The Chain Reaction of Art in 3-D {A Less Digital Life…Day 30}

I think we all know the feeling–we go searching Pinterest for inspiration, maybe a new look for the mantle this season, and we end up coming across a pair of slouchy knee-high tan boots that make us want to go shopping, a must-try pumpkin bread recipe and a tutorial on how to make felted soap. There are a dozen or a hundred things we could be attempting, but we feel exhausted just trying to make a decision. When we do pick a project, we often end up copycatting what we find rather than letting our true art out into the world.

When creative work comes in bulk disconnected from its creator, when we see the results of someone’s labor without considering the labor itself, when we compare our own unadorned lives with all of the accessories on the screen, we find ourselves stuck in place like a feed that keeps recycling the same images again and again. That’s the Pinterest Effect.

Today, my friend Jessica is sharing about a whole different effect, one that helped her to stop pilfering away her moments pining over what she saw on Pinterest to find a better way of living. In my early days with baby Gracia, Jessica blessed me with a meal and good conversation. We took some time to swap stories about family and previous churches. When I mentioned the name of my good friend who leads worship at Jessica’s parents’ church, she sat up straight and told me how that very friend had taught her the true meaning of inspiration, unknowingly helping her to move from being a spectator to becoming a real artist. Here is her story…

As a tired and strung-out mom of two little ones, I recently I took a counter-intuitive leap, a step towards doing something that would require lots of time, effort, and energy…very limited commodities during this stage of life. I felt compelled to step off the sidelines and start actively and intentionally pursue my gifts. Continue reading

Create a Habitat and a Habit {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 20}

I’ve got the measuring tape, a few cans of spray paint, an old cabinet door frame and some plans to head to the hardware store this morning. When I snapped a photo of my desk the other day, I did a study of the still life and took note of what it was that was crowding my writing space. Much of the mess came from my son’s school papers, so I knew I needed to find a better system for managing the weekly influx. On my list for tomorrow are a peg board and hanging shelves to lasso the school stuff to the wall behind my office door.

Then there are the papers with binding, the books that I’m using in writing this series along with ones that I’ve agreed to review and others that I’m using in Bible study. I’ve hidden a whole line up of other books in a cabinet nearby, but these few I’d like to keep on hand, maybe in a basket or pretty box.

And the scraps of scribbled notes, numbers and ideas, these need a place to gather where practicality meets pleasing-to-the-eye. I’ve been on the lookout for an old-fashioned green chalkboard since I spotted the one in my friend Christie’s creative suite. I’ve shaken down every local antique store, but still no sign of one. But if we writers learn anything through our craft, it’s the value of being resourceful. I have in mind to take an old cabinet door frame with the glass removed and then to cut a piece of wood to size and spray it down with green chalkboard paint for my own take on the vintage style.

While you have your own natural design instinct, you may also benefit from the guidance of those who create inspiring spaces for a living, those who come with the resolve of the professional organizer and the heart of an artist.

My new friend Courtney, a blogger and interior designer, asks her clients to answer the following list of questions as they work on a space together:

  1. What is a typical day like in this given space? When are you most productive? If you are a morning writer, you may want to think about adding a coffee maker to the resources in your space. You may also want to have your to-do lists hidden so that your focus can be completely on the flow of words. If you write in the afternoon when strong sun glares on your screen, you may want to invest in an opaque window covering to soften the effect. If you write as the day winds down, you may want to think more about the right kind of lighting for your space.
  2. What are three of your favorite things? Courtney keeps blankets, books and flowers nearby to add her own brand of coziness to the space, making her more at ease as she works. I like antiques (anything with history or mystery), books and nature. On my window sill, I have a couple of blue Mason jars, some twig pencils and an old-timey film cartridge that doubles as a mini chalkboard. My office warms with sunlight by day, then even into night, the buttercup walls cheer on with a hint of nature.
  3. What’s your organizing style? If you like to keep things visible, you need to carve out a large work surface. If you concentrate better with supplies hidden, you’ll need to have suitable storage nearby. For me, it’s simple. I like the ugly stuff hidden and the pretty stuff on display. I have a desktop-sized chest of drawers that holds my most-used office supplies while the rest of my desk is clear to host objects that inspire.
  4. Do you prefer silence or sound as you write? If you like having music on in the background, what kind do you enjoy most? The writer who prefers classic rock over smooth jazz will likely have a much different feel to her writing space. This can even give a hint as to what types of color palettes to go for. As for me, if the television is chattering outside my office door, or if I just need a change of mood, I turn the music up, usually the Sufjan Stevens station on Pandora. When I really need to concentrate, I go for music without words or turn it off altogether. If I’m working on my fiction writing, I’ll pick something that goes with the theme, setting or era, like some good stuff from the 1940s.

After you’ve reflected and come up with some ideas, you can follow author and psychologist Karen Peterson’s advice. She suggests choosing one area to beautify first, “one that will entice you to write.” Then you can gather the raw materials you need, decide how to store them and consider what pieces of inspiration you’d like to add to the space. To find even more inspiration when it comes to preparing your space, take a look at some of my favorite desks, offices and bits of beauty collected on my Creative Spaces board on Pinterest.

Put some work into your habitat and soon you’ll have created a habit churning out works of word art.

{What did you learn about your style and how to decorate your space from Courtney’s questions above? What one project can you work on that will get you in the mood to write? Share your ideas below.}

This is Day 20 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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(This post contains affiliate links to items that I personally use and enjoy. When you purchase through these links, you encourage continued creative community here at Message in a Mason Jar with no extra charge to you.)

A Creative Compost {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 18}

More than half of the trees have lost their leaves. My green pepper plants have shriveled up and fallen over. The newest tomatoes have suffered frost bite. The veggies have grown through drought and flood in this hearty stew of compost and peat and vermiculite, but now it’s time to clear out the garden and put away the shovels and shears.

But even as the plants give way to the season, there is potential in the slow and still. The garden extras, the piles of crunchy leaves, the scraps from the kitchen, if I allow them the space, they’ll come together and create a whole new substance.

While your notebook is tucked in a drawer and you are resting from your work, something is happening in that stillness. When you pick up someone else’s book, when you sit face to face with the good people in your life, when you venture out of your writing world into fresh contexts, borrowed thoughts mingle with the ones already written.

Onto the heap of our drafted ideas, we throw new clippings and scraps. Sometimes inspiration will come from talking directly about your idea (though I wouldn’t do too much of that or you may lose some of your steam!), but most often it will come in surprising forms, the cast offs from listening to a stirring sermon or someone’s take on a current events issue or a family struggle.

All these apple peels, blades of grass, egg shells, used tea leaves, pine needles, these textures and flavors of all sorts come together and sit a while. Then ideas turn over one another and heat up like compost in the bin.

Maybe your essay or blog post or short story feels stuck. You shove it in the drawer and wonder if it should stay. But bring yourself into a new context and see what happens.

Maybe you’ll be like the man in the 1960s who left a failure of a project at work over the weekend. He turned out the light and locked the lab door on this new formula for glue, one so weak that the pages barely stuck together.

But in the choir loft on Sunday, amid the reverb of soprano, alto, tenor and bass, he looked down at the hymnal with his makeshift bookmarks, torn pieces of paper falling all around like confetti. He scrambled that morning to reopen the page for the choir number, but he’d never have to do that again.

Weak glue? Paper that barely sticks? A hymnal sprawled open letting plain paper fly? All these problems came together to give him the perfect idea for a hymnal marker, one that would stick but wouldn’t tear the page when removed.

In this moment of synergy, in this completely different context, a place of rejuvenation, the man’s subconscious did the work for him and the idea for the Post-It Note was born.

We refine our writing when we enter new contexts, engage in conversation, or soak in the words of a treasured author, even with our own story put away out of sight.

I had written a draft for my Gift from the Sea series detailing my night swim in the luminescent waters off of the islands of Thailand when I set my own writing aside to do some reading. As I came across the words of a fellow blogger through a link-up, I read some punch in the chest quotes from Surprised by Joy, a book I’d been wanting to read for quite awhile. I grinned when I came upon the shelf at the bookstore. The spine of Lewis’ memoir stretched tall, just four books down from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic written in the same year, these two works sitting together in a picture of synergy. Joy sneaks up on us, they both said in their own way. And my story agreed.

On the small scale of a blog post, the ideas compost in a matter of hours or days. When it comes to larger stories in creative non-fiction and novel writing, we can expect a much longer process. I mulled over the theme of Dress of Many Colors for more than five years before I felt the story was ready for dedicated writing. And even now as I’ve taken a break from it, the ideas continue to react to my everyday experience.

Whatever the nature of our work, when we venture out of its bounds, we let ideas commingle, we stir them up and let them sit again. We put the happy process on repeat and soon the pile turns dark and earthy, each ingredient becoming part of the whole until we can’t tell one idea from another, all of them blending into one rich compost, the boost our story needs to flourish.

{Are you getting out enough? Are you listening enough in conversation? Are you reading enough? How have you experienced the synergy of ideas in a current or past project?}

This is Day 18 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

Don’t want to miss a post? Be sure and follow via email on the homepage sidebar or click “Get the Message” on the main menu.

(This post contains affiliate links to items that I personally use and enjoy. When you purchase through these links, you encourage continued creative community here at Message in a Mason Jar with no extra charge to you.)