If there are two things I believe in firmly about art, it’s these – everyone is creative in some way AND there’s room enough in the creativity pond for every artist out there. So it was with fervor that I jumped at the chance to help launch Matt Appling’s new book Life After Art. I’ve been reading the book this week, and I’m so excited by it . . . I think you will be, too, after you read Matt’s interview. Plus, stick around to the end – there’s a bonus.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
Life After Art is my first book, being published by Moody Publishers. It’s all about life and faith from my eyes as an art teacher. There are some very poignant spiritual realities that are apparent in some of the most unlikely places. This innocent little piece of our childhoods is one of them. I had to go back to the art room as an adult to figure out what life was all about. It’s not really about art. It’s about all of us, especially people who don’t think they are creative.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
My mom is a teacher and read to me every night, probably as soon as we got home from the hospital. I was an early reader and give her all the credit for that.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
Five years ago, I started blogging on a lark. I didn’t even tell my wife about it until a month later. I wanted to be sure I would stick with it first. In those five years, I have blogged every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. No exceptions, except for a couple of brief vacations each year. Blogging has been my “Twenty Mile March” that finally led to publishing a book. It took thousands of hours and hundreds of blog posts to polish my writing before I could publish a book. So if you are somewhere in the middle of those thousands of blog posts, waiting for your book, don’t lose heart.
4. Who are you reading now?
Well, I still love children’s books! Really, I scope out the kids’ section at Barnes and Noble to see what books I can use to make sweet art projects at school. I love to see adults giving their best work for children. Guys like Jon Klassen and Oliver Jeffers are my heroes.
But on the adult side, Love Does was the most talked about book in my house in recent memory.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
I read The Screwtape Letters annually. Books don’t have to be “true” to point to truth, and Lewis points to truth like no one else. Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw is fascinating…along with all of his other books. And Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. If you are not just fascinated by that title alone, then there is something wrong with you.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I’m probably doing more work this month to promote the book than I have done in five years to build my platform! Build your platform as much as you have time to do, because blogging is social. But keep in mind that social media is fluid. It ebbs and flows. And your platform size is not representational of your value.
7. What is a typical day like for you?
I work hard! It helps that I like to work and I don’t have kids. I get to school before 7:30 am after a 30 minute commute. I teach pre-K through sixth grade art, along with art history and a few other classes. It’s great fun, and I am worn to the bone by the end of the day! I’ll spend some time throughout the week prepping a message for Sunday, because I lead a house church. My wife and I take the dogs walking, watch Downton Abbey, and I taste test a lot of food because she loves to bake. I believe in supporting my wife.
In the book, I do spend a few pages describing what it is like to be an art teacher. It’s a trip!
8. Describe your dream writing space.
Well, I have to make do with my house, which is comfy enough. I can’t do it in public very well, like a coffee shop, though I wish I could, because it sounds romantic. I read about the great writers who had cabins or whatever, and that sounds pretty awesome.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
I get comments on my blog from readers who disagree or misinterpret what I am trying to communicate, because I tend to write about topics that get me fired up. It’s tough when people “yell” at you, but I try to welcome it. You do no good to your platform by shutting down people just because they are criticizing you.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
“The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”
Your words matter, no matter who you are. You just have to have the bravery to speak them into existence, and that really is at the heart of Life After Art.
Matt Appling is a teacher, pastor and writer. His first book, Life After Art, debuts April 1 from Moody Publishers. Watch the video preview, buy the book, and get $100 in free resources at LifeAfterArtBook.com.
So now that you’re all jazzed up by Matt’s wisdom, I have good news — the kind people at Moody Publishing are allowing me to give away a FREE COPY of Life After Art to one reader. So, if you’d like to be entered to win, please leave a comment below and tell Matt and I how you try to keep creativity alive in your life or what you might like to starting doing to bring the creativity back. I’ll announce the winner on Monday, April 1st.