Brianna: Living a Creative Life

This is fourth in our series of “What Inspires You?” a question we posed to the Inspira Team. This week we hear from graphic designer  Brianna Showalter, who designs the covers and interior layouts of many of the books we produce.

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I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.

Georgia O’Keeffe

My hands and mind itch to create; I’ve always joked that I would be happy “making things” 24 hours a day. In this current season of my life, watercolor and drawing and graphic design fulfill my need to create, but I’ve also been known to dabble in ceramics, sewing, teaching art, creative writing, large scale, small scale, and acrylic paint.

I find that working as a graphic designer requires substantial creative output with little input because I am not actually touching the product. I have learned to balance that output by making sure I get plenty of time to do “messy art,” in which I actually touch and feel the paper and paint.

My inspiration comes from what I see around me; I’ve been drawn to beauty since I was  very young. Things like the vastness of the ocean, wide-open skies and color-filled sunsets, the intricate details of flowers, plants and seashells, fabric patterns, repurposed materials, and colors of all kinds “inspire” me to create beauty of my own. I’m also inspired by:

  • Solitude: much of what I create is reflective, and I am most likely to string reflective thoughts together when alone. I joke that painting is like cheap therapy for me! While I have a brush in my hand, I am able to ponder relationships, chew on ideas, and work through things so that what resides in my heart is softer and what comes out of my mouth is kinder. I see a direct correlation between the amount of time spent creating and my attitude and outlook on life.
  • Words: I gobble up books. Often the way words are strung together create strong pictures and images in my head that I must put down on paper. I love reading books about other creative souls . . . I don’t have any close friends who share this need to create quite so strongly, so I feel a kinship when reading about their lives and craft.

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  • Color and imagery: I’m pretty sure my brain thinks primarily in color. I literally drink in patterns, color combos, flowers, fabric, paint, and artwork. For the past 20+ years, I have poured into my well of inspiration so that I have material to pull from during dry spells. I have huge inspiration bulletin boards, piles of magazine cut-outs, cupboards filled with art supplies, secret Pinterest boards and columns of bookmarked blogs and articles, and piles of books that are dog-eared and underlined.

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  • Creation: Most days I have too many ideas to bring to fruition, but it really helps my soul to be in places where I am not the main attraction. Walking along the shoreline, hiking in the mountains, working in the garden, breathing in salty air, cooking meals outdoors, and biking instead of driving all satisfy this need to remember the vastness of creation that I am blessed to be a part of.

Living a creative life requires persistence and bravery, as it is not the heavily traveled road. I strongly agree with famed artist Pablo Picasso, who said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I have a strong work ethic and belief that some days it comes easy, and some days it’s hard-won, but each day is worth it!

What inspires YOU? We invite you to also visit our other blogs by Inspira Team members and see what inspires them to write or create, Arlyn Lawrence, Heather Sipes, and Kerry Wade.  Everyone is different!

 

 

8 Steps to Creating Your Perfect Writing Environment

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Talk to 15 different writers and you’re likely to get 15 different responses to the question, “What is the perfect writing environment?”

Famed poet William Wordsworth did his best writing lying down, reportedly preferring to write his poems in bed in the complete darkness. (I’m not sure how he could see to write, but oh well, whatever works!) Novelists who wrote lying down include Mark Twain, George Orwell, Edith Wharton, Woody Allen, and Truman Capote—all known for churning out pages while lying in bed or lounged on a sofa!

Some famous authors, on the other hand, have preferred to write while standing, like Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and Lewis Carrol, who were all inspired to pen their finest pieces at their standing desk. Conversely, contemporary author Dan Brown apparently likes to hang upside down for inspiration, claiming that “inversion therapy” helps him relax and concentrate better on his writing.

If all else fails in your quest for inspiration, you can always write naked, like Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables. He  frequently wrote au naturel, especially when he needed to work quickly. (Maybe he found being cold motivational?) When facing a tight schedule for his novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hugo instructed his valet to confiscate all his clothes so he wouldn’t able to leave the house. Even during the coldest days, Hugo reputedly only wrapped himself in a blanket while he wrote.

Regardless of your style, all writers need to establish a writing environment that is conducive to inspiration and productivity. The common denominators are: a) get comfortable, b) get organized, and c) get started. Here are eight practical steps to help you find your inspiration and get into the flow of your writing:

  1. Understand that inspiration doesn’t just show up; you have to cultivate it.
  2. Schedule your writing time. Remember, what gets scheduled is what gets done .
  3. Appreciate the need for discipline. You won’t always feel like it. Like Nike, “just do it.” And do it again. And again and again and again …
  4. Find a regular place where you can have solitude, a place free of distractions (including people, phone, TV, email, and social media).
  5. Get proper hydration, nutrition, exercise, and rest. These all contribute to you being your best self (and therefore tapping into your best writing).
  6. Surround yourself with things that inspire you (sights, sounds, smells).
  7. Leverage the power of habit. The more you follow a routine, the better your sub-conscious self will be able to cooperate with you, and more quickly get into “the flow.”
  8. Set deadlines for yourself if you don’t have external ones pressing on you. Pressure—even self-imposed—can be very motivating.

So there you go – eight things you can do to create your most inspirational writing environment. What will that look like for YOU?

This post  by Arlyn Lawrence  is fourth in our series on “What Inspires You to Write?” Check out the rest of the posts so far to see how our Inspira editorial team gets inspired: Heather, Kerry, and Arlyn

 

For the Love of Words: Kerry

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This is the third in our series of “What Inspires You to Write?” featuring members of our Inspira team. This week we hear from Assistant Editor (and certified world traveler) Kerry Wade:

For many people, writing is a means to an end. They have a message, idea, or story they want share with the world, and writing is their vehicle to do so. For me, writing can be an end in and of itself.

I love the world of words; or perhaps it is better to say the worlds that words can create. I am inspired by creative descriptions and phrases. If you were to look through my journal, you would discover it is not at all linear or cohesive. It does not detail the A to B to C of my day. Instead, it contains descriptions of flower petals and snippets of phrases torn out of conversations. I love perfectly paired words. Give me an exotic metaphor and I am good to go.

Most of my own writing is poetry, as it is the perfect medium for a lover of metaphors. It allows me to play with words without needing a context or a plot to house them. But there is something I love even more: helping others write. I am most energized and excited when someone comes to me with a great story and I am able to be a sounding wall for ideas to make it better.

As I went through the typical post-college “What do I do now?” phase, I realized that my favorite part of my writing classes was working collaboratively with other writers. I cherished the moments when we sat around a table in the library and threw out title ideas or pointed out character flaws. I got to use my love of playing with words to help others! That realization led me to what I do now, working as an editor for Inspira. While we don’t always get to sit around a table thinking of the perfect way to phrase a sentence (sometimes we do!), we get to help people take their ideas and form them into something beautiful.

So, when I am not snatching metaphors out of the air or throwing around title ideas, where do I get my motivation to return to my computer day after day? Although everyone’s sources of inspiration are different, here are a few of mine:

  • Good writing/art: Nothing makes me want to write more than reading a really good book. There are a few authors that keep I always on my shelf. I know that I can pick them up whenever I need some motivating and they will provide a breath of fresh inspiration. The same goes with good art of any kind. I believe excellence inspires excellence.
  • Passionate people: There is nothing more inspiring than someone pursuing their dreams and working hard to make them a reality.
  • Travel: I love the way it forces me to break all my routines, get out of my comfort zone, and do things I’ve never done before. I swear I work better when I have a ticket sitting in my inbox. When I know I will be traveling in the near future, I don’t mind curling up with my computer all day and writing.
  • Organization: After talking about breaking routines, I am going to come back and say that routine and organization are a Godsend. I cannot even begin to still my mind enough to write if my desk is a mess or my day is not detailed in my planner. (Although, I have to be careful not to use organization as a means of “productive” procrastination.)
  • Peace: Writing and editing take focus. If my mind is frazzled, my writing suffers. When I operate out of a place of peace, I am able to easily enter into that place of focus and flow. (Sometimes this means I have to take time to deal with the internal or external lack of peace in my life before I can write.) My ideal writing environment includes soft music, a nice smelling candle, and a cup of tea. While these things don’t create peace, they help usher it in.

What inspires you to write?

Fathering the Future

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Last Saturday, several of our Inspira team had the honor of attending the 14th Annual “D.A.D.S.” Fatherhood Banquet and the launch of our client Marvin Charles’ new book, Becoming Dads: A Mission to Restore Absent Fathers.

Marvin is the founder and executive director of D.A.D.S., a community based organization dedicated to walking with men in supportive community, and helping them navigate the relational and legal barriers that separate them from their children and families. Over the past ten years, Marvin and Jeanett Charles, along with their team at D.A.D.S., have worked with 3,222 men to bring them back to their families!

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Becoming DADS: The Mission to Restore Absent Fathers tells Marvin’s own powerful story of redemption and restoration, providing absentee fathers with a message of hope and a vision for the future, as well as practical support and resources. Through this book, he hopes to educate people on what the real issues are that compromise families and energize the cycle of abandonment and fatherlessness.

The theme of this year’s D.A.D.S. fundraising banquet was “Fathering the Future.” The banquet honored fathers who have taken the steps necessary to provide a future for their families. The men who took the stage shared their stories of their own fatherlessness, addictions, and court battles. All of these men chose to stand up to the cycles of hurt and pain in their communities, turn their lives around, and give back to their children.

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“D.A.D.S. provided me with hope again,” said one father. “They listened and educated me. They heard my story with an open heart; they understood my emotions. They took my hand and walked step by step with me, shared tears with me, and celebrated my joys and victory.”  At the end of the banquet, the full house of committed D.A.D.S. supporters gave a record $200,070—nearly half the organization’s budget for the year!

The keynote speaker for the evening was Jeff Kemp (another past Inspira client). Jeff is a former NFL quarterback and is the author of Facing the Blitz: Three Keys for Turning Trials into Triumphs (published by Bethany House). He used the biblical story of Gideon to describe the mission of D.A.D.S. Just like God called Gideon a brave man of valor when he was still in the winepress, D.A.D.S. speaks identity and purpose over men before they recognize it themselves.

After the banquet, Marvin hosted a book signing for Becoming DADS. It was exciting to see this book in the hands of people who care passionately about this cause. We can’t wait to see the continuing impact of Marvin’s story, this book, and D.A.D.S!

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To order and find out more about the book Becoming Dads, visit Marvin’s website at http://www.marvinlcharles.com. Learn more about the work of D.A.D.S. at http://www.aboutdads.org.

Post by Kerry Wade, Assistant Editor 

Finding Your Muse: Heather

There are several people who work behind the scenes at Inspira and we want you to hear from them! This is the first post in a series that focuses on inspiration and where each of us finds it. Today you will hear from Heather, one of our assistant editors. She is a millennial, a firecracker, and a working mom of three.

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If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good, productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.
– David Brin

I started keeping a diary when I was six years old. As soon as I was able to write and “spell” (e.g., Deer jernel, today I went to chirch…), I started writing my thoughts on paper. This continued throughout high school, and even into college. Around middle school I realized that not only was I a decent writer, but I was also fiercely passionate about the world of words. It was cathartic and soothing during my times of hurt and heartbreak, and was a safe place to gush about new loves and future dreams. Writing was my home. I decided becoming a “writer when I grew up” was the next logical step.

Now, here I am. I guess you could call me a grown up, but to that I say, “not quite.” I’m a part-time writer, part-time editor, and full-time mom. When I’m not waking up with a nursing baby, putting Band-Aids on the preschooler who’s learning to ride her bike, or negotiating with a two-year old genius, you’ll find me behind a computer screen, typing away, or furiously making red marks on a first draft manuscript.

When I’m actually writing (as opposed to editing), I’ve got to work from personal inspiration. As writers (creative artists of our own league), we all do! In order to produce high-quality, poignant, and insightful content, you must have a source of inspiration at the foundation. As a six-year old, it was in what I did that day or how I was I feeling about my siblings at that very moment. Now, as a “grown-up,” it’s a bit more complex and can change from day to day.

It depends on what season of life you’re in (Do you have young children? Are you newly in love? Healing from an ended relationship? Thriving in your career? Grieving the loss of a loved one?), what you’re passionate about, and even how much sleep you got the night before.

Your source of inspiration, or “muse,” so to speak, is an integral part of the writing process, and it’s necessary in order to produce inspiring work. Although everyone’s inspiration sources are different, here are a few of mine:

  • Other writers. What kind of language do they use? How does their writing make me feel? What do I enjoy about their writing? What do I dislike?
  • My kids. Again, this is incredibly reflective of my current life season, but my children are my biggest source of inspiration right now. When I’m with them, and when I see them interact with each other, my heart feels the fullest it has ever felt. When I’m in the throes of sleep deprivation and just can’t seem to catch a moment alone and the sink is overflowing with dishes, I reflect on grace and selflessness and the reasons for which I was put on this Earth.
  • Nature. Sure, it may sound a bit cliché to some, but the beauty of my surroundings—the sound of dripping rain, the crunch of leaves beneath my boots, the feeling of the sun prickling my skin—turns my mind into a flurry of passionate ideas and possibilities. It’s hard not be moved by the magnificence that surrounds me—even in my own neighborhood!
  • Dreams. What are my hopes for the future? What implications do those dreams have for my family and those I love? How does my writing play into my future goals?
  • Feelings. As a people loving and intuitive free spirit (fellow emotional lives-of-the-party, raise your hand!), my feelings are pretty important to me (if you ask my husband, he’d say they drive my whole life). Naturally, my emotions play a huge part in my writing. I find that I am most inspired to create when I am either incredibly sad or incredibly happy. Other strong emotions like fear, regret, immense relief, and gratitude also get my wheels turning.
  • Observing the small things. Some of my best writing has come from observing tiny, fleeting moments and reflecting on their impact. When I close my eyes and envision the way a tiny, two-year old heartbeat feels against my chest, or the way my home smells in the evening when the windows have been open all day, inspiration swells within me. Look for the potential that exists in the mundane!

Remember, no two writers’ journeys are the same. What drives me is likely not what drives you. What’s important is that you create good work from a place that feels real, raw, and inspiring. I hope these words have motivated you to get out there, get inspired, and get out that dusty ol’ novel you started three years ago (or start the mommy blog you always dreamt you’d start). Inspiration is everywhere!

What inspires you in your writing? What places of inspiration has your best work come from? What does inspiration feel like to you?