I am so excited to bring you the next interview in the Why We Create series! Today’s interview comes from writer, mama, podcaster, and artist Lisa Hensley of Delighting in my Days. I met Lisa on Instagram, where she shares beautiful snippets of everyday life and motherhood. After I announced this project, she sent me an essay on creativity (which I share at the end of this interview), and I was hooked on her beautiful writing. Read below to find out more about why Lisa is driven to create…then go check out her blog where there are many other inspiring reads!
Thank you, Lisa, for your vulnerability, your answers, and for sharing your beautiful soul with us!
- For those who are not familiar with you and your work, could you give us a glimpse of what you do and how you ended up where you are? Mostly I write. But I also draw and play the piano and both figure into my creative work. I’ve been blogging since my oldest son was a baby and over the past year and a half it’s morphed into sharing my journey in ways that connect with others instead of sharing my journey just for documentation. Since I’m also full-time raising three small boys, including homeschooling the oldest, the writing is focus before they wake up in the morning and during nap time. I’ve been writing my whole life and when I picked it back up as an adult it felt like home. And I just kept writing and exploring new styles of writing.
- Do you think creativity requires discipline? If so, what kinds of disciplines have you found helpful as you pursue your creative calling? If you could embrace one new creative discipline this year, what would it be?
Yes, creativity certainly requires discipline, at least if you are going to create on any regular basis. Discipline is the framework that allows creativity to flourish. I have time set aside to write. I sit down then to write and that’s why there are essays and stories of my life and posts that answer my reader’s questions. If I didn’t discipline myself to set aside the time and then sit down to do the work none of that would exist. Creativity is cultivated by regular practice and regular practice requires discipline. You don’t get better at something by doing it once a month.
My writing habit has been crucial to my work. I started keeping track of word counts in 2014 (I know there are many different ways to do it but that’s mine) and in 2015 I wrote over 192,000 words. Having a project in progress or some accountability is also my best way of getting the work done. In 2015 I had an art project that I worked through the entire year and it kept me regularly creating art. I also take piano lessons. Nothing inspires me to practice like picturing sitting down to play for my teacher and not having improved since the previous week.
For this year I would love to go to bed earlier. You might question how that’s related to my creativity but I create better when I’m rested, not when I’m exhausted. I would like to find a better balance between sleeping and squeezing in more project time.
- Creativity and artistic practice can be generative for our culture or degenerative. In what ways would you like your work to be generative to the culture in which you live? I hope my writing encourages others. Whether I’m blogging and it’s more of a “here’s what’s worked for me” style of writing or I’m crafting essays I hope to share enough of my challenges and struggles that my readers realize they aren’t alone. That they see there is hope in the future and strength to make it through today. For art and music I think beauty builds our spirits more than we know and I want to contribute some small part of that beauty to the world.
- What, at your deepest level, drives you to create? There’s something inside me- words, pictures, music- that isn’t inside anyone else. I had always debated the value of art: was it worth spending my time on? One night when I was up with a child I looked out the window on the way to bed and I saw the full moon hanging low over the treetops and I realized that God created so much beauty that no one else sees. From the depths of the sea to the outreaches of the galaxy, His handiwork is flung into places where it will never be appreciated or applauded and He made it anyway.
- What does the process of creating look like for you from start to finish? How do you tackle a creative project?
It always starts with an idea. Ideas come best during real life- from conversations with friends, articles in magazines, a family trip on a Saturday. I rarely get ideas sitting at my desk waiting for them. It’s an inconvenient time for ideas to come because I can’t drop whatever I’m doing to write or draw out a preliminary sketch. (Although I have written a few essays sentence by sentence while I was cooking dinner and watching the boys play.) So I scratch out some notes, typically on my phone because I always have it: the main idea, what brought it to mind, any quotes or resources I can think of to go with it, any supporting points, and then I go back to real life.
Then I’ll sit down with the idea and start working it out. A rough draft occasionally comes first just to free think through the topic. Then I’ll stop and ask what I really want to say with this writing and make an outline. Then I’ll revise (or completely start over depending on the draft). Then I walk away. It’ll stay on my mind and I can keep jotting down supporting ideas or quotes and when I come back later I read it again and start tweaking, varying sentence structure and replacing overused words, deleting passages that aren’t necessary.
Sometimes I’ll send it off to a friend or let my husband read it, especially if it’s a style of writing I’m less comfortable with or I want to be sure I handled a topic delicately. Then I’ll make a few final adjustments and call it done. Even if I feel it’s not really done. I can go back to anything I’ve written and see at least three things I would change about it now and I’ve accepted that as the way it will be. Otherwise I’ll never put any work out there.
- How has social media influenced the way you view yourself as an artist? What do you find most helpful/most difficult about this aspect of your creative process?
I don’t know that I would even call myself a writer or an artist if it weren’t for social media. Yesterday was one of the first times I told someone that I blogged as well as raised my kids and I wouldn’t lay claim to that except she can go see the work. I’ve also realized that so many different things count as art and there’s an audience for all of them. I don’t have to like them all and I can’t expect everyone to like what I make but I can look for the people that do like it.
I love connecting with other creatives, like in this interview series. I like to learn from how they work and grow. I am getting to the point where I love sharing what I make and getting the emails from readers about how the writing has affected their lives. But it’s easy to think that posting on Instagram is doing the work. Or that scrolling through Twitter is as important as actually writing for the day and if I’m not careful I can waste all my work time scrolling and not create anything at all.
- Do you have any routines that help you get in the rhythm of creating? I try to have a plan when I sit down to work. I know that I write when I first start in the morning and I typically decide the night before what project I’ll work on. Other times projects are given time frames weeks in advance and when I sit down that’s what I work on. I don’t listen to music when I write but I do when I draw .The biggest thing that helps me actually get to work is knowing that’s my limit. I can’t waste two hours and then get to work for the rest of the day. Two hours is about all I have a day. If I don’t do the work then, I don’t get to do the work.
- Do you have any advice for those early on their creative journey?
You go into any new endeavor knowing that in a year you’ll think what you’re making now is bad. That makes it hard to get started but you’ll never get better unless you do. There’s time to learn and grown. Don’t worry that not enough people are paying attention to you at the beginning. That’s your best time to learn and fail and make mistakes. Let them pick up your work a year or two into your journey when you’ve learned a few things about what you’re doing.
Love the process and not just the results. You can really only be responsible for the work. You can’t make people read it or buy it or share it with their friends. But you can make your best art and enjoy doing it.
Chase the rabbit trails. When you come upon something you love and want to try doing, find a way to fit it in even if you don’t know where it ties into your creative journey so far. Even if it doesn’t seem to flow with your current work. I’ve seen too many things come together a year or two down the road to ignore the interest that flares when I imagine a new project. Put aside fifteen minutes a day or an hour each week and do that thing.
- Where can we look forward to seeing you next? Are you working on any exciting new projects?
Yes! As I’m answering these interview questions I’m also rebranding my blog. I’m transitioning to a new project on creativity and motherhood and right now I’m still trying to reign in my big ideas for this project to the what-can-I-get-a-handle-on-today work. I’m going to be sharing personal essays and ways for using your creativity in your real life and not just your work. I’m going to interview real life mamas that I know who also pursue creative interests and I’m going to run project challenges for my readers to complete as a community. I’ll be looking for guests posts on many of these topics so drop by and pitch me ideas if you’re interested!
Also I cohost a podcast called Uniquely Woman. Phylicia Masonheimer (www.phyliciadelta.com) and I discuss the topics of womanhood and faith and what we wish we had known about both ten years ago. You can find us in iTunes!
Where to find Lisa:
The Move for Making, by Lisa Hensley
Want to know the hardest thing about creating?
You have to pay attention.
You have to pay attention to the way your kids talk, what the music in the store sounds like, how the shadows fall on your spouse’s face. You can’t just see or hear these things; you have to notice them. Sometime you’ll have to be the odd one: staring at people longer than you should and replaying two bars of music over and over.
You have to take notes.
You always think memory is enough. It’s not. You’ll forget that grand idea you had for an essay or why you wanted to paint that picture or the reason you were going to listen to that piano piece again after the kids were in bed. Instead you’ll remember all the little things that clutter up your mind and keep you awake at night like your grocery list or why you said that on the phone. You’ll have to write the inspiration down. That idea that just jolted through you? Put that into a sentence or a few bullet points. Those chords for your song? Write them down to play later. Learn your own shorthand.
You have to share it.
Of course, this isn’t wholly true. You don’t have to share it. Some things are worth creating that no one else sees. But most of us want our work to resonate with someone else so then someone else has to see it. And then everyone realizes what you’ve been doing with your time and they either love it or wonder why you don’t find something better to do. People will send you nasty emails or tell you your work stinks and you’re just supposed to take it, let it roll off you.
There’s a world out there- moving, breathing, growing. You all see it but only some of you notice it. You pay attention to the sounds of the train and the colors of the neon signs and the shape people sit in when they wait on the bus. You hear the words that aren’t said and imagine the possibilities of her story. Maybe you ask her and write that or maybe you write the three variations of what it might be. Maybe you all sketch the same city street: one in watercolor, one in pen and ink, and one in marker. Different styles, different stories, same source.
Are you surrounded by a world of creatives? Maybe you’re looking at the same thing they are- motherhood, writing- and it seems pointless to share your own take. We need more noticers. We all experience different emotions and circumstances and what you say about children may be just what that woman in line at the grocery store needs to hear. Even if everyone is writing about motherhood.
Maybe your abstract floral painting is in just the right colors to match my living room or go in my office. Maybe your poetry lulls me to sleep or fires my soul to action. Maybe your music pumps me up for the dance of Tuesday.
Maybe what you need to pay the most attention to is the dance of your own life. The flame that kindles in you when the music turns on and the sun rises. The emotions that split your heart in two every day. The lines on the faces of the people around you. Your story morphs into their story. Your attention turns to their gain.
But only if you make it. If you pay attention and take the notes. If you do the work and share what you make. Someone else may be encouraged that they aren’t alone, that others have walked that path and made it. They may believe that their story does have an ending besides the one that poisons their mind when the sun goes down. They may get their feet out of bed one more morning instead of giving up, day after day, until they find that they too can create someone that helps someone else.
What you create is a big deal. Notice it. Tuck back what you need to think about later. Then let it go and see what happens. Release it and don’t worry who likes it or retweets it, don’t count your page views, don’t wait for emails. Go back to noticing your own life, making your own notes, creating and sharing again.
Over and over. Over and over until your hand won’t play the keys or hold the paintbrush. Until your lungs won’t push out the air. Until you breathe one last time and move into eternity.