I met Stephanie Phillips in college and was so delighted to reconnect with her a few years ago through her writing at Mockingbird. I always enjoy her humor, wisdom, and honesty, and I'm thankful for her words here on reading, writing, creativity, and grace.
1. What's something you've read recently that has stayed with you?
I read Martin Luther's Christmas Book during advent. It was a gift from a friend last year and I read a bit further this year. It was interesting, the pieces that struck me differently this time around, and the parts that stood out that didn't last year--particularly what he writes about Mary. I love his observations and plan to write about some of them soon. I also just started Anne Lamott's Hallelujah Anyway, also a gift, and of course love it so far.
2. What's one of your favorite writing prompts?
I find that most of my writing prompts occur naturally, in that I don't have anything specific I use to get started. Exercise and movement helps the ideas start to flow for me. Music can also be inspiring, though I don't depend on it, just try to appreciate it when I hear something that motivates me. I have sections on the Notes section of my phone for the different projects I'm working on, so if I want to get into a frame of mind where I'm thinking about a specific piece of writing, I'll take a look at that.
3. Why do you think it's important for us to nurture our creativity?
I think our creativity is a gift and just like all gifts, it's important and life-giving to be stewards. The only way to be a good steward is to be prayerful about being faithful with the gift, and to stay connected with the Source of it. I've also come to appreciate in the last few years the mystery of Christ and how that mystery is so well captured by the liturgy and sacraments and all that occurs during them that can't be verbalised. I love that some of that mystery is also so inherent in the creative process, and I think the creative process is designed that way--to deepen our involvement in the mysterious workings of the Spirit.
4. Where have you noticed grace recently?
We went back to America for Christmas (from Australia, where we currently live). There was so much grace in our traveling, which gets easier as my boys get older. I think one of the greatest gifts of grace, though, was seeing friends and family and nurturing those relationships up close but then returning to a place that has, for me, been a mainstay of peace in my life. I feel so anxious when I'm in America--I think it's a perfect storm of obligations, diet, politics, and who knows what else--and in Sydney, my anxiety is so much lower. I'm trying not to over examine that and just enjoy it as a gift from God in this season of life.
5. What are your thoughts on any connections you notice between reading, writing, creativity, and/or grace?
Reading has been a gift and refuge for me throughout life, and as I've gotten older it's also been a huge source of inspiration and education for my own writing. I find that reading people who know and have mastered their voice--Anne Lamott and Mary Karr come to mind--my confidence in my own voice is strengthened. And not for nothing, Twitter has actually been helpful too! I struggle with economy of words, tending to overstate, and the required pithiness of Twitter has challenged me to be more succinct. Also, it's inspired me in the realm of humour. There are so many masterfully hilarious voices there (amongst all the insanity of course), and I feel that sharpens my own sense of humour. At least I hope so!
Stephanie is a pediatric-dentist-on-hold, a contributor at Mockingbird, wife to Jason, and Mom to James and Will. She and her family are in their second year of living as expats in Sydney and loving it. She co-authored a book with fellow Mockingbird contributor Charlotte Getz that comes out in April.