Kintsugi Creativity

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

We all have scars. Most are unseen. But visible or not, every scar cuts deep. Betrayal from those we trusted. Silence when we needed support. Conditional love based on our performance. It’s amazing how many ways a heart can be shattered.

And for the most part, these wounds weren’t accidental. We have an enemy whose aim is to steal, kill, and destroy – both the Story you’re living and the ones you’re writing. And his strikes are strategic, attacking you at your points of purpose. Which is why the areas of your life that have been the most opposed often hold clues to your unique calling.

The scars that brought shame or harm weren’t from God nor were they meant for good. But God can bring healing to those wounds. The world tells us to hide our scars. Perhaps they represent a past you’d rather forget. Yet God offers a far better option – to redeem our broken places.

Which brings us to kintsugi. This Japanese art form dates back to the late 15th century and takes a very different approach than our modern culture to all things broken. We quickly trash and replace items with cracks or flaws. But these ancient artisans discovered a way to make the broken beautiful again by infusing golden lacquer into their fractured pottery.

But wouldn’t that just highlight the brokenness of the item?

Exactly. Rather than hide the imperfections, they illuminated them by filling the cracks with shimmering gold. They actually viewed the repaired item as more valuable than it had been, because now it was a one-of-a-kind original with its unique lines of gold. They honored the history of the piece by not just making it useable but by making it better.

Jesus understands. When asked the focus of his mission, he quoted a passage from Isaiah 61, saying the reason he came was to heal our shattered hearts and set us free. In the very places the enemy has tried to derail or destroy our story, Jesus steps in and heals our fractured lives. He doesn’t just set us in a brace; he sets us free.

The Creator can put the fragments of your life and heart back together again with His healing light. And when the Creator heals you, then you are infused with his healing power. During my two decades in Christian publishing, I worked with hundreds of novelists. Whether new voices or well established authors, the most powerful storytellers were always the ones whose scars had been transformed into weapons of light that illuminated their stories with a glow all their own. Their voice was unique and the themes they infused their novels with shimmered with an eternal glow.

That’s the power of Kintsugi Creativity.

If you are intrigued by the concept, I invite you to read my book The Story of With. It’s an allegory that goes further into this theme, revealing a better way to live and create. Kintsugi plays a major role in the journey of the protagonist Mia. The book’s cover even features a glass vial glistening with the glow of kintsugi.

The scars of your story can become the source of your strength. God’s kintsugi doesn’t make things almost as good as new. Through his touch, they become better than new.

May your scars – and your stories – glow with his healing light of kintsugi.

TWEETABLES

Kintsugi Creativity by Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

Areas of your life that have been the most opposed often hold clues to your unique calling.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

The scars of your story can become the source of your strength.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

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The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create

“Unique and powerful, The Story of With will take readers deep into the discovery of their own identity. “Bravo! This fascinating blend of storytelling and teaching will shift the thinking of all who take this journey.” New York Times Bestselling Author, TED DEKKER

“Through allegory and invitation, Allen Arnold ushers us into a journey of imagination, insight, wonder, and wisdom…Read The Story of With!” New York Times Bestselling Co-Author of Captivating, STASI ELDREDGE

“This is your invitation into deeper identity, intimacy, and imagination with God. Like finding the place you’ve always longed to be. The moment you finish this book, you’ll race to grab one for a friend. Highest Recommendation!” Bestselling Author of The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, JAMES L. RUBART

“Allen has written a roadmap for dreaming with God. The Story of With is a beautiful, revelatory parable, filled with wonder, mystery, and adventure.” Author of Prone to Love & Untamed, JASON CLARK

– From the Foreword –

“You are not alone. Whether you’re a free spirit, an office exec, a writer, musician, college student, or tired parent—your soul, like mine, knows life is meant to go beyond rat races and rare applause. This book speaks to that belief. And if you’re not careful, you may find tears warming your eyes as you read because finally someone is naming your weariness, your striving, your questions of why you just can’t quite make it, or the emptiness that hit because maybe you did. It is into those places The Story of With reaches—fusing allegory with application—to offer fresh perspective, restored hope, and a rebirth of creativity.”

—From the Foreword by Mary Weber, Christy & Carol Award-Winning, Scholastic Pick Author of the Storm Siren Trilogy.

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

Your Protag’s Biggest Problem

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith

Your protagonist’s biggest problem isn’t the antagonist. It’s you.

As we breathe life into worlds and characters, they can’t help but possess our DNA. It’s unavoidable. What’s created in our own strength will include our weaknesses.

In a mythic sense, where we haven’t gone, our creations will stumble. Your protagonist’s vision will be clouded by your blind spots. If you strive for external validation, so will they. Their faith can’t transcend your experiences with God. Their courage will be diluted by your fears. And that tendency to be easily overwhelmed or controlling? Yep, your protagonist inherited that from you as well.

Sure, we can try to untether them from our issues. As novelists, we make things up all the time. But there’s a difference between making things up and faking it. Within our made-up world, we need to take readers on an authentic journey that mirrors the one we’re going through. The themes of our novels should be themes we are navigating in real life with God. In fact, I believe the most unforgettable stories hold within them the scars, struggles, and discoveries of an author’s own Story.

Otherwise, we’re asking our characters to live more powerful lives than we have. And were expecting our readers to dive into oceans while we remain safely on shore. But it doesn’t work that way. We end up passing our limitations forward like a baton to our waiting protagonists and readers, expecting them to run with a freedom we’ve yet to experience.

No matter how powerful your imagination, you really can’t tell a better story than you’re living. And your characters can’t know deeper faith, love, or adventure than you’ve risked and tasted in your own life. They can’t know God deeper than you do. And their definition of victory can’t exceed the definition you’re living by.

We don’t need stories that teach readers a lesson from us. We need stories that invite readers on a journey of discovery with us. What our protagonists and readers crave are stories with the spark of eternity in them. That happens as we co-create with God from a deep place of identity, intimacy, and imagination. Only then will our stories transcend us and the moment in time they were created.

We long for our art to take us to new and uncharted places but the blank page looks back at us and says, “No, you must go there first.”

TWEETABLES


Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction. 

Doing Less & Becoming More

by Allen Arnold, @TheStoryofWith
The more you do, the more successful you’ll be.

That maxim seems true, but it’s actually a lie that erodes our identity and creativity.

This isn’t a post about being unproductive. I’m all for getting things done. It’s the motive of striving and constantly doing more that I want to discuss.


We’re regularly encouraged to spend more time on social media, grow our platform, conduct more interviews, increase our daily word count, garner more reviews, and chase the latest trends. Why? Because if you can just master enough tips and do more each day, you’ll eventually experience success in your writing career, right?

Well, not really.

It’s not that these particular things are bad or good – most are neutral and some are needed. But we must free ourselves from the underlying assumption that our calling is all – or mostly – up to our efforts, connections, and mastery of the latest techniques. If we truly believe that it’s all up to us, we’re living like orphans who try to do things in their own strength for God rather than with him. Soon we find ourselves on a treadmill of our own making, always running but never quite arriving.Success is always just around the corner.

But there is no secret elixir for success. It won’t come from doing more or chasing after every new “five-step” formula. Doing so will leave you exhausted. And there’s no correlation between good stories and exhausted writers.In fact, the world doesn’t need more stories from worried and weary storytellers.

I believe the way an artist achieves true and lasting success begins with how they create. If they enter into the creative process and actively pursue their talent with God – at his pace and rhythm – they are successful. If their motive is Creative Fellowship with God, that transforms every other aspect of their writing. In that sense, it’s the opposite of doing more. Presence comes before productivity. The illusion of control is relinquished for the intimacy of relationship. It’s stepping into a larger story with God that then enlarges the story you are writing with God.

When artists choose being above doing, they still get things done. But they do so from a foundation of freedom. They’re no longer looking for validation from readers or sales. They know it isn’t all up to them. They aren’t orphans proving their worth through external measurements but sons and daughter son the playground of ideas, creating from a place of deep identity, intimacy, and imagination with God.

Make this shift and the old external measurements of success lose their power to validate or invalidate you. You are a son or daughter of the Father who writes rather than a writer who does things for God. Your identity is based first in who you are rather than what you do…and that can never be lost or stolen.

It’s true that the world doesn’t need more stories from exhausted, striving authors. But it desperately needs more stories with the glow of those who have spent time creating with the Creator.

Be that writer and tell those stories. It begins by doing less and becoming more.

TWEETABLES

Doing Less & Becoming More by Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

It’s actually a lie that erodes our identity and creativity.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

The world doesn’t need more stories from exhausted, striving authors.~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

A Story’s Sacred Circle

by Allen Arnold

We all long for our stories to make an eternal impact. Yet so few books seem to shine for more than a moment.

I believe what’s missing is an eternal spark. And that only comes from the glow of those writers who have spent time with the Creator. Only what is co-created with God has that brilliance.

I call that process entering into a Story’s Sacred Circle. Let me explain. Picture a bulls-eye with concentric color rings that grow outward from the center. It’s the kind you’ve thrown darts at as a kid or maybe shot arrows at when you were older. Everyone aims for the small red circle in the middle. Sure, it’s easier to hit the wider circles. But you don’t get many points when you’re far from the center.
It’s the same with the Sacred Circle. In this model, the small center circle is defined by one word: WITH. Creating with God is the bulls-eye – the sweet spot that changes everything. This circle represents the heart of Creative Fellowship. It is the place where you and God co-create together. Check out my blog post called It’s Not Up To You for more on what this active, intimate process involves.

Proceeding outward, the next circle is labeled:TRUSTED BOHEMIANS. These are the rare ones who pour into you during the creative process. They aren’t a substitute for creating with God, but they are the second ring of Creative Fellowship. These people understand your art and your heart. And they make both better by their presence.

Continuing outward, the third circle is: HUNGRY READERS. What you’ve written while in the first circle with God and honed while in the second circle with Fellow Bohemians now ripples out to those who need this story. These are the hungry, not the critics. But remember, the primary reason for creating with God is to experience relational intimacy as you co-create with him. The main goal isn’t to write something for God or for others. It is to create with God. It’s counter intuitive, but you actually help these hungry readers most by focusing on God more than them as you write. That’s why they are in this circle rather than the bulls-eye.

The final ring of the Story’s Sacred Circle is: DISTRACTION / REACTION. While you can’t avoid this territory completely, it is the circle where you most need to guard your heart. This is a place where outside voices will try to distract, define, or deflate you. The longer you stay, the more overwhelmed you will get from trying to achieve success in your own strength or looking to external metrics to validate your art. When here, you must remember your truest identity and calling. Otherwise, this circle will try to name you. And only God has the right to name his children. Just as in darts, this circle is the easiest to hit – and the least worth your time.

The goal is to start and stay in the center circle of WITH. You don’t just need to stay there when you’re writing your book. Stay there after you’ve released the book and all the doubts and fears and social media questions come at you. That’s why it’s so important once you finish your story to turn to God for the First Feedback.


So many writers approach the Sacred Circle backwards. They start at the outer ring, hoping it can answer their questions about success, identity and future story ideas. Then they move inward to the next circle, wanting readers to validate them. This inverse approach causes authors to ride the waves of public opinion rather than stand firm in their identity as Sons and Daughters co-creating with their Father.

By the time they finally make it to the center of this inverted Circle, they will find it hollow. The center is known as WITHOUT because their creative process has been limited to their own strength and ideas. In this model, God is more of an afterthought. The author may hope that God helps them meet the manuscript due date or that he blesses the story that’s been written without his intimate involvement. But that’s really not Creative Fellowship. And this approach won’t lead to stories with an eternal spark – because that spark can only come from him. As hard as it may be to fathom, God’s desire is to spend time co-creating with you rather than nod in approval at a finished work that you did alone.

If you feel you’ve been running in circles, it’s time to step inside your Story’s Sacred Circle. And remember, the goal is to stay in the center.

TWEETABLES

God’s desire is to co-create with you, not nod at work you did alone. ~ Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)


Allen Arnold
 is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.