Book Review: Called to Create

As a creator and aspiring entrepreneur who gets to work a day job supporting other creators, I was so excited to get my hands on Jordan Raynor’s book Called to Create, out this month from Baker Publishing.

Raynor presents the biblical case for creators, innovators, and risk takers to fulfill their callings not just in service, but in the marketplace.

I have been blessed to be part of creative Christian community that has fostered many of the concepts Raynor discusses as I’ve developed as a writer and content creator. Many are not as fortunate because, frankly, the evangelical church is not always the most encouraging a creative pursuits. The misconception that to serve God, you must be in full time ministry is tossed out Raynor’s front door on it’s ear before his introduction really gets rolling. What replaces it is the beautiful truth that God is a creator and therefore, we are also called to create.

Raynor writes in a simple and to-the-point fashion that can easily encourage and equip those for whom the discussion of creativity and innovation are not as encouraged, especially from a Christian perspective.

I thoroughly enjoyed the interviews and input from the likes of classic writers as well as successful business people and entrepreneurs. C.S. Lewis and Chick-Fil-A in the same book is always a win.

The book is broken up into four parts: calling, creating, challenges, and charge. Each unpacks a discussion about the philosophy and reality of the creative life. He addresses the need for risk-takers and innovators from the church. The book is a call to rally, renew, and flourish as artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and world-changers. I was encouraged and empowered by Raynor’s book and I am so thankful.

I would recommend Called to Create for those who don’t yet have or are looking to foster a creative Christian community. I also think Raynor speaks firmly but encouragingly to the struggling innovator.

Filled with inspiration, experience, and evidence, Called to Create will have you ready to dig your hands into your next project.

Read an excerpt here.

Get your copy here.

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A Blessing for Writers

I spent my weekend at the Breathe Christian Writers Conferenceone of my favorite things EVER. I had the immense privilege of writing a blessing and prayer for this community that has given me so much and I just wanted to share it with you in lieu of a blog post today. I think this is something that can bless all creatives out there.

Last year we closed the conference with a statement by James Scott Bell:
“We are the storytellers. We bring the light.”

This year has proven time and time again that we are still called to this. These are dark and divisive times where the light is more desperately needed than ever before.

Each of us was called to this noble task ahead. How do we know we are called? We have been saved. And we are also called to share what we have been graciously given.

To adapt the words of Alvin Plantinga for the sake of us writers:
“We who are Christians and propose to be writers must not rest content with being writers who happen, incidentally to be Christians; we must strive to be Christian writers. We must therefore pursue our projects with integrity, independence, and Christian boldness.”

This is the charge I give to you, writers!

May we continue to encourage one another onward:

To create with integrity—knowing that to create costs, but that we have been called to create nonetheless.

To create with independence—knowing God has given us work that only we can do with the experiences and burdens he has bestowed to each of us.

But most of all to create with Christian boldness—to know that whether we write for an audience of believers or not, or even an audience of one, we have not been given a spirit of timidity, but one of courage.

We go out from this place to tell the truth in our stories, poems, songs, essays, scripts, letters, emails, even our ephemeral social media musings. We go out to invite the world to sit at the feet of our God and listen.

All great liturgies end with a sending, so may I pray with you to send you out?

 

Lord,

I thank you for this gathering where we may join together and affirm the gifts and words you have given to us. You have placed each and every person in these seats with great purpose and I thank you for the call you have placed on these lives.

May these souls leave here encouraged, connected to one another and even more deeply connected with you.

As we journey from here, do not let us shy away from the words you have given us to write, but instead let us push past resistance and sit down to our desks, our notepads, our computers and let us write. Let us write with the boldness you have granted each of us. Let us remember that courage follows obedience and not the other way around.

May the fruit of our worship and our writing be that which gathers, unites, and blesses.

Let us be a body that encourages one another when the truth seems too heavy, when the audience seems non-existent, when the deadline looms too quickly, when the enemy shouts too loudly, and when the words seem too few. Let us build one another up, pushing one another toward you—the giver of words, author of our lives and creator of the ultimate story.

We write because you write. We create because you create. We tell because you have saved.

Protect us as we leave this place. Give our words a place to land. Give our hearts a glimpse of home.

We thank you again, Father.

In your name,

Amen

Emerge

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So there’s been some radio silence on the blog. It has been for good reason. I’ve been involved in multiple weddings this summer and am still trying to meet a November deadline for the first draft of my novel.

It’s been a busy season and I am realizing the value of self-care, not only physically and emotionally, but creatively too.

The sermon at my church a couple weeks ago was extremely encouraging. I’ve heard Don Perini give this talk a couple times and I wanted to pass it along that you may be encouraged as well.

Enjoy!

When the Going Gets Tough

For the past week, working on my novel has brought a sensation similar to extensive dental work. My 500 word goal, once easy to surpass, has become difficult to come close to.

I stayed up late the other night, just trying to force a few words down, but it was such a struggle. I was exhausted after a hundred words or so. And then something occurred to me that hasn’t yet in the course of writing this novel:

Why don’t I just give up?

What scared me most about the question was not that I asked it, but that it made sense.

Things have gotten hard. Life has gotten busy. My room has become a mess.

I’ve let so many things distract me, fill my time, and take my energy that I have not given myself any space to be creative.

It’s draining.

I have filled my time with good things, things that need to be done. But am I making time to do the work I was called to do?

Probably not.

For me, what does this mean? It means I need to be more intentional about how I spend my time. Working part-time from home, I will have to have set hours for work and set hours for writing, and I can’t take from one to give to the other. I will have to set aside moments for house work while still guarding those moments for creativity.

I also need to stop suppressing creative urges just because they are not convenient. For whatever reason, I have stopped carrying around my beloved notebook and I’m seeing how my creativity is suffering because of it. I am not providing a way to capture my ideas. That’s not fair to my work or my sanity.

So no, I am not giving up. I have made it this far and have too many cheerleaders willing to help me along. I can’t ignore either of those things. This novel will get written, but I need to make that a possibility.

Some re-prioritizing is in order.

What about you? When it gets hard to complete something that you’re passionate about, how do you push onward? I’d love to hear so please comment!

xo,
          –Lex

I No Longer Believe in Writer’s Block: Part II

So last week I discussed why writer’s block is no longer an excuse for me. So now a question has emerged that I’d like to address.

So what happens when you’re stuck?

Well, I’d like to say I don’t get stuck, but that would be a bold-faced fiction. I get stuck a lot. And usually it’s not something time will just solve like I’d like to think.

When I’ve written myself into a corner, there are usually two things causing the issue.

The first issue I have to solve when stuck is usually connected to plotting. Usually I’ve taken an easy fix to a problem or have not been true to the story. Either way, I haven’t done my job. I usually have to go back and rework a scene that was written to quickly or change a plot-line that I didn’t want to think about when I wrote it initially.

The second and more common issue is characterization. If I’m trying to make one of my characters do something the weren’t meant to do or not meant to do in that way, things seem unnatural and stilted, and harder to write. I get stuck because I’m missing something. Either a character isn’t fully fleshed out, or not being true to themselves. Sometimes I don’t have a relationship between characters fully nailed down. This takes some thought and sometimes some experimentation. Sometimes it’s even helpful to interview a character. (And no, I don’t think my characters are real people, but sometimes it’s just easier to operate under the assumption that they are when I’m working.)

Writing isn’t cheap. Making any art isn’t cheap. It takes work and sweat. It takes a bit of yourself to make anything. Usually the end benefits outweigh this cost, but while in the trenches it’s hard to see this. This is where I get tempted to give up.

Don’t give yourself that option. Know that making your art is going to cost you now, but it will be worth it to see your work completed.

I No Longer Believe in Writer’s Block: Part I

If you were to ask me a month ago what my biggest challenge with my novel was, I would have told you writer’s block.

Fast forward to now, I’d tell you that it’s me.

I’m lazy. And writing is hard!

For the past three months, I have balked from writing some hard chapters. It was easier to write a pithy blog post that didn’t mean much to me than to do the hard work of cultivating my fiction. That’s not writer’s block. That’s being a wuss.

So do I think you can get blocked while writing? Of course! but I think it’s more a creativity block that needs to be worked. In my experience, a novel is like a rubik’s cube. It needs to be worked at and arranged. It may not fit all together the first time through–that’s what revising is for. But there comes those moments where you get stuck and you need to strategize.

In fiction, you’re not only juggling words, but a plot–with multiple scenes and plot lines–and characters–lot’s of them with relationships and points-of-view and faults and conflicts–and symbolism and research. There’s a lot going on!

It’s easy to reach a creativity bump and just give up for a little bit. I am pushing myself to no longer put down the rubik’s cube, but to work with it, to think through the knots in a plot line or the issues with a character. It’s hard, but so worth the trouble.

xo,
            –Lex

The Power of Stillness

I am an introvert. I’m very comfortable with people and enjoy my time with people, so this surprises those who know me, but it’s true.

Interactions with others, though very fun, do not energize me like time alone does. I was reminded of this a couple weeks ago as I scheduled a social event every night for two weeks. By the time I was reaching the end of that time, I was finding myself drained and craving alone time…and maybe slightly on edge.
I had the privilege of going with a friend to see The Head and The Heart perform in Grand Rapids. It was a wonderful show and I’ve liked the band for a short while, so it was exciting to see them perform live.
One of their songs struck me and got me thinking of my artistic life. ‘Let’s Be Still‘ is the title track of their sophomore album and is usually interpreted as a sweet love song about a couple ignoring the pressures of life and those around them just to be together for a little bit longer.
While listening, I began to think that the song may not just be about a love story, but also an artist lamenting the pressure surrounding their work.

You can get lost in the music for hours, honey,
You can get lost in a room.
We can play music for hours and hours
But the sun’ll still be coming up soon

The world’s just spinning
A little too fast
If things don’t slow down soon we might not last.
So just for the moment, let’s be still.

An artist can get lost in their work for a time, but we have to return to reality, fulfill responsibility. Life can easily carry us away with it’s demands and distractions. It’s important to take time away from life for the sake of our art. To be still and enjoy creating. To be recharged by writing or drawing or singing or cooking or running or whatever it is you do.

I am realizing that it is important to let myself recharge–not just socially–but artistically as well.

Also, this is just a great song and a wonderful band.

From here in the stillness,
                   –Lex

Five Hundred Words

So last week, I was talking about being challenged to just write my novel.

I was talking with a writer who has written–and published/going to publish– five novels in the past year. Count them. Five! Seriously. And I’m not feeling inadequate that five is the number of years it has taken be to work on my own novel. Not at all. Me? No… Alright fine, perhaps a bit.

He not only challenged me just to write the novel–to just get it done and off my back–but to give myself a word count. I have to reach that word count every day and if I do not, I have to make myself feel really

guilty.

Seems like a good enough method.

My daily goal is at least 500 words every day. That’s 3,500 words in a week–give or take Sunday. I am excited to hold myself to this daily. It’s been so long since I’ve given myself permission to write like this! The creativity block I felt is crumbling just by giving myself the freedom to create and play with my work.

What is something you’ve been working on that you’d like to complete? What is a baby-step you can assign yourself on a regular basis to get it completed?

To my writers out there, what do you do to keep yourself motivated and writing? Any goals or tricks to make it happen for you?

Happy creating!
                 –Lex

Burn Out

Why, hello, dear reader!

I hope spring has come to you at last. Here in western Michigan, we’re enjoying a nice rain. It’s been so long since I’ve got to enjoy that sound.
Now, we must have a short discussion.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am working on a novel. Well, at least pretending to work on a novel. I haven’t been able to invest much time into it in the last couple months.
It’s been difficult to balance a blog and small groups and a writing group, and healthy living conditions as well as a novel. As much as I love blogging and interacting with all of you, I am finding myself creatively dry at the end of the day.
I was encouraged this week to just write the blasted thing. To just get it done.
My priority is to be a writer. To put this novel down. Surpassing that is being a family member and friend, a following, perhaps, being a small group leader, and lastly a clean bathroom maker. (Why does that one always come last?) A lot of these roles have been put on hold in order to keep this blog as well as some other blogging collaborations going. I need to pour my creativity into the art I have been called to make.
As a result, I cannot be as devoted to long posts and lots of social networking. (I think I can hear some of you breathing a sigh of relief…) I’m not giving up on Preppy Bohemia. Posts will still come–hopefully on a weekly basis–but for the next four or five weeks, posts will be shorter and my reply time on comments and email may be a bit more delayed. This is not a formal break, but instead, a declaration of no structure for a short time. By May, I should be recharged and ready to do this thing. In the mean time, this place my look more like a writing blog, but hang on. I promise, I’ll be back to a full range of topics shortly.
I am excited to get to writing and am so thankful to all of you for your support and understanding.
What about you? What is something you need to return to doing? What is something you may have to put down to do it?
Here’s to the journey,
                  –Lex

The Words that Killed the Critic

I’ve never been one for quotes in my writing space. Many writers live and die by the mantras surrounding their workspace, but I find it distracting for the most part. Except for one.

There are no good first drafts.
 

At first read, I guess this could be considered discouraging, but I find it really freeing. It takes out all the pressure.

No book is good the first time down. I can write whatever I must just to get it down on the page. I can deal with the mess later. Spelling and grammar? What are those? Plotting? Who needs it!

Perfectionism has been something I’ve struggled with for a while. It causes the little critic in the front of my brain to tell me all sorts of nasty things as I try to do what I’m called to.

“You aren’t making this interesting.”
“Who is going to read this?”
“What makes you think you have what it takes to write a story?”
“That’s a dumb idea. Why would you write that?”
“You suck.”
“Just stop.”

It’s enough to paralyze the best writer. And I’m just an amateur here!

When the self-talk gets to be too much, I find my mantra to be so reassuring. There are no good first drafts. Why should I try to write one when it’s not possible? What is possible is just a rough draft. Heavy on the rough. The critic has nothing on that.

When I am able to be freed from my self-critic, my creativity is able to roam free and my writing reaches places I never would have had I listened to the perfectionist in my brain. My characters can be who they are and the plot flows freely.

What encourages you in your writing? What keeps the critic at bay and the creativity in open pastures? I’d love to hear!

xo,
           – Lex