Love Your Work and … It’s Still Work

“Love what you do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Lovely sentiment. But it’s a lie.

If you love what you do for work, it sure makes it more meaningful and enjoyable … but it doesn’t change that it is still work.

This is as true in art as it is in any field.

I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to write, and that I even get paid to do it. And I know some people will negate what I say next by claiming writing is privileged work. Maybe it is. I don’t know. Maybe it is just for some people and not for others. I certainly don’t mean to whine or complain.

I merely want to say that art is hard work. So hard. Harder than any job I’ve ever had, scarier than any job I’ve ever had, emotionally draining unlike any other relationship in my life. Sometimes it feels impossible. Sometimes it feels like it might kill me. Art has sent me into therapy, required medication. Nothing in my world has thrown more resistance at me than art, my own art.

I’ve just needed to toss these thoughts out into the universe for a little while, and so now, tonight, I am. Thanks for listening. Thanks for trying to understand, even if it sounds silly to you. Now, tell me about you. What part of your life throws the most resistance at you, friend?




Big Magic: Courage, Enchantment, & Suffering

In the grip of depression, anxiety, and perfectionism last week, I asked for a pep talk on Twitter.

It was really what I needed to read. Seriously.

I listened to the audiobook, and I’m so glad I did because Elizabeth Gilbert’s sweet narration was like being mentored by a big sister in the arts.

big magicThis isn’t really a review, per se, just a few of my thoughts on the book.

“The essential ingredients for creativity remain exactly the same for everybody: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust.”

This quote really touched me because it really nails some of those ingredients that people don’t seem to realize are so necessary. What do you need to write a book? I bet a lot of people would say talent or time or (cheekily) a pencil. I agree with Liz: courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, and trust. (Though I might swap “trust” out with “faith” to get a little closer to what trust looks like for me.)

“There is a famous question that shows up, it seems, in every single self help book ever written: what would you do if you knew that you could not fail? But I’ve always seen it differently. I think the fiercest question of all is this one: what would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail? What do you love doing so much that the words failure and success essentially become irrelevant? What do you love even more than you love your own ego?”

This is huge to me. I just read an article about the same thing. (It’s right here and well worth the read!) This article said the question to ask is: How do I choose to suffer? Basically, what is worth suffering for?

I like how the writer of the article summarizes a failed dream of his: “I wanted the reward and not the struggle. I wanted the result and not the process. I was in love not with the fight but only the victory. And life doesn’t work that way.”

I’m learning. Slowly.

Writing, I believe, is worth the suffering. Writing is worth it, even without success. But it takes courage and enchantment and faith.

I want to cultivate those things in myself.

Slowly, slowly …

What is the Greatest Human Quality?

Hank Green, one-half of the famous VlogBrothers duo, recently proposed that he believes that curiosity is the greatest human quality.  You can hear his argument here:

His brother John, the incredible author of The Fault in Our Stars, responded by saying that he thought cooperation might be a better response.

I’d like to submit my own idea, for your consideration and dissection.  Could the greatest human quality possibly be creativity?

We can live without it, yes.  But would anyone want to?  *shudders*

I think of the quote where C.S. Lewis says that friendship, philosophy, and art have no survival value– but that they give value to survival.

Without creativity, life would be dull, boring, dreary, monotonous.  What would we look forward to?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.


Related posts:
Childhood Creativity
Teenage Creativity
Date a Girl Who Writes

publishing peace (and conflict)

I just read Nahum after realizing that I’d forgotten Nahum was even in the Bible.  Whoops.

“Behold, upon the mountains, the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace!” (Nahum 1:15a)

Such an interesting choice of words– “who publishes peace.”  Definitely makes this writer stop and think.  In my writing, do I bring good news, do I publish peace?  Juxtapose this question with all I have been learning lately about conflict in stories: how we need conflict in stories even when we avoid it in real life.

Think of the gospel– the word gospel itself means “good news”– and yet it is full of conflict.  The climax of the story involves a death.

And a resurrection.

While I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this, what this means to me is that while a Christian author needn’t shy away from the conflict (and, in fact, should embrace conflict in the story!), there should also be a nod toward hope, toward peace.  The story might not end with sunshine or weddings or all the questions answered (I think I’d be annoyed if it did), but I think there should be a peek, a pinch, an inkling of hope.

I want to be a writer who brings good news, who publishes peace.  And conflict.  All of it.


letting go of certainties


I thought this picture was particularly fascinating because you can replace “creativity” with “cognitive-behavioral therapy.”    And those are two of the most important things in my life.

I always thought that certainty was the goal and that doubt was the adversary, but it was just another lie.

What do you think of this quote?

Keep Calm

I have never really been neutral about anything.  I am an extremist, and I feel things in my bones.

I sometimes have a hard time seeing that the current situation will likely change soon.  This is a burden given to me by obsessive-compulsive disorder.  We OCs think things will always feel this way.

I am a writer.  Creativity is like air to me.

All of these things combine, and you have me, this volatile, passionate artist whose highs are marvelous and whose lows are dark.  When writing is not going well, I sometimes think it will NEVER go well again.

Years of this rollercoaster should have proved to me that things will level out again.  I don’t have to rush every draft like a linebacker, don’t have to wrestle it into shape.  I can relax, breathe deeply, set it aside for a (short) time, think and pray and carry on.

trusting the creative process

Trusting the whatta?

The creative process.  I don’t know anyone (except for maybe Addie Zierman) who writes lovely first drafts, and that is just fine.  Freewrite, feedback, re-write, repeat: for me at least, this is the model of the creative process.  And every time I get to the “repeat” part, the draft is better.  If you can boil writing into a formula, that’s what mine looks like.  And then one magical day, the “feedback” part says, “Um, I like it as is,” and you’re done (until some agent tells you otherwise).

It’s bizarre.  Writing– this strange, mystical, spiritual experience– is somehow, for me, whittled into show up and write and then do it again.  After enough times, this clunky, staggering, unrealistic, forced, ridiculous draft turns into a piece of art.  I’m amazed by it.

I have not been writing fiction for long.  Fewer than five years actually.  So I am still in the dating stage with the creative process, still a little unsure that it will really work, uncertain that this formula really does add up.  I’ve spent the last four and half years watching it work (consistently!), and yet I still find myself doubting it.

Then I write another draft, and it is that much better than the last one, and I think in wonder, “It really is working!”

Just like any other relationship, I am learning to trust the creative process.  Show up, put in the effort, don’t get too attached, receive criticism, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit … and it will work.

I am posting this reminder TO MYSELF:

Jackie, KEEP GOING.  Write and keep an open dialogue with those who care about your project.  It will come together.  If it has come this far in 8 months, think of where it will be a year from now!  The creative process WORKS.  It can handle your doubt as long as you keep showing up.

Will you please leave me an encouraging comment?  I could sure use one right now.