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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Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year

I was very touched to look up my blog statistics today and see that, gosh, pretty much as many people are reading my blog this month – when I’ve posted literally nothing – as any other month. In my head, this could be caused by many possibilities, all of them fairly positive – you actually find what I wrote in the past interesting, so you came back to reread it, or you told other people about it; or new people found the blog on Google and read something; or you all missed me and kept checking the blog daily to see if I’d written anything new yet.

Well, I haven’t written anything new. But I don’t feel bad about it – and here’s why you don’t need to feel bad about it either.

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Read faster, write more

Let me start with a disclaimer: I’m not boasting, just hoping to show you how you can be as fast a writer as I am, too, if writing more content more quickly would be useful to you in your role as a creator or a creative professional.

So at the moment I’m writing about 6 to 9 articles a day at work. That’s about one an hour, including time spent researching the topic. To give you some perspective, I won’t tell you what my colleagues are averaging, but rest assured that I am fast.

How do I do it? What’s my secret? It’s simple, and you can do it, too.

I’m about to share with you one of my biggest secrets.

I read super fast.

Scarily fast.

So fast The Flash shivers when he hears me open a comic book, because he’s afraid he won’t be able to tell the story fast enough.

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

The Flash Comic #2: The Fastest Man Alive. This is the new cover variant. Image source: Comic Mega Store

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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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Why creators need to care less what people think

74 - Skeleton Keys with Locks - from The Journey's End on Etsy

Image source: The Journey’s End seller on Etsy

Today a tradesmen came to do the front door to replace the broken lock on our door. That’s right, burglars, don’t even bother trying. We’re Fort Knox, baby.

But he came to the door and my brain immediately thought, Aaaargh I forgot you were coming today. The place is a mess and I haven’t even vacuumed yet.

He was there less than half an hour to do the job and we’ll never see him again, and why would he even care what our place looks like? Gosh, what a waste of mental energy it was to stress about it.

It led me to wonder, if I’m letting my poor brain stress out this much – even momentarily – over what a total stranger thinks of me in a non-creative situation, how much am I stressing my brain out about what readers are going to think about what I write?

Have I been writing a terrible novel because I’m worried that readers aren’t going to get it?

Then I read this post by Tim Urban today and just laughed because it explains everything. It’s called ‘Taming the Mammoth: Why you should stop caring what other people think’.

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Dressing the part: Fashion for women writers

A Roman woman writer, Terentia or Terenzia. She wears the gold hairnet common to the Imperial Period in Pompeii. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A Roman woman writer, Terentia or Terenzia. She wears the gold hairnet common to the Imperial Period in Pompeii.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

This post is a bit of fun. Many women – myself included – love clothes and deciding what image we’re going to portray with our dress style. So today’s post is all about the fashions of historical and modern writers in different countries and genres.

Even Jane Austen loved talking about the latest fashions when she wasn’t writing. She once wrote to her sister, “My cloak came on Tuesday, and, though I expected a good deal, the beauty of the lace astonished me. It is too handsome to be worn — almost too handsome to be looked at.”

Today’s post is mainly for women, but if you’re interested, I can post a version for the gents later on!

Does any of this actually matter?

There’s a serious side to fashion.

Let’s say it’s time to finish writing your book. If you feel creative wearing certain clothes, wear them every time you write and you’ll write more often and with more energy!

Then it’s time to promote the book. If you know that you are wearing something that makes you look your best, you’ll feel more confident and find it easier to talk about your creative work with others. If you have a great profile photo, you won’t hesitate to get in touch with someone on LinkedIn. When you’re at a writer’s festival and you have a two-minute chance to chat with a publisher in an elevator after a session, you’ll speak with confidence knowing you look and feel your best, your most creative, your most “writerly”.

Writers come in all shapes and sizes, so ultimately you should choose whatever you feel most confident and creative in (thanks, Modern Mrs Darcy) as your “writer” outfit. But here are some ideas if you’ve never thought about dressing like a writer before…

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My story shortlisted for Positive Words mini-competition

Positive Words: For creative writers everywhere literary magazine, July 2014 issue

Positive Words: For creative writers everywhere literary magazine, July 2014 issue

Great news! Last year I entered a stack of short story competitions and one of my non-fiction stories was shortlisted for the Positive Words December competition.

If you’re an unpublished author, why would you spend valuable time writing short stories for competitions? Shouldn’t you be focussing all your energy on getting your novel written and edited and into the hands of publishers?

It gives you motivation to get something written to a deadline.

It’s easy to say “I’ll write every day” and then get overwhelmed by the demands of daily life – work, social life, maybe study, cooking, cleaning – and put writing on the back-burner. You don’t need to write every day, but if you don’t write something regularly, you’ll stop identifying yourself as a writer and lose motivation to write at all.

It’s a chance to experiment with new styles, genres or plot types without risk of failure.

We all know that the only way to write better is to write more. But if you’re only writing within the same novel over and over, your writing can get stale. When you hit writer’s block in one project, it’s a nice boost to be able to thrash out a short story quickly and then return to your first project with a renewed sense of accomplishment and creative drive.

It’s a way of getting feedback, good or bad. It’s encouraging if you do win or get shortlisted. It shows you’re making progress in improving your writing. You wrote something the judges thought was worth reading. And if you weren’t selected, then sometimes competition judges will provide feedback on the reasons you didn’t win, which is helpful.

It helps you to feel connected to your writing community. Writing alone in your garret? Boring. Sending stories out into the world regularly to competitions is a nice way of knowing someone is reading your work, and often it’s a great way to get feedback.

Working in publishing, it’s easy to become disheartened working on making the dream come true for so many aspiring authors while you’re not seeing progress with your own dreams. But I’m looking forward to the day when it’s my turn to see a book I wrote on the shelves.

Image source: Photo of me, by Slade Photography, 2011

Image source: Photo of me, by Slade Photography, 2011

Check out http://positivewordsmagazine.wordpress.com/ for more information about Positive Words literary magazine.

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2015. Re-blogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

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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Quick quiz: What instrument would play the soundtrack of your story?

Headphones on soundtrack score. Image source: Rain Dance

Image source: Rain Dance

I made a quiz using ProProfs!

A great story needs a great soundtrack, and a great soundtrack sings with the voice of one heroic instrument telling the story. What instrument will play the soundtrack for your story?

Go here to take the quiz: https://www.proprofs.com/quiz-school/story.php?title=mta4njgwnw==4txq

Then let me know in the comments what result you got! 🙂

This post and the quiz were written by TJ Withers-Ryan, (C) 2015. Reblogging or sharing of the quiz as long as you credit me as author.