Start A Creativity Love Tank
It was October of 2013 and the last morning of the Allume conference. I had never attended a blogging conference before, nor had I ever roomed with three total strangers in a tiny hotel room for as many nights. I felt … hungover. Not from alcohol, but from the onslaught of information and nonstop socializing.
By the last morning, physical and mental exhaustion set in. Between the keynotes, workshops, lunches and constant small talk, a moment to introvert had never seemed so appealing.
Surely there’s a coffee shop around here somewhere, right?
I ventured out of the hotel for the first time in three days, taking a deep inhale as I looked around downtown Greenville. Leaves crunched under my shoes as I shifted my laptop under my arm in search of the perfect place to hole up with a cup of coffee, and, more importantly, to hole up alone.
Within minutes I was settled at a table in an underground coffee shop (not-so-subtlely named Coffee Underground), sipping a peppermint mocha. I had no set plan for my time … I figured I’d write, glance over my notes from the conference, and check my e-mail.
(Like all procrastinators do, I started with e-mail.)
As I scrolled through a mix of messages, none of which were urgent, something in the sidebar caught my eye. It was one of my inbox folders, affectionately labeled “Don’t Quit Blogging”—a collection of encouraging notes I’d received since starting a personal blog in 2009.
I had not read any of those messages since I first received them.
But there, in the underground coffee shop in downtown Greenville, alone, at the end of my very first conference, I felt a sudden urge to read them all.
So I did.
It felt vain—narcissistic even—to commit a chunk of my morning to reading kind words about my own writing. Who does that?
The truth is: I showed up at that conference three days prior feeling more insecure than ever about who I was and what I was doing with my life. I was 18 months into motherhood and not sure if I should continue writing at all. I was seeking answers. I was seeking clarity. I was seeking purpose, direction, and confidence in my art. Could I even call what I was doing “art”?
Anne Voskamp gave one of the keynote talks; Jennie Allen gave the other. I remember Anne’s speech was about stars. I couldn’t tell you a single anecdote from Jennie’s talk, but I remember the general point of both messages was this: God can use you, right here, right now, with whatever gifting you’re feeling called to pursue.
They said things like, “platforms don’t matter!” and “numbers don’t matter!” Every star in the sky matters, every star shines. “Your writing can make a difference to one person, and that matters,” they said.
I wanted to believe them. I wanted to believe them so badly.
With that in the back of my mind, I kept reading. I read notes and e-mails from women who had taken the time over the course of four years to—in various ways—tell me that my writing mattered.
I read every single e-mail in the folder.
And then I cried.
The coffee shop was dark and I don’t think anyone noticed the tears streaming down my face, but I will never forget that morning, I will never forget how it felt to sit still for 45 minutes and allow the words of total strangers to speak life and truth over me. Each note—a gift from God, a breadcrumb, a clue, a sign to keep going.
“Please don’t ever stop writing,” the last e-mail said.
I closed my laptop, wiped a fresh tear from my face, and whispered to nobody, “I won’t.”
Six weeks after I attended that conference, I stood in the shower massaging rosemary conditioner into my hair while God dropped an idea in my head. If you’re here reading this, you know what that idea was.
And I guess this is what I want you to know: my creative love tank was 100% full when I started Coffee + Crumbs. And when I say full, I mean FULL, filled to the brim, possibly even overflowing.
What am I saying here—that if I hadn’t read all those e-mails in the underground coffee shop six weeks prior, I never would have pursued Coffee + Crumbs? I don’t know. That feels like a stretch. But I do know this: even though I had no idea (truly!) if Coffee + Crumbs would ever amount to anything, I pursued the idea with complete confidence.
A big part of that was faith of course—faith that God was calling me here, to this very specific idea, in all of the unknown, and giving me peace about it.
But those e-mails played a role in my confidence as well. Because with all those messages in the back of my mind, I thought maybe, just maybe, a space like this could matter to someone.
It could matter to one of them.
Your creative challenge this month is two-fold:
Start a creative love tank. This can be digital (a folder in your inbox, a folder in your Google drive, etc) or physical (a pretty box, file folder, etc). Start paying attention to the words of affirmation you receive about your work. This could be an e-mail, a Facebook message, an Instagram comment, a text. Has anyone said anything nice about your work lately? Take a screenshot! The point here is not to become obsessed with seeking validation or to find our identity in the feedback of other people, but to simply see this for what it is—a gift!—and save it for a day when you need a pick-me-up.
Pour into someone else’s creative love tank. Who can you encourage today? Have you read something recently that moved you? Made you think? Have you taken the time to tell the author? Have you felt inspired by anyone’s art? Photos? Podcast? Pursuit of their craft? Can you tell them so?