In February I went to New York to attend VoxCon, a conference about becoming a communicator who can’t be ignored. It was an amazing experience! I walked away with a notebook filled with takeaways and a huge booklist. My mind was swimming as I processed all the information that I took in. There was one session in particular that was actually kind of healing for me on a personal level–and I don’t think I’m the only one who felt that way, because by the end there were a lot of tears in that room. It helped me solidify my vision and why for this blog and I left inspired and filled with purpose. And as a bonus, I finally convinced the friend who told me about the conference to sign up for Instagram. 😂 I’ve been working on that one for a few years and in a restaurant in Midtown, she finally created her account!
Back to the conference, I finally narrowed down my notes to five lessons that I think can apply to a wide variety of creatives and I’m excited to finally share them with you today! Let’s just dive right in.
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1 // Use your voice. It matters.
Over the weekend I finished The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, about a teen named Xiomara who has so much she wants to say, but she doesn’t think people want to hear it, so instead she pours it all into a notebook. How many of us can relate to how she feels? We’re bursting with things to say, but we’re afraid to say them. Even when we already have a platform–like a blog, or YouTube channel, or countless social media accounts–they sometimes only run skin deep.
You were given a voice and that voice matters. Your story matters.
That fictional tale you want to tell matters. The poems that simmer inside you matter. The song that wants to break free matters.
Not only does it matter, but Donald Miller (who shared this thought) even said he believes we have a responsibility to use our voice. We were given our voice for a reason, so let’s use it and use it for good. The world is full of negativity and negative opinions. Let’s share a positive voice.
2 // Do the work. Make it a habit.
This probably sounds like a no-brainer, and it is, but I think we can always use the reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the bustle of life. We have jobs we need to go to, families we need to take care, friends we need to see. But in the midst of it all we also have a creative passion. If we want this creative passion of ours to be a thing, we need to make time for it. We need to give it priority. My friend Marisa is putting up a video every day in April and in one she discussed five habits that writers need to break. One of those habits was letting other things get in the way of our work–our work on our creative passion. This is something my brother-in-law and I have talked about a lot, too. The things I do in life support my writing; my writing is the priority.
Donald Miller also said that we need to do the work so much it becomes a habit. It becomes part of our day–like brushing our teeth and drinking our coffee–and if that part of our day doesn’t happen, we feel a little bit off. (He also said we need to be sure we don’t beat ourselves up when it doesn’t happen. When we write or paint it’s going to take much longer than some of those other “everyday” habits that we have, so there will be days it doesn’t happen.)
I think one part of making sure we prioritize our work enough to make it a habit, is to really internalize and believe #1. Once we know that our voice matters–and not only does it matter, but we have a responsibility to use–it’s easier to make the work a priority.
3 // Be yourself!
Once we’re doing the work, we need to remember to ourselves. Inspiration is everywhere and it can be so easy to admire someone and want to be like them. There are so many writers I look up to. There are artists whose work I love. But I’m not them. My work shouldn’t be like theirs. My work should be my own. It should reflect my voice, not my voice coming off as someone else’s. Mary Karr said she found the voice that sold books when she stopped trying to be T.S. Eliot and embraced where she came from. She stopped trying to pass. So as we move forward and do the work, let’s remember to let our inspiration be just that–inspiration. Something that shows us a different perspective and gives us fuel, but not something we need to be. Let’s embrace our own experience and our own background so that we can actually share our own voice.
4 // Stories need to tell the truth.
This is a big topic for me, and it’s something that I’ll probably talk about soon in terms of banning books and what we can do instead. The world isn’t always filled with beautiful rain clouds and rainbows. (Or, for all you crazy people who prefer sunny days to rainy ones: sunshine and rainbows.) The world is a broken place filled with darkness. And yet, there is light to be found. For every sunny day, there is a rainy one to follow. ☔💙 Stories are a way for us to explore that. They allow us to seek the good in the midst of the bad and they give us hope that we will be okay. Sally Lloyd-Jones is a picture book writer and she often writes about faith. Once she was asked to talk about the resurrection of Jesus, without talking about the crucifixion. She shared with us, “You need to see the darkness to show the light. You can protect children from the truth, or you can prepare them.” That is so true, not only for children, but people of any age. We can protect and shield, or we can prepare ourselves. Stories are a way to do that.
5 // “The work you do matters more than the work you do.”
I’ll end with one of the thoughts that actually opened VoxCon, from the person who put it all together: Matt Popovits. I often think back to when I was younger and I was trying to decide between two careers: doctor or writer. When people would ask what I wanted to do, I’d share those two options and I was told, “Be a doctor. Make a difference. Save lives.” And that never sat well with me. I believe that stories and art have the ability to save lives. They can give someone an escape from the darkness that surrounds them, remind them to breathe in the midst of a turbulent day, provide them with a friend when they feel alone, give them hope that the bullies or the other giant they’re facing will one day be defeated, and those just touch the surface. Can you think back to a movie, song, or book that has provided comfort in your life? How many people love Harry Potter because the series gave them what they needed at the right time in their life? As Matt Popovits said about the work you do, “It fills a deep need for at least one person.” When you’re tired and wonder what the point is or if it even matters, remind yourself that it does. Your voice is important. It matters. And there is at least one person out there who desperately needs what you have to give to the world. As Matt Popovits said, “When you thrive in your work and become a communicator who can’t be ignored, the world becomes a better place.” It will become a better place for that one person; and I would guess there’s more than just one person who needs the words or music or art that only you can share.
PS – I also shared my reading list from VoxCon.