September 03, 2015

The Making of a Creative by Steph Beth Nickel

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I believe creatives are fueled by exposure to creativity and to those with a creative spirit.

Many of us remember books from our childhood. Among my favourite authors were P.D. Eastman, whose children's books I still quote, and Carolyn Keene. Nancy Drew books introduced me to the cliffhanger, which kept me reading "just one more chapter."

"Are you my mother?" "But the big thing just said, 'Snort!'"

Nancy Drew books captivated me as a young reader.
And even before I could read on my own, I remember snuggling with my mom as she read to me. I suppose that's one reason I have such fond memories of reading as a child.

While it's true that not all readers grow up to be writers, it's safe to say that most writers are readers. Considering the vast numbers of books in my library that I have yet to read, which I'm adding to regularly, this is certainly true of me.

Again, this is thanks to my mom. She didn't simply love reading; she loved books themselves.

I remember the thrill when one of my assignments, a board book for children, was selected and put on display in my school library. How cool is that!

I also remember a silly little kids' story I wrote many, many years ago. When I rediscovered it in my closet, I laughed and laughed as I read it. My English teacher wasn't nearly as impressed with my brilliance as I was. I suppose that was my first negative review. Oh, well!

I used to write poems by candlelight. I can still picture myself doing so. Poetry-writing persisted over the years. For quite a while I wrote a poem every day for my first blog, free2soar.

I remember my mom reading a complaint letter she wrote to Green Giant about their canned or frozen corn; I can't remember which. It was incredibly clever. She wrote it in the form of a poem.

Writing is not my only creative endeavour that goes way back. 

I loved to take photographs . . . and still do. 

I'm not sure where my love of picture-taking came from, but I'm thankful just the same.

And last I'll mention my interest in painting and drawing. In fact, I was accepted to the Sheridan fine arts program when I was 17, but I wasn't ready to move away from home. Plus, God had a better plan for my future. (Thank you, Lord!)

A few years back I dabbled with abstract painting just for fun. I feel compelled to stress those last three words, "just for fun."

I can also trace my interest in fine art to my mom. Although she didn't do much of it, she was quite good at painting. 

Ultimately, I attribute my creative spirit to the Lord. It is part of my being, part of what makes me me.

But humanly speaking, I look back and see my mom's fingerprints all over my creative spirit. 

Thanks, Mom! You will forever and always be loved and appreciated.

September 02, 2015

Planting a Vineyard by Marcia Lee Laycock

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Okanagan Valley Vineyard

Green. It lay in waves of even rows cascading down the slope toward the wide blue lake. We could not see the fruit buried among the leaves but we knew it was there – large clusters of ripe, luscious red and white grapes. The vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia Canada are becoming famous for a bounty of sweet fruit.

As we drove by, a verse in proverbs came to mind: “She considers a field and buys it; from her profits she plants a vineyard” (Prov. 31:16, NKJV).

I found myself wishing I had the resources necessary to buy any of the beautiful, bountiful fields I saw as we drove along Okanagan Lake. I started to feel a little sorry for myself. Poor me, I’ll never live in a place like this. Poor me, I’ll never own a house like these. I confess it took an effort of will to stop myself but I managed to rethink that premise and realize that I too have purchased a field. All of us have, and it is a field of great value.

All of us have chosen a way of living, a course for our lives to take, and no matter what that field looks like, no matter if the profits are large or small, we have a responsibility to do what the woman in proverbs 31 did. We need to use the profits wisely by planting a vineyard that will flourish with fruit from which others can benefit.

Perhaps you’re thinking your profits have been too small to be of much use, but not all profit comes in a financial package. I recently received a statement from the publisher of my first novel, One Smooth Stone. He is still trying to recoup the advance I was given for that book and I feel badly about that. But that same day I received an email from a friend who had given One Smooth Stone to a prison program in Florida. The prisoners, some of whom have no other form of entertainment other than books, have been writing reviews of the novels she has brought to them. Those letters have shown me the fruit of my vineyard. Hearing what my words have meant to those people, how the story has encouraged them and given them hope again, is a profit that is priceless, a profit that will last.

As writers of faith, we have chosen a field of words. Whether we are writing poems or novels, articles or songs, we are planting a vineyard with our words, a vineyard that will provide nourishment, encouragement and perhaps even redemption to those who read our work. It is a vineyard that will reach into eternity. 

Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor's wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone. The sequel, A Tumbled Stone was short listed in The Word Awards and the first book of her fantasy series, The Ambassadors won a Word Award in the Speculative fiction category in June, 2015.
Marcia also has two devotional books in print and has contributed to several anthologies, including each of the Hot Apple Cider books. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan.

Abundant Rain, an ebook devotional for writers can be downloaded here.

The Ambassadors is available on and .ca

Visit Marcia’s Website

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September 01, 2015

Who Started It All For Your Creative Spirit? By Sandi Somers

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Prompt: Who started lighting the fire for your creative spirit and inspired you to write? How old were you? Tell us about the person who pointed the way for you and helped form you as a writer of faith. It could be a person you knew, or it could be an author you read. Tell us about the impact and why that impact mattered.

Catherine Marshall (1914-1983)
Spiritual Mentor
I first read Catherine Marshall’s books as a young adult, books such Beyond Ourselves and Something More, as well as her first novel, Christy.  

Her writing fed into my starved spirit a deeper intimacy with Jesus and God’s power. I read her books again and again. Her discussion on themes such as inner healing, guidance, and the work of the Holy Spirit, challenged me to believe God in ways I had never before imagined.

Literary Mentor
At the same time, Marshall’s powerful writing inspired me to write vividly. She told powerful stories of people and their faith and I studied how she integrated story with God’s action in the lives of people.

I particularly benefitted from the way she discovered spiritual themes.

As she began writing a biography of her husband, A Man Called Peter, she asked herself, “Why am I writing this book? What am I trying to accomplish?”

Immediately she knew that the hero of the biography had to be Jesus Christ, not Peter Marshall. “Jesus Christ would have to tower as the central figure of the book,” she wrote. “I saw that the life of no human being has lasting significance apart from his relationship to God. “

As a result, she asked herself two questions about each chapter:
·        What is the theme, the cohesive idea?
·        What will this chapter tell people about God that they really want to know?

The impact of her book was astronomic. Thousands were led to experience God in a new way. Many people wrote how God spoke directly into their particular needs.

While I have had other literary mentors since then, Catherine Marshall’s example also paved the way for me to ask God specifically to:

·        Confirm that my writing projects would be according to His plans.
·        Bring the right people into my life at the right time to implement components of the dream.
·        Fill me with His words to touch the lives of those in my generation and in the next.

Like Marshall, I claimed the verses in 1 John 5:14-15.
 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know about the one who inspired you.

August 31, 2015

Clogged Pipes by Brenda Leyland

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I have come to the conclusion that writers don't actually experience writer's block as a result of running out of ideas. After all, how can we run out when we're connected to One who thinks wildly beyond what we can dream or imagine, and He's always happy to share his creativity with us.

So why do we find ourselves stuck or dry? One reason, I believe, is because we don't use the ideas we already have -- and when they aren't being used, they begin to harden -- clogging the pipes of our imagination like a backed-up kitchen drain.

From my personal experience, this seems to happen during the times when I haven't done much with the ideas I received last month, last week, or even yesterday. I'm thinking the idea man upstairs must scratch his head wondering why he bothers to send more when the old material is still in limbo.

Jotting down the ideas in a notebook, I'm sorry to say, is not putting them into action. That's just storing them up. And that's where, I believe, the clogging starts. New material can't come through until some of the old stuff moves on to its destination.

So, I've been asking the Lord to help me. I'm trying to implement in the present as much as possible. I am also learning that it doesn't have to be a large action -- bite size is perfectly okay. But it's important to work with the idea while it's still vibrant with possibility. Why do we think we got that particular idea or thought today? Perhaps it's because today is its moment to shine. Yesterday it wasn't quite ready, tomorrow it will be stale. Of course, we also understand some of our ideas are percolating for another season, but I do believe He gives us fresh material every day, for each new day, if we want it. And taking that one idea and doing something, anything, will keep things in the flow.

Now that you've read this, what is one idea you can work away at today? I'd love to hear about it.

Post originally published on this blog in 2010.

Brenda Leyland enjoys writing on her slice-of-life blog at It's A Beautiful Life and continues to whittle away at various other writing projects.

August 30, 2015

From Pants to Patience by Susan Barclay

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The Grand Canyon - photos don't do justice
Okay, I confess, I'm a pantser. What's that, you ask? Well, it's nothing less than a writer who shuns outlines and follows the story wherever it leads.

There are pros and cons to approaching writing this way. The pros? You don't have to have everything figured out right from the beginning. You can let the characters tell their own story, in their own way, acting in ways that come naturally to them. The creative juices can flow freely, without being bound to a plan. I'm sure there are more. The cons? You don't have everything figured out from the start. Characters can be bossy; they can direct things where they want them to go, even if their ideas are crazy and lead you to the middle of nowhere. Readers can buy anything as long as it makes sense, but what if it doesn't? And what if you have a good idea of your story's conclusion, but the story's taking you somewhere else?

That's sort of what happened to me a few years ago. The story was humming along nicely, I knew where it was going to end up, and all of a sudden I hit a wall. How did I get from where the story was to where it needed to be? It was like I'd hit a dead-end and couldn't figure out how to turn around, or like running into an unhelpful local who told me "you can't get there from here."

I set my novel aside and started working on other things. I wasn't happy about it, but what else could I do? The novel had come to a standstill and I needed to take a break from it until inspiration, hopefully, struck. I wrote personal experience stories instead and two were published in Chicken Soup books. I wrote poetry. Every once in a while I reflected on the larger oeuvre and wondered if I could move past the obstacle. Nothing came to me. Eventually I wrote the ending, thinking that might help. It didn't, though it was satisfying to see the conclusion wrap up nicely. Finally, I wondered if I needed to go to the place in which the last part of the story takes place - the Grand Canyon. It was a long way to go and would cost a fair bit of money, but it was worth it if I could move the story forward.

This spring I went, I witnessed, I worshiped. Felt chills up my spine as I looked over one of the world's seven wonders. It is indeed a grand canyon. I took lots of pictures, made some notes. Saw some other beautiful places while I was there, returned home.

So now you are wondering where my story is. I confess I haven't touched it since my trip. It's been a challenging year and I haven't had time to do much more than post blog entries, work on a new website, continue with shorter pieces. But I do feel that life will ease up a bit soon or I'll get better at self-care and I'll get back to the novel. I do feel that going to the GC was an important step in getting over the bump in the road.

I believe that writer's block is best overcome by working on other projects and/or doing more research on the current one - even if you're a pantser like me. What don't you know that you need to know in order to continue? Let ideas percolate in your mind as you take an active rest or do some homework. If the piece is meant to be completed it will be. In God's economy it's just a question of time and timing. In the meantime, be patient with the story and with yourself.


You can read more of my writing at