for the Creatives

Not everyone has the time all the time

Saying “I don’t have the time” is most of the time and for most people an excuse, not an actuality. It’s simply a matter of reprioritizing.

But, that is not true for everyone. That is not true all of the time.

You have to be honest with yourself for yourself: Is saying “I don’t have the time” right now an excuse or a legitimate reason? I have to ask myself this question semi-regularly. Only you can decide.

But I’m learning one thing: Time to create is a privilege. When I have it, I try to honor it. I try to proceed with grace and gratitude for the moments and space that I have. I don’t always succeed.

And there are legitimate times where we don’t have the time and the space to create. I try to honor that too. To not guilt-trip or push. I don’t always succeed.

I try to be honest with where I’m at each moment. I don’t always succeed. It’s a process. It’s this attempt at that elusive thing called “balance”. And it’s okay to not get it right all the time. At least, so I remind myself. And today is a day that I wanted to remind myself, and I thought maybe I’d remind you too while I’m at it.

for the Creatives

An artist’s call to serve

Last month I wrote a blogpost about what artists have a responsibility to in their art. The trend right now is generally toward the artist’s role in the social justice movement or to using their platform to speak out.

Which is important. But a coworker reminded me that another big part of an artist’s calling is the call to serve. I think of the work of an artist throughout history, of commissions and patronage, of crafting for practical purposes and for communal areas.

Sometimes I see serving and chores synonymously, which is of course a piece of serving. But it’s important to remember the work of service in the artistic field too.

A quick note on valuing your work:

I think there’s a bit of a backlash to that thought sometimes, swinging too far the other direction trying to avoid the “starving artist” mentality and trying to remember our own worth as an artist. But it’s not one or the other: it’s both.

It certainly isn’t becoming a doormat and saying “yes” to every request for free labor that gets thrown your way. And it certainly isn’t throwing out halfhearted work without considering how it’s meeting the needs of the fanbase and how to give back to your community and to the artistic community.

I’m still learning to grasp both concepts tightly instead of leaning on one over the other. Placing value on the work of an artist while also finding ways to serve. That can include both volunteering free labor and also doing the work you’re paid to do with excellence.

Steps to take towards serving through your art:

  1. How are we serving our customers, our communities, our family/friends, and other artists?
  2. What value do we provide?
  3. How do we go above and beyond to care for them?
  4. Where do we sacrifice pieces of ourselves through our craft?

Some of it will be practical chore-like service: preparing a snack for a writers gathering or cleaning up after a paint night or organizing a conference.

Some of it will be serving through art: posting a timely word of encouragement, volunteering to proofread a cousin’s college application, or spending that extra time on worldbuilding for your novel to better entertain the readers who catch tiny details.

Serving comes in many forms, but overflows from a heart set on others. I’m spending time reflecting on that, how I’m currently serving others through art, and how I can continue to serve.

Tell me: In what ways have you seen artists (yourself or others) serving?

for the Creatives

Bloggers to add to your list

My friend was looking to expand her bloggerly reading list and asked who I follow. And I thought this was worth sharing with you all, too.

Honestly sometimes I feel like life has veered more toward Twitter threads and email newsletters…? Anyone else? It’s great to remind myself that my favorite online space, the bloggerly world, is still out there and still valued.

So here are some I’m reading. They’re all currently blogging, and though this list features a variety of styles with differing artistic outlets, it’s all beautiful.

When I’m not blogging, here’s some favorites I’m reading:

Abby Norman: abbynorman.net

Hannah Brencher: hannah-brencher.squarespace.com/diary
(and while you’re at it, be sure to sign up for her Monday Morning email club to start your week off right)

Juni’s Journal: junisjournal.wordpress.com

Jami Fowler: jamifowler.wordpress.com

Tara Sparling: tarasparlingwrites.com

iwannabealady: iwannabealady.com

NicoleSundays: nicolesundays.wordpress.com

And writerly-specific ones:

Kristen Lamb: authorkristenlamb.com

Blonde Write More: blondewritemore.com

Any others to add?

Comment below some of your favorite bloggers to expand the list even more.

for the Creatives

Studying the Greats: Who do you wanna be?

Who do you wanna be when you grow up? Not “grow up” as a person, but grow as an artist. Deciding that is a starting point. Then studying them, that’s one of the greatest keys to growth. If you can’t envision where you’re headed, it’s a little more difficult to get there.

You don’t have to personally know them. There are four super simple steps I’m posting for patrons on how to learn from the greats. Come join that discussion!

And tell me by commenting below: Who are you aspiring to be? Which creative souls are out there doing some piece of what you are wanting to do? and most importantly, what are you learning from them?

for the Creatives

The obligation of an artist

I’ve been pondering the role of an artist, what our responsibility is and what can depend on our brand. What qualifies as our role and what is “out of our lane”. I don’t have that all figured out, and it may be more subjective than all this, but here’s where I’m at right now:


“Shut up and sing,” they say. “Stay in your lane. Leave politics to the politicians. Your education, your skillset is merely the creation of an aesthetic piece.”

But you know. You know your education is more than the word on the page, the brush on the canvas, the graceful movement or theatrical quip, more than the combination of melody and harmony.

Your skillset is in the human condition, the myriad of stories and moments and emotions and experiences and struggles that make a life. It bleeds into your art, your life, your politics, your values. There is no separation. And as an expert on the human condition, your voice matters.

  • We have an obligation to speak from where we’ve come, where we are, where we’re going.
  • We have an obligation to listen.
  • We have an obligation to represent the diversity and the variety of the world around us.
  • We have an obligation to amplify marginalized voices.
  • We have an obligation to speak for justice, for life, for humanity. To speak for the vulnerable and overlooked. To represent without exploiting their story for our own gain.
  • We have an obligation to challenge. To guide, to push, to disturb the status quo.
  • We have an obligation to truth, in both fiction and nonfiction.

I’m still learning. I’m still learning what this looks like for artists in general and for me specifically. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is the role of an artist? Where do they fit in society beyond entertainment?

for the Creatives

Marie Kondoing your time

First question: Which of the things you spend your time on spark joy? That’s the easy part. This is where all my creative aspirations go.

But there’s a next part. Because I knowwww that you spend time doing the dishes and it *never* sparks joy.

When Marie Kondo went into the kitchen or the bathroom closet, she often switched her question. My whisk or my washcloths don’t exactly spark joy, but I’m certainly not throwing them away; they’re kinda necessary. “Do you see yourself taking this into your future?” or “Do you see this as part of your ideal lifestyle?” That was the type of question she would ask (I don’t remember her exact wording, forgive me for botching). Then maybe the washcloth doesn’t spark joy, but I appreciate its place in my apartment because I see how it contributes to the life I want to lead.

From my (admittedly limited) understanding, the KonMari method is more than just about objects that spark joy, but about building a life that sparks joy. It’s not about minimalism or cleaning or decluttering, though those all can be part of the process. It’s about appreciating and loving what we have and the things we surround ourselves with.

So, second question to KonMari your time: Which of the things you spend time on do you see taking you into your future? And, related but different, which of the things you spend time on do you see as part of your ideal lifestyle?

Often the second question encompasses items you have to do but don’t want to, which brings a whole new level of appreciation and gratitude. (Me right now: “Hmm, yeah, I guess my ideal future does not involve a pigsty of dirty dish piles, so until I hire a housekeeper, I’m washing dishes!”)

Third question: What other things do you spend your time on that the above questions don’t cover? Hint: Ditch those things and fill that time with joy sparking! Oh wait…KonMari method…. Thank those things for what they brought to your life, thennnnnn trash them.

(Sidenote: There may be items on the third list you legitimately can’t ditch. I get it. No harm, no foul. I am moreso meaning the things that you can.)

Big old caveat here: I am not a consultant or an expert. I’m just someone who watched the Netflix show. For expert advice, that’d be Marie Kondo.

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The costs of self-publishing a book

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Central IL, Showcasing other Creatives

A comfy kind of kooky: King’s Pen writers group

Today is the 8 year anniversary of King’s Pen writers group. To celebrate, we had a collaborative project of writing this piece of creative nonfiction about our experience with King’s Pen over the years. Enjoy.

8 years later, here we are

by Yasmeen Hudson, Kim Kouski, Paul Maitland, Amy L. Sauder, and Jennifer Esther Wieland

Riverside church was asking people to start smallgroups. Kim started King’s Pen because Jesus told her to. She always wanted a group of Christian writers. She wanted it to be a smallgroup, not a writers group. A group to talk about God.

Kim was terrified beyond belief. She didn’t think she could do it. The first meeting was at Berean bookstore on Thursday, March 3, 2011. Kim was glad that her good friend Kim Z. was there, so she mostly talked to her.

Some people helped start it, and others stayed. Some are part of the Facebook community even though they can’t attend in person. Then there were the few who would visit, but would read the writing book the whole time instead. Maybe they thought it would be creative writing class where Kim would teach. Or maybe they didn’t like us because we’re all kooky. So many people have come and gone and been a part of the process, like a quilt, leaving their mark, and that’s what makes the group what it is.

We’re the longest surviving Riverside smallgroup, and we also have the longest meeting times. Hours of hangout.

There’s something dependable about the group. Everyone’s journey mixing together, and a part of that is weaving our lives together, making the bond stronger. We get to watch people open up and bloom as we live our lives in this community. It’s fellowship: attending each other’s launch parties, graduations, anniversary parties, baby showers, and celebrations. Supporting one another in life, cheering each other in writing, and connecting as believers.

There’s freedom here too. Acceptance. We trust each other enough that we don’t have to put up our defenses. We can be ourselves. And in turn, we’re each others’ biggest fans.

We have something routine. It allows us to build writing disciplines, and it brings us back to what’s really important with devotions every week. We have finished books, published blogs, published books, and started seriously writing. We have accountability. We keep writing because we need something to read for group. If we hadn’t been here, who knows if we would have quit.

Kim has been dedicated and consistent. Even during the seasons of just 3 people attending, Kim would faithfully show up and keep it going. That’s also true to writing. You have to stick with it in the dry seasons when we wonder “Am I even making a difference?”

I think we’d be fun watching, like a wildlife show. Paul offers his steady devotions, then we get a laugh at the Kim Kouski translation of the Bible, about sheeps in trees or about snarky Jesus. We have an obsession with geekdom like comic-con and sword seminars and MST3K movie nights and renaissance faires and cosplay. Paul puts up with it all. He doesn’t run away. Kim is our fairy godmother, transforming our wardrobe with her magic spells. Jenn sings Frozen with reckless abandon with 3 year olds. We have group writing days where we don’t write a thing. We have lots of food. We throw birthday parties for everyone, which basically means we celebrate every meeting. We’re a comfy kind of kooky.

And 8 years later, here we are.


If you’re in central IL and interested in attending King’s Pen, get in touch for more info.

If you’d like me to facilitate a workshop for your church, business, smallgroup, conference, town, friend group, or family where you make your own collaborative creative nonfiction piece about your story, get in touch to discuss details and pricing.

for the Creatives

How to do ALL THE THINGS as a multi-creative

I write stories and blogposts, and I teach, and I have dayjob and family and friends and I should probably try to live healthy like go to the gym and prep veggies, oh and Marie Kondoing my life is pretty important right now, plus I travel a lot to see my Wisconsin Guy (I mean, my only guy, but he’s also my Wisconsin Guy), plus there’s church and there’s serving my community, and let’s not forget Netflix. Phew, I’m wiped! Oh, and I need sleep! Yes, sleep. ZZZzzzZZZzzzZZZzzzz.

In maintaining my writerly entrepreneurial life, I have book writing, blogging, social media updates, email newsletter, patron updates, book signings and events, writers groups, teaching classes, #DelilahTales updates about my mannequin’s life because why not, artistic fashion resale, directing the literary arts section of a Christian creative arts conference, and of course a dayjob to make this all possible.

And, in case ya didn’t notice from above, I’m not even the most multi-creative human out there. Some of y’all out there write and dance and paint and act and and all the things. Some of y’all have kids. Some of y’all have 3 jobs. Let’s be real: Some of y’all are busier than me.

But in juggling all the things, I’ve learned a few tips I thought I’d pass along. If you feel like you’re bombing your resolutions, it’s okay. Let’s reset. Let’s take another month to figure it out, and I won’t tell anybody. 

In a previous post I gave a micro-step about picking which ball you’ll keep in the air, but there’s a whole process to go deeper into re-evaluating each piece of your life and getting a few steps closer to doing the things that you’re actually wanting to do with the time you have.

Here’s my step by step process to prioritizing. I did it back when I got serious about my writing, and routinely I’ve re-evaluated and adjusted from there. It might help you.

When I began to make a regular writing routine, but didn’t have time for it, I did the following:

  1. Made a list of priorities, which included all the things I want to be the focus of my life for the time. This can include activities and abstract concepts: community, faith, writing, blogging, etc.
  2. Made a separate list of obligations, the things I don’t want to be the focus of my life but I have to give some time to. This also includes activities and abstract concepts: health (nutrition and gym), rest days, dayjob, sleep, etc.
  3. Goal of the above: diminish as much time as possible for obligations – for instance from my life, don’t work overtime if possible, don’t set some ridiculous gym goal, choose quicker healthy foods rather than hours of meal prep, have one rest day a week but not lounging for weeks on end, etc.  – and add the priorities to calendar wherever possible, organize life around those things.
  4. Made a separate list that detailed every single thing I spend my time doing currently. Included sleep, gym, meal prep, movie watching, reading, writers group, church small group, church services, work, writing, watching tv shows with a couple friends, babysitting, etc.
  5. Removed everything from my calendar that was part of that last list but not on the other lists. I noticed one small group I attended was not a community to me, but the other was, so I dropped the one that did not factor into my priority of “community”. I stopped babysitting. Cut the TV show watching with friends mostly, and prioritized writerly relationship meetings that help achieve my writing priority.
  6. Anything that came up to add to my calendar, I weighed on this scale: Is this in line with my priorities? Yes, then add it. Is this more under obligation? Okay, I’ll add it if I need to allot time to this still. Is this neither? Nope, can’t do it, I’m busy.

Notes:

  • This will fluctuate with time. Going through this process isn’t thinking “For the rest of my life, where does this fall?” It’s “Right now, where does this fall? For this season, what do I want my life to look like?” Maybe decluttering is priority because Marie Kondo and spring cleaning vibes. But then, you declutter, congratulations by the way, and suddenly you want music and sleep to be your top priority instead. This isn’t set in stone for all time. So ask yourself, for the next year or 6 months or 3 months, what you want it to look like.
  • The “obligation” category isn’t a bad section. You can even enjoy obligations very much (three cheers for sleep!). Obligations are still very much important and given regular time, just not extra. It’s important I go to the gym, spend time with family, sleep, attend my church, serve my community, work, write…but it’s all a question of which things I will allot time and not give extra time to (obligation), and which ones I need to fill my calendar as full as I can with because they’re my focus (priority).
  • For you: Which creative pursuits are an obligation? Which creative pursuits are a priority? Either way is fine. What about family? friends? health? cleaning your house? netflix? reading? gaming? travel? What about all your other activities? It’s all up to you. There’s no wrong list, it’s just personal to your life goals, aspirations, desires, etc.

Final step, I promise:

With the list of priorities and what gets what time, you want those priorities in order. What’s your top priority if you had to lose everything but one? What’s your second priority? And so on down the list. Once you do that, fit them each into your calendar on a regular basis in accordance with your prioritization, but you always know what drops first if you can’t hit it and you always know what gets any extra time you carve out.

So is your top priority theater? Novel? Blogging? Give your top priority the most of your focus/time/energy. Give a little time to the others. Maybe some will be every day, some every week, and some only every month. Who knows. But don’t focus so much on juggling all your lower priorities that you don’t give the time to your top priority.

It’s okay to want a lot of things, and you’ll figure out what works for you balance-wise with time.

You don’t have to do ALL THE THINGS. At least not all at once. Choose a couple for now. Add some in when you have room, take some off when you don’t. Most importantly, cut down as much “obligation” time as you can and throw it all at your “priorities” list. Something beautiful will come of it.

New top secret content for you!

If you like my detailed analytical posts like this one, it’s becoming a new perk for my most raving fans. From now on, these will be top secret content you can receive one of two ways:

  1. An abridged version of any new post is sent to those who receive my posts by email. You can sign up for free at the very bottom of my webpage. 
  2. The all-access pass for the archives and any future exclusive posts is available to paying patrons for just $2/mo. You can sign up at Patreon.com/AmyLSauder

The only question is, which will you choose?

Central IL, Showcasing other Creatives

A bookworm’s invite to tea with the Queen

Her Majesty’s English Tearoom in Central IL is an enchanting place to visit, for tea or for books or for browsing. Here is a sneak-peek from local authors of a few of the fun finds along the way (ahem, you just might find a certain Amy L. Sauder in here somewhere)

Her Majesty’s English Tearoom: Come have tea with the Queen!
I Know You Like a Murder at the Tearoom
Make Me Over at the Tearoom
Zombie Turkeys at the Tearoom
Hidden Secrets at the Tearoom

Plus, a couple events in a far far away (or not so far away) kingdom…

Murder Mystery at the Grand Hotel
Books & Breakfast at Little Traveler

Thanks to Kim Kouski for her her videography, Paul Maitland for directing (you’ll be seeing his books on shelves soon, so remember that name!), and Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild for hosting in her lovely tearoom.

P.S. My friends and I had so much fun making these videos. Check out the blooper reel for more writerly mayhem:

Bloopers at Tea