How do I know if it’s God’s will? Sticking to your beliefs in work and creativity

Can we know the will of God when making decisions? How do I know if I’m doing God’s will? How do I know if my feet are on the right path for God’s plan for me? How can I honour God with my work? How can I honour God in my writing or my art?

I was asked this recently by a friend and I’m going to answer it here as well because I think this question fundamentally affects our decisions when we’re living out our faith.

I went to the Planetarium recently and re-discovered that we are all just specks in this giant universe – no, less than specks. We cannot be seen from the moon. Our planet cannot be seen from outside the Milky Way.

We are miniscule – but God loves each of us as individuals, and Jeremiah 29:11 says God has a great plan for our lives. I can’t claim to know the will of God. But here’s what I think about when I’m trying to live out God’s will in both my paid work and my creative projects.

My feet at the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park.

About to start the labyrinth in Sydney Centennial Park. Image source: My camera.

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Best books and media I’ve found in 2016 so far

We’re only a few days into 2016 but I have found some AMAZING reads in my first days of 2016, which have also been my last few days of annual leave.

As a writer and editor, my “to read” list is too long for me to ever actually read, if it’s really true that you can only get through about 3,000 in the average lifetime. In my Google Docs “Books” folder, the list of all the books I’ve read in my life (only about 600 that I can remember so far) is far smaller than the list of books I would like to read (about 1 million). So I’ve told you how I chose the books I read last year, and I can definitely say I’m sticking with that strategy in 2016.

If you don’t know what to get yourself in the Boxing Day sales, and you have money left over after purchasing some truly meaningful gifts from Gifts of CompassionTEAR’s Useful Gifts, Christian Blind Mission’s Meaningful Gifts, or some other world-changing charity … then please consider the following reads for belated Christmas gifts to yourself.

Get ready.

They’ll knock your socks off.

Best books made of paper and stuff in January 2016

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

My January 2016 reads lined up. Image source: My camera.

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Cultivate your curiosity

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

Me hard at work in the new Canstar office in Brisbane CBD. I took this photo using my new Windows phone.

I’ve been thrashing out the articles for my current contract employer, Canstar Blue. You can view all of my articles at this link, and I’ve compiled a ‘Best Of’ compilation at the bottom of this post…

Have I mentioned lately how amazing it is to be writing for a living? I am thoroughly enjoying every day. And thankfully they like me, too, so I get to stay on for another 6 month contract. So thankful! Praise God.

So here’s two of the things I’ve been thinking about this Friday…

Every morning at 9am we start our day with an editorial team Brainstorm Meeting. Depending on what day it is, 3 to 7 of us get together in one of the meeting rooms and say, “Tomorrow’s product releases are 4WDs and pharmacies. What are some articles we can write today about that?” Then we chat about it and get a list of 5 to 10 ideas, divide them among us, and report on where we’re up to with our other article lists that we’re each responsible for.

I love these meetings because writing is largely a solitary task, but for 15 minutes every day, we’re all part of a team working together. We’re all having our work and our ideas acknowledged and validated. Team managers, take note of the first thing I’ve been realising:

Short, positive team meetings more often make for happier staff.

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The benefits of writing at different times of day

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Painting attributed to Valentin de Boulogne: ‘Saint Paul Writing His Epistles’

Earlier this week we talked about devotions to help you start and finish the day well, so that you can be more creative. Today is all about what time of day you spend creating, whether that means writing or painting or sketching or crocheting.

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Creating as an act of worship

Every act of creating is an act of worship because it is an echo of what our great creator did in making us.

This month I’ve had one migraine after another – sigh! For me that’s just the result of stress and being too busy to find true rest. One of the more painful results of that is that I’ve been unable to stay in the room when we’re worshipping together at church or the awesome camps I lead on (SU’s Ubertweak, and Gateway Youth Camp)… because the music makes me feel like a hippo’s jaws are squeezing down on my head.

Photo of fighting hippos from Animals Time

On National Geographic’s TV show ‘Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr’, Dr Brady measured the bite force of an adult female hippo at 8,100 newtons (enough to crush a crocodile), but they had to give up trying to measure the male’s bite pressure because it was so aggressive.
Image source: Animals Time

I’ve found this time of personal silence challenging, but it’s also brought me back to an old truth – that there are so many more ways to worship God than just singing songs. The method of worship that I’ve found most powerful during this time is creating: every time I create, or write, or paint, or sew, I’m worshipping.

Me painting in 2011 during my ‘A Year on Canvas’ project.

Me painting in 2011 during my ‘A Year on Canvas’ project.

A couple of years ago I ran an activity at Youth called 1:1. The name was a reference to the beginning of the Hebrew poem that tells the creation story in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Over the course of the night, our 150 kids painted canvasses, journalled, made encouragement cards for each other, and made and flew paper airplanes. We revelled in the act of reflecting what God did in creating us.

One of my Youth girls’ talented artist mothers, Tess Geizer, made this cross for me for my birthday. I’ve worn it every Friday night since then for leading at Youth.

One of my Youth girls’ talented artist mothers, Tess Geizer, made this cross for me for my birthday. I’ve worn it every Friday night since then for leading at Youth.

Soul Survivor church in Watford, England, experienced revival in the late 1990s when they did something similar. They cut back their music team from the now-typical rock concert style to the congregation singing with only their voices. Why would they do that when they were already one of the leading worship music creators worldwide?

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Music to write by

Music to write by - typewriter treble clef. Image source: Scores for Writers

Image source: Scores for Writers

 

Ever wondered what type of music will help you to focus when writing in different genres? Here’s what’s worked for me in the genres in which I’ve written or edited.

 

Okay, NaNoWriMo is nearly over, with only five days until the end is declared. So if you’re nearly there, here’s some final inspiration, to give you the last push you need to get that baby out (what a gross analogy, seriously). And if you’re boycotting NNWM and you’re kind of sick of hearing about it, soon we’ll be back to awesome posts that are not all about how to write a novel in the shortest possible timeframe.

Why does music help you write?

Studies have consistently shown that classical, Baroque era music can help students study things they’ve already learnt once, and can help workers to concentrate better during long or repetitive tasks. For those in a busy study or work environment, music has also been proven effective for blocking out distracting background noise. If you’re writing, editing, or creating art, music can help you stay focused and be more creative and open to new ideas.

By contrast, if you’re trying to learn new information that requires your full attention, music can distract you from what you’re reading. So if you’re doing research about historical methods of leather tanning for a new book, you might want to turn the stereo off and focus on the history.

Listening to lyrics can be distracting from writing, so most of the music I’ve featured in this post is purely instrumental. This is because lyrics are words and you’re already trying to think about other words when you’re writing. (People in other disciplines like maths, science or IT have no trouble with listening to lyrics while they work – in fact it helps, since their domain is largely numbers and code (Lesuik, 2005).)

So what can you use to inspire you when writing in different genres? Read on to find out!

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Children’s books with bite

Quote from The Velveteen Rabbit. Image source: DisneyBaby.com on Pinterest

Quote from The Velveteen Rabbit.
Image source: DisneyBaby.com on Pinterest

 

A few years ago, I wrote a Terzanelle poem that I’m thinking I might turn into a hilarious children’s book – a children’s book to be reckoned with!

It was for uni, and I had to write a ‘fixed structure’ poem with a set rhyming scheme. I saw in the list of examples of fixed structures this ‘Terzanelle’ and I was like, WOAH! Because I have a beautifully weird real name (yes, TJ is my working nickname) and people will always try to mispronounce it as ‘terzah’ (ugh, that is not beautiful).

So what is a Terzanelle? I didn’t really care, since I picked it for its awesome name, but I soon learned that it is made up of five triplets and a Sicilian quatrain in a terza rima rhyme scheme: ABA BCB CDC DED EFE FGFG. (I cheated on the last line and made my rhyme scheme end AEAE, but I still passed the assessment item.) The key is that in a Terzanelle, the second line of each stanza becomes the last line of the next.

So here’s my poem:

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Go where you find inspiration: Part 1: Intriguing characters found in portrait paintings

Go where you find inspiration, and go there often

 

I’m in Adelaide this week, and while I’ll save my excessive raving about how beautiful it is for later, I have to tell you about where I went yesterday.

I went to the South Australian Museum and the Art Gallery.

Sounds a little boring, maybe, if you hate animals or history or art. But I have to tell you, I found myself absolutely, 100% inspired there – the most inspired, in fact, that I’ve felt in months.

This first post will be about the South Australian Art Gallery and the beautiful portraits I admired there; my second post will illuminate the incredible animals that I discovered at the Museum.

Ever just see someone on the street and their face just tells you a story that you want to write instantly? They’re such a clear picture of a character that you can imagine. Maybe they look like a character you’ve already begun writing, or maybe they’re one that you’ve never considered before. You can almost hear their voice in dialogue before they speak.

That’s what the art gallery was like for me. I wandered the halls snapping shots of nearly every portrait – faces old and young, faces wise and bewildered, faces engaged and closed-off.

Because of the age of the paintings, and the gorgeous fashions on display, I couldn’t help myself – suddenly I wanted to write a history novel again! Someone asked me just last week to look over their historical romance novel (fun!), so it’s been on my mind. I also wished I could have taken my dress-maker friend through the halls of the gallery, just to gaze at the fabrics and dream of ways to make modern dresses based on these opulent draperies.

Here are some of the faces that inspired me…

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The magic of the quill

The quillIt’s an old adage that what you write with, your tools, affects what you write.

When I turned twenty, I celebrated my birthday with family but didn’t make a big deal of it to my friends. (Parties are stressful. You have to make them happen. I loved my 21st, but by then I’d come out of my shell a lot.)

So one of my friends decided someone needed to make a big deal of it, if I wouldn’t.

He asked when I was working, went to my house, snuck into my room (with my parents’ help), and left me a present.

Don’t get all excited. It wasn’t a mountain bike or a pet puma or anything.

He’d given me a pen. One of those fancy ones, with a real brand name, and replaceable cartridges that cost almost as much as the pen. And these pens cost a little bit! They’re not exorbitant, but you don’t get them for just messing around in your school books. You get them for your office, for sitting on your desk when big clients visit, for signing important documents.

When I picked this pen up, it felt heavy. Metal. Full of the promise of unwritten, unspoken words.

I checked the card:

For all the stories you will write,

and for the story you will write with your life.

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