Various End-of-the-Year Thoughts on Creativity

LESSONS from a master

There’s something about reading a good book that soaks my veins with words and inspires me to write my own stories. This was especially true when I recently finished reading the authorized biography of J.R.R. Tolkien, by Humphrey Carpenter, not only because the book was very well written but also because of seeing how Tolkien brought together the masterpiece that is The Lord of the Rings.

Three things stood out to me:

  1. Tolkien spent decades working on his stories. It’s easy to get frustrated when something isn’t ready now, but I was reminded that patience is as important to producing a work as inspiration or skills.
  2. Though a Catholic, Tolkien didn’t force his faith into the story. It was a fundamental part of his life and how he viewed the world and thus influenced his writing, but he did not make it an explicit part of the story. Instead, he believed that by simply creating he was helping to reveal the truth of Jesus, the deeper truth (or myth, as he described it to C.S. Lewis) that all men only dare to hope is real.
  3. In all his genius and brilliance, Tolkien hampered himself by being a perfectionist. The Lord of the Rings took over ten years to publish because he would get absorbed into minute details or simply start from scratch. That is a tendency I have noticed in my own writing and it makes finishing a project really hard. From now on I’m going to try to give myself more grace (while still reaching for excellence, of course).

Some of these points were excellently covered by Trevor McMaken over at Q Ideas in a great post titled “7 Lessons for Creatives from the Life of J.R.R. Tolkien”. I highly recommend giving it a read, and also the biography itself.


2013 turned out to be quite a year for me in terms of creating things. In February I started work on a short story titled Bent Heart, which I released in June as a free PDF. Also in June I directed a short film, which is still being edited (and named). I then changed jobs and took the role of marketing editor for a non-profit, which has turned into a flurry of writing, shooting, and editing multiple promo videos, a short documentary, and other content. Lastly, starting in September I published The Ways We Tell, a 13-episode podcast about how artists use different mediums to tell their stories.

It’s probably too early to presume, but it all has led to a distinct feeling that I’m starting to get traction with the things I create. Starting projects, finishing them, and then releasing them to be seen by others provides needed steam to the creative engine. 

So onward to 2014! If you have a project you are working on, the best way to inspire yourself is to finish it, so keep going!



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