As I predicted last month, September was another month of pure reading randomness. I actually started 2 books but just couldn’t get into them and decided to move on and try something different. There are just too many great books in the world to force myself to read something that isn’t keeping my interest. By the end of the month I was totally blown away with many, many words of inspiration from Jen Hatmaker and Elizabeth Gilbert, but before I jump into that let’s take a look at what the original plan was for September…
Murder in the Sentier by Cara Black (Aimee Leduc #3)
*Daily Love: Growing into Grace by Mastin Kipp
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens (Books of Beginning Book #1)
I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
*Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green
**Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
**For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
*I tried REALLY hard to get into these two books because I love John Green and I love the idea behind Daily Love. It just didn’t happen. Sometimes I can really struggle with a YA book that has a teenage boy as the protagonist because the male teenage angst just wears me out. Well Will Grayson actually had 2 teenage male protagonists with STRONG doses of teenage angst and I couldn’t handle it, so, onward. The idea behind Daily Love is wonderful, and I think Kipp has a very gentle tone in the book. The writing was just really elementary and I felt like he was trying to dumb down the concepts way too much so, onward.
**Decided to add these two to my list because, why not?
I’ve got a tie this month for Book of the Month – the award goes to both Liz Gilbert and Jen Hatmaker. Here’s the funny thing – I read these two books simultaneously, which I basically never do, but they played so well together I just couldn’t stop. I’m going to go ahead and assume that these two women didn’t intend for these books to be read at the same time, but I’m so glad I did because they rocked my world together!
I think separately they both would’ve been great books, but together it was like a choir singing in harmony and I found myself laughing and following Chris around the house saying, “No, seriously, just let me read you this paragraph. That’s so me, right?”
Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about here are a few excerpts that I can’t get enough of…
When speaking about how we all need to run our own race, Jen Hatmaker says, “How many trot out that tired cliche – ‘I’m waiting for God to open a door’ – and He is all, ‘I love you, but get going, pumpkin, because usually chasing the dream in your heart looks surprisingly like work. Don’t just stand there, bust a move.’ (God often sounds like Young MC.) You are good at something for a reason. God designed you this way, on purpose. It isn’t fake or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given, so use them.”
Liz Gilbert basically picks up where Jen leaves off and says that if you want to do something, do it. Don’t wait for permission to be creative or to make what you want to make. You don’t have to be the best, brightest or fastest, just do your own thing and make what you feel called to make. So many creatives feel like if what they make isn’t perfect it can’t be shared and Gilbert quotes writer Rebecca Solnit when she says, “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible and the fun.” Then Gilbert adds, “Create what you want to create – and let it be stupendously imperfect, because it’s exceedingly likely that nobody will even notice. And that’s awesome.” Holy weight-off-of-our-collective-creative-shoulders Batman.
Hatmaker continues that line of thought with her chapter on balance (the Worst Beam Ever). “Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing.” A few paragraphs later referencing the Pinterest life of perfection she says, “Listen to me: No one can pull this off. No one is pulling this off. The women who seem to ride this unicorn only display the best parts of their stories. Trust me. No one can fragment her time and attention in to this many segments.” Amen to that! Hatmaker does a wonderful job using the balance beam as a way to help us visualize that we should keep “on the beam” what matters most to us and what we want to do, and feel free to throw things “off the beam” that are only making it hard for us to live sane lives. I’m a very visual person and this really hit home with me. Making things I want to make – on the beam. Making meals that we love – on the beam. Reading great books – on the beam. Worrying about things I can’t control – Off the ever-loving beam!
Gilbert goes on to talk about how important it is for us to do what we feel like we need to do and make it a priority. For example – if painting or writing truly makes you happy, you need to do it, and do it regularly, or the rest of you will suffer. I seriously almost shouted “AMEN” when I read this next paragraph, “It has taken me years to learn this, but it does seem to be the case that if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).” Seriously – Amen to that. For those of us that are “makers” it is so important to just make something. I ALWAYS need a project that I’m working on, a creative task to solve and something new to learn or I’m like a border collie that hasn’t been outside in 3 days – slightly manic with a scary, crazed look in my eyes. Whenever I tell Chris I have an idea for a project he basically does cartwheels because he knows that means he’s less likely to come home and find me crawling up the walls for the foreseeable future.
Now here’s the interesting thing – Gilbert goes on to say that for those of us that are makers it’s actually a bad idea to tie that passion for making to our livelihood. Her argument is that by putting that much responsibility on our creative juices we kill the joy of just making. I read this paragraph 3 times and then forced Chris to listen to it twice, “…I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off of their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.” Amen Liz, amen.
Here’s what spoke to me – and I know there are a million photographers out there that will disagree with what I’m about to say but frankly, I just don’t care. The photography industry is filled with people that consider themselves professionals because they work as full-time photographers. Working full-time at something does not make you a professional any more than babysitting makes you a Mom. These full-timers often consider the folks with a day job as “less professional” or “not-yet professional” because they aren’t depending on photography to pay the bills.
Speaking as someone that has done it both ways – with a day job for 7 years and full-time for almost 3, I can honestly tell you that I’m the same person. Nothing magically changed in the way I operated my camera or my business once I started depending on photography to pay my mortgage. I’ve always had the proper equipment, licenses and insurance. I’ve gained experience each year, taken continuing education classes and run my business with integrity. None of that changed when I left my day job. What did change was the pressure I put on myself and my creative juices while on the job. It was no longer just fun or inspiring all the time, it was work, and sometimes work sucks no matter what you do.
I’ve had to make significant changes to my business since going full-time to protect my time and what matters most to me, and to make sure that I still make shooting things that inspire me a priority. It’s been so much harder to remain focused on photography as a creative outlet while running a business. I’ve recently found myself creating things with paint brushes and power tools in order to encourage my photography creative juices. I can totally see how maintaining a day job and working as a photographer would’ve made me a more creative photographer, and in no case would it have made me less professional.
It’s a crazy thing, this being creative for a living, and it’s not for the faint of heart. If you are a “maker” or a creative soul I highly recommend For the Love and Big Magic. My world has been rocked, for the better, and I think there are little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration from both Gilbert and Hatmaker that can encourage every creative spirit.
I know this Good Reads post has been, in the words of the Mad Hatter, “Much more muchier” than my usual light-hearted fare, so if you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around until the end. For October I need a solid dose of fantasy in my life so I’m going to re-read the All Souls Trilogy by Deb Harkness. It’s my favorite trilogy of all-time, and if you’re looking for a reason to enjoy witches and vampires this October Harkness is always a great option. Happy reading interwebs!