I have a lot of ideas of what it means to be a serious writer, and silence is a big one. When I write specifically about something in the Bible, I need quiet for that, space to listen and consider truth. But my writing isn’t always that type of writing, and when I need to get in touch with my most honest center, the silence does me no favors.

For too many hours to count, I have sat blank in front of my laptop, squeezing out a ridiculous sentence only to delete it for a more ridiculous sentence. And I sit and I labor and I cry and I wonder why it has to be so hard to find the honest underneath all the ridiculous. And nearly every time, music is the thing God uses to unlock me. I say it that way on purpose, because for a long time I had a weird sense of guilt. Why can’t I sit in silence like a grown up and write? Why must I have this music on? Discovering my best writing comes with music in the background was difficult for me to accept. Slowly, the Lord is freeing me up to embrace the way he has uniquely created me to work.

So I listen to Ingrid and The Weepies and Iron & Wine and Sara Bareilles and Regina Spektor and Peter Gabriel and Ella. And their lyrics about love, loss, and searching all reach down deep, pulling up the honest and the true. We all share a common frailty, no matter where we believe it comes from. All artists wrestle with this frailty, attempting to reconcile need and desire, love and hate, and always looking for new perspectives, unique ways of expressing that which has already been said a thousand times. So for me, listening to musicians do this wrestling as they express their art? There is no greater inspiration.

Do you have certain ideas about what it means to do your art the “right way”? Maybe you’re a writer or a musician or a painter, but you are stuck in a pattern of defeat. Maybe you homeschool your babies or you teach in a public school classroom and your ideas of what it means to be a good teacher are keeping you from actually teaching. Allow yourself to figure out those tricks and quirks that bring the you out of you, even if they don’t look right. Are you allowing your own expectations to hinder you from freely expressing yourself? Is your idea of the right way keeping you from your best way?