  He (God) would show him (Genesis 12:1). God didn’t tell Abraham where exactly he was to go, he just said go, take a step of faith. Believe.

Then there is Psalm 119:105, which says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” That to me indicates that more times than not the steps ahead of our current footfalls are shrouded in the dark, but we have got to take another step to discover that which lays hidden from view.

For me, I have just got to keep pressing forward, keep stepping through the darkness and trusting the Light to make my way plain. If I want ICFTS to flourish and to nurture the creative growth of myself and others, then I’ve got to keep seeking the Lord for answers to creative questions and sharing what I find.

If I want my art to stretch itself out and grow, then I have got to give it a platform to do so. If I want my writing career to take off, then I have got to keep writing. I have to take steps and keep stepping after that. And I have to have the confidence in the Lord that HE is guiding me and has made room for me for the times that I stumble.

 “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” ~HEBREWS 10:35-36

No matter how big or small the step you take toward accomplishing your dream, celebrate the courage that you displayed in the step that you took and the ones that are sure to follow.

Each stone you put forth is one more to add to the foundation of your future. Be grateful for your progress and keep moving forward no matter how long it takes! Keep stepping, tenaciously in your creative journey and see how the Lord honors that faith.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow wearyand lose heart. ~HEBREWS 12:1-3

So getting back to the original thought I had, it is true that we will never know where we are going if we never take the first step…but that is only if you plan on going nowhere.

Press forward. Keep dreaming. And keep seeking.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

 

The Art of Being Curious: The Expression of Faith in Creativity pt 2

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~Walt Disney

Question. Wonder. Think. Discover. All of these words have one specific thing or root, in common, and that is curiosity.

I don’t know exactly what comes to mind for you when you think of the word, curiosity, but for me, the image of a child appears. Why? Because children have this uncanny, unwavering courage or faith to seek with the expectation to discover.

They have a unique boldness that enables them to try new things in order to arrive at an intended result. As a result, they grow and develop beyond their previous state only to repeat the creative cycle of curiosity again.

Children embody the purity of grace to use their curiosity to be exceptionally creative, and thusly, successful. (I mean, have you seen videos of toddlers using the family dog as a ladder to open the fridge to get snacks? If that isn’t a success, I don’t know what is.)

Challenges in and of themselves, are never roadblocks for children. Instead, they are the catalyst for curiosity. This genesis of curiosity in the face of a problem links itself with incredible faith and transforms into tenacious action and thusly growth.

FAITH FUELED BY CURIOSITY 

A child encounters a ‘problem’. They become curious. They search for solutions using creativity. And then they take action applying that creativity fueled by faith for desired results. They believe (operate in faith) that what they are doing will succeed, will bear fruit.

In Matthew 7:7-8, our Lord Jesus says this, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Emphasis added.)

Ask. Seek. Knock. Recieve.

CREATIVE CYCLE OF CURIOUS FAITH: A LESSON FROM MOSES

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” And the Lord said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.….So the Lord said to Moses: “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land.  And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”Then Moses and Aaron did so; just as the Lord commanded them, so they did. And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh. ~EXODUS 3:1-10; 7:1-7 NKJV

Here we find the Prophet Moses about his daily business when he sees something curious (the burning bush)  and begins to ask questions and seek out answers (why is the bush burning).

Upon further investigation of what sparked his curiosity, he is directed by God to go forth and do some knocking (tell Pharoah to let the Children of Israel go) and thusly receive what he requested, which was what God had promised Abraham over 400 years prior to that moment (GENESIS 15:13-15.)

As a result of this cycle, Moses, and a great multitude of people, not to mention those of Egypt experience divine change. Moses is elevated, the Children of Israel are liberated, and the Egyptians receive revelation, that there is no God but the God of Israel, all because of on curious moment and a question about a burning bush.

ASK

As creatives and people of faith, we have to embody the childlike confidence and boldness to ask questions and continuously operate in our curiosity. We have to have the courage to face the problems or obstacles that we encounter.

You’ve heard the proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Necessity suggests there is a need or a problem that needs solving. We generally see necessity when we take the time to be curious about what is in front of us.

What is the need or problem that you are facing? It could be something as simple as trying to find a better way to sweep dust into your dustpan without dust-bunnies clinging to the broom bristles. (I hate that!) Maybe you’ve dreamed up a few ideas for a solution, but what do you do next? You seek creative ways to use them.

SEEK

Look for ways to make those visions and ideas a reality. Research what others have tried, learn from those who’ve gone before you. Ask those you know what they think about the ‘problem’ at hand. Search out wisdom. Pray for wisdom (JAMES 1:5).

KNOCK

Put your findings into creative action. Faith takes steps. Faith is a verb.

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” ~JAMES 2:18

A good idea is great on paper but it is even better in reality. In order for your creative idea to become a reality, it must be accomplished through faith. You won’t move without it.

RECEIVE 

If I have learned nothing else in my walk with Christ, it is that He often shows me problems because He also wants to give me the solutions. I just have to be willing and curious enough to seek Him and search out the answers.

Moses had to do the same.

Your act of curious knocking may not get the ‘door’ to your solution to open on the first try. It may not even get the door to open on the first seventeen tries, but if the Lord has led you to the door, He definitely intends for it to be opened.

Consider that there is a greater glory connected to the multiple attempts to solving your creative problem. The Lord pretty much told Moses this very thing, warning him that even though He was sending Moses to Pharaoh, and that he would let the Children of Israel go, there was going to require several encounters with the man before the deed was actually done, and all for glory. (EXODUS 7:1-7)

But in the end, the door would be opened and the promise would be received. This promise holds true for you and me today.

Keep holding onto your faith, and keep your eyes fixed with curiosity. You may be one burning bush away from something spectacularly creative!

*How has curiosity played a role in your creativity as well as your faith? Talk about it in the comments below.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

The Art of Being Happy: The Expression of Faith in Creativity pt 1

A child can teach an adult three things: To be happy for no reason, to always be curious, and to fight tirelessly for something.” ~Paulo Coelho

THE HAPPY WISDOM OF CHILDREN…

Author, Paulo Coelho, hit the nail on the head with this simple yet powerful description of the wisdom of children. It puts me in the mind of what our Savior, King Jesus said to His disciples, in regard to children and faith, in Matthew 18:3, “…and [Jesus] said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

Here, the Lord is telling adults what it would take to walk in the fullness of His redemption, to not just be redeemed, but to take hold of the authority and power redemption brings, and that would require the faith of a child.

Children have the ability to place unmerited trust in their parents. They believe when dad says he is taking them to Disney World. They believe that when mom says there are no monsters under the bed, that there are no monsters under the bed. They leap from great heights, heights that would give most adults vertigo, trusting without a doubt that the arms of their loved one will catch them without fail.

This is the faith that the Lord asks of us and encourages us to embrace once again.

For many of us, deciding to allow our creative passion to no longer lay dormant or to cease to be a hobby, but to transform into our main source of income, requires a great deal of faith.

Most of the time the decision made is often the easiest hurdle to leap over. Maintaining the glow of a job-well-done, or a-good-choice-made is something else entirely.

You see, when we decided to become ‘serious’ about our creative passion, we are, by faith, opening doors to another level of reality. We are embracing the monotony of taxes if we are creating products or services. We are choosing to place ourselves on the stage for social criticism. We are choosing to accept boundaries in order to better guide and maintain successful ventures.

We are, in a word, choosing to ‘adult’ while fully embracing our creative passion.

The question that remains, while we are having to now juggle the new demands our creative growth requires, is are we choosing to be happy in the process?

CHOOSING TO BE HAPPY…FOR NO REASON

Applying childlike faith to our creative growth requires the courage to be happy in all seasons. What does this mean? It means that you are not allowing circumstances to rob you of what matters most. You are not allowing a seemingly unsolvable problem to take your joy from you.

It’s saying ‘this’ may be happening, but I choose to be happy because…or I choose to be happy anyway.

Maybe you start your blog and you don’t gain the following that you initially dreamed of even though you’ve applied the rules that you learned from blogging-gurus. You have the choice to either bemoan your low following or to be grateful for the audience that you have.

Or maybe you attract a few nagging comment-trolls. You can either wallow in the negativity of the ‘haters,’ or choose to celebrate the faithful who are blessed by what you are sincerely offering.

Maybe you didn’t anticipate how lacking in excitement filing quarterly taxes can be. You have the choice to groan about the process or be happy that you even have sales to file taxes on.

I could go on and on with many examples but the point is we need to choose to be happy…always.

Happiness effects the quality of our creativity, the quality of our presentation, the quality of our lives. Choosing happiness is to commit to being satisfied with where you are and what you have. It’s choosing to celebrate the ‘likes’ and kind words of readers over those of critics.

It’s choosing to see the good in your process and current place in your progress even as you strive to move forward to your desired destination.

I am sure that if you grew up anywhere near a church you’ve heard that that shortest verse in the bible is ‘Jesus wept.” Well, there is another verse that matches it in length (at least in English…I haven’t checked the Greek.)

REJOICE ALWAYS,” ~I THESSALONIANS 5:16

No matter where you are in your in your creative journey, take the advice of children and choose to be happy…for no reason…always. There is certainly so much more ahead of you if you keep pushing forward, but there is so much worth celebrating even in the now.

Choose happy.

*In what ways have you had to grapple with happiness or the lack thereof as you’ve journeyed in your creativity? Talk about it in the comments below.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Learning as You Go: The Art of Having A Teachable Heart

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” ~PABLO PICASSO

We’ve all heard the blessed saying, “Vision is 20/20 in hindsight.” More times than not, it is used to buffer the harsh blows of bad decisions made. But what the phrase is really speaking to is the ability to truly learn from what has already taken place and glean something of value from it in order to create a better present and future.

Gleaning value is never a negative thing, just like looking back doesn’t have to be as a result of a bad choice.

The art of learning and growing is mastered by the ability to take stock of what has taken place behind us, what is currently unfolding, and having the ability to discern possible outcomes in our pending futures.

Part of growing is seeing where we have made our mistakes, where we could have done better, and applying that knowledge to future acts for improvement.

When we pause to assess our current places, we are better equipped to create or continue with our plans and goals for our future. Using the tools of hindsight, as well as her sister, foresight, gives us the gift of recalibration.

Practicing these two things is like using our GPS. Every now and again we get off track and slowly coast off course. Pausing to practice foresight and hindsight will give you the insight to know how you need to readjust your position in order to better aim for and hit your desired targets.

The thing about being a Creative, especially if you are starting something new, is having to:

  • Resist the urge to jump ahead/ skip steps in the process
  • Resist the urge to not move until you have everything ‘perfectly’ mapped out
  • Resist the urge to ignore the voices of those who have been where you desire to go

JUMPING AHEAD IN THE PROCESS

Anytime you make the decision to leap over steps, you are asking to get bruised shins. I don’t care how agile or athletic you believe yourself to be, every one of us has fallen at least a time or two when we’ve jumped steps. And do I really need to say that we have all regretted the consequences, especially when we know they could have been avoided?

Here is the truth. Learning is going to take time. Growth is going to take time, but time is all its truly going to take in the end.

There are reasons we are made to learn how to do things, step by step. It enables us to become better acquainted with what we are working with so that we have the knowledge and understanding to know how to take what we’ve learned and soar beyond limitations.

When we learn the steps, then we truly know how to skip over them in the future.

NO MAP IS GOING TO BE PERFECT

To wait until everything is ‘perfect’ is to make a conscious decision to never move at all. To never do a thing.  This is why we have our friends foresight and hindsight, they act as our margins in our process.

The reality is, in life (our creative journies) you are going to slip and stumble, same as you did when you were learning how to walk for the first time.

The process of doing so didn’t look perfect. Often times you used what was available to help you on your path of growth (tables, furniture, the leg of your parent), but your destination always remained true, and that was to be able to walk.

Take what tools you have now and step forward on your path and make the necessary calibrations as you go!

PUT YOUR LISTENING EARS ON

There is nothing quite as unfortunate as watching someone with potential fail to take flight, or encounter avoidable delays in their process because they refuse to be taught by others.

It kind of puts me in the mind of a toddler who refuses to let you show them how to tie their shoes.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning….Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. ~PROVERBS 9:9; 12:1

I think the book of Proverbs makes it as plain as possible. When we have teachable hearts, when we allow others to instruct us in our way, we grow wiser and increase in learning.

In other words, your potential becomes powerful!

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” ~PSALM 15:22

The converse to that truth is that to reject instruction/correction is to prove yourself…stupid.  Sounds harsh, but harsher still is having to look back at our lives through the lenses of regret because we refused to be shown the way.

Being a Creative is such an inherent blessing, one that shouldn’t be treated as common. Deciding to learn all that we can as we create is the purest way to show our thanks and gratitude to the Lord God Jesus Christ, Who created us to be creative in the first place, and that begins with having a teachable heart.

*What are some ways that hindsight and foresight have helped you in your creative process? Share your wisdom and grace in the comment section below.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

Stumbling Through the Process: The Art of Fearless Creativity

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” ~Thomas A. Edison

Scrolling through Instagram, I happened upon a quote that said something like, “Even when I stumble I am one step closer.”I’m not certain if those are the exact words, but that was the essence of the quote.

What moved me most was the audacity of the words, the blatant courage to stand up with mud on your face, blood on your knees, and raw palms, and still say with absolute grit, that I am closer than I was before, even if I had to fall to get here.

Creativity is much like that. It is ‘that’! It is taking the risks and continuing on, even when our confidence wavers. It is pressing on and being your own cheerleader when those who once celebrated you on the sidelines have grown quiet. It is believing, even when you are the only one left to believe.

You may be the only one that sees the value in the dream within you, but if you continue to guard your seed and care for it, it will grow to a place that others will see its fruit too.

King David of the Bible, was one who had to encourage himself when the odds had turned deathly against him.

To set the picture, he had long since been anointed the King of Israel, but found himself on the run from the ruling king at the time, Saul. Out in the wilderness, surrounded by the ‘rejects’ of society who had joined and championed him, he ended up becoming their target when their wives and children were stolen away. (I Samuel 30)

Obviously, something like this happening is a very big stumbling block, and one that doesn’t just take the wind out of your sails, but could potentially sink your ship altogether.

But the Bible says that, though distressed, David did something different. He encouraged himself in the Lord.

Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. ~I Samuel 30:6 NKJV

After having encouraged himself, even amidst the whispers of his failure, he went out, tracked down those who’d stolen the women and children, and recovered all!

What would have happened had David stayed down and not risen up in courage? What would have happened if Thomas Edison, had thrown in the towel, or the Wright brothers? We wouldn’t have welcomed the Savior Yeshua-Jesus, Who is the offspring of David. We also would have been grounded and in the dark had those other fellows given up because their first efforts had failed.

The truth of David’s experience and those of many others rings the same for us today. As we strive to achieve whatever goal or vision that burns within us, we are going to encounter challenges, we are going to make mistakes. But out of those mistakes, be they ten or 10,000, we can still have the audacity to know we are one step closer than we were before.

So, step confidently and stumble fearlessly. You gain strength and character when you get back up!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

“Anything You Can Do I Can Do”…But Why Should I?: Creating My Way

First, the title of this article is not necessarily true in and of its self, but I am trying to paint a picture with words here, so follow along, will you?

I am not sure if you are familiar with the old musical “Annie Get Your Gun” starring Betty Hutton and Howard Keel. In the movie, there is a song that they sing to each other. It’s more two people shooting arrogant verse at each other as if they are bullets. “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better than you.

As creatives, we are all looking for our own place in the world, our own voice. Even when and while we are inspired by and appreciate the expressions of others, we can sometimes find ourselves looking at fellow creatives with competitive eyes. “I can do that and I can do it better. Maybe I should try.

Being human, no matter what we are aiming to do, we can all go ahead and admit we’ve  done that once or twice. 

In an older post, I quoted Octavia E. Butler on how she became a science fiction writer. (Did I mention she is the winner of the Hugo Award and Nebula Awards?) Anyhow, she said that when she was twelve years old she watched a dreadful science fiction flick. It was so bad that she was determined to write “good” science fiction. And she did, obviously.

…I have to make art that I care about not just art that I can make. ~Candice Coates

But her attitude was “I can do better than that.” And that attitude paid off. (If you have not read any of her work, check out Wild Seed.) The thing is, not only did she set out to write ‘better’ science fiction, but she did it her way, in her own voice, without competing with the voices that were already out there.

Since ICFTS began, I have been on a constant journey to identify my voice as an artist. Truth be told, I have been on this search since I have been an artist. I have always been very eclectic. But one thing that has come to mind with all of this is that I have to make art that I care about not just art that I can make.

As I have said for years, just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. That is when you get stuck in ruts of hollow, soulless work, be it writing, visual art, whatever it is. Always create what you care about.

I am on a hunt to find what it is that I care about. I love doing oil paintings, I love writing (writing will ALWAYS be my thing. I love to tell a story.) but with visual art, it just all depends.

I find that even with oil painting, though I have a talent for it,  I am exploring more pencil work, with ink and colored pencils. And there is always the option of mixed media illustration.  There are so many options.

…just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.” ~Candice Coates

I remember, years ago, in undergrad during a departmental review, my professors telling me “All your work is amazing, Ms. Coates, but it looks like the work of twenty different artists.”

On one hand, this is not a bad thing at all. It’s like being multilingual. I speak twenty different artistic languages. On the other hand, it begs the question, are you perfectly fluent in any of them? Jack or rather Jacqueline of all trades and master of…only a few.

 

 

 

We need to create on purpose, with purpose.”

CREATING WITH CONSIDERATION

There are 3 verses that come to mind in this regard. I will pluck at each. One is Philippians 4:13,I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

It is comforting to know that if I set myself to do things that He, Christ Jesus, has placed in my heart to do, that no matter what, if I trust Him, He has given me the strength to do them.

I want to make art. He has given me the gift to do so and also the strength for it.

I Corinthians 10:23,You say, “I am allowed to do anything”–but not everything is helpful. You say, “I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is beneficial.

With the creative strength and gift given unto me, I need to operate in wisdom. So what I can, sculpt. I don’t feel ANYTHING when I am sculpting apart from a loss of time. Dash the great reviews of my audience. (Just using sculpting as an example.)

Where is the benefit of doing something just because you can? You won’t benefit from my efforts and in the long run, no one else will either. The work is void of any life because your heart was not in it. This is arbitrary actions at its best.

Both of these verses bring me to Isaiah 30:21,and your ears hear a word behind you, saying “This is the Way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or whenever you turn to the left.

BE CREATIVE, NOT COMPETITIVE

What is the point? The point is not to be arbitrary, not to be competitive. Art, to me, creation and creativity, is sacred. It needs to be treated with respect and care. We need to create on purpose with purpose. Not in a way to “out do” the person next to us. There has to be meaning involved. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

In conjunction with this, we should not only create what we care about, but we should create on subjects or themes that we care about.  If you are not interested in what you are doing your work “on” you are still going to get the same empty results, a pretty picture with no life to it, even if you are doing it in a medium that you love.

My creative path is still winding forward. I am discovering more about me and what I want out of my career as a visual artist. I am ever on the hunt to uncover my “niche” and voice.

But even where I stand now,  I can be confident in creating what I am curious about and care about, and leave all the competitive  “I can do better than you” mess behind me. And best of all, so can you!

*This article was originally published on February 12th, 2014 & Updated February 19th, 2018.

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

*Do you ever feel like you could be making better use of your creative time, or that you’ve lost yourself in a creative competitive race? Talk about it in the comments below.

The Call to Create: Taking the Steps to Walk in Your Vision

I had the pleasure last month of seeing a meme on social media that said something like, “My 2018 begins in February. January was just the free-trial month.” I, like you, I am sure, smiled at the sentiment.

No, we don’t really get to have free-trial periods for our civil new years, but we do get to take some time to plan out what we want to see in the months to come.

For many around me, January came with a punch that was comparable to galeforce winds. Many had continuous battles with sicknesses passed from family member to family member as if they were sharing trading cards. Some felt defeated by the reminder of failed goals that seemed to follow behind them like cans tied to their legs with strings. Many felt overwhelmed and disappointed that the ringing of the midnight bell did not wipe away the heavy demands that were still weighing on them from the year past.

Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

But one thing remained the same through the smoke, and that was the desire for change.

I believe that all of us are aching to create, to do something that makes our soul sing and shine like the sun with a glow and warmth all its own. I believe every person reading this, has a dream that is worth pursuing, no matter how big or small.

We are all created in the image of the Master Creator, Jesus (Genesis 1:27). Our need to see something born from our imaginations is embedded deep within our spiritual DNA and roles and kicks inside of us like a baby eager to break forth from their mother’s womb.

Many of us have dared, in the past, to take steps to bring life to our dreams, only to lose momentum along the way, direction, or focus. Life’s demands have acted as roadblocks diverting our creative flow into the drudgery of the mundane. We stop creating. We stop dreaming. We stop living our identities.

But the glory is, we can begin again.

My prayer for this 2018 year is for each and every one of us to dig our toes in the soil of purpose and let them take root. I pray that this year is the start of a not another 365-day calendar of empty plans and vague goals, but that it will be the catalyst to bring real creative and life change for you.

YOUR CREATIVE TOOLKIT 

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“Get yourself a journal!” I know. I know. It almost seems like a ‘fad’ similar to the unicorn trend that is overtaking just about every industry out there. But I promise this is a powerful tool.

Why do you need a journal? For several reasons:

  1. Keep track of your ideas: There is nothing like capturing a creative moment as it comes and there is nothing like paper… but an electronic journal like EVERNOTE works well too. The point is, our brains can only hold so much content without things becoming a tangled mess. If you want to see progress, you need to make sense of your creative chaos and a journal will help with that.
  2. Keep track of your progress and take note of changes that need to be made: Vision is indeed 20/20 in hindsight. Being able to look back on your progress and see what works for you and what doesn’t will help you build the creative momentum you need to keep pursuing your dream.
  3. Put into word and prayer how you are feeling as you go: I get it. This feels personal. Well, it is. Being a creative is personal. It is more than just writing a story or composing a song or even baking cookies that are so good they cause riots! What drives you to do these things is born of something personal to you. In order to wield that power to its fullest, you’ve got to get to know it. Pray on it. Meditate on it. Put it into words.

“Get yourself a planner!” 

Organization is paramount to successfully executing a goal.  No one goes on vacation without having a plan of action first. Even being creative requires that.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER AS YOU CREATE

Over the next few weeks, I want to dig deep and tackle some questions that I’ve faced in my creative journey. I invite you to consider them and dare I say, journal about them.

  • Can I be me? Can I be original and authentically me as a creative?
  • Can I do ‘it’ my way?
  • Can I make mistakes and still be confident as I create?
  • Can I learn as I go/Am I teachable?

No matter how your 2018 began, there is still so much, not only left to the year, but left to our lives. Every day, every step is an adventure waiting to happen. Let’s step out together!

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!

So You’ve Finished NaNoWriMo…Now What?: Words of Advice & Flash Fiction #Writing #WritingAdvice #MondayMotivation

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Slow Cooked

*Original story posted for Week 54 of Battle of the Blogs in 2016.

Her fingertips feathered the keys of her keyboard, driven by the ache to write something, anything. Words, for that still, silent moment, apart for the whistling of the wind outside her window, seemed to elude her.

She drummed her too-long fingernails against her writing desk and let out a frustrated sigh. She knew what she wanted to say, knew how to fix the mistake that was before her, she just had to muster her patience and allow the words to flow forth in their own time.

Writing from scratch and revisions never came in a microwavable package. The finished product always promised to be good, better than good, but it required the stamina of a crock pot, slow-cooked until the words fell from the pages into the reader’s imagination like succulent meat dripping from their bones.

As if savoring the aroma that wafted from her imagination, she closed her eyes and smiled as the scene played out upon her eyelids. Yes, she had it now. Her fingers, set at the ready, danced across the keyboard with the familiar music that delighted and sped up the beating of her heart into a glorious tattoo.

Like feathers upon the wind, the story floated around her, until the scene was finished, the revisions were done, and the belly of her muse was full as if from a savory meal cooked to perfection.

THE END…BUT NOW WHAT?

Many of you fantastic creatives set out over the month of November to create a literary tome of excellence. You set up your outlines, isolated plot points, and then when the first of the month hit, so too did your fingers hit the keys on your keyboards.

The adventure was fruitful, some days were more exhilarating than others, but still, you managed to reach novel status or at least get pretty close to it.

But now what? Now that NaNoWriMo has come and gone, what are you to do now?

  1. Keep Writing: Just like with the character in the short story above, you have to keep writing your story. If you didn’t reach 50k words in the allotted time that is okay. Every story, every piece of art grows at its own pace. Honor that, but do keep writing.
  2. Acknowledge your first draft for what it is: Novel status achieved or not, there is still worthy work ahead of you. Microwaves are good in the kitchen on an emergency basis, but microwave works of fiction aren’t good anywhere. What I mean is that you still need to ‘work’ your story into perfection even after you write the final words ‘THE END’. That moment is actually the beginning of really turning your WIP into a masterpiece
  3. Give yourself a deadline to finish the first draft: My first go at NaNoWriMo took me a little less than 30 days to hit novel status and 96 days to complete the story as a whole. For me (with many of the stories I’ve written…and like you, need to polish for publication) 90 days is the sweet-spot. There is less pressure to continue with manic writing, but enough of a push to keep you focused.
  4. Give yourself breathing room and time to mentally regroup: I recommend writing until your story is actually finished BUT sometimes, some narratives are so complex that your mind and muse simply need a break. Take a few weeks off if you need to. Either remove yourself from the story completely for a spell, or give yourself distance but allow your mind to gently work through the conflicts that are still ahead.
  5. BONUS ENJOY THE ROAD AHEAD: After completing 30 days of writing, you’ve earned it! Give yourself a pat on the back for coming this far. It was no small thing, but you did it!

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” ~ Helen Keller

~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER!