Six Steps for Creative Ignition

The clock is ticking my friends. It’s long past time to do your work. You were put here with a purpose and if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. So what is it only you can do?

It may be dormant, but it’s in there. Let’s get busy.

1. Go silent. Then ask. Stop right now. Close the door. Get quiet for 15 minutes and answer these:

  • What makes my heart beat fast?
  • What could I do forever even if I didn’t get paid?
  • “God, what do I love?”

Forget the income potential, just write your answers. They are very likely what God needs you to do here, and if you have the courage to pursue them, the results may surprise you. As Madeleine L’Engle said in Walking on Water, “Listen to the silence. Stay open to the voice of the Spirit. Slow me down Lord.”

2. Own it. Begin treating that gift with a little respect. I wonder if Seth Casteel ever said, “Well this is kinda silly, but I like to take underwater photographs of dogs chasing a tennis ball.” He probably doesn’t think it’s silly now. His goofy dogs landed on the NYT Bestseller list. Find and hang out with people like Seth, let their creativity and enthusiasm encourage you to find your own.

3. Go Outside. Engage your world. People are doing interesting and lively things all over the world, go find them. Yes, it is  easier to stay home and watch Duck Dynasty but does it make you more creative and interesting? Probably not, yoga classes and book readings and world travel require effort but the payoff is engaging other humans full of interesting stories. Despite some evidence to the contrary, live humans still deliver better than Facebook and Twitter.

4. Write three small, 12-month goals related to your gift, and stick them on the fridge. So even while fixing dinner, your mind can mull them, prompting tiny adjustments toward their fulfillment. Successful people with big, vibrant lives are often listmakers and recommend the practice. Use Quozio or Recite to make pretty lists and then post them at home and on Pinterest. (Just don’t fall down the rabbit hole and forget to do your work.)

5. Don’t just turn off the tv, turn on music you never listen to and shut the door. Tell your family you are going to paint, write, or digitize aboriginal music for an hour. As the nutty and delightful McNair Wilson says, get your family on board making a schedule that gives you an hour a day to yourself. Even if they have to do their own laundry, teach them to do it, it’s good for them. If you don’t have an hour, get up a half hour earlier and own it.

6. Apply your gift to a specific project then tell people about it. Build an airplane, write a book, paint murals and tell people, so when they ask about it, you will feel like a chump if you aren’t doing step five. Share your art as an accountability measure.

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There are 1000 more, what are some of your faves? Comment below.

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God Needs Your Art.

IMG_2321Slipping off to adult summer camp for a week is one huge benefit of being a Christian. I came home yesterday from the Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference, brimming with the joy of the Lord and holding the business cards of three agents and four publishers who asked to see my book.

I had a large time.

Mt. Hermon is a 107 year-old Christian conference center, nestled among the Redwood trees, high in California’s Santa Cruz mountains. It’s a place bent on reminding weary adults how alive and organic Jesus was when we were kids. Just breathing under those giant centurions robed in red bark is a relief I didn’t know I needed, like stepping off a crowded street into a store playing Bach.

At Mt. Hermon, Jesus is taken seriously in the best way possible.

In between pitching our stories to agents and editors, we gathered to sing and pray, remembering that while we are all building writing careers, Jesus is the foundation.

At Mt Hermon it doesn’t sound weird when strangers stop you and say: “You know you’re glowing right? The spirit of the Lord is all over you.”

Nor is it strange when someone promises to pray for you, but then rethinks it, sets down her coffee and does it on the spot, praying a rangy, open-sky prayer that echoes something you were thinking five minutes before.

At Mt. Hermon creativity is treated like the gift it is. At each gathering, the person known to be the funniest delivers announcements while some marketing-department creative explodes with a little audience-participation stage art.

IMG_2331I’ve wandered through a lot of wilderness since I decided to follow Jesus, but at Mount Hermon, I finally found the meadow I was looking for. I was perfectly myself there and perfectly peaceful at the same time. This is no small thing.

The good news is: God is no respecter of persons, so you can do it too.

All the creative energy relegated to your daydreams is there for a reason. Use it. Or as key-note speaker McNair Wilson said:

“What if you really are as magnificent as God made you to be? If you don’t do you, you doesn’t get done and God’s creation is incomplete.”

Jesus is the foundation for everything I want to build, but that wasn’t always the case. I built many high-maintenance structures without him, but they were shifty and eventually crumbled. What I’m doing now satisfies me in ways I can’t explain without crediting Jesus. He is the reason I write.

So, what are you born to do? What daydreams are trapped by your cubicle? Need some practical tools for freeing them? Mt. Hermon gave me a bunch, I’ll share next week.

Keep Working and Be Awesome.

Today, I stumbled on The Art of Non-Conformity: Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work and Travel, a blog written by writer/entrepreneur Chris Guillebeau. This guy writes 1,000 words a day, six days a week and plans to stand in the dirt of every country on the planet. He’s got 150 down.

He’s awesome and he wants you to be awesome too. So he’s published a few e-books that you can download free here!

Chris’ philosophy is this:

English: Cherry Blossom Flowers.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.

2. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.

3. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.

4. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.

I just finished 279 Days to Overnight Success which you can get here. It’s chock full of practical life advice for creative types and entrepreneurs. A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World is next.

I need people like Chris. As I grope my way into a new creative life, the shape of which I can’t quite fathom, it’s nice to hear from explorers deep in the territory. And rather than guard their trade secrets, people like Chris are wrapping them up in lovely internet packages and handing them out for free.

That trend feels Christ-like and I support it. So I’m spreading the goodness.

Happy Saturday.