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

A Sabbath from Sound {A Less Digital Life…Day 16}

E and Hoover, 2010

It was a song he’d never heard. Austin Chapman clicked up the volume. When the sound of angelic descants whirled into his ears from a recording of Mozart’s Lacrimosa, the young man wept. It wasn’t just the first time he’d heard this piece of music, it was the first time he’d heard music at all. Continue reading

A Well-Punctuated Writing Life {Preserve Your Story ~ Day 17}

This past summer, Austin Chapman clicked up the volume on a song he’d never heard. When the sound of angelic descants whirled into his ears from a recording of Mozart’s Lacrimosa, the young man wept. It wasn’t just the first time he’d heard this piece of music, it was the first time he’d heard music at all.

Sure, he had felt the boom of bass notes or the room shaking with the beat of a drum, but with revolutionary new hearing aids, he was now able to hear the most delicate of notes and discern the nuances of a song.

People all over the world have been weighing in on what bands or genres he needs to listen to next. He’s been working his way through the centuries and decades, tracing music’s journey and hearing the wide spectrum of sound.

But he has his limits, his ears still sensitive to all the new input.

Ironically, he finds himself turning his “hearing aids off more often than before,” enjoying the pause between notes of conversation or the soothing melodies he’s come to love.

“Silence is still my favorite sound,” he said.

In the comments under the Atlantic article, one reader, abk1985, carried on with the theme saying we should all experiment with a sabbath of sound: “I would recommend putting away the earbuds and keeping the car stereo off for a couple weeks. Then, pick a quiet Saturday afternoon when you have nothing you have to do, and deliberately sit down and listen….to go from [silence] to actually hearing it: always a spine tingling experience!”

We come back with ears fresh for the full experience of music. The pauses between notes lend greater power to the sound. The silence gives us margin to ponder the last tone and anticipate the next.

As much as writing may feel like a fun hobby or a fulfilling outlet for us, when we are writing consistently for a readership in the form of blog posts, magazine articles or books, writing can be work…even bordering on squirrely overactivity at times.

But then there’s God who showed His artistry in speaking Word to make the world. He carved out a Hebrew sequence of 56 Sabbath words on the Sinai tablets, three verses full in our translation. He wrote the fourth commandment longer than the rest and He must have done so for a reason.

Last weekend at a writer’s conference, 24/6 author Matthew Sleeth shared words that resonate with the linguist in me: “God did not intend your life to be one long run-on sentence. You take out the punctuation when you take out the Sabbath.”

So, gather your bits of story, draft a mess in your scratch journal, then let your words rest a bit. Enjoy a sabbath. You’ll come back to your work refreshed and ready for crescendo.

{How does the idea of sabbath play into your work as a writer? What sorts of things do you find restful and restorative? What results have you seen when you’ve set your writing aside for a time and come back to it later?}

This is Day 17 of my series 31 Days ~ Preserve Your Story, linking up with The Nester’s annual 31 Days of Change.

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When I Cannot Write a Story

Four years back, this room smelled of acrylic and turpentine. Stained brushes fanned out in jars, bouquets of spotted color on horse hair. Canvas after canvas leaned against these walls…Summer Yellow Wheat, Reading Tree, Starbursts…all windows to imagination.

An artist lived here, made her mark on this space before I came along. One of her prints leans even now in my room, a framed still-life of a pouty poppy left too long in the vase.

This community knows her as an artist, and so the question always comes, “What have you been painting lately?” A painter paints. A singer sings. A writer writes. To be…you have to do. Isn’t that the way it goes? She tips her chin down and gets eye-to-eye with the baby boy who lounges in the hammock of her arm. The older brothers rush up looking for something to munch.

These days she’s putting her creative efforts into something that feeds her soul and feeds family and friends. She watches the leaven do its work, studies how the dough rises in stages, how it becomes more than it was…becomes the other thing she will be known for.

People are starting to ask about the bread, too, these rounded loaves that make you think of the old country…or the country to come. Steam rises. Crust cracks. Aroma floats through the air pulling everyone to the kitchen. She watches them enjoy her work.

She can’t paint right now, so she bakes artisan bread.

The artist’s room is mine now. In place of ready canvas and paint brush, there is blank paper and pen. The desk is lined with writing books and scribbled lists for someday.

But this fall, I am the flower dried in the vase. My writing hours have been sucked into earlier bedtimes and mismatched afternoon schedules. I put the youngest down for a reluctant afternoon nap just minutes before the oldest starts making his way home on the school bus. These are long days with short breaks. The changes stilt my words, leave me chasing after thoughts mid-sentence, make me homesick for my craft.

One evening, the kids wrestle with Daddy upstairs. There’s no time to string a line of words, but in the muted sound of their happy play, an old song comes to me, raises me from the couch and ushers me to the piano. I play the music without words this time, letting my fingers feel the pattern again, even closing my eyes.

This particular night, I may not be able to pen a story, but I can put my fingers to the keys and feel the tension leave my shoulders, let this other art knead that aching spot at the base of my ribs.

{What do you do when you’re feeling stifled in your primary area of creativity? Which secondary creative passions inspire you during dry phases?}