On Creativity: thoughts from a demon

I want to share some very beautiful words with you. I feel like I should apologize because it is longer than a tweet, and less entertaining than a video of a dog chasing its tail, but I think it is worth sharing.

First, there are a few books in this world that hold a particularly strong grip on me. Usually because they are full of truth and wisdom spoken in just the perfect way to prick my soul and remind me of things I forget too often. The Screwtape Letters is one of those books to me. I have read it countless times, and will continue reading it until I die.

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Do you ever feel like you have too many interests? Or maybe you don’t have too many interests, but maybe you feel like being interested in things is on the verge of being selfish? Sometimes I feel that way about this blog.

These are the words I wanted to share, from C.S. Lewis’s book, The Screwtape Letters. If you are not familiar with it, let me briefly explain. This is a fictional book written in letter format. The letters are all from a senior demon, written to his young demon pupil, on how to bring a Christian to hell. He does not succeed, but the attempts made on the Christian’s soul are so eye-opening, so profound. Everything in it feels so familiar. Like, “wait a second, yes. Yes, I have had that exact same moment when I was sitting outside, about to contemplate the nature of God, when I talked myself into eating lunch instead.”

Of course, it is all speculative on Lewis’s part, but it rings with so much truth.

So here is a portion of one of the letters (keep in mind that in this context, the “Enemy” is God, and the “patient” is the Christian man). In this moment, Screwtape (the senior demon) is chastising his protégé for missing a wonderful opportunity to tempt his patient. Note that emphasis is added.


 

“As a preliminary to detaching him from the Enemy, you wanted to detach him from
himself, and had made some progress in doing so. Now, all that is undone.
Of course I know that the Enemy also wants to detach men from themselves, but in
a different way. Remember always, that He really likes the little vermin, and
sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When He talks of
their losing their selves, He only means abandoning the clamour of self-will;
once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and
boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more
themselves than ever. Hence, while He is delighted to see them sacrificing even
their innocent wills to His, He hates to see them drifting away from their own
nature for any other reason. And we should always encourage them to do so.

The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the
starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from
those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is
always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or
fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings. I myself would carry
this very far. I would make it a rule to eradicate from my patient any strong
personal taste which is not actually a sin, even if it is something quite
trivial such as a fondness for county cricket or collecting stamps or drinking
cocoa. Such things, I grant you, have nothing of virtue in them; but there is a
sort of innocence and humility and self-forgetfulness about them which I
distrust. The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the
world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about
it, is by that very fact fore-armed against some of our subtlest modes of
attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or
books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the
“important” books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to
social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.”

 


Doesn’t that kind of make your jaw drop? Or at least make you want to  go enjoy tripe and onions (tripe, I learned today, is the stomach linings of an ox…yum!)? Sometimes I think I should stick to one creative pursuit. That maybe it’s a problem that I want to learn to play the guitar and paint with pastels in the same breath. But God created the armadillo on the same day He created the cheetah, so I don’t think He is adverse to variety. And if creativity is self-expression, and God created humans and creativity, then what is our creativity truly expressing? Of course this demon mentor is instructing his pupil to distract his patient from even innocent pursuits.

By not caring “twopence” about what other people say about the harmless things we enjoy, we are, according to Screwtape, armed against some of the subtlest modes of attack. Therefore, if you want to become less of who God created you to be, less unique, with less of a personality, then by all means, skip your morning walk through the woods and ignore your desire to learn how to make homemade pasta this afternoon.

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If you haven’t read The Screwtape Letters, buy it now.

More posts about The Screwtape Letters: here and here.

And a post on another favorite C.S. Lewis book, The Problem of Pain.

All about the pink coat

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The thing about my pink coat is that I am obsessed with it. I am obsessed with it for many reasons. Mainly, because look at it. It’s pink, it has intricate embroidery, and it doesn’t make me feel like a marshmallow when I am bundled up in the winter. It has also sparked conversation with many-a-stranger.

My coat is a large part of my winter-season identity, and, I get a lot of questions about it. So why not dedicate an entire post to it? Exactly.

You know Frank, from You’ve Got Mail? He is obsessed with his typewriter(s). I am obsessed with a coat. I get nervous when it goes to the dry cleaners. I stress out when I have to leave it at the coat check for Christmas parties. I fantasize about coming across another one in my size, so I can buy it and have it as a backup in case someone accidentally knocks the dinner candle over onto my sleeve, or I drop a glass of red wine on it. I have all the best hopes for my coat, you see. I hope to pass it on to future generations.

Last week, I had an article published on xojane.com (which was exciting!!) about how I accidentally started shrinking my wardrobe when I started buying more quality clothing. It all started with my pink coat. And that is another reason I love it. My pink coat made me realize I could be happier and more creative with less. (you can read my article here)

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I bought this coat in 2009 when I had just moved to DC. My mom had come to visit me, and we were casually browsing Anthropologie in Georgetown when we spotted this coat. I couldn’t stop staring at it. I tried it on. I talked myself out of it. I left the store.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So I went back and bought it. This winter, I will enter my 6th season of wearing it. It was a lot of money for me at the time, but considering I haven’t needed to purchase a coat since, it has actually saved me a lot of money.

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When people ask me about my coat, I have to share the sad truth with them that Anthropologie doesn’t sell it anymore. Sometimes it can be found on ebay, though! The designer is Tracy Reese.

If you want to see a few other Tracy Reese coats, here are a few I found on Amazon and Nordstrom: an awesome statement poncho, Glossy Croc Embossed Duffle Coat, Cranberry Embroidered Funnel Coat, Blue long sleeved jacket (one left), black embroidered robe coat.

Check ebay listings for coats by Tracy Reese (including this one)!

I’m not the only one obsessed with my coat. Check out this girl, who looks stunning in it. As well as this girl. Apparently Abigail Breslin likes my (out) coat, too.

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So, what’s your pink coat? Are you obsessed with an article of clothing you own? Or your typewriter? Are you surprised that I have so many pictures of my coat?

How much I love/hate Lie Witness News

I need help, you guys.

My sister got me hooked on Jimmy Kimmel’s “Lie Witness News”. You’ve seen them, right? It’s when Jimmy Kimmel sends someone out to the streets to ask people their opinions about news stories that don’t exist. And they apparently already know all about said made up event, and usually have a personal story to go along with it.  The thing about them, for me, is that I…………….

can’t handle them.

But I can. It’s really twisted.

I know I am not sharing anything new by telling you about Lie Witness News, but I need to talk about it. Apparently, they are supposed to be funny. And I will admit I chuckled a few times. But mostly my face just contorts  while watching them and I hold the sides of my face just in case my skull spontaneously combusts.

The second the interviewee starts talking, I get a really weird feeling in my stomach. I think it’s my body trying to tell me to stop watching before I explode from awkwardness. But it gets weirder: I can’t stop watching them.

Take this one for example:

Eric is able to laugh and move on with his life after watching something like this. I envy that about him. I, on the other hand, just want to yell, STOP. And ask a lot of questions. I know it kind of takes the fun out of it, but I have to get it out of my system or else the toxins bury themselves deep within my bones.

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  • Are there really that many pathological liars walking among us?
  • What is so terrifying about being honest?
  • Have terrible, unspeakable things happened to these people in the past when they questioned the authority of someone else’s supposed intelligence?
  • Where are the “bloopers”–the clips with all the people responding with, “What are you talking about…I never heard anything about the government spending $500,000 on trick candles”? I want to see that show. I need to know that show could exist.
  • How are all these people such GOOD liars?
  • Why aren’t people satisfied with a simple lie? Why do they also feel compelled to make up intricate back stories?
  • Are these the people leaving all those comments on online news articles?

Look, I know we are supposed to love all people, including people who lie as easily as they breathe. But it would be so much easier if adults were more like children in one way: brutally candid. Don’t you think?

Just promise me this: if someone walks up to you today and says, “what was your reaction when you saw that video of President Obama tripping Michelle on purpose”, please don’t tell them you were horrified and that you covered your kids’ eyes because they cried and asked you if Daddy would ever do that to you. Just kidding. I know you wouldn’t do that. But apparently there are some people in this world who would.

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If you can handle the lies, here is another good one where people react to the death of a made up celebrity. Also, feel free to answer any of the questions I ask above. I just need some answers. How do you feel about all of this? Can we talk it out?

 

A weird (and healthy!) tip to make coffee taste even better

The weirdest/most surprising thing about my pregnancy so far (aside from the extremely vivid dreams that always seem to feature a baby or small child in a minor role) is the fact that coffee hasn’t sounded good.

Early on, I did my research to determine whether or not I could drink coffee with a clear conscience while pregnant, and had happily come to the conclusion that one cup a day is perfectly safe. I was armed with knowledge! And then it just never sounded good.

My love of coffee is mostly mental, admittedly, so I was partially in denial that it didn’t sound good (I told myself it wasn’t possible in the same tone of voice Luke Skywalker uses when Darth Vader tells him who his father is). There were a few times I forced myself to drink it, thinking that just because it didn’t sound good, didn’t mean it wouldn’t taste delicious. I was wrong.  So I just stopped drinking coffee and tried to deal with my new identity. Until a few days ago when the idea started growing on my again.

Pure joy! At 17 weeks, I am able to fully celebrate this wonderful season (I meant fall, but pregnancy too) with my favorite beverage once again. It’s been a good week. My returned love for coffee was also in perfect timing with a really weird suggestion from my mom.

She was telling me about how molasses was changing her life, and that there were so many health benefits to consuming it. I was intrigued.

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When she told me that some people enjoyed it in their coffee, I was skeptical. I was more than a little hesitant to try it in my morning coffee, because if it was terrible, it would be a terrible waste. But since I can’t sky dive or ride roller coasters until March, I thought a little risk in my life could spice things up.

First, let me say that I am a plain coffee kind of girl. I love it black, or with a little cream, but I think sweetened coffee is kind of gross. I am also not crazy about the taste of molasses (is anyone?), unless it is flavoring my favorite ginger cookies.

So are you curious? Okay, so on the first try, I only added a tiny bit along with cream. Maybe just less than a teaspoon. To my very pleasant surprise, my coffee tasted like… coffee. But better. Molasses in coffee is kind of like what a sprinkling of salt is to chocolate or what your best friend is to you: it brings out all the best qualities. The second time I tried it, I used about a tablespoon. It was even better. There is a hint of sweetness, but not too much for my taste.

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So, I’m hooked. Have you ever heard of such a thing as adding molasses to your coffee? Will you try it? Here are just a few of the health benefits of molasses:

  • long term use of molasses has shown to improve hair quality–as in, it can even help your hair turn back to its original (healthiest) hair coloring because of the copper content! Google it.
  • It’s loaded with calcium and magnesium
  • It is rich in iron
  • It gives you an energy boost (but not the jittery, too-much-coffee kind)
  • Read more here

Be sure to only get organic, unsulphured blackstrap molasses. I used this kind, which I bought from Whole Foods for about $6 for a 16oz bottle.

Thanks for the weird tip, Mom! I should never have doubted you.

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Okay, so will you try it? Have you tried it before? I want to know what you think of it!

P.S. Another energizing way to drink your coffee.