In 2012, in lieu of resolutions which I always break, I spent the year with the one word CREATE. I will nurture my creative impulses –maybe I’ll even take up poetry or painting, I thought.
I’ve had two one words since then but since Seekerville is filled with my favorite types of people (writers and readers), I decided to share with you three things I learned from my one word CREATE.
I’d been writing for roughly 15 years at that point – academic articles, newspaper articles, devotional writing, and non-fiction books. I love words, and the creative process of writing.
I also love the notion of being a writer and “the writer’s life.” It’s all so enchanting in an Ernest Hemmingway kind of way (minus all his drunken stupors, of course).
And yet, any creative endeavor is hard at times. There are days, weeks, sometimes months, when it can come slowly and laboriously.
Add to that the pressure of a contracted deadline, and what was once a fun, creative act turns stressful.
Everyone assumes it would be amazing to get paid for their art. And it is. Until you get paid for art you haven’t yet produced. Now you must produce art on demand. This is often the case with a non-fiction contract or a multi-book contract. There is a definite shift that happens with that.
You learn that to be a professional, you cannot wait upon inspiration. You cannot while away hours in a coffee shop with your laptop waiting for your muse to show up and hand you a warm latte.
I learned you have to pray, then sit down and create whether you feel all Earnest about it or not.
Embracing this may make your life seem less “enchanting,” but it will make it more productive.
I also learned the act of creation isn’t done when you type “The End.” Now you have to let editors tweak it and let readers critique it.
I’ve found that part of the art of creating well is handling critique well. I have to take it in and examine it for what it is worth. Learn from it if need be (and need doesn’t always be). But then I have to lay it aside and press on with the call to create. I cannot let someone’s opinion—even if it has merit—sideline me from my life, and my calling.
For the longest time there was but one low-star review on My One Word: Change Your Life With Just One Word (now there are two). I responded right there on Amazon to my critic, in love. I corrected any false perceptions they had about the work, apologized for any ways the work disappointed her (I truly want everyone to enjoy it), and then wished her well. She responded. I responded. She responded again.
At the end of our exchange she thanked me and wished me blessings on this book.
I love the fact that her review and my response is there on Amazon, because it is evidence of my personal character growth as an artist. I didn’t stew on that critique, letting it paralyze me. Nor did I get angry with her. And the outcome was entirely positive.
My friend and fellow-writer Emily Freeman says:
“How we respond when confronted with the critics has the potential to be the most beautiful art we’ll ever make – we have the capacity to reflect the relational glory of God no matter who we’re with, what we’re doing, or what’s gone wrong.” (from A Million Little Ways)
If we’re honest, our inner editor can be way harsher than our loudest critic. We judge our work, comparing it to others, and too often decide we don’t have what it takes.
I always choose a verse to go along with my one word for the year. The year my word was CREATE I chose Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” This verse often shifted my priorities from my act of creating and its product, to what God seeks to create in me.
I came to understand that part of a steadfast spirit is refusing to give up when it feels hard, and refusing to give in to doubt about what I am called to do, or how well I can do it.
The third thing I learned that year is to celebrate the art I make. In Genesis we see that God took the time to stand back from His finished work and declare it good. So can I.
|God Creates the Word|
It is said that some of the great European painters were barred from the museums where their masterpieces hung – because they would come with paint and try to tweak their paintings.
I believe we must get to a place where we stop seeking to improve it, and celebrate the work we’ve made. By the time I finished writing my earlier book It’s No Secret, I had become a better writer in the year-long writing process. When I looked at earlier-written sections of the manuscript, I felt I could write them better if I could rewrite them.
I also knew I’d be a better writer by the time that book hit the shelves many months later. We always want to show the world our best work – what we are fully capable of.
So I chose to regard that book as tangible evidence of my growth as a writer. That is how I was able to celebrate it and release it to my editor, and then into the world, even though I felt it could be improved upon. And you know what? I am proud of the writing in that book. It is good.
Jennifer Lopez once released an album called This is Me ... Then. (I don’t own the album; I just like its title.) That makes perfect sense to me. She knew that later she will make different and perhaps better art, but this creation was a reflection of where she was at that point in her life.
That is one of the wonderful things about art of any type – it is in some way a reflection of us, our growth, and our journey through life. Just as we are a reflection of God and His on-going redemptive work.
Perhaps this notion can help you be more at peace with each piece of art you create too.
- Create like it’s is your job - it’s a calling - and not like it’s some elusive, unknowable process you have little control over. That’s the first thing.
- Your job as creator continues on after you create your art—you must usher it into the world and love on those who partake in it. Not everyone will adore it and that’s okay.
- Find a way to appreciate each piece of art you make, including those you crumple up and toss in the round bin littered with gum wrappers on the floor by your desk. It’s all part of the process. Besides, your Creator delights over each one of His children—even the non-best-sellers, and the non-published. (smiles)
So blessings on your art this year, fellow creators. If you are a dancer, do your dance. If you are a painter, paint your visions. If you are a cook, combine your flavors. If you are a photographer, capture the world as you uniquely see it.
And if you are a writer, string your pearls on the page. And take the time to call it good.
Warmly - Rachel Olsen
I’d love to hear in the comments below what you’ve learned that helps you stay sane about the writing life. I’m always appreciative of wisdom earned.
Let me encourage you to choose one word to be your focus in 2015. I’ve not yet chosen my word for this year. I usually allow myself several weeks to pick. Plus, I’ve been hard at work on a coaching program to help others live out their words. So I’m open to inspiration – if you’ve selected a word for this year, post it in the comments below.
More about Rachel Olsen:
Born in Virginia, I now I live with my husband and two children on the North Carolina coast. Wilmington could not be a better place for me, with the beach that I love, the university I enjoy, and the church I’m devoted to.
I absolutely love words, wit, making connections and creating forward momentum. So my choices of vocation will not surprise you: I teach, I speak, I write and I coach.
I also like decaf lattes, epic stories, and peach pie (hold the Cool Whip). I think laughter is the best medicine. I believe each of us have talents to stir, creativity to unleash and potential to reach on the way to becoming who God made us to be.
You can find out even more about Rachel on her web page www.rachelolsen.com
Connect with her on Facebook and @RachelOlsen on Twitter.
The concept of My One Word is simple. Lose the long list of resolutions—all your sweeping promises to change—and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything. Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.
Today Seekerville is giving away four copies of My One Word, (print or ebook) to commenters. You don't have to post your MY ONE WORD, simply post. An additional winner will be drawn from those who shared the post and emailed their info to Seekerville.
BONUS! Rachel generously added two more giveaways!
A copy of the MY ONE WORD DVD Study
A MY ONE WORD Coaching Program Level One Membership
Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.
A huge thank you to Rachel for adding us to her very busy schedule. Keep your eye on K-LOVE where Rachel is being interviewed.