Archives For creativity

It has been said that age is but a number. That we are only as old as we feel. “As a man thinketh,” etc.

There is a certain truth to this. And having a positive outlook certainly has benefits. In this sense, age is just a number.

But aging is cold, hard fact. I first became cognizant of this in my late twenties: a few of the whiskers in my beard took the inexorable spin on the color wheel to gray.

But I didn’t feel any older. (The gray has since spread like a disease, slowly making its way from the center of my chin up the sides of my face).

A little later, the early thirties, my metabolism showed signs of decline: I could no longer eat what I wanted without consequence.

And then one morning I awoke to find that, while they never had before, consuming too many sweets precipitated nausea. It was around this same time I discovered that any amusement park rides which involved spinning introduced a rather greenish cast in my otherwise lily white skin.

The late thirties brought with them: bladder problems, sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism. All treatable, but all nevertheless leaving me (subjectively) feeling much older than I ever had.

The last several years have been a time of transition, evolution, and entropy:

I’m objectively, quantifibly becoming something: older.

My body is evolving (or devolving) as time goes on (evolution=change over time).

And I’m slowing down. Entropy–the second law of thermodynamics. “Things wear out, the center cannot hold…”

Just at the time when things are heating up professionally, and personally, my get up and go has got up and went. I have ideas, but no stamina to execute on them. Such cruel irony.

My son recently asked if I wanted to live forever. My reply? In this body? God, I hope not. I want an upgrade! I want one that doesn’t get weary, one that doesn’t have sleep apnea, one that doesn’t have upper eyelids that are puffy and drooping.

I want an upgrade.

Thankfully, one is coming. It’s only requirement is that I die. That’s the deal: birth requires some kind of death. Sperm cells and ovum, once united, are no longer what they were–have in fact died to their old natures to bring forth be life. So it is with the Christian: “though the outer man is perishing, the inner man is being renewed day by day.”

So in the meantime, between now and when God calls me home, I will practice the only death afforded me:

Death to self. Pressing on in spite of life’s hardship and frailties. Trusting that what He says is true. And I’d like to think that, because I need it so much more, I understand grace just a little bit better. His grace suffices, and I fall upon it everyday. I fall, and He makes me to stand.

I can–because He did, and does.

I’m not too old, too busy, or too tired to dream. Sure, I’m older, and my body is (as is yours) marching towards decay, I’m not dead yet.

And neither are you.

Let’s choose to die daily to the desire to give up, to throw in the towel.

A story is written one word at a time–line upon line. Likewise, a painting is made one brush stroke at a time. Weight is lost one pound at a time, walking happens one step at a time…

Dreams are achieved when all the small steps we take are added together into a new whole. We can do hard things.

So take the next step, my friends. There is always grace sufficient for that. We can do it.

Create Past the Pain

randomlychad  —  November 28, 2012 — 18 Comments

Towards the end of the classic movie, Princess Bride, there is a scene where Westley–recently resurrected–bluffs his way through a confrontation with the the evil Prince Humperdinck. He threatens a duel–not to the death, but “to the pain.” To my mind, this is what we who call ourselves creative must do with the “Resistance.” We must wrestle it to the pain, through the pain, to get to the work we were made to do.

You say you are not creative? I don’t believe you. Bestselling author Tosca Lee says, “We are made in the image of the most creative being in the universe… But we allow things to get in the way.”

Things such as the resistance.

What is the the resistance? Whatever gets in our way. Whatever fears, doubts, messages, which assail us, and keep us from creating. You already know this, but it bears repeating:

No one else in this world of seven billion souls has the same well of experiences from which to draw. No one else has your unique perspective and voice.

Because no one else is you!

And you can do it! We need your voice. I need your voice.

Because it helps me to know that I am not alone, not crazy, in the pursuit of my dream.

Now: create your hearts out, write until your fingers bleed, your heart bleeds, your arms ache from sculpting, painting… And then do it some more! Cast off the fetters which restrain you from doing the creating you really want to do, feel called to do.

When you do that, the magic happens–because honoring the gift, whatever it is, honors the ONE Who gave it to you.

Create through the pain, past the pain, and get up tomorrow, and do it again. Because the resistance is not going away. But like Prince Humperdinck, we can threaten it into submission, quell its voice, and get down to work. The resistance does not fear getting ugly with you, so be ruthless in conquering it. Because you will find that it is, afterall, just a bully.

And like most bullies, the resistance is really a coward at heart.

So resist the resistance.

And do it one day at a time. Because that’s all we have to work with: one day at a time. Your courage, in the face of your fears, encourages not only me, but everyone watching.

Folks, it’s my privilege today to present an interview with author Chad Gibbs. He is the author of the bestselling God and Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC, and the recently released Love Thy Rival: What Sports’ Greatest Rivalries Teach Us About Loving Our Enemies. (Head here if you would like a signed copy).

 

1) When did you first know that writing was something you wanted to pursue? And who supported you early on in pursuit of your calling?

I didn’t really start reading until after college. I mean I knew how to, just never did it for leisure. I think a love of reading really turned me on to writing, and my girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was and is my biggest supporter (figuratively, not literally).

2) You are the (regional) bestselling author of God & Football. What kind of pressure did you put on yourself to follow that book up with something as strong (and as funny)? (And what does a typical Chad Gibbs work day look like?)

No pressure really. I mean I’d love for each book to be better than the last, and each one to outsell the last, but that’s not going to happen. In the end I just want to write stuff that makes my wife laugh. Not sure if there is a typical work day. Some days I write all day, some days I drive all day to talk to a church or group, some days I watch a lot of soccer.

3) Your wife is a doctor? What’s it like having a live-in patron? Ok, just kidding! How supportive is your wife of your work? How does she help keep you grounded?

Tricia could not be more supportive. It’s obviously a blessing to be able to pursue writing full-time, and not something I could do without her. All aspiring writers should hang around medical schools to look for potential mates.

4) Your second (published–we know all writers have trunks, and in them are manuscripts mouldering far from the light of day) book, Love Thy Rival, came out recently. How did the idea for that book come about? Is there really more sports in it? 😉

More sports I’m afraid. With the first book I looked at how fans love their teams, and in this one I wanted to look at why sometimes they hate their rivals even more. To me it seemed a natural progression, although publishers didn’t think so, which is why I self-published it.

5) As a writer, who do you like to read? What kind of work nourishes your creative soul? Along those lines, would you agree, or disagree, with the following: Worship is whatever we attempt to derive life from? In your case, what is it about sports that so nourishes you?

Oh I read all sorts of stuff. Enjoy Nick Hornby, Bill Bryson, AJ Jacobs, Malcolm Gladwell. Older stuff I enjoy is Hemingway; read Great Gatsby every year, and To Kill a Mockingbird is a favorite. I love reading about travel, and I love funny writers. Sometimes reading this stuff ‘nourishes my creative soul’, and sometimes, if it’s too good, it makes me want to give up. I’m not sure if sports nourishes me, but I enjoy the drama of it. I think that’s why I write about fans, and not really the games.

6) As intimated above, your books are funny. What pushed you in that direction? What, in your view, makes for good satire?

It’s the only way I know how to write really. I just put down my thoughts and observations, which I guess are oftentimes humorous. I get that from my mother, who sees the funny side in every situation.

7) I’m not so much a sports fan (a huge failing, I know); as such, what would I (or readers like me) get out of your books? What is there that’s applicable?

I think the two books are entertaining, even if you’re not a sports fan. Spiritually, they take a look at idolatry, something we all struggle with from time to time.

8) You’re currently engaged in a campaign to build a women and children’s clinic in Haiti. How did that come about?

After writing God & Football I started getting emails from fans who shared my struggles. I remember thinking, “great, a community of like-minded Christian sports fans. I just wish we could do something.” So I spoke to Samaritan’s Purse when wrapping up the new book and we came up with a giving campaign that would pit rival fans against each other with the goal of raising 40K to build the clinic in Haiti. We’re over 1/4 of the way there, but still have a ways to go, so if any of your readers are feeling generous you can send ’em my way.

[Note: to learn more about the Samaritan’s Purse campaign, and how you can help, please visit Chad’s blog]

9) I’ve heard that you’re a rabid Star Wars fan? (I am, too). What do you like about Star Wars? Which one is the best (if you say Phantom Menace you’re never welcome back here again)?

Empire is the best film, and the best thing about Star Wars is Lando Calrissian.

10) What’s next for Chad Gibbs? I hear you’re working on a travel book for Zondervan–how’s that coming along? Any fiction in your future? Any questions you’re surprised you’re never asked that you would like to address? Speak now, or forever… Oh, never mind. 😉

Yes, a travel book with Z that looks at Christianity around the world. Been to Brazil, Spain, England, Russia, Uganda, and Italy so far. India, Japan, The Netherlands, China, Australia, Israel and Turkey to come. No fiction for now, unless you count the parts of God & Football I made up. Oops.

About Chad Gibbs:

Chad Gibbs, former baby, is the best-selling (okay, regional best-selling) author of God & Football: Faith and Fanaticism in the SEC and Love Thy Rival: What Sports’ Greatest Rivalries Teach us about Loving Our Enemies. He has written for The Washington Post, CNN.Com, RELEVANT, and has made multiple (okay, two) appearances on ESPN’s Outside the Lines. If you’d like to talk to Chad about his books, or about life, or about how to lose baby fat, he can be reached at [email protected] or by raven.

1) When did you first know when you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote this play called The Artist (in the late 90’s, long before the recent Best Picture Winner). I don’t even remember the exact plot, but it was something akin to four people painting all of their sins on a canvas, and then someone else came along, making those paintings beautiful. I know it sounds kind of serious and ham-fisted (which it was) but it had a lot of jokes in it.

2) Who first validated that desire in you?

The audience for that play. It got a standing ovation after it was over (it played at the youth event) and afterwards everyone talked about how great the writing was. I realized what I loved most was putting the story together.

3) What does a workday look like for Rob Stennett?

Everyday is a little different. I do a lot of writing and directing. But I always try to craft fiction in the morning. If I don’t the day quickly gets away from me.

4) What is your creative process?

Before I ever sit down to write I think about the story. Getting ready in the morning, in the car, I try to really think about the scene that day. It helps me so the writing kind of explodes out of me by the time I sit down. Normally, I’ll have somewhat of an outline–but then I’ll get this great idea and I have to change a bunch of stuff in earlier chapters. When the story is FINALLY finished I revisit all the chapters and rewrite them. Then when I feel done I send them to my editor who tells me there is a lot more rewriting to do. Sorry. This suddenly doesn’t feel very creative. [Ed. note: no, but it sounds very real]

5) You are on staff at a church, right?

Yes, New Life Church in Colorado Springs. It’s a really great group of people and I’m happy to be a part. I’m the Creative Director: I direct productions, oversee video and graphic content, and whatever else needs to be done.

6) How do you balance your multiple careers? Family Life?

That’s the hardest part. I love all of it. I guess lately the key is really to schedule my time well. I work a lot during lunch. Sometimes I put on a cup of coffee at night and work more. I don’t know if I’m a very balanced person. But I’m a happy person. I love my family and love what I do.

7) Your work includes a lot of pop culture references, social commentary, and satire. What drew you as a creative person to those avenues?

Pop culture is what I love. I grew up on Star Wars,Beastie Boys, and whatever else you see in my books; it’s something fun to talk about. Some earlier seasons of the Simpsons had these really great episodes about faith and religion but used satire to tell their stories. I always thought “That’s something I want to do.” I want to write about faith, but put a satirical slant on it.

8) Your first novel is The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher. Can you tell us where the genesis of the idea behind that book originated?

When I was living in LA my wife and I went around looking for churches. I guess that’s when I realized what a strange place church was. I’d grown up in it, I knew how it worked, I knew all of the code words, but I still found it strange. I thought what would someone who never went to church before think of this place. What if he had to go for some reason? Or what if some guy who had no idea how a church worked tried to start one of his own? It was an entertaining thought. Felt like it would make a good story.

9) Who are some writers you admire, and why?

I love Tim O’Brien because I want to be able to write like him. The way he crafts paragraphs is a thing of beauty.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the author’s that changed how I viewed writing. He was so funny and human and simple when I first read his books I thought, I didn’t know you could do that.

Stephen King creates these really simple everyman characters and puts them in just amazing situations. When people talk about getting Lost In a Book his stories are the first that come to mind.

Anne Lamott because she talks about faith in a way that makes it feel fresh and real again.

There are so many more, but that’s all I’m going to give you for now.

10) Can you tell us about your weekly podcast, 9 Thumbs?

It’s one of the highlights of my week. It’s three guys (unless there is a girl) talking about three things that we like. It’s fun to learn about new blogs, books, bands (among other things), and just talk about why we admire them. Internet culture can also be such a cynical place that’s it’s fun to just heap praise on things.

11) Any questions you’re never asked that you’d like to address?

Normally yes, but these questions were so good I have nothing to add. Thanks for having me.

Thanks, Rob, for coming by! Appreciate you taking the time!

Do you have any questions for Rob? Ask away!

Folks, you can find Rob on the Internet on his (infrequently updated) website: Rob Stennett, follow him on Twitter @robstennett, see his Amazon page here, and catch up with his podcast at 9Thumbs. By the way, Rob recently published a short story, entitled Chicken, about certain events pertaining to a certain chicken chain which occurred on certain day this past summer. Whew! That was mouthful. You can pick Chicken up here for $.99.

Update! Comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Rob’s first novel, The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher.

Zombie Cows, part 3

randomlychad  —  October 9, 2012 — 4 Comments

[Please note: this is part of an ongoing series which represents a creative exercise for me: short fiction. Today’s installment is part three; here are parts one, and two.]

Why did I do it? Why did I sell out humanity for such a paltry sum?

They owed me. I worked hard, got a degree, entered the workforce, got married. We had a son, Mandy and me–Carl. He was the sweetest thing, all wet, pink and balling. But he was ours. Ours got to be too much for Mandy–she left me, took Carl. I gave in to the bottle, lost my job.

It’s how I ended up running a meat packing plant in Nebraska, land of corn-fed beef. Me? Who was earning six figures, reduced to this.

So the $30,000 seemed a princely sum, and I was ripe for the picking. They had targeted me, knew my story. And I was all too easy to take out.

So I took the money, did the job, and lived it up for awhile in prodigality. Then I remembered my son, Carl.

Somehow, I made it home to Chicago.

I’m guessing the assaults on the meat chain were coordinated, because by the time I got to Chicago it was too late.

Carl was waiting for me.

But it wasn’t Carl, not really.

Have you ever had to shoot your child in the face?

———–

Now I’m stuck here, and my supplies are getting low. Forty-six days, and I haven’t seen a single living soul.