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The Hard & The Holy

“Please hear me, Girl: The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.”
– Ann Voskamp

Well–I love this quote.

Life right now is full of lessons (nothing out of the ordinary there, I suppose), but they all seem to be centered around the idea and–more challenging–the act of sacrifice.

It’s not particularly fun, but it’s the uphill climb to get to the summit. And I know my sacrifices are small in comparison to much of the world, but it’s still my journey uniquely, and right now I’m tired because it’s hard.

I try to remind myself as I make final preparations to leave one life season and style for another, that once I’m there, I’ll be able to appreciate and value it that much more–knowing the cost it took to get there.

Because I want to be a woman who knows more than how to do my hair.

So I’m embracing the sacrifice and discovering the increasing springs of strength to grow in my journey through the hard and holy things God has called me to do.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.”
-Psalm 84:5-7 ESV

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Just My Type

He’s my type. He’s not my type. No such thing as type. As a young adult still among the ranks of singlehood, I hear a decent bit of talk about type.

But a preferable type of type is the subject of my most recent read. Simon Garfield’s “Just My Type” is described on the book jacket as “a delightful inquisitive tour that explores the rich history and the subtle powers of type.” And delightful it was.

Typography was one of my favorite graphic design classes in college, although upon graduation, I felt it wasn’t my strongest skill. I figured one of the best ways to remedy that would be to learn from the most skilled typographers in history, so when I passed this gem of a book at the library the other week I had to pick it up. The book covered personal and professional histories of famous typographers from the past several centuries, details about the projects that led to the creation of some of the most famous fonts in the world, and various printing methods from Gutenburg’s printing press all the way up to modern technologies. I took quite a few notes as I read through, but as most of them are fairly technical, I won’t type them all up here.

One of the fonts described in the book is Comic Sans. Perhaps one of the most infamous typefaces in the world, it was designed for a specific manual for Microsoft (to accompany that little yellow dog, Bob, who is oh-so-friendly-and-helpful). It ended up not being able to be used for that project, but it did make its way out to the masses who lacked the good judgement to not use it on, well, everything. One of my favorite quotes from the book was about this font:

“If you see a word somewhere with each letter in a different color, that word is usually in Comic Sans.”

Along with Comic Sans, several of the other fonts people love to hate were mentioned (Papyrus, anyone?). Interestingly, one of the studies reported on in “Just My Type” surveyed designers on the fonts they used most regularly, believed to be most visible, and their least favorites. The top ten in each category were listed, and  4 of the 10 least favorites were included in both the favorites and most visible lists! I think a prerequisite for being a typographer is being a snob.

I’m a little behind the times, but ampersands have really gotten my attention lately, and it seems there is just no limit to these beautiful marks. Garfield has similar feelings about ampersands, as he writes, “Done well, an & is not so much a character as a creature, an animal from the deep. Or it is a character in the other sense of the word, usually a tirelessly entertaining one, perhaps an uncle with too many magic tricks.” In reference to Caslon’s ampersand, he writes that it “seemed to come from an altogether more hallucinogenic place, from the playground perhaps or the alehouse.”

Interesting fact: ampersands are documented to have been first used in 63 B.C.(!!) as shorthand for “et”, meaning “and” in Latin. The name “ampersand” therefore stemmed from “et, per se and”.

Speaking of beautiful typographic designs, another quote I loved from this book came from William Morris. It inspires me to frame prints of some of my favorite characters to place around my home:

“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

There was also a great chapter on the copyrights for typefaces, which helped open my eyes to the injustices for type designers and lack of legal protection for their intellectual property and design work. After reading about Arial being a copycat font created explicitly to be able to be a substitute for Helvetica (rather than purchasing Helvetica itself), I especially don’t like it. Check out the similarities:

A theme throughout the book showed that typographers aren’t in it for the money though. One typographer’s response when asked about designing fonts was:

“Can there be anything more valuable? And if there are no jobs at the end of it, that’s not necessarily a reason not to do it. There’s no jobs after reading poetry, either.”

And a final little tidbit to end the post, the ubiquitous brown fox and that lazy dog:

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The Accidental Creative

I have already made references to this book in my previous blog posts, but I wanted to type up some of the most profound points I found in Todd Henry’s “The Accidental Creative”. Reading this book was incredibly timely for me, and I learned so much about managing my energy, and not just my time. So, without further ado, please enjoy these quotes and notes!  (And perhaps check the book out for yourself!)

“When the pull between possibilities and pragmatics becomes too strong, the rope is taut, eliminating the peaks and troughs of productivity required to do our best creative work.”

Our best creative work (truly, sustainable creativity) is the result of creative rhythms. 5 elements of creative rhythms are:

  1. Focus – Less wasted time, clear and concrete objectives, and weeding our unimportant activities.
  2. Relationships – Systematically engage with other people to be reminded life is bigger than your immediate problems.
  3. Energy – Energy management, not time management.
  4. Stimuli – Creative nutrition, quality output depends on quality input.
  5. Hours – Ensure the practices that make you an effective creative actually make it onto the calendar.

Producing great work consistently and in a sustainable way is the sum of being prolific + brilliant + healthy.

You need relationships in your life where:

  1. You can be real.
  2. You can learn to risk.
  3. You learn to submit to the wisdom of others.

We think we can fill all available time and have energy for it all if we have the time for it all. But that’s not the case–time and energy are different resources. Each time you give energy to one project (professional or personal), that’s energy that you can’t give somewhere else.

Practice of pruning: “You can have anything you want, but you can’t have everything you want.”

“You cannot live with an ‘always on’ mindset.”

“How you define greatness ultimately will define your life.”

Take no unaccomplished projects, dreams, or ideas to the grave with you. Each and every day, get out of you whatever is of value to others. Die empty.

This is only skimming the surface of the brilliance, the pure gold of this book! I learned so much from reading it, even though I had honestly forgotten about most of the things that it said until re-reading my notes. And the book is full of practices to incorporate into your life to really maintain a healthy creative rhythm. But even if I just revisit these ideas every so often and work on one or two new things each time, I will be improving my creating abilities and endurance. I also just revisited Todd Henry’s website and found that he has written another book on that idea of dying empty, so I’m definitely adding that to my list of books to read! Maybe you’ll get some more Todd Henry in the future.

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