Use the HALT Method to Maintain a Healthy Mental Position and Protect Your Creativity

October 28, 2011

As an artist, I have learned that my mental state can dramatically impact my ability to express my faith creatively, eloquently, and effectively. Zig Ziglar once said, “Positive thinking will let you do everything better than negative thinking will,” and he was right; there is plenty of research that supports his claim. In fact, medical and psychological research conducted in the last ten years successfully links state of mind to personal effectiveness and success. I myself have found this to be true; when my state of mind is healthy, I am more able to face and overcome difficult creative ruts, numerous rejection letters, and frustrating submission guidelines. Thankfully, I discovered a method that helps me maintain a healthy mental position.

The HALT method suggests pausing long enough to assess if I am Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Any of these conditions can immediately put my mental state on a downward slope. Originally used in recovery programs, HALT is also helpful to me as an artist. When in Halt, I may find myself becoming anxious, quick-tempered, narrow-minded, or lacking in creative vision, none of which are helpful for arranging music, writing inspirational stories, or creating compelling mixed media collages.

When in HALT, it is critical that I take a moment to assess and tend to my personal needs. If I am hungry, I make time for a meal or quick snack. If I am angry, I take a few extra minutes to detach from my stressful situation; I breathe, relax, stretch my limbs, count to ten, pray, and emotionally regroup. If I am tired, I withdraw for a nap and some quiet time in an effort to recharge my battery. If I am lonely and feeling secluded, I lift my spirits by visiting a neighbor or friend.

My ability to successfully use art as an expression of my faith depends on my ability to maintain a positive mental outlook. The HALT method allows me to assess and address my critical needs. When I do, I am more effective in rising above daily artistic challenges. This allows me to keep my mind free to soar to new levels and do what I love to do most – create!


The Dangers of Social Networking in Ministry

September 30, 2011

How much larger is God than you?

I recently read in the May 2011 issue of Christianity Today Magazine an article entitled, “Christianizing the Social Network”, and I was fascinated by the author’s concern about social networking tools creating unhealthy desires for the Christian community. One example the author gave was how YouTube heightens and preys upon “our desire to see and be seen”, and “making us exhibitionists, telling us that any part of the human experience can be someone’s entertainment.”

After reading this article, I became convicted of the need to be aware of how I use technology and how to be a good steward of the human experiences I share – mine and those belonging to others (like my husband). This conviction begs me to be intentional in how I promote our ministry and how I encourage others to use art as an expression of faith while simultaneously avoiding the exploitation of the human experience for the sake of expanding God’s Kingdom. Yes, this can be problematic. How do I raise the visibility of art as an expression of faith without promoting the artist above God? How do I raise the visibility of MY art as an expression of faith without promoting MYSELF above God?

After thinking on this I have decided to focus on three particular scripture verses in my effort:

  • Acts 20:24: I consider my life worth nothing; my only aim is to finish the race and testify to the good news of God’s grace.
  • Jeremiah 9:24: In doing so, I will boast about this – that I know God and that He is the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.
  • John 15:5: I will do this with God’s help because He is the vine and I am the branches; apart from him I can do nothing (correctly).

In essence, I will continue telling the world about God and His Grace and I will do so by illustrating (singing, writing, and painting about) what I know and understand about Him (including His kindness, justice and righteousness), professing Him as Lord and King; and I will do all of this while remaining mindful of the fact that I am nothing without Him.

And so I ask you: how will you resist the temptation to see and be seen, to tell any part of your human experience and promote yourself above God?


Are You Worthy?

September 2, 2011

In the past few months, my husband and I have performed at several churches of various denominations and in several different states. While doing the sound check at one church, the music director asked us a number of questions, one of which stuck out in particular: “Are you worthy of standing on God’s holy ground?” In other words, were we worthy of standing in their pulpit?

I cast a quick glance to my husband and thought to myself, “Is this a joke? Did this guy not do his homework and check us out before agreeing to meet with us? Did he not listen to our CDs or look over our websites? Is it just me, or is this whole discussion a little awkward?”

I immediately found myself fascinated by the idea of one mere human being asking another mere human being about worthiness for the purpose of standing on the pulpit in God’s name, and I left the interview conflicted and surprised by my inability to quickly articulate a reasonable answer to the question. Unfortunately, the enemy was prowling around like a lion and immediately began challenging my value and worth.  Am I worthy?

Three days later (no accident there, I’m sure), I came to the answer. By my own account, no, I am not worthy. No one is. But I am saved, and by God’s grace I am a co-heir to the throne and the daughter of the most high King, and by His account I am deemed worthy.

This was a great lesson for me and reminded me to respect a church’s need to ensure that the musical guests be vetted in terms of faith and salvation. But more importantly, this lesson reminded me to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks for a reason for the hope I have.

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

1 Peter 3:14-16 (NIV)

 


Biblical Accuracy verses Creative License: What is Our Responsibility as Christian Artists?

July 28, 2011

I recently read The Shack and found myself fascinated by the controversy surrounding this amazing novel. As an artistic work, this book has been criticized for promoting a wrong-headed view of universal salvation and for being deeply subversive, scripturally incorrect, and downright dangerous.  At the same time, others have celebrated this work as creative brilliance, spiritually profound, and transformational.

I was stunned by how a single creative work could provoke such opposing responses, an observation which raised for me this question: Is an author required to maintain a sense of biblical accuracy in his or her expression of faith, and to what extent is creative license appropriate? This same question could be asked of Christian songwriters and Christian artists, many of whose works have also provoked opposing responses within the Christian community.

I consider myself a Christian artist, meaning that I use art as an expression of faith in an effort to impact things on a spiritual level. As a result, I consider myself a teacher of God’s Truth and feel a certain responsibility to ensure that my artistic expressions are accurate representations of everything I know about God and His Good News; whether my expression is written, lyrical, or visual, I feel a responsibility to convey His attributes and promises in a way that is biblically accurate and theologically sound, even at the expense of using any creative license.

After reading The Shack, I wonder about my responsibility as a Christian artist. Am I expressing my faith for the purpose of educating others about Biblical truths, or am I expressing my faith for the purpose of entertaining and encouraging others to seek God’s truth on their own? What is the purpose of my expression and does purpose really matter? At what point does creative license trump biblical accuracy?

What do you think?


Check Out The CLASS Writer’s Blog!

June 30, 2011

I am delighted to share with you the CLASS Writer’s Blog, managed by my own Darling Husband, Lawrence J. Clark.  A great source of information, including reflections from past conference attendees, promotion suggestions from various published authors, and inspiring messages from conference speakers and presenters, this blog is updated weekly and highly recommended for some great writing tips!  Just take a look at some of the most recent blog post titles below, and see if there isn’t one that catches your attention!

  • “A Bushel of Thanks” by Beth Patch
  • “I Shall Not Want” by Golden Keyes Parsons
  • “Did You Miss a Miracle?” by Dianne Guthmuller
  • “The Power of Promo Photos” By Shona Neff
  • “Establishing Conflict” by Susan Titus Osborn
  • “Bullet Proof Research” by Dianne Mills

Have You Considered Adding Speaking to Your Artistic Expression of Self?

May 28, 2011

I am an artist, which means I have an inherent need to express myself.  As a songwriter, I express myself through creative lyrics and hooks.  As an author, I express myself with compelling plots and character dialogue.  As a mixed-media collage artist, I express myself with my color palette and design elements.  I use art to express myself, which means that I have something to say – something that burns so deeply in my heart that I can’t sleep peacefully until I share it with someone else.  This is the reason I sing, paint and write!

As an artist, I also have a certain level of expertise in using my artistic talent and medium of choice, not to mention personal experience with my subject matter (source of expression).  This simple truth opened my mind to a new possibility – expanding my artistic ministry to include speaking.  By including speaking as a vehicle for my expression I increase my ability to give meaning and clarity to my message, boost my visibility as an expert in the field, and increase in number my performances and shows.  How can that be bad?  It can’t!

If you too are feeling led to expand your ministry with public speaking to support your creative expression and personal message, I highly recommend two resources:

How to Speak So People Will Listen CD by Florence Littauer
Statistics continue to show that speaking in public is one of people’s greatest fears. Yet for many, putting together the perfect presentation is the key to professional success. Florence will guide you in planning, preparing, and presenting a program that will capture both the hearts and minds of the listeners. 90 minutes.

Talking So People Will Listen CD by Marita Littauer
All of us talk. Even if you are in a position where you can make people be quiet when you speak, you can’t make them listen. However, what you can do is adjust your approach to them so you can make it easier for them to really hear you! In this fast paced and entertaining tape based on her book, “Talking So People Will Listen”, Marita Littauer will help you identify your personal communication style and that of those with whom you live and work.  60 minutes.

Both CDs are instructional and insightful, and provide great suggestions for even a novice like me.  Florence Littauer is known universally for being entertaining, educational and encouraging all at the same time, and she has received special honors as a Legend in the speaking profession.  Marita has trained thousands of men and women in speaking and writing skills, is a member of the National Speakers Association and is a frequent guest on television and radio programs throughout the country.

For more information about this dynamic mother and daughter team, visit: http://www.classervices.com/florencespeaks.htm and http://www.programresources.com/spkr/littauer_marita.htm

And then ask yourself, “What have I got to lose, except maybe another peaceful night’s sleep”?


Footprints in the Sand – a Note about Authorship and Source of Inspiration

April 27, 2011

 

I had originally planned to post an article about the infamous “Footprints in the Sand” poem, and the inspiration behind this ever popular work – you know the one, the world-traveled poem about a dream where the author is walking and talking with God – until I quickly discovered that the answer to the question of authorship was complicated at best.  This little factoid impeded my plans because authorship is directly related to source of inspiration. 

During my research, I learned that there have been four versions of the poem (all written at different times) with three individuals claiming authorship.  Mary Stevenson is claimed to have composed the poem in 1939 when she was fourteen years old.  Carolyn Joyce Carty claims she wrote the poem when she was only six years old and had it published in 1963.  Margaret Fishback Powers claims she wrote the poem for her wedding in 1964.  All three women have copyrighted their verses, and still the poem appears in slightly different versions and is often credited to “Anonymous”.  So, who wrote the poem and does it really matter?

I expect it matters to those vested parties, especially in terms of acclaim and missed revenue.

By the way, both Zondervan and Harper Collins list Margaret Fishback Powers as the definitive author of this world-famous poem and both companies have published a variety of similar books by this same author, even though the circumstances surrounding this poem remain fraught with copyright infringements and legal mumbo jumbo.  In fact, Christianity Today published an article entitled “Footprints Forensics”, outlining in more detail the complicated legal battle over authorship and quoting Jim Potts, president of Dickson’s (a Christian gift company that includes six pages of “Footprints” products in its online catalog), as having said, “It’s sad ‘Footprints’ has become the source of litigation rather than inspiration.”

However, to the hurting hearts across the world looking for an encouraging word and inspiring phrase, authorship might matter not.  Here’s another question: remembering that the four Gospels were written by different disciples, each with slightly different and yet not so different accounts of their life with Jesus, why wouldn’t God use three different individuals to share and write about a dream of walking with Him in an effort to lead the bleeding soul back into the arms of Jesus?  Perhaps, in this case, the answer is not one of authorship and copyrights, but one of humility.  Perhaps this is God’s reminder to remain humble and not turn His “God-breathed” creations into controversy because authorship (other than His) doesn’t really matter to anyone else.  What matters is His message of love and hope.

So, I ask again: does it really matter who wrote the Footprints poem?  Maybe it shouldn’t.

Related links:

http://www.zondervan.com/Cultures/en-US/Authors/Author.htm?ContributorID=PowersM&QueryStringSite=Zondervan

http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/130001829/Margaret_Fishback_Powers/index.aspx

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/juneweb-only/125-42.0.html


The Time is Now for Some Divine Collaboration: Artists, Musicians, and Authors Unite!

April 2, 2011

 

“The lightning spark of thought generated in the solitary mind awakens its likeness in another mind.” Thomas Carlyle

As Christians, we are called to share the Good News and testify to the gospel of God’s grace (Mark 16:15–16, Acts 20:24).  We are also called to use whatever gifts (or talents) we have received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace (1 Peter 4:10). One way we can do this is through partnering (or collaborating) with other fellow artists.  In doing so, we connect with other creative minds, learn to approach the creative process in new ways, grow personally as artists (and Christians) in our field, and produce work that surpasses our individual artistic and creative limitations.  More importantly, we allow God to complete the good work that He has already begun in us (Philippians 1:4-6). 

Have I gotten your attention?  I sure hope so, and if you find yourself inspired to unite with another Brother or Sister for this purpose, here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Get creative!  Think outside the box and identify opportunities to combine your talents with those of other artists.  As an author, consider using a songwriter’s original music in a video book trailer or partnering with an artist for watercolor illustrations in a self-published book or for a book cover. As an artist, invite a singer/songwriter to provide music during an upcoming art show or use a singer/songwriter’s recordings as background music in your instructional YouTube videos.  As a singer/songwriter, use an artist’s painting or charcoal illustration for your next CD cover; photographs are a dime a dozen and original artwork may help your CD standout.  As a Christian, create an artistic showcase by combining various artistic talents to further expand God’s Kingdom.

Get connected! Finding artists, musicians and authors to collaborate with is easier than you might think.  Most large cities have local leagues and associations with a number of members eager and willing to offer their talent for your project.  Search the internet for local listings in your area and contact the league or association president about your project and desire to connect with Christian artists.  Ask if he or she will make an announcement at the next meeting and provide your contact information for interested parties.  Post a call for submission with online communities, such as Craig’s list, and advertise your collaborative need.  Use social networking site, blogs and personal websites to help spread the word as you reach out and expand your collaborative circle.

Get busy! Once you have established contact, share your vision with your new partner and get his or her input.  Brainstorm together on a bunch of ideas and be flexible in terms of execution.  Make sure everyone gets their appropriate credit for the completed work, and discuss fees (or bartering opportunities) before hand.  Schedule time to create a plan and then execute your plan.  Invite God into the process by praying together and remain open to His vision (Isaiah 55:8-9).  Finally, don’t give up; be mindful of any attacks by the enemy and press on (1 Peter 5:7-9).

Lawrence and I enjoy collaborating with other fellow artists.  We were fortunate to use Melanie Leslie’s artwork for the cover of Lawrence’s CD, Amazing!  We were blessed to donate our musical talents to the NorthWest Art League and add atmosphere to their local art show and sale, (and we sold some CDs in the process).  I was honored that an instrumental track to one of my songs (from The Message CD) was used in a promotional video to educate attendees at a Christian conference about anointing oils.

These are just a few examples of how we, as Christian artists, can ban together and we may never fully comprehend the value of our efforts, but we can imagine the impact and sharpen one another in the process.   

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)

Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up. Oliver Wendell Holmes


Sonnet 116, Mixed Media collage

March 1, 2011

I created this mixed media collage in early February, and found my inspiration from what was then an upcoming holiday – Valentine’s Day.  I documented my creative process and developed this video to share with others.  Take a look at the video and let me know what you think!  Does the art piece tell of love and romance?  I hope you’ll agree that it does.

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.

Song of Solomon 8:6


“How Do I Get Published?”

January 30, 2011

Great question! And not necessarily an easy one to answer. In fact, asking that question is not unlike asking how to build a house, the answer to which depends on a number of factors.

If you are serious about wanting to get published, I suggest making an honest assessment of your goals, as this will keep you focused and help you avoid building a sprawling condominium when what you really want is a quaint log cabin:

  1. What kind of writing do you prefer? (Genre, style, category)
  2. What writing experience do you have? (Frequency and quality)
  3. Who’s your target audience? (Age, income level, ethnicity, interests, etc.)
  4. Why do you want to get published? (Motive)
  5. How much are you able/willing to commit to the process? (Time and resources)
  6. Why do you think your writing is good enough for publication? (Perception versus reality)

Once you have answered these questions, it’s critical to understand that there are no shortcuts and that getting published rarely happens overnight or haphazardly. Like building a house, the journey of getting published takes time and energy… and a plan. The best advice I can offer (and have ever received) includes:

Learn all you can about the publishing business. Read books, subscribe to magazines, attend conferences, and take workshops. Learn about literary agents, online publishing, self-publishing, etc. Feel free to reference my article posted last year on our web site which outlined Lawrence’s recommended resources for writers. Also, for the Christian writer, we recommend attending The Glen Workshop and the CLASS Writers Conference.

Research your audience. Define your target market. Understand your market’s demand for your subject matter. Search the Internet to see how many other works (articles, essays, books, etc.) have been written on your subject as an indicator of interest. Know your competition and how your work is different and/or better.

Learn how to write and write well. Writing and rewriting are necessary steps to getting published. However, your best work shouldn’t be limited to your submissions. Take the time to also learn how to write query letters and book proposals, and remember that the same requirements for grammar, spelling and punctuation apply here as well.

Create a plan. Identify the publishers you intend to target with your submission. Create a calendar of activities and deadlines for your effort, and designate time for writing your query letters and proposals, along with time for trips to the post office for mailing your submissions. Track your submissions and define your personal measurements for success; a simple spreadsheet is helpful with this exercise.

Stick to the plan and don’t give up. Be tenacious in your effort. Accept that getting published is a long and involved process, and be patient with your progress. Keep focused on your end goal and execute your plan for achieving that goal.

Charles Caleb Colton, (English sportsman and writer, 1780-1832) once said, “To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” He was exactly right! The publishing business is complicated and highly competitive, explaining why there are thousands of pages printed on the subject. On the other hand, writing for publication can also be extremely satisfying. I would just encourage you to be realistic about what’s required in terms of your investment in time and energy. Otherwise, good luck!

“When one has finished building one’s house, one suddenly realizes that in the process one has learned something that one really needed to know in the worst way – before one began.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”  Proverbs 1:5