Last week, I attended the Storyline Conference in Chicago and after a week of inspiring, challenging talks, workshop material, and conversations with other creatives, I realized I have been holding out on you.
I aim for transparent and approachable, but maybe too often I try to tell you things from the other side, from the perspective of one who has been there and gleaned some bit of life-changing wisdom. I do not always let you into the middle, into the midst of the struggles and the mess, where my heart is breaking, and the process of deciphering the puzzle. When I am writing at my best, the vulnerable side breaks through, but often I have something begging to be be written that I shove back into the recesses of my mind because I am just not willing to deal with it publicly yet. But then it sits and festers and taunts me, when I know that the reason it refuses to go away is because it is not meant for just me, it’s also meant for you.
At the Storyline Conference I got to hear from some of my favorite writers and humans on the planet on how to “live a better story” – Donald Miller, Glennon Melton, Shauna Niequist, and Bob Goff among many others. The themes of each talk were overlapping, building upon each other as we went. It is nearly impossible to summarize four days of artistic explosion but here are a few of my strongest takeaways for cultivating the creative life:
There is room in the world for you and your work.
Do you ever tell yourself that it does not matter whether or not you take the time to share your art? This is likely my largest internal battle when it comes to creative work. I struggle daily with whether or not what I am doing is a waste of time. I believe my core that it is important, that it is my calling, and it is something God has put me on this earth to do – but when I sit down to write, I am often paralyzed by nasty internal voices that tell me to give up before I have begun. Whether it is painting, writing, or some discipline altogether different, please hear that the world needs your perspective. What is stirring inside of you needs releasing, not just for your own peace of mind, but also because it may encourage someone else.
The creatives who have “made it” are real people too.
Sometimes we can look at those with published and recognized work, those at the top of their game, as being somehow detached from reality. Hearing the struggles, fears, and disciplines from the Storyline speakers reminded me that at the core, we are all the same. The challenge is to just show up every day and start. It does not matter if the work is brilliant – it won’t always be – but the creative life is a muscle that requires strength training. You have to do it every day in order to become better at it. Even successful creatives require structure and developing the ability to say “no” to many good things in order to focus on their projects and goals.
Be willing to recognize line of what is comfortable and socially “appropriate” and take one step over it.
Every one of us is longing say, “Me too!” We want to know we are not alone in the world, and that there are others like us. Our imperfections, failures, and insecurities make us human. We all have them but not all of us are willing to admit we have them or explore them. This is a tricky one, but incredibly important in impactful creative work and especially the discipline of writing. You won’t trust me unless I am willing to “go there” and reveal something that is vulnerable – that shows you that like you, I am not perfect and am on this journey attempting to figure it all out. The biggest payoff for me is when you take the time to comment or send me a message that says, “Me too!” or “But what about this?” Good art makes us consider different facets of life and spurs meaningful conversation.
I long to live a life that is authentic, in work and family and friendships. I want to plant myself amongst community where we encourage one another to speak honestly, with deep conviction. Don’t you?