Reading 26 Books In A Year

Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

deserted-beach-watermarked

 

I want to talk about the importance of reading, specifically reading regularly. How many books do you read a week? A month? A year? I read an article that my mom had laying around about someone who has for the past five years been reading a book a week. One book a week = 52 books a year. Wow! I was very impressed by this idea. I think I’ve had friends who have read a book a month which is still an accomplishment I think, but a book a week?! Very fierce. Realistically, I don’t think it’s very likely that I would be able to read a book a week. Between my daughter, maintaining our house and pursuing being an artistprenuer I don’t know if I could. I would have to only read during free time and then some. Everytime I try to do something my daughter interrupts me. I was actually reading earlier and my daughter grabbed my book.

But, I really would like to read more. 

I’ve always loved reading. I’ve quoted many people on this blog. I love literature. Over the years I’ve gone through periods where I read constantly, I’ve read fiction, non fiction, self help. I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised by the fact that Madeleine L’Engle is my latest new find who I really love.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.   The man who never reads only lives once.” ~ George RR Martin

There are many benefits to reading. If you’re reading something on a particular subject, you will gain knowledge (hopefully). But what about reading non fiction? Are there benefits? Absolutely! Check out this article telling you how reading can help prevent Alzheimer’s and stress among other health benefits.

driftwood-and-seashells-watermarked

 

I’m a little hesitant to attempt to read a book a week so my goal is to read a book every 2 weeks. I think it seems way more doable and 26 books a year would be better than where I’m at right now. I consider myself an avid reader but even a book a week is daunting to me. I implore you to consider reading a book a week or like me every two weeks. This will mean spending less time on social media and watching television but who would say that’s a bad thing? Set some goals for yourself, get those books out that you’ve been intending to read or order that book you’ve heard about but haven’t gotten yet. If finances are tight, make a trip to your local library. One of the great things about working a book list from the library is that you have a built in deadline when the book is due which is usually 2 or 3 weeks! Start reading!

Be fierce!

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Email me at alexandriafiercephoto@gmail.com for photoshoot and wedding bookings

Cohorts With Creation

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Fierce Photography, Parenthood, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

One of the most important things for the artist is to do the work. There is no way around this fact. You must do the creating. You must, according to L’Engle, serve the work.

love-rain-drops

“If the work comes to the artist and says, “Here I am, serve me,” then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve.”

Our society has a negative view of serving. I’ve always been told that you can tell a lot about a person not based on how they treat you, but by how they treat people in what you would consider lower positions. It matters not how polite and agreeable someone is toward you if they yell at the waiter. It matters not how delightful and friendly someone is to you if they are rude to the bartender or valet. Serving is an area in our life that is revealing. How we treat others when they are in a position that serves us reveals our character. Serving the art, reveals who we are as an artist. But here’s the crazy part about serving the art: It’s not about you.

“Listen to me. All of writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don’t matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake.” – Jean Rhys

In some ways this idea is upsetting – how dare we not matter?! – But in another way, I think it is liberating. It relieves you of the burden that you have to create something that becomes a bestseller, that gets featured, or that stands the test of time. Art is not about success. That’s not what is important to art, what is important is that you fed the lake. You must do the work.

There is a negative connotation to work these days. I am reminded of a scene from That 70’s Show where Red tells Eric, and I paraphrase, “That’s why it’s called work, if it wasn’t work they would call it ‘Super happy crazy fun’ time.” But for many “work” is not “super happy crazy fun time”. L’Engle helps us redeem the idea of work by making the distinction between drudgery and work. The two words have becomes synonyms in our world but she points out that “our work should be our play.” There is drudgery work like vacuuming or cleaning out the fridge for examples, but our art work should never be viewed as an equivalent to that. L’Engle shares an example of how a child is at play or work?

“If we watch a child at play for a few minutes, “seriously” at play, we see that all his energies are concentrated on it. He is working very hard at it. And that is how the artist works, although the artist may be conscious of discipline while the child simply experiences it.”

1

My daughter, Isabelle “Izze” Esther, a master of work and play

I particularly identified with this analogy because I have witnessed my daughter, now 19 months old, work and master simple things like going up and down stairs, playing at the park, turning the page of book. Is she playing or working? “The work of the child is play.”

We must do the work. You may be asking yourself how can we serve the work? I will answer in the next post.

Fiercely,

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Walking On Water Review Part II: The Creative Process & Faith

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Photography, The Artist Life

Also known as Walking on Water Part II =D Read part I here .

Hello Fiercelings,

Because there is so much material in Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle I will probably be doing a myriad of posts based on the book. Once I have gotten all my thoughts about this book out I will create a page for you to find out about all of them. You can read the first post I wrote about the book here.The bulk of the good stuff in Walking On Water is in the last four or five chapters. The excerpt from the book that I will be focusing on today is from the chapter titled “The Journey Homeward”.

L’Engle talks about, in order for us to create, as artists, we have to let go of ourselves. She compares this to faith a lot and talks about how we delude ourselves into thinking that if we obtain control over ourselves we’ll gain more faith or as in the artist’s case we’ll be capable of “writing the great American novel” or whatever it is we desire to create. But, in Christianity, the solution to us gaining more faith is never us summoning more self control but letting go of ourselves, dying to self, surrendering to God. Self-control is actually an oxymoron when you think about it because we don’t have control over ourselves because of self. The question then becomes how can I release control of myself to have more faith or as an artist, create art? L’Engle explains by intertwining what happens when we pray and how the same thing happens when we create.

“In prayer, in the creative process, these two parts of ourselves, the mind and the heart, the intellect and the intuition, the conscious and the subconscious mind, stop fighting each other and collaborate. Theophan the Recluse advised those who came to him for counsel to “pray with the mind in the heart,” and surely this is how the artist works. When mind and heart work together, they know each other as two people who love each other know; and as the love of two people is a gift, a totally unmerited, incomprehensible gift, so is the union of mind and heart. David cried out to God, “Unite my heart to fear thy Name.” It is my prayer, too.”

When we pray, our heart and mind are in agreement and the same thing happens when we create. Prayer is a way for us to communicate with the divine. On the next page L’Engle quotes in length Berdyaev, the Russian religious and political philosopher, but I am only going to pull a sentence from him. He says;

“The creative act is an escape from the power of time and ascent to the divine…”

purple-flower-perfect

 

This quote really revealed more to me of what praying is about versus what creating is about. I already view creating as a worshipful act because it is who God made me to be and so by creating I am in cohorts with God about who I am which then brings glory to God. Worship is that which brings glory to God. In prayer, “we ascent to the divine” by communicating with God. L’Engle responds to Berdyaev by saying;

“Most artists are aware that during the deepest moments of that creation they are out on the other side of themselves, and so are free from time, with the same joyousness that comes in the greatest moments of prayer.”

I believe this reveals some of the high that you can get from creating, because you go to “the other side” of yourself. You tap into your subconscious which can be liberating. Maybe that’s what creativity is all about, tapping into our subconscious, liberating ourselves, being free. I shall close with thoughts about this paragraph by Berdyaev,

“Creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin, the expression of man’s true vocation, but creativeness is distorted and debased by sin. Hence the ethics of creativeness deal with the agonizing struggle of the human spirit. Creativeness needs purification, needs the purifying fire.”

What this really says to me is that creativity is a form of sanctification. Creativity can bring us closer to the divine because we go to the Creator and say I am a little creator but I wish to create with you, big Creator. God invites the artist back into time, before sin, when were designed to create with God. I believe this is what Berdyaev meant by “creativeness is the struggle against the consequences of sin,…” not only is creativeness a struggle against the sin nature, it is also a solution. It is a form of sanctification, purifying our spirits and bringing us into communion with our Maker.

18-perfect

Fiercely,

alexandria

P.S. Share your thoughts about the ideas L’Engle expresses in the comments below. I would love to know if you agree or disagree.

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Walking On Water Review

Art, Being an Artist, Books, My Friends, Creative Process, Fierce Photography, God, Photography, The Artist Life

Hello Fiercelings,

I finally finished reading Walking On Water by Madeleine L’Engle. There is a lot of material in this little book. The tag line of the book is “Reflections on Faith and Art” it’s a fabulous little book about well, faith and art. To kind of give you a general idea about what the book’s thesis I am going to share the excerpt that is on the back of the book:

” And as I listen to the silence, I learn that my feelings about art and my feelings about the Creator of the Universe are inseparable. To try to talk about art and about Christianity is for me one and the same thing, and it means attempting to share the meaning of my life, what gives it, for me, its tragedy and its glory. It is what makes me respond to the death of an apple tree, the birth of a puppy, northern lights shaking the sky, by writing stories.”

L’Engle was the writer of over some 60 books most notably, A Wrinkle In Time. I have not read that but I intend to. I only became interested in reading Walking On Water because it was referenced and quoted a myriad of times in The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer.

sea shells

 

Let’s dive in.

The first chapter. L’Engle said something beautiful,

 “Why is it that I, who have spent my life writing, struggling to be a better artist, and struggling also to be a better Christian, should feel rebellious when I am called a Christian artist? Why should I feel reluctant to think or write about Christian creativity?”

I thought these rhetorical questions showed strongly how to a large extent we Christians have taken the push from society to leave our faith and religion at home. God has been pushed out of our schools and higher institutions. A Christian scientist for example seems to be an impossibility. The arts used to be largely a religious affair. I think of Michelangelo and Da Vinci. They were THE artists of their time and their works are primarily religious in nature. However, as I say that L’Engle claims something in the next chapter that I found interesting. She says that,

 “…to serve music, or painting, or words is a religious activity, whether or not the conscious mind is willing to accept that fact. Basically there can be no categories such as “religious” art and “secular” art, because all true art is incarnational, and therefore “religious.”

My first thought when she claimed that was that I take issue with it because there is a lot of “Christian” art out there that I do not like. But L’Engle explains this two pages over by saying,

“This confusion comes about because much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion.”

That made complete sense to me. Much of the so called “Christian” art that I dislike, I dislike it because I consider it to be very shallow and empty of real religious value. The art has no depth. It is bad religion. L’Engle is saying it is bad art because it is bad religion. Of course, in order to even engage is this type of categorization you have to go along with L’Engle by agreeing that all art is religious. Whether knowingly or unknowingly to the artist all art is a reflection of the Creator. This turns the whole idea of “beauty  is in the eye of the beholder” upside down because now, “good” art brings glory to God and has nothing to do with personal preferences or opinions.

wet seashell

 

I don’t think L’Engle was trying to answer the question “What is art?” but she did. Art is religious. Good art is good religion and vice versa. Agree or disagree? I’m leaning toward agreeing.

Overall: Fantastic book that really gets you thinking and pondering. Worth reading. Must read if you consider yourself to be an artist regardless of religious views.

This is one of four posts about Walking On Water. Click on the link for part 2, 3, and 4.

Fiercely,

alexandria

alexandriafierce

Fierce Beliefs. Fierce Ideas. Fierce Art. Fierce Life.

Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Entrepreneur

Email me at alexandriafiercephoto@gmail.com for photoshoot and wedding bookings

 

A Successful Life

Creative Process, Fierce, Fierce Photography, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Fiercelings,

While reading a fellow photographer/blogger’s post about ‘success’ the other day my brain started reeling…what is success? Because I think we should redefine it. When most people think of success I think they think of being 1. rich 2. having a really nice house or car 3. having received a grand award or 4. working in a prestigious position. More often a mix of all 4 of those things = success. But are those what really define success? Another thing people think of is happiness. What makes you have a happy life? For some people it’s that relationship usually a romantic one. It’s that dream job. Or it’s traveling. I’ll be happy when I have gone on this trip. Maybe it’s having all three of those things going on at the same time. Happiness = going on trip with your significant other and returning to your dream job to brag about it? Haha! Speaking as a marred gal I can tell you that just having a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife will not make you ‘happy’. They can make you very happy. But they can’t guarantee your happiness for life. In fact, the only thing they can guarantee are a few headaches. ( I’ll have to write a positive post about marriage after this because that sounds so negative!)

Ripples

As a Christian, ultimately a “successful life” is finishing well. I long to get to the end of my life and say with Paul that “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8 NIV) If I don’t make it to the end of my life having stood strong in the faith and having done something to further the Kingdom of God everything as been a waste. With that in mind one of the most important things is making God a priority in my life. Practicing the spiritual disciplines, listening to God. That is vertical, you could say, between me and God above. The next most important thing is my marriage and my child(ren). This is horizontal, you could say. Making sure most importantly is that my husband and child(ren) know the Gospel and are believers. Everything outside of that is secondary. Extended family and my circle of influence would  be next I would say. Work is next.

 

What does this mean for someone who is an artist? This means a lot. For one thing when we look at our work through this eternal lens ( hehe photography reference!) this changes the way we define success for the artist. Because all of the sudden having a full calendar of work, selling a lot of work, earning a lot of money, being mentioned or highlighted in magazines or publications, being featured at galleries, being recognized or awarded for our work is not what makes us successful. What makes the artist successful is doing the work. Yes, making a living off of our work is nice and for the serious artist I believe very vital because it’s extremely difficult to pursue the artist life when you’re spending 40 hours a week or more at your “job” to pay the bills. Which brings me to Madeline L’Engle and her quote from her book Walking On Water, “For most writers it takes many manuscripts before enough royalties are coming in to pay for a roof over the head and bread on the table. Other jobs must often be found to take care of bread and butter. A certain amount of stubbornness – pig headedness – is essential.” I found it interesting that L’Engle said “many manuscripts with royalties” are needed before you’re really making enough money to pay for a roof. You might be discouraged if you’ve been working as an artist for awhile but not generating enough income to support yourself. Don’t give up. Keep working. This is why I think it is so important not to gauge “success” off of your income as an artist. Success is serving the work not the paycheck.

Another way that this eternal lens changes the definition of success is recognition. Being applauded for our work is always enjoyable. We long to have affirmation that what we create is received with adoration. But if we never sell something or get praise for our work does not mean that we are not successful. Van Gogh only sold one painting his lifetime afterall.

wet seashell

The last reason I’m going to share why this changes the way we define success as an artist is by reminding you of the Rumi quote I shared awhile back in this post . You may remember Rumi said “Let the beauty we love be what we do.” Creating art whether it is photography, painting, music, writing if it is what you love then bringing whatever vision you have to fruition is success. Doing the work is success. This reminds me of The Creative Call and Elsheimer saying “Create as if your life depends on it because it does.” You can read all about The Creative Call here. Now why is simply doing the work success? L’Engle helps us discover why by explaining that when we create something we are going back to the garden and are becoming co-creators with God. As an artist, we cannot separate our talents without acknowledging that they are God-given. That is why doing the work is a success in and of itself because we are using our God-given talents. That was the thesis of The Creative Call. And L’Engle sums it up perfectly,

“That’s what it’s all about. The journey to the coming of the Kingdom. That’s…- the purpose of the work, be it story or music or painting, is to further the coming of the Kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God, and to turn our feet toward home.”

This is why the work is a success in and of itself because in light of this eternal lens on success our work is using our God given talents, which makes us co-creators with God, which glorifies our Lord and He sees that whether or not we gain earthly praise.

All glory to God. How fierce is that?

alexandria

A (Fierce) Child of God

The Artist Itinerary

Baby Love, Books, My Friends, Matrimony, Parenthood, & Family, Parenthood, Philosophy of Life, Photography, The Artist Life

Fiercelings,

You may remember awhile back I was reading a book called the Creative Call. I wrote posts about it here(this is pretty much a follow up post), here and oh yeah here too. I loved this book so much! I discovered it in my church’s library back in Oklahoma, I devoured it, then returned it and I am thinking I need to order a copy of it because I loved it so much. Recently, I shared it with one of my sisters who purchased a used copy off of Amazon for a penny (plus 3.99 shipping). I am including that link here for you.

The author, Janice Elsheimer, has a chapter or section of the book dedicated to doing the work of creating. She talks very practically about having the space to do the work of creating and she also shares about a year that she resolved to say no to things. She said no to volunteering at church. She said no to social invitations. She said no to obligating herself to things because she had a goal to focus on her art – namely, writing and playing the piano based on what I read. In the book, she references Madeline L’Engle’s book Walking on Water so much that I currently have a copy of that book from the library that I intend to write a review of on here in the near future. I am loving these books.

 

The adorable reason why I can’t accomplish everything I want

 

What is the work of creating? It is doing the work. As artists, we tend to have a lot of ideas. Our brains move at 90mph and there are no brakes. We will never be able to get to all of the ideas that we have but we for sure won’t get to the best ideas if we don’t do the work. Elsheimer talks about clearing her schedule and not overcommiting herself so that she can have the time to pursue what she really wants to pursue. L’Engle makes time for being. You may remember my last post about being anti niche. I want to pursue photography, music, writing, painting etc. Here’s the thing though, I cannot pursue all of these things every single day. I can try. But I will only successfully accomplish one, maybe two. So about three weeks ago I made myself a week artist schedule. An itinerary. It was a way for me to stop feeling like a failure everyday because I only accomplished 1 of the 10 artist things I was wanting to do. Which it is unfair of me to expect that of myself! My full time job right now is caring for my little bundle of joy. My husband is working 60+ hours a week and so I’m in a season of life where I am being supportive of him and being available during the small amount of free time that he does have. I can do a lot but the reality is that I truly only have maybe 2 hours to myself a day because my daughter takes an hour and a half nap – 2 hours. It’s a rare day that she’ll nap longer than that. Sure, I could wake up before her but the problem with that is her daddy doesn’t get home until 9 pm or later. We want to stay up late. So we sleep late. Which means I have 2 hours to myself on a regular day. I don’t share my schedule dynamic to bore you but to show that this is my reality and as an artist I don’t want to create a fairy tale world where I do all 10 things I want to do. That world doesn’t exist and so without further ado I give you my artist itinerary:

  1. Monday – Blogging Day. Hence the last 2 weeks that I have successfully posted a blog.
  2. Tuesday – Painting Day – I can’t wait to show you my latest work.
  3. Reading Day – This is kind of a built in catch up day, if I didn’t finish a blog post or painting I can work on it here because hey, I read a page of the book I’m working on. But seriously, I find having a reading day is fantastic for the artist of me. I am intentionally focusing on books by artists or topics on creating/ being an artist.
  4. Thursday – Music Day – Violin and guitar in one day, yes please.
  5. Friday – Writing Day – Different than blogging, I am working on a book idea.
  6. Saturday – Body Day – A day that I focus on yoga, running, or cardio. I try to workout more than one day a week but I’ve found that having an artist day to focus on working out benefits all the other days. Yoga is art.
  7. Sunday – Rest Day. No pressure.

 

I love her no matter how much time I end up taking care of her when I would rather be doing art!

 

You may notice that I don’t have a photography day and I chose to do this on purpose. And it has worked out very well. On music day, I was done early and took my camera outside with Izze to get some photos. I am working on getting photoshoots booked. By knowing that I have accomplished other artists pursuits I have more time to focus on photography! Life is good. So during my season of life right now I am being a supportive wife and caring for our daughter. As an artist I am fulfilling my creative needs by pursuing a specific creative endeavor by accomplishing and focusing on 1 artist pursuit a day. This is my artist itinerary.

 

“How can I prevent Mom from doing what she wants today?”

If you read up until this point, you’re a trooper. This post has been a doozy even for me but I cannot overstate this as artists we have to do the work of creating. We can only do the work if we have the time and we’ll only have the time if we make the time. You have creative needs. You need to fulfill them. You may remember this Richard Price quote from this post, “I think the definition of an artist is not necessarily tied into excellence or talent; an artist is somebody who, if you took away their freedom to make art, would lose their mind.” I know having a schedule isn’t sexy or romantic but it’s wonderful. It shows you take your art seriously. It helps you not lose your mind! Creating a schedule benefits you which in turn will benefit everyone around you.

 

Fiercely,

alexandria