Collaborative Community

giraffe 4Over the last eight months, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with three talented poets on a illustrated poem, work in the Alberta Phonetics Lab, write and illustrate a book about giraffes on skates for my niece and nephew, help my dad finish painting my grandpa’s truck, and spend most of my summer focusing on editing my novel. All of these opportunities have reinforced for me to joys, frustrations and sorrows of being a creative person.

Whether I am writing with other people, looking for missing truck parts, or making myself write and edit a certain amount during a week, creativity and completing projects is not easy. It is enormously rewarding, but never easy.

Collaborative art and creativity are both more rewarding and more difficult than solo work. Scheduling, creative differences and interpersonal communication make each collective project more challenging, but they also give you the external stimuli and impetus that is hard to find internally when you are working alone. Putting the truck together with my dad, sister, brother-in-law and uncle was the highlight of my summer. It was so much fun to see the completion of the project and to work with people I love. This is why I believe community is so important. Although the majority of my novel is solo work and alone am responsible for completing it, having my family ask me how it is going is a good encouragement. Having my sister knock on my door while I am writing to give me chocolate because I had told her I was struggling, is a wonderful blessing and encouragement. For those of you who are shocked that I now eat chocolate, I will let you know that I am still picky and only like expensive chocolate. Also, I still do not drink coffee, not that they are in anyway similar other than both being caffeinated.

It is the little moments of thought and interaction that create community. In the same way it is those moments where ideas, words and character come together and flow onto the page that good writing happens. There is no way of knowing when that is going to be, but if you are not trying to write you are more likely to miss the opportunity. If you are not admitting to others your struggles they cannot encourage you and if you are not forcing yourself to write even when nothing of any worth ends up on the page, you are likely to miss those moments when you actually can write.

Like all creative forms, the hardest part of writing is making yourself write and the hardest part of community is remembering to notice and talk to the people around you.

Community is important for everyone, but I think it is essential for creative people. Even if like me you tend to create in solitude, having the encouragement and support of a community is very important. I want to encourage all creative people and those of you who know creative people, to be intentional about being in community.

I am greatly looking forward to collaborating once again in a poetic community this fall.


Out of the Shadows


This picture sums up how I am feeling. As final projects, final papers and final exams pile up, it feel like I am stuck in the shadows of a Siq, knowing I have to move forward, but not quite able to see what awaits me when I reach the end. However, like Petra, the destination will be worth the trek, and the walk is interesting and creative if a little stressful. Thankfully, I am not alone, I am in a community of people who are either in the same shadows or who have been there before. Community helps put everything into perspective, and means I do not have to walk alone.

10 Things I Learned From Doing a Narrative Contest.

This last month I entered my first writing competition. It was a learning experience. I had never written a short story before, so that was new. I am in the middle of a full course load and still working on my novel, so I had to be very intentional with my writing. After I was done, I made a list to help me consolidate the experience, and learn for next time. Here it is.

1) Before beginning: Read all the instructions including the application. There may be a hidden clause that is important.
2) Look at the time and set reasonable goals for each stage: first draft, second draft, final draft. Most importantly, meet your goals.
3) Been done the submission including application and final draft a week early, but do not submit until the night before. Give yourself the grace period to make changes.
4) If possible, wait for it to be good, sleep on it and then submit. Do not send it off as soon as it is done, and you are sick of it.
5) Relax: Tension makes mistakes. When in doubt, change it, but keep the old draft somewhere, reread it after a bit of time has passed, maybe the next day. If you are still in doubt, change it back.
6) The final draft should be shorter, not necessarily than the first draft, but than the last proceeding draft. If you haven’t gotten to the place where you are removing unnecessary words, clauses, and sentences, its not the final draft.
7) Reread your opening and conclusion before submitting. They are what your reader will remember, make sure they are the best they can be.
8) Do at least one edit bottom up: One paragraph at a time, starting at the end.
9) Try to read what you wrote, not what you think you wrote: esp. tense, spelling, missing words and grammar.
10) Have fun! – Learn and give yourself a break.

Its not on this list, but the other thing I learned, is that you need to take chances. Even if you don’t succeed, at least you tried, and you learned something.

What can Doctor Who teach us about appreciating art?

So I admit it… I’m a nerd. I like Star Trek, Doctor Who and all those TV shows that explore the fantastical with the scientific. One episode of Doctor Who in particular caught my attention. It shows the impact encouragement makes.

My passion is to love and support artists and creators of various kinds. In this particular episode The Doctor travels back in time to visit Vincent Van Gogh – arguably one of the greatest artists of all time. What I like the most is the end of the episode (click here for 3 minute video clip). The Doctor and his companion Amy take Vincent to an exhibition of his work in modern day Paris. The effect on the artist is beautiful. The words of encouragement spoken by the art historian have a profound affect on Van Gogh.

So my charge to you is this… Go and encourage an artist in your life. Do it frequently. Write a fan letter to a musician you love. Call up your friend who is struggling to get her work out there and tell her you see her and what she is creating.

Just a few words of encouragement have a deep impact on those who create, those who pour their lives and hearts into making beauty and sharing it with us. Go on… Encourage someone today.

Settling In

I have lived in Edmonton for a little over a month. Midterms are coming up, and I found a church. It has been exhilarating and exhausting settling into a new community. It is amazing how quickly time flies. On the same hand, how easy it is to fall back into old routines, some good and some bad.

Spiritually and creatively, this relates to setting time aside for God and for art. Since I have a major project I am working on it has been relatively easy to make time for art. I also, started carving time in my schedule before I moved.

However, taking time with God has been harder. Being more aware of his presence in everyday moments has helped, but I still find it difficult to set aside time specifically to meditate on his Word and be in his presence. I always find it a struggle to maintain an organic and interactive time with God. I tend to pendulum between a legalistic rigorous schedule and no planned interaction, both of which are spiritually exhausting. Maybe an artistic component will help with this, as well as, giving myself the freedom to not be perfect.

Is there anything new in your life? Has it changed the way you relate to others and/or God? Or is the change only external and you are the same internally? Are you happy with the changes or lack of change?

naming our strengths

I was bewailing my latest poor job interview to my mom over the phone.  Like any good parent, she listened, gave me some tough love about how I could do better, and then said something that was encouraging.  One way to get better at interviewing, she said, is to know yourself, and in particular, your strengths.  And it makes sense: if I want a job that allows me to do what I’m best at, a) I should know what that is, and b) be able to show/tell prospective employers so.

It’s not like I haven’t thought about this before.  I’ve always known that I’m a quick reader, that I’m not frightened of numbers (or big words, or strange ideas, or really anything you might find in a university class), that I relish thinking.  I know that these gifts make me unique.  But it was a surprising shift to think of those qualities as valuable, not just “I can (_insert gift_)” but “I can (_insert gift_) and it is good!”

Creativity is one of those gifts.  My expression of creativity is different than other people’s, and yet I’m coming to realize that I can bring a creative spin to projects…and that is a good thing!  Thinking about other creative friends (artists, writers, cooks, homemakers, pastors…), I wonder how much we let ourselves own and value our own creative gifts, instead of taking them for granted.  It’s hard to silence that voice of self-doubt, self-criticism, claiming that you aren’t really creative, or if you are, it’s not something that actually has value in this harsh “real world.”  But when I stop and think, I know that dreary voice is absolutely wrong!  Living creatively is what makes it possible to thrive instead of just survive in this “real world”: in the storytelling that speaks out against oppression, the art that heals wounds, the meals that bring together, the songs that speak our hearts, the thoughtful use of resources to make the world a better place.

I want to keep naming my strengths, not as a way to diminish others or deny my weaknesses, but as a first step towards giving them away in service to others.

Transforming Weakness

I have started using the calendar on my computer. I still have a paper day planner, but there are a few things I have entered in my computer. Two of them are my monthly writing club and my tri-weekly blog post. It is handy having an automatic reminder every third Tuesday or the second Saturday of the month. Unfortunately, life is not always as precise as technology. Of the eight months since I entered my writing club, this month, which happens to be the last month, was the first time that it was on the day I had planned.

In a similar vein, yesterday, when I got my reminder for this blog, I was annoyed. I didn’t want to write a blog. I’m moving in two days, I have a test in three, and my family has come to visit. The last thing I wanted to do was blog. However, tonight, I opened my computer and caught up on reading the two blogs that I follow. This one and Whispers of Encouragement. It was interesting to see that both of them talked about life being overwhelming and God being sufficient.

I was encouraged. I know that life can be hectic and we should not be slaves to our schedules, but I also think that sometimes it is good to have deadlines to strive for. Like Christine has been doing with Ignatian examen, I think that routines are important to stability. At this point, most of my routines have to do with writing and learning Japanese, but I would like to find more creative spiritual habits that help me grow.

One of the disciplines I do try and maintain is listening when my computer reminds me every three weeks that I need to blog. I don’t always need the reminder, and sometimes I look forward to it. I usually, even read Christine and Jill’s thoughts on their weeks, but there are times when I am just not interested. However, every time I do sit down to write, I find I have something to say. Whether, it is profound, or simple, at least once a month I take the time to think about my life, creativity and my relationship with God.

What are you dreading, that you should maybe do anyway?