Still True: Lent for Creatives

Two years ago, a half-decade of observation boiled over the rim of my mind into a list of 5 hard lessons I’ve learned about creativity, publishing, and success in the Orthodox media field. I wrote out my list for the company blog in Lent 2018, and because all 5 are still very true, I’d like to share them with you here also.

Lent for Creatives: 5 hard lessons

At Ancient Faith, we believe that the spiritual life and the creative life are woven together. The fact that we are an Orthodox Christian media company is proof of this conviction. We exist to promulgate the Gospel through the work of people who use their creative gifts to affirm and explore the life of faith, in the persistent hope of edifying and encouraging our fellow human beings on their journeys.

During this Lenten season, we are all engaged in spiritual struggle of one kind or another, and it seems a good moment to share what I’ve learned in the last five years about the intersection of creativity, struggle, and media publishing. With this goal, I’ve created a list of five hard lessons we all seem to encounter on our way to producing high-quality books and podcasts. If you have already been published, this list will be familiar. If you are still trying to be published, it may be even more familiar! I pray it will be helpful, no matter which side of that fence you occupy.

don’t be an “idea person.”

Almost nothing will shut you out faster than those fatal words – “I’m an idea person.” Many people describe themselves this way, and in our experience, an “idea person” is one who can come up with an endless list of inspiring suggestions but is not able to follow through on them. An idea is like a flame without a lamp. It burns brightly and then vanishes, unless you provide a wick, some oil, and a vessel to hold the oil. Your idea needs a plan. It needs background research. It needs the ability to make and meet deadlines, foresee and overcome obstacles. You and your idea both need a significant amount of staying power, so that your publisher knows you will put in the effort to bring your idea to life – real life, enduring life, the kind of life that will justify the expenditure of staff time, resources, and just plain stamina required to publish a book or produce a podcast. If you were telling yourself that you could hand your idea to a publisher and staff members would provide the wick, the oil, and the lamp, please stop. No publisher can or will be a replacement for the diligent effort you should have dedicated to your idea before we ever heard of it.


#MakersMonday: An Interview with Amber

My spirit animal is something that flies around the forest, telling all the other animals good news. It’s one of my favorite things in life – having good news and the opportunity to share it. The #BlogtownTuesday mini-interviews I’m sharing introduce people I connect with in my social blogging experiment. Today, I’m starting a second series, #MakersMonday, introducing creative people making lovely and interesting things. My first guest is Amber, at Streams in the South. I’ll ask my #MakersMonday guests 5 questions. Here’s how Amber responded.

Tell us about your work.What do you create?

I can make all sorts of things, but I have chosen to focus on machine embroidery for Streams in the South. Machine embroidery is a quick way to customize an existing object or make a new one. It enables me to support both Orthodox embroidery designers and folks who sew, which helps the creative community.

How did you learn to do this kind of work?

In 2012 I created a blog called 50 First Crafts. I started the year with woodworking and tried so many different craft techniques. I met local makers and tried things I had never even heard of before. I loved it. I took a class on machine embroidery that year at a local maker space, then a friend gifted me her unused embroidery machine and the rest is history.

What do you find satisfying about being a “maker”?

I love making things. If I could I would make everything that I use on a daily basis. The most satisfying thing about being a maker is knowing that my items are of use to people. I still use some of the things I made for the blog, and I hope they last long into the future.

What’s your favorite memory associated with practicing your craft?

My favorite memory of crafting in general is when I was a child my mom would sit in our big rocking chair and crochet blankets while I learned alongside her. With the embroidery machine it is the time that I brought it to our parish craft fair and let the children choose what designs and colors to embroider on the items I was making for sale. I hope it inspired them to try making some of the things they use in their own homes.

Share a photo of a favorite piece, and tell us the story that goes with it.

My photo (below) is the back of a Pascha basket cover that I made last year. The linen is from a set of vintage napkins that I found at a thrift store. They are gorgeous and soft. The design is by a Russian woman who has the most beautiful and elegant historical reproduction embroidery designs for sale. I wish I could make everything she releases! The photo shows the back because I was in awe of the detail she put into her design. The back is possibly more beautiful than the front. The whole piece ends up looking and feeling like an heirloom even as I am working on it. I like to imagine it being handed down from a grandmother to her grandchildren and all of the Pascha memories it may one day hold.