Boondock Ramblings

Creatively and Faithfully Thinking: God Can Fill In the Gaps

What I like about writing is what I like about photography. In photography you create your vision through the lens, including composition and framing. After you create the image in the camera, you transfer it to your computer and in your computer you can use various programs to further transform the image and complete your vision, if you so choose.

In writing you start with a rough draft, and that rough draft is the basic foundation of what you want to write. It’s essentially the skeleton of your blog post or short story or novel or book. The second, third, fourth and final drafts are building around that initial frame until you have a final product that is well built, polished and pretty to look at. Well built, polished and pretty to look at it doesn’t mean what you photographed or wrote has any feeling to it, though, and here is where I run into problems as a creator.

When I was attempting to be a professional photographer, seeing my services to families, people wanted well-polished and pretty. They didn’t care so much about emotion, and that’s where the disconnect came for me. I cared more about emotion and storytelling than well-polished and pretty. I find I have this same issue in writing. I’m not always great at being technically perfect in my writing. I don’t always add the descriptions or flowery language that others do. I don’t always explain myself or my story well. It’s not always “technically perfect”. I’m more concerned about emotion and the story than nitty-gritty details.

I have to learn to slow down in writing and focus a little more on the description, though, because in writing, descriptions help the emotion and the storytelling. We all have areas to improve on in our creative endeavors and there are times I focus too much on what I’m not doing well instead of on what I hopefully will do better in the future.

Sometimes I worry, like so many of us do, that the shortcomings I possess when I create will affect how God uses my creation. The good thing is that God can use anyone no matter their shortcomings, or the shortcomings they perceive they have. Dallas Jenkins, writer and director of The Chosen series, talks often about how he is giving God his loaves and his fishes, and that God will multiply what he gives for God’s glory. He is, of course, referencing the story in the Bible where there were only five loaves of bread and two fix and Jesus multiplied that food so there was enough to feed a multitude of people.

What an amazing idea that God can take our offering, no matter how small, and multiply it so it touches someone else. When God gets ahold of what we create, even if it isn’t technically perfect and pretty, he makes it beautiful, powerful, and exactly what we need to convey his message of hope and love to a hurting world. If he can create beauty out of ashes, then he can create something outstanding out of what we perceive as barely standing.

Of course, we should always strive to improve, to learn more, to hone our craft, but while we do, we (I) have to remember that God will fill in the gaps and make our meager offerings even more than we could have ever hoped for.

Creatively Thinking: When You’re Okay Not Writing Deep and Praiseworthy books

I was so excited a couple of weeks ago when Robin W. Pearson won a Christy Award for her book A Long Time Comin’.

It was such a well-deserved award for a book I loved.

She worked on this book for years and years – I believe she said 20-years in one interview.

Amanda Dykes, another Christy Award winner also worked on her book, Whose Waves These Are for about eight years.

After listening to an interview with these women, I started to think, “Should I be working on my books for years and years and years, polishing them and using beautiful, detailed descriptions and literary writing like these ladies did? Maybe I’d be a more accomplished writer and person if I did. “

Maybe, I thought.

Probably, I thought.

My books would probably be better, I thought.

But then I thought: There is a place for every type of book. Readers love deep, thoughtful, densely written books, but they also enjoy lighter reads that aren’t as deep. Or at least I do. There are seasons in my life when I need something lighter. There are seasons in my life when I can handle something deeper. Ebs and flows. So there needs to be writers who can offer light and there needs to be authors who can offer deep.

Of course, there are those authors who offer a mix of both, which I feel Robin does very well.

Will my books change anyone’s life?

Maybe, but probably not. Will they offer a distraction when they need it the most?

Yeah, I hope so.

Sometimes something light that takes our mind off of things is just as welcome as something that leaves an imprint on our soul.

It’s true. Social media kills my creative buzz.

I can’t think when someone else is thinking for me.

None of us can and that’s what social media companies are banking on.

I once heard a pastor say it’s hard to hear God when we are filling our mind with so much garbage from the world. It’s similar for creativity. How can we hear our own voice when we are listening to so many others?

Social media is addicting.

It’s hard to get away from. ‘

Trust me, I know. Once you start scrolling it’s as if your brain slips into some sort of lock down, slow down mode. While your brain was once hopping with all kinds of ideas for stories or projects or plans, it’s now slowly grinding through the thoughts and ideas of other people and before long your own thoughts and ideas and plans are being strangled and pulled down. Your brain becomes muddled with all the information floating around in there and you can’t remember what plans you had or story you were going to write or what project you were going to complete.

“I’ll hop on for a few moments” you thought and then you realize two hours have passed and you’ve accomplished nothing. Not only that but then you spend the rest of the day sneaking peeks at the site or app you were on because you can’t stand not knowing what someone said back to you or about you or what they are doing.

Social media feeds off our natural tendency as humans to want to feel apart of something and not feel left out. They know what they are doing, in other words. The more addicted they can get you to that fear of missing out the more they can pull you in to view their ads, their propaganda, their view of the world. We are all slowly being brainwashed and sadly many of us like it.

We like being told how to think and what to believe and that our government and corporate officials want to take care of us. It’s soothing and calming to think others are taking care of us and have our best interest at heart. What a rude awakening when one day we realize they only want to manipulate us into one way of thinking and living by telling us some fact checker deemed our views as “incorrect and wrong.”

George Orwell wrote in his book 1984 (which I think should be required reading for all ages in this day and age):

Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.

If social media can dismantle your beliefs and tell you what you believe, they can control you so you’ll buy the products of their advertisers and maybe even vote for the people they allow to advertise there. Scary to think about it, isn’t it?

But also scary is that social media can also steal your creativity and leave you hollow and confused inside.

What’s the answer?

The answer is for each of us to decide, but for me my answer is to push social media aside as much as I can so I can hear my own beliefs, my own thoughts and my own creativity.

I always told myself stories in my head when I was growing up so when I decided last year to write fiction, I was sure it would be an easy task for me.

Well, slow your roll, Lisa (as an old boss of mine used to say). Writing fiction is not as easy as you think. In fact, writing fiction is more like yanking all the hairs of my head out one by one, or sentence by sentence, some days. It’s often tedious and a breeding ground of discontent for over thinkers like me. While many writers just toss what they think onto the page and keep going, I toss it there and then I look at it and agonize over the fact I don’t know a lot of big words, I’m not as smart as other people and I don’t have as much life experience as some.

I’m also discovering I’m horrible at descriptions. Especially when it comes to the appearance of a person. I’m reading a book by Becky Wade and she’s a master at it. Take for example, this description of one of her main characters in Sweet on You: “His pale skin struck a distinct contrast with his hair, which verged on black. His jaw, cheekbones, and nose were all sharply defined. Straight eyebrows. Thick eyelashes. Zander had a romantic, slightly heartbreaking, usually serious face. He could pass as either a nineteeth-century poet or one of those harshly handsome vampires from Twilight.”

You can clearly picture him, right? Right! (Mention of Twilight aside, that was a good description.) When I try to describe a character, I draw a blank. I simply describe their hair and eye color and maybe their build. I don’t draw comparisons to who they look like to others or how a facial feature could be compared to a piece of food or a particular flower.

In some ways I prefer vague character descriptions because then I, as the reader, can make up own mind about what the character looks like. Jan Karon, author of The Mitford series, says she purposely doesn’t describe her characters’ appearances because she likes her readers to use their own imagination and conjure up their own physical image of each character. She draws her approach to character descriptions on the days of old radio shows when she listened and created an image of the show characters in her mind.

I’m working on improving my character and scene descriptions in my next book but I don’t want to go too overboard. We were discussing the subject of overly detailed descriptions in books in an online writing forum I am a part of and several writers and readers agreed that if the descriptions become too detailed they skip right over those paragraphs. One person said they found long descriptions boring.

So what is a writer to do? I suppose a writer has to find a happy medium and offer just enough description of a character or place to flush them out but not so much as to bore the reader. So, yeah, that should be easy to do. Right?

As my mom would say, with her hand pressed firmly against her forehead, “Lord, give me strength!”

This is a guest post from Thao Nguyen at Reedsy.com. I was not compensated for this post and any opinions within are the writers and not my own (though I also believe in the power of journaling). I have not used Reedsy much and can not claim to be an expert on the site, but from what I’ve seen, I really like it! So feel free to check it out. I know I will be checking it out more. 


Journaling has been making a spectacular comeback. In an age of fast-everything — from food to fashion to even social interaction — the tranquility of sitting down and expressing yourself the old-fashioned way, with a pen and on paper, sounds soothing to many.

Beyond its surprising mental and physical health benefits, journaling is also a great way to find, nurture, and connect with your creativity. And this creative impetus is not something that only creators — writers, designers, artists — have. Think back to your childhood, to the unpredictable whims and the odd logic that may have been dismissed as being childish as you grow older; they’re all still there for you to tap into! Creativity doesn’t have to mean splattering paint and brandishing words — it can also be looking at situations differently, better organizing your life and goals, and finding new solutions to your problems.

So how can you reconnect to that imaginative part of your brain? Let’s see how keeping a journal can help you get there!

What is journaling?

Journaling can be anything — writing, doodling, structuring your days, etc. — so long as it involves getting things down, often with a pen and notebook, on a regular basis. The last bit is the important thing: journaling is all about routine. Some people do it every day, others make time for it once a week. You can tailor it to your schedule and habits, as long as you do it consistently.

Revisit, reflect, refine

A consistently maintained journal is an album of your life. It can help you see how you’ve changed, what you can improve on, or where things might have gone wrong if you’re having trouble. From there, you can gain new perspectives and find fresh ways to overcome challenges, or strengthen the things that make your life good.

For writers and artists, it’s a great way to jot down ideas, some of which may come to you in one moment and disappear in the next. You can revisit these little notes and sketches and develop them further, even if it’s been weeks after you’ve had those little revelations. It’s like planting a seed and watching it grow.

Moreover, journaling is also a great way to be organized. If you’re a writer, you may wish to record and reflect on your process, whether you’re learning to structure your book, develop a writing style, or hoping to take your project to the next stage and publishing it. Here’s where a journal can really come in handy. Staying organized not only helps you succeed in your endeavors, but keeps your head clear, so you don’t end up accidentally stifling your creativity under confusion and chaos.

How to journal for creativity

There is no correct way to journal because it’s a deeply personal activity. It’s merely a visualization of your thoughts, and it’s only for you to peruse, so be true to yourself and do it the way you feel like doing it. That said, here are some wonderful journaling methods to consider that will help your creativity flourish.

  1. Freewriting

Freewriting is just what it sounds like — where you take a seat and write freely! For 10-15 minutes every day, perhaps at the start or end of your day, just scribble down anything that comes to mind. There’s no restriction on what you can write about — it can be an emotional reaction, something interesting you’ve observed that day, or your gratitude for life (which is a very popular topic for journaling).

These uncensored and unvarnished writings will let your thoughts and creativity flow, with nothing to silence them. Without the distraction of other people (or, more likely, your phone and laptop), freewriting leaves you in the sole company of your imagination.

  1. Responding to prompts

On the other hand, if you’d rather have more structure to your journaling, consider responding to writing prompts. As this is more demanding than freewriting, choose prompts that speak to you and create a short story once every week or month. And since we’re being creative here, why not write a poem, or sketch a comic, if you feel like it? No matter which medium you choose, there are few better ways to be creative than bringing stories to life.

  1. The bullet journal method

Finally, we have the bullet journal method. Its creator, designer Ryder Caroll, described it as a “mindfulness practice” in which you map out your life on blank pages. In such a journal, you’ll have calendars, weekly plans, and monthly reflections. In addition to that, you can have pages reserved for anything you want to do — whether that is doodling, recording mantras, or, if you’re a writer, mind-mapping your next project.

For those who are more artistic, this is a chance to use your skills and create a book that really reflects your mind. This method requires you to take time once a month to go through what’s happened recently and draw out a plan for the next 30 days. It’s a beautiful way to declutter your thoughts, pick up on forgotten ideas, and momentarily escape the hustle and bustle of life.

From uninhibited scribblings to methodically planning your months, these are some suggestions for you to nourish and cultivate your creativity. It’s sometimes hard to manage this in a world so full of noise, but if journaling tells you anything, it is that inspiration really comes from within, and it’ll come to you if you give yourself the time to discover it.


Thao Nguyen is a writer at Reedsy, a platform that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She enjoys writing non-fiction, especially the historical kind, and is delighted by the prospects that self-publishing provides for aspiring authors nowadays.

When you haven’t created in over a month and then you do –

it’s like you were holding your breath and didn’t realize it.

And now you’re breathing again.

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When I was in high school and college I wrote and sketched and photographed what I wanted without much thought to how it might upset or bother someone.

I would definitely say I was much more in tune with my creative brain back then. I stayed up late creating either through drawing or writing, rarely concerned with someone seeing my work and casting judgments about it being “proper” or not.

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.

During that stage I wrote poems like “Living Statue” but never showed them to anyone. After all, poetry wasn’t really my thing – my brother was the poet. Plus, what would people in my life think about me writing about the half-naked model in my college art class. An offside about that, I had no idea we’d be drawing half-nude models when I signed up for that class.

I went to a smaller state school and had no idea they were progressive enough to allow such things. Imagine my pleasant surprise at being given the chance to sketch the human body, but also imagine my complete embarrassment at being asked to stare at that human body for an hour class. Luckily my art teacher wasn’t progressive enough to provide a completely nude model. Ha! I might have passed out during class.

Over the years my poor brain took a beating from the judgments of others and I, sadly, let those judgments affect how I created. Even sadder is that sometimes I still do. Echoing in my head are voices of the past scolding me for creating the way I wanted to, squelching what I really want to say or show.

To this day, I find myself thinking: “Who will be offended by this?” “What Christian will call me out and tell me I’m not Godly enough?” or “Who will remind me (again) they only hire photographers who pose their color-coordinated dressed family with perfect backdrops?”

Luckily I find myself doubting what I create a little less than I used to, hoping I can someday get back to the early days of not caring what others think, knowing there will be some who like what I create and some who don’t and accepting that I can’t make everyone happy.

How about you? Have you found your creativity has become more stifled or more open the older you’ve become?

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Find stock images by me for sale at Lightstock and Alamy.