Business and Art: A Series in Five Parts

The Business of Art

I sat down heavy on the bed, tears pricking at the corners of my eyes as the emotions of the entire experience threatened to swallow me whole.

I was alone at a conference for bloggers and writers, and I’d never felt more out of place in my life. When I left for the weekend, I had big plans.

I’d network with the right people immediately, and we’d all share drinks and swap business advice like old friends by the end of the weekend. I would sniff out the best opportunities for writers like me who wanted to take her career to the next level, and I’d pounce on them like a lioness in the wild.

Oh, I had big plans. Maybe they were a little too big.

It was the final morning of the conference, and I was tired of trying. I’d made attempt after uncomfortable attempt to mingle with others only to feel the sting of rejection. Turns out a lot of people had met up with girlfriends for the weekend and there wasn’t space for a shy outsider with poor conversational skills.

There seemed to be plenty of opportunities to network at this conference, but I wasn’t finding them fast enough. Always a few minutes too late, I felt dejected, frustrated, and confirmed in my assumption that I simply wasn’t cut out for the “business”.

“You’re not cutthroat. You’re too sensitive. You’re not nearly confident enough. And let’s face it, you’re really not that good.”

All the lies of the enemy rolled through my head on that final morning as I wondered if I should simply shut down my blog and quit dreaming of more. I had three little kids at that point, so maybe motherhood was all that was meant for me.

Wasn’t that enough?

There’s more to this story, of course. It’s been four years since that lonely morning in my hotel room, but something happened on my last day of the conference that would eventually lead me to today.

I’ll tell you all about it another day. *wink*

 

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For the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing ways that you can turn your creative hobby into something more. Maybe it’s a business, a ministry, or simply a tool to bless others. I want you to walk away with the tools necessary to take your skill to the next level.

The first step in this journey is simple, and yet it’s so very hard.

Turning Your Creative Hobby into a Business Starts with Confidence.

Believe yourself worthy of the task. You have been uniquely gifted by a Creative God with certain skills and talents. They are not like anyone else’s, because they were knit specifically into you for the good works He has planned.

Trust in your unique God design, and believe yourself worthy of the dream.

Taking this step may be uncomfortable, particularly if you’re an awkward people person like myself. (If you’re an outgoing sanguine who loves a room full of strangers, consider yourself greatly blessed.)

A few things to consider in this first step

1.) What is your creative hobby?

2.) Do you have dreams beyond simply creating for fun? (It’s okay if the answer to this question is no. Sometimes a hobby is simply a hobby. More on that later.)

3.) If you long to take your creative hobby to the next level, whether it be starting a business, expanding it beyond the walls of your home, or using it to impact someone in need, what’s one step you could take this week to make that happen?

4.) What scares you about turning your creative hobby into a business?

The first step is always the hardest in any endeavor. The point is never to aim for perfection from the beginning, but rather to simply take the step, however fumbling it may be.

The Business of Art

Join me the rest of September as we continue to discuss how to take your creative hobby to the next level. Subscribe to my blog in the box to the right so that these posts will appear directly in your inbox!

Part Two: Invite Yourself to the Party

Part Three: Maintain Perspective

Part Four: Treat It Like a Business

Part Five: Finding Your When

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LC-BookCoverThis series is inspired by my upcoming book Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom. *

Co-authored with Wendy Speake, this book is specifically for the creative mom who wonders why on earth God designed her creative, and then gave her children. It’s full of encouragement and stories of renaissance moms who are impacting the world with their art, oftentimes with little ones by their side.

As a special incentive, if you buy your copy by the end of September you will receive a free pdf downloadable that expands more on how to turn your creative hobby into a thriving business. Offering practical tools that will help you take your art to the next level, this is the encouragement you need to move forward toward your creative pursuits.

Purchase your copy of Life Creative now, then come back and fill out the form to receive your free pdf downloadable.

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Life Creative Order Bonus: 5 Steps To Turn Your Creative Hobby into a Thriving Business

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Where the Present Touches Eternity

We didn’t really know what to expect when we stepped into the house. We only knew it would be a unique experience.

A Nigerian family from our church had invited us to celebrate the 50th birthday of their oldest sister with them. She is visiting America for the first time from Nigeria, and they planned a night of unabated joy.

As the evening wore on, more and more people poured through the doors, all of them dressed head to toe in traditional clothing. The women’s dresses were handmade by one of the sisters, their head wraps bold and bright, heels high, and jewelry big.

We began the evening with a hymn, following by praise songs, words of wisdom from the brother and our pastor, then words of affirmation for the birthday girl from anyone who wanted to speak.

They were effusive in their praise, voices singing loud. No one cared if they were on key or not. It wasn’t about a perfect rendering of the song. It was about praise. It was about joy.

It was a celebration.

“We want to thank God that you are still alive today!” they said, over and over. “We praise God because He could have taken you before today, but He didn’t. He gave you 50 years, and we thank Him for that.”

They pulled out drums and sang, the women all gathering around the celebrated sister, and they danced, laughing and clapping. The younger brother dropped to his knees, his arms raised high to the sky. It was worship. It was celebratory. It was praise.

It was joy.

And I sat in the corner with tears wetting my cheeks because this is the joy I long to fill my home. These people come from a country that has seen deep and lasting hardship, but you wouldn’t know. There was nothing melancholy or solemn about the evening. Only smiles that split wide their faces, and the overflowing joy that comes with praise.

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It’s something I’ve seen before. I don’t know why, but I’m forever amazed at the ability of those who have walked through pain and suffering to live in the present with great joy and gladness. But what do I expect?

Bitterness? Anger?

Why do I look for these things in those whose backgrounds have been less blessed than my own? Is it because I’ve been so immersed in the American mentality my whole life that I falsely and wrongly believe that hardship must naturally be dwelled upon? 

Is it because I have seen so many people I know, people who have been unendingly blessed, dwell on hurt feelings and heartaches, simmering in anger rather than living in the blessed beauty of forgiveness and joy?

Oh, America. How much we miss when wrapped inside all our ‘blessing’.

We miss the opportunity for joy when we aren’t willing to look past our anger.

We miss true, unadulterated praise when we get stuck dwelling on the heartaches of the past.

We lose sight of every good thing when we constantly look toward an unknown future in fear.

I’m saddened to think that my country is missing out on a great deal of celebration because we’re so blinded by ease.

Easy Street has made us boring.

“In a word, the future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. Is is the most completely temporal part of time – for the Past is frozen and no longer flow, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Our nation is caught up in the uncertainty of the future right now. We’re rolling in our hopes and our fears, and it’s stealing joy, siphoning it right off before our eyes.

We spend so much time looking into the past, hoping that it will dictate the future, that somehow we seem to have forgotten how to enjoy the present, which is bright with the rays of eternity. The present is where love takes shape – it’s where memories are made, life is lived, and joy is found.

Oh, friends. May we all experience the joy of living in the present today. May we let go of the anger and hurt of the past, and fear not the uncertainties of the future.

May we touch eternity today, right now, in this very moment.

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Get Lost on Purpose

The building was cold. Drafty would be one way to describe it, but the word wouldn’t do it justice. The heat never worked, and the winter months dragged on. We sat at a long, white table, all bundled in our hats and coats, hands tucked into pockets in an effort to stay warm while the teacher drilled us on the Nominative case, the Genitive Case, and everything in between.

It was 1998, and I was a student at The Institute of Foreign Languages in Kiev, Ukraine. There were seven students in my Russian language class – six of them from China, and me, the blond-headed American with a love for languages and a longing for adventure.

After school we’d attempt small talk. Our only common language was Russian, so if we wanted to converse it had to be in the language we’d come there to learn. We did a lot of gesturing, and a lot of laughing. I’m sure we looked quite comical walking down the street, the Chinese and the American charading our way through Kiev.

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On the afternoons when I wasn’t hanging out with my classmates, I’d explore the city on my own. My very favorite pastime was getting lost.

I got lost on purpose.

I’d walk in a new direction and take multiple turns until I didn’t quite know where I was, then I’d make myself find a way back. In my self-induced confusion, I found so many great little treasures.

I stumbled upon a tea shop on one of my wanderings. I walked inside and breathed in deep the heady scent of hundreds of different teas. Glass jars lined the wall from floor to ceiling, all of the labels written in Russian so I couldn’t quite make them out. But oh, how I enjoyed the challenge.

The owner of the shop was an older woman with bright grey hair and piercing eyes that probed my face. She found me amusing, maybe even a little annoying, and after a few attempts at speaking and realizing that my language was not strong enough to keep up with her fast speech, she left me to explore the walls on my own.

Another day, I got so turned around I could not find my way back. It was getting dark, and I was freezing cold. I was twenty, and didn’t always make the best decisions, but I did know that getting lost in a big city after dark on a cold night was a bad idea.

So I hailed a cab.

In Kiev, anyone can be a cab. Stick out your hand and anyone looking for money could swing by and pick you up. I decided to wait until I saw an actual cab car before sticking out my hand. You know, for safety.

I ended up in the car with one of the happiest, friendliest men I’ve ever met. His eyes swam with kindness. He spoke no English, but he was fluent in Spanish. My Russian language was stronger at that point, and I had a small cache of Spanish words stored in my memory from high school, so we pieced a conversation together using Russian and a bit of Spanish.

It’s been nearly eighteen years since I spent that semester in Ukraine, and even now I find that I still long for adventure. I crave that feeling of being lost.

Last year just about this time, I jetted off to Munich for a week with my dad, and on my first day there I took a walk. I turned left, then right, the left again until I was significantly turned around, and my heartbeat quickened. I was lost, and I was thrilled.

There’s beauty in wandering, and comfort in adventure. Sometimes it’s scary, not knowing where the next turn will lead you. But if you’re willing to take the ride, to seek out the treasures in the unknown path, you just may find that the unknown is the place where your soul comes alive.

Some days, I feel swallowed up by the predictability of my life. Each day, though hectic, is relatively the same. We wake up, we have sports and school and bickering and loving, we go to bed, and we wake up and do it again.

I’m not complaining. I love my life. It’s messy and beautiful, and I wouldn’t want to walk this path with anyone besides the people I’ve been given. So in the moments when I find myself longing for adventure again, I look at the unknown that stands before me.

Though my schedule may be predictable, the truth is I don’t know which direction tomorrow will lead me or my family. It’s always a matter of putting one foot in front of the other, and looking for the adventure that is right now. 

Even today, it’s possible to get lost on purpose. The fun lies in exploring each new turn life throws our way.

Are you an adventure seeker? How do you find adventure in the mundane spaces of life?

On Being Brave

I sat in the middle of a long table, a spread of foreign food laid out before me. It was hot in there, bodies compacted together, unfamiliar syllables and consonants mingling with the smells to overwhelm my senses entirely. I took it all in quietly, not really sure of my place inside this boisterous bunch. After a few minutes of simple observation, the meal was served, and I finally asked the question burning in my heart.

“How did you do it? How did you survive?”

It was 1995, and I was Kiev, Ukraine, in the home of Maria Ivanovna. I knew her story, having been told by her granddaughter who served as the translator for our group. I knew that she’d been sent to Germany at the age of 14 to serve in a slave labor camp. I knew she’d survived starvation and brutality, and at least one severe beating.

I knew that when the war finally ended, she found her way back to Ukraine by jumping on trains, sometimes clinging to the outside of a train car for hours.

I knew that her father was one of the few who survived Babi Yar, the killing ditch where nearly 34,000 men, women, and children were massacred in two days time in 1941.

I knew all the details, but what I couldn’t wrap my mind around was how.

How did this little woman with the silver hair and hearty laugh survive those years with her spirit in tact? How could she sit before me and tell her story without slipping into the horror of those years again?

How was she so…happy?

I wish I could remember her answer. I asked this question as a sixteen year old girl, long before the thought of writing a book ever took shape. I was just curious, and I remember the room growing quiet as my question was translated into a language I did not yet understand.

While I do not remember her exact words, I do remember the way she looked at me. Her eyes were a smile, peace shimmering in the depths as she focused tenderly on my face.

Though I don’t remember the exact words spoken at that dinner so many years ago, what I do remember is how I felt when we left that night. Maria made me feel brave. 

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I’d never really thought of myself as brave before that night.

Adventurous, maybe. Impulsive, gregarious, excitable. But brave? Not really. 

Like any sixteen year old girl, I battled insecurities on a daily basis. I found myself constantly fighting against the impulse to tuck into the corners of my life and reside in the shadows, because wouldn’t it be easier there? If I could minimize expectation, perhaps I could also minimize the threat of failure, of heartache, of any sort of emotional pain.

But there was something about Maria that made me feel like I could step out of the shadows.

It was the way that she carried her story, the way she so willingly gave her experience to me, like it was a treasured gift. There was no animosity, no bitterness, in her memories. She didn’t wear them like an albatross, walking victimized through the rest of her life.

Years later, I returned to Ukraine and I spent the afternoon with Maria’s granddaughter, Helen. Maria was sick and couldn’t take visitors at that time, but she took my questions over the phone through Helen’s translation. Even then, though grown and preparing to be a mother myself, I still wrestled with the cruelty and brutality of those dark war years.

I still didn’t understand how she did it – how any of the men and women who survived World War II did it.

But I’ve learned in the years since then that bravery isn’t something you’re born with – it’s something you learn.

Bravery is birthed in the trenches of life, when we’re pressed from every side and hewn from the cloth of hardship. But where does it come from?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

If we truly understand the origins of bravery, then we just might see the potential waiting for us in the hard times. Bravery isn’t something that I can muster up on my own strength, though I suppose I could convince myself of that.

No, bravery and courage are most alive inside the power of the One who wove them into me in the first place.

The potential for bravery is knit into all of us, whether we see it or not. But the recognition of God as the author of that bravery unleashes a power far greater than any of us realize.

This is one of the many lessons I learned as a young woman in a foreign land. Bravery isn’t defined by rank or uniform, or even by experience. Bravery is simply lived and shared, and acknowledged in the hard places of life.

Be brave today, friends.

Respect the Power

“Hey, Mom. In the new story I’m working on, is it okay if I use a cuss word?”

He asked the question casually, as though he were simply speaking to me about the weather. He didn’t look me in the eye, but rather squinted upward, focused on some invisible speck floating above his head.

“Why do you need to use a cuss word?” I asked.

“It just…feels like it will make the story more effective,” he said, the hint of a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. He’s in 6th grade now, and four letter words fly around him at school every single day. He finds them fascinating, and deeply tempting.

“Well, I’m going to encourage you to try hard not to use any cuss words in your new story.” He opened his mouth in protest, and I held up my hand, shushing him with my best mom-look.

“There are always other words you can use. Sometimes a four letter word is appropriate in writing, but you should try to first come up with other words, because if you can’t think of a way to communicate without using a cuss words, then you’re just not trying hard enough.”

And also, you’re my baby, and you kiss my cheek with that mouth, and you’re supposed to stay sweet and innocent forever and ever…and ever.

I left that last part out.

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I’m headed to the middle school today to talk to the kids about the art of writing. It is the Great American Teach In, and many a professional will come in and give these kids a glimpse into their working lives.

Since my working life consists of caffeine, yoga pants, chocolate, and much time staring at a blank screen, I’m having to come up with something more creative. Because to stand up there and tell them that working as a career writer means rejection, emotional exertion, and overall feelings of inadequacy feels a bit like a downer.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the power of the written word, and how with that power comes great responsibility. So basically I’ll be Spiderman in there, only without the skin tight red suit, because my child would disown me.

My sister-in-law recently wrote the most beautiful post about writing. It’s been rolling around in my head since I read it, particularly the last couple of paragraphs.

Before parchment and paper, words meant to last were always cut in with some sort of incision.  The Word was cut in with nail pierced incisions.

If our words are to make a difference today, then how should writers go about the craft?  Sometimes, I throw my hands up in anguish and tell Him that I don’t have enough words to describe Him.  When I try to get Him on paper, I wonder if I’m like a child that’s been locked inside a closet her whole life and yet she is asked to describe the sky.  He is so much more.  There aren’t enough words to contain Him. 

But, if I can offer a piece of my story, then others might get a glimpse of who this beautiful God is.  If I can make an incision into my own heart and let all of the joys and sorrows intermingle out into one grace swirled and bloody mess, then just maybe readers will get a taste of this Good-Good Father who loves deeply.

If we are going to write well, then we must cut into ourselves and bleed out.

Writing with Meaning: The Art of Carving by Becke Stuart

We’re all, writers and non-writers alike, impacted by words, and this is perhaps the message I most long to convey to these young kids.

This generation is growing up in a world full of words. Their entire lives play out in pithy little soundbites, and they’re constantly bombarded with poorly thought through ideas.

We fling words around like they don’t mean anything, constantly stringing together rants and epithets without any thought for the impact those combined letters leave on lives.

But words matter.

The entirety of our history lives on through writing. Everything we know about the early civilizations is because of storytelling and writing. If mankind hadn’t developed the written language, history would have died long ago, or it would be terribly warped.

Imagine if man had simply decided to preserve history by orally telling the generations behind. It would be like a bad game of telephone in which we all ended up believing that we descended from monkeys or something ridiculous like that.

Oh, wait…

The point is this: A great deal of power resides in the written word, and anyone who chooses to chase words and pen them, whether that be in a book, a blog post, an email, or a status update, should respect that power.

Because words matter.

Words ignite imagination. They initiate conversation, reveal new ideas, new ways of thinking, inventions beyond comprehension. Words were written in the beginning, and they tell us of the many great things this world has to offer.

Words are power, and we would do well to respect that power.

Dear Writers – I Am For You

It’s cold in here. I’m sitting in the corner, bundled up as I stave off the air conditioner that refuses to quit running. Thanks to an unseasonably warm Florida fall, most buildings are keeping their spaces unbearably cool. Perhaps this is our only means for experiencing fall weather here in the Sunshine State.

The cafe is loud, but I don’t mind because I can smell the stories in the air. The scent of imagination mingles with that of my Cinnamon Spice hot tea, and I feel heady with delight.

If I had my choice, I’d hunker down in more intimate location. Barnes and Noble is a chain, and the cookie cutter nature of this space is less delightful. But still…the books.

I love books. I love words. I love imaginative storytelling.

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As a new author, I have such a deep appreciation for the work that went into these books. I had no idea. Writing looks romantic on TV. It’s grittier in real life.

Writing isn’t just sitting in front of a typewriter in a quiet, breezy room tapping rhythmically on a typewriter. Mainly because no one uses typewriters anymore.

But also because writing is awful lot of sitting in front of the screen and staring at a blank page until some muse chooses to show. It’s hard, and solitary, and feels an awful lot like bleeding openly for the world to see.

Then you put your book out there, and you ask everyone what they think. And they can choose whether or not to love this work of your heart.

In short, writing is a profession of vulnerability.

Writers pour their hearts and souls into their stories, and then, if they’re willing to wait and fight for their stories, they find a publisher willing to print their words on paper. After all that, they turn their books in to the waiting publisher, and it’s all VICTORY! YOU DID IT!

Now get to work.

Authoring a book is more than just writing pretty words, and finding a publisher. There is marketing and promotion, pulling together a launch team, and finding endorsements.

Writers have to get their books in front of people who are willing to read them.

Launching a book may be the hardest and scariest part of the publishing journey. It is the moment when writers feel the most vulnerable, because this is when others decide is the work is worthy of their endorsement.

 

In the rocky soil of Texas, there’s a yearly beauty that springs up. Bluebonnets carpet the hot ground each spring, blanketing the state in vibrant color, and they always spring up from the rocks.

In an environment that seems completely unconducive to growth, bluebonnets defy the odds and bring beauty to the landscape.

You writers are doing the same. The terrain is rocky, saturated with others already fulfilling publishing dreams, and it seems that everyone else is springing up, and you wonder if there’s any space for you.

Dear writers – I want you to know that I’m standing in the gap for you. I see more than ever before the fight it takes to get a book to market, and I want you to know I’m on your side.

You’re doing hard things. You’re writing every day, sharing stories and messages with a world that needs to hear them.

You’re facing rejection, fighting to get your words out into a void already full of great works. But you believe you have something to add, so you don’t give up. This is hard, and I admire your tenacity.

You’re putting yourself in vulnerable positions, emailing friends, and perfect strangers, to ask for endorsements. You’re asking people to decide if your words are worthy of a recommendation, and it’s terrifying. I see you, and I’m for you.

You’re sharing your gifts with a small group, but longing to see that message spread to a wiser audience. As you seek to plant yourself in this rocky terrain, I want you to know I see you and you’re doing a good job.

Writer friends – don’t be afraid of the hard things. Keep typing those words and sending those awkward emails. Keep putting yourself out there, because beauty grows in the rocky places, and your dreams are beautiful.

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