Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Overcoming Fear of Creative Failure, Part 3: Putting the Work In Its Place

We spend so much time developing our projects that it's hard not to see them as extensions of ourselves. That's why the fear of creative failure can be so crippling.

If my work is misunderstood, then I'm misunderstood. If it's a flop, I'm a flop. 

Perhaps even more damaging, I may believe that if my work's valued, I'm valued. If it's worthy, I'm worthy. If it's beloved, I'm beloved.

Oddly, I never felt this way when I worked in a commercial kitchen. If I turned out a bad batch of something, I didn't feel like a failure. I just felt annoyed. If I had a good shift, I didn't feel that my personal worth had increased. I just felt thankful for a good day. Either way, I'd earned my paycheck. 

Those were simpler times.

Sometimes I miss them.

But I'm grateful for those experiences. They're reminders that at the end of the day, it's all just work. 

Work is hard and tedious and challenging and rewarding and annoying and deeply satisfying. 

But my work isn't me. It's not the sum of my worth or value or identity. 

Only Christ is strong enough to serve as the anchor for my soul.

If I idolize my creative projects, I will crush them under the weight of my expectations. If I put them in their proper place - as work done in faith and obedience - then neither the successes nor the failures will wreck me.

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Photo Credit:

By Niklas Bildhauer (who also is User gerolsteiner91. (originally posted to Flickr as folder) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 22, 2017

Overcoming Fear of Creative Failure, Part 2: Obedience

A surprising number of well-known professionals suffer from imposter syndrome: a condition that leads them to believe that their successes are flukes, that they're actually not very good at what they do, and that the next project they take on will be the one to reveal their fraud to the world.

I know how they feel. I often wonder if I'm cut out to be a writer, and why I don't just settle down and do something sensible and productive with my life. Ironically, I wondered this much less before I started getting published. I know that it makes no sense. I'm not pretending that it does. I'm just trying to be honest.

Fortunately, these feelings are just feelings, and understanding that my feelings don't rule me is a productive step toward overcoming them. 

Also, as a Christian, I have further remedies to combat the madness.

Of primary importance is that I acknowledge that my work (and all work, really) is an act of obedience based on my trust in the Father's sovereign care.

Recently, I was encouraged to note that in Jesus' parable of the stewards, the master gave "each according to his ability." He gave the stewards individual levels of responsibility that he knew would not crush them. 

That means he doesn't hold a one-talent steward to five-talent work. 

What a comfort.

In the parable, however, the one-talent steward doesn't trust this. He is so afraid of failure (even low-level failure) that he does nothing. His fear cripples him. He buries his talent in the ground and robs the surrounding community of the benefits that the master's investment would bring.

But there's something the steward didn't consider: "While the steward was afraid of failing, his master wasn't afraid of giving him the chance to try. Even if the steward's fears told him otherwise, he should have placed his confidence in the truth that his master knew best and had actually taken his abilities into consideration" (Moser, 15-16).

This was a very freeing realization for me. I don't know if I'm a five-talent steward, a three-talent steward, or a one-talent steward; but I do know that God won't expect a level of work from me that he hasn't equipped me to produce. Therefore, if I'm willing to work in obedience, doing the best I can with the skills and abilities that I actually have, then I'll know I'm fulfilling my role as a steward of his grace.

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Moser, Phil. 2014. Taking Back Time: Biblical Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination. Biblical Strategies, 16.

Photo Attribution:

By User Gflores on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Overcoming Fear of Creative Failure, Part 1: Managing Expectations

Monday, May 15, 2017

Publication Announcement: The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles

I'm happy to announce that I've signed a traditional publication contract for The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles. This non-fiction ministry guide is designed to help pastors, church leaders, and marrieds more effectively provide soul care for long-term Christian singles. As marriage rates continue to decline among Millennials in the United States, this issue will gain increasing prominence.

Over a nine month period, I surveyed many singles, marrieds, pastors, elders, and church leaders. I asked them all the same basic questions about their perceptions of singleness in the church and then compared the data. After analyzing the results, I was able to highlight areas of divergence and recommend positive steps to addressing the underlying issues. 

A deep thank-you to everyone who took and/or shared the online survey during 2015-2016. Your input was very much appreciated! Also, thank you to everyone in my life who has been so amazing and supportive about this project, and to my pastors and beta team for reading early drafts of the manuscript and offering patient and helpful critiques. 

Although official release dates have not yet been nailed down, the book will hit the market within a year. My prayer is that the right books make it to the right hands so that the body of Christ is strengthened. 

Praise the Lord and pass the first editions!

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Photo Credit: 

Eduard von Grützner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 8, 2017

Overcoming Fear of Creative Failure, Part 1: Managing Expectations

Here's a confession: the closer I inch to release dates for professional writing projects, the more I suffer from senseless eleventh-hour panic spirals.

Along with the more garden-variety worries (that I'll disappoint people by not living up to my last project or by not producing something "good enough" or by writing something that not everyone likes -- imagine!), one of my more persistent concerns is the irrational fear that I'll never have another good idea.

Now, this fear is silly for a number of reasons; and identifying its roots has helped me push past it.

First, I must bear in mind that no one has ever demanded that I produce anything. God gifted me with skill and desire, and I love developing my gifts; but if I quit writing today, the world would continue spinning. Let's face it: there's already an overwhelming avalanche of content available. No one will ever get to it all, even without me adding to the pile.

Second, I've never not had a new idea. Sometimes the ideas have come quickly, and other times slowly - but they've always come. As Stevenson reminds us, "The world is full of a number of things." As long as I'm alive and active in the world, something will eventually spark.

Third, my underlying trust in the sovereignty of God means that I don't rely on myself to keep the plates spinning. He is the ultimate source of every good and perfect thing - including good ideas. 

It's all grace.

Dorothy L. Sayers is excellent on these points, and if you haven't read her book The Mind of the MakerI commend it to you. It's worth picking up for her robust treatment of the creative process as an outworking of the Imago Dei alone; but specific to our discussion at hand, it's also in that book that she pens this heart-warming admission: "No one is more insecure than the creative artist; in daring to dedicate himself to his work, he takes his life in his hands."


She gets it.

Creativity is a risk.

Risks can engender fear.

Fear doesn't have to win.

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Image Attribution:

By Tellmeimok (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, May 1, 2017

10 Great Literary Mashup Ideas

  • Animal Farm-to-Table: The Art of Triggering Local Socialist Movements
  • Alice's Adventures in a Land Remembered
  • Romeo and Julie of the Wolves
  • Lord Jim of the Flies
  • Ender's Hunger Games
  • The Time Traveler's Stepford Wives
  • The Devil in the Woman in White City
  • The Princess Bride Collector
  • The Man Who Mistook His Wife for the Red Hat Club
  • Eats, Shoots, and Leaves of Grass: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Individualism

Somebody please make these happen.

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Image Attribution:

Carl von Bergen [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons