Updated: Sep 30, 2021
Inkling Creative Strategies was born on November 13, 2020 (which also happens to be my birthday). That was the day its parent company, Bezalel Media, was certified as a licensed business. We will definitely have a big celebration for the entire month of November (stay tuned for that). But I think Inkling’s actual birthday was a bit earlier…September 25, to be specific. I haven’t shared a lot of the details about exactly where Inkling came from. If you visited the About page on my website, you’ll learn that I was inspired by the creative unrest of the pandemic coupled with the creative ethos of the Inklings, the writing group founded by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and other authors at Oxford University. All that stuff is accurate, but there’s a bit more to it than that.
During the early months of the pandemic, I signed up to take a class about Flannery O’Connor offered through an online writing community. I expected to read my favorite author’s stories from a writerly perspective and learn to hone my own craft using her technique. That definitely happened. But it was in that creative community that I discovered how desperately writers need spaces of unconditional encouragement and support. They need to feel free to present their ideas and take the risk of showing their work to a professional without fear of that person offering a disheartening critique, then taking the money and running.
I had no interest in starting a writing group of my own. The community I joined fills that niche in a way that fits its members' unique giftings.
But as an educator, professional writer, creative writer, and marketer, I could offer a particular blend of experience that very few people have.
I spend most of the summer in my newly-reopened pandemic world thinking about this as I went back to work and spent time with family. Something felt “off” in the spaces I had previously taken for granted.
I no longer felt satisfied or “in my element.” I was aware of skills I didn’t know I possessed and felt driven to use them on a wider scale…but how?
In late September, my husband, Curtis, and I decided to both take a week off from work and have a staycation. He had some projects at home he wanted to work on, and I wanted to take the time to pray about exactly what I needed to be doing given my creative angst and feelings of displacement. During that week, I started making my UItimate Writing Project Workbook, which has been downloaded nearly 300 times to date, designing the activities and creating a vision for what I wanted readers to experience.
Then, I started tinkering with a logo and a website. I still wasn’t sure what I was doing or what this would turn into. Still, I kept working, as if God wanted me to find my way through it for myself before giving me a direct answer.
At the end of the week, Curtis and I went for a hike to Brandywine Falls near Cleveland. There’s a majestic waterfall, the ruins of old buildings from when the area around the falls was a thriving town, and hiking and biking trails.
We ended up going on an extensive hike that took us off the prescribed trail, through a forest of old trees ripped out of Lord of the Rings, and past a creepy, abandoned barn. In the end, we clocked a total of seven miles.
At one point, we stopped at a creek that runs through the hills surrounding the falls. The water smelled earthy and mossy, and autumn leaves were already sprinkling themselves on the boulders. I looked at the small rocks under my feet, bent down, and picked one up, a nondescript, rounded piece of sandstone. Something about holding it, surrounded by the creek and the bedrock the water had eroded over time, gave me the distinct verification that I was headed in the right direction. I’m a Christian, and throughout the Bible, there are many instances of people building alters and places of remembrance of times when the Lord was faithful to them. For me, this was one of those times. I keep the rock on a shelf in my office as a reminder of the confirmation I received of my vision for Inkling. I’d like to say that running this operation has been entirely a piece of cake and I think there was a small, overly idealistic part of me that expected it would be. But there’s been a lot of uncertainty, and when you toss financial issues and a family health crisis into the mix, some things have had to be dialed back or put on hold.
I’ve been attacked by fear of failed and self-condemnation, asking myself whether it’s worth it.
Those obstacles are to be expected with any creative endeavor.
That’s why you have to remember why you started. You started because there is a void in the world that only you can fill.
You started because people have a need for your story or ideas.
You started because you have a way to answer that need that no one has ever tried before. You started because you got an impulse to create that you simply couldn’t ignore.
You started because you believed you had the skills to get it done.
For all of these reasons, what you are doing is worth finishing. Last week, I wrote about how self-publishing my book brought it to a whole audience of people who needed its message, who otherwise may not have found it. Whether you want to independently publish or work with an established publisher is beside the point. The point is that just one story like the one I shared in that post is worth it.
Singer-songwriter Alex Chilton, a veteran music who headed up bands like the Box-Tops and Big Star, once said, “If you only press up 100 copies of a record, then eventually it will find its way to the 100 people in the world who want it the most.”
I don’t expect Inkling Creative Strategies or even Bezalel Media to become a literary empire, although if the Lord chose to do that, I’d most certainly be thankful. What I do expect is that every person who downloads a workbook, books a free Meetup, or signs up for a service will walk away with a better idea of who they are as an artist and what it takes to execute their vision. I’m not saying don’t aim high. But if you think about the single ideal reader you have in mind, the end result becomes more immediate and easier to visualize.
Someone out there needs the art you’re making.
Please don’t quit on me now. Need some help getting started? Schedule a free 30 minute Virtual Meetup on Zoom and let’s chat.