Featured Artist: Amanda Steed

Art and Fear - Featured artist: Amanda Steed

This week I am delighted to feature my friend and fellow writer Amanda Steed. Amanda is one of those rare friends who read your blog because they're really interested to hear and discuss what you have to say - an introvert's dream :) She's been helping me ask the hard questions of what it means to live and create well.

What art do you make? 

I’m primarily a writer, but I also love to play music in my free time and I sell homemade jewelry through my website.

What are you working on that you’re most excited about?

Right now I’m working on a series on Identity. I keep saying it’s a series, but I have a gut feeling that it will eventually develop into a book. This scares the mess out of me, but also excites me because I know I just have to be sensitive to what the Lord is doing and know it’ll all work out. I only have to remind myself of this about 72 times a day.

Handmade nest necklace by Amanda Steed

Handmade nest necklace by Amanda Steed

How have you been challenged by fear this year, and how have you responded?

This is a great question. I have had to face fear simply in stepping out and calling myself a writer. I’m sure most creatives can relate to this - it feels like everyone is legit except you. I talk about this a lot on my blog, but being married to someone who is such a talented and successful artist is intimidating and makes me scared to try my own thing. I want to write more music, but I’m afraid I won’t be good and I’m afraid people will lie to me and tell me they like my music when they really are wondering what the heck I’m doing. I want to say I’m writing a book but I’m scared of what will happen if I don’t finish or if it doesn’t actually end up turning into a book. My response so far has been to lean into it, at least with the writing.

I’m working on the songwriting. I’m trying to lean into the awkwardness and discomfort and just go for it. I recently read The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angelou and I was blown away. It’s a memoir that starts when she’s in her early thirties and she hadn’t yet begun writing. One thing I love about her throughout her story is that she simply says “yes” when people ask her if she wants to do something. If she isn’t qualified, she gets qualified. She was hired to be an editor at a newspaper but had no idea what she was doing, so she read books and studied other newspapers and figured it out. 

And here’s the thing: she was scared the entire time.

It blows my mind to think that Maya Angelou of all people was scared of anything, let alone anything that has to do with writing. She’s one of the most amazing writers of our time and she started out doubting herself and being unsure, but she said yes anyway. I admire that so much and I’m trying to emulate that in my own life.  

Describe the season you’re in:

I’m in a season of healing, of listening to who God says I am and of learning what that means in my day-to-day life. I’m learning how to pursue my dreams and the desires of my heart without making it who I am.

How has God provided for you this year?

He has provided through my husband, which is amazing and hard to receive. Being a stay-at-home mom was never in my plans, so it’s difficult for me to accept that God has called me to stay home with my baby and let my husband take care of me. That could probably be an entirely book in and of itself!

My husband Kyle with my daughter Savannah at the beach. Photo by Amanda Steed

My husband Kyle with my daughter Savannah at the beach. Photo by Amanda Steed

How are you struggling with identity?

Hahaha, I’ll let you read that book when I’m done with it ;)

What are you thankful for in this season?

I’m thankful for a community of friends who are supportive and who encourage me to go after my dreams. I’m thankful that I’m surrounded by people who are willing to admit that they too struggle with seeing themselves as creatives. I’m thankful that I have spiritual oversight in a pastor who walks with me one-on-one, who loves me well and speaks truth to me even when it’s hard. I’m especially thankful for a husband who is my partner in life, someone who supports me and loves me through hard seasons.

What are the lies you have to push away when you sit down to create?

I have to push away the lie that my words aren’t needed. 

I have to remind myself of the truth that I am unique and my words are unique and there’s a need for everyone’s voice in this world. I have to push away the lie that people are going to laugh at me, because even if that’s true it doesn’t matter - there will most likely be more people who are moved by what I share than who laugh. There are so many more, but those are the main lies I have to fight back against on a regular basis right now.

Who is currently an influential artist for you?

Reading that Maya Angelou book, The Heart of a Woman, has been the most influential lately. I also just started reading Amy Poehler’s new book, Yes Please, and it has been incredibly encouraging. In her intro she talks about how a lot of times people get caught up in the romantic side of being an artist, in chasing the muse or waiting for inspiration, but that writing is in the writing. It’s been a good reminder that in order to get something on paper I actually have to sit down and make time to just do it. Like Nike.

Do you have any favorite scheduling tips that have worked for you?

I cannot wait to read other people’s answers for this because I’m still figuring it out. I know that I just started writing ahead for my blog and I’m looking forward to having some cushion for weeks when I don’t get as much time to write. Learning to prioritize writing during this season of motherhood has been incredibly challenging for me, but I am slowly getting it down. I have a day scheduled now where I’ll go to WELD, a local coworking space, to write, and I’m trying to spend my time in the evenings writing instead of watching TV shows. Ultimately I have to give myself a lot of grace and do my best.

I very recently decided to start blogging 3 times a week - Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. Mondays are going to be very light - a short word of encouragement, mostly focused around motherhood.  I started a series called, “Dear Amanda” when I first had my daughter, but now I feel like that advice would be best given in smaller doses on a regular basis.  This week on Wednesday I’m starting a new series that will most likely continue for at least a year.  I’m going to pick an area of my life to challenge myself in and use the month to blog about how it’s influencing and changing my life, and then wrap up at the end of the month what my big take aways were.  Then Fridays will remain my heavier days where I continue to share some spiritual lessons I’ve learned over the years. This will vary from week to week, sometimes it may be less instructional and more of a walk through something I’m currently in the middle of figuring out.  I’m giving myself permission to be flexible with this schedule but I like it a lot in theory. 

These are the moments that make me love photography.  I don’t even think that these two knew I was snapping their picture at the time.  This is Keith and Sherri McDearmon, two of our very closest friends here in Dallas.  We have done a beach trip with them for the last few summers and this was one night when we all walked down to watch the sun set together.  This captures their playfulness perfectly. Photo by Amanda Steed

These are the moments that make me love photography.  I don’t even think that these two knew I was snapping their picture at the time.  This is Keith and Sherri McDearmon, two of our very closest friends here in Dallas.  We have done a beach trip with them for the last few summers and this was one night when we all walked down to watch the sun set together.  This captures their playfulness perfectly. Photo by Amanda Steed

How do you hope for your art to encourage others?

I hope that my writing helps people heal from traumatic events in their lives. I am hopeful that my writing on identity will allow people to see how the Father’s love is unwavering and how our identities are secure despite our actions or occupations. My goal in writing ultimately is to push people toward Christ, and to encourage people to seek out the Holy Spirit and trust that He is good and trustworthy.

How else would you describe yourself, and what else do you do?

I love to play guitar and sing, and I love to read books from pretty much every category. I’m usually the person in a group of friends who is calling and organizing and reaching out - I’m a bit of a connector. My bachelor’s degree is in Sociology with an English minor, I never know if those should be capitalized or not, feel free to leave that in, hah!

Favorite snack while creating:

This really depends on the day. I love a good hummus with pita chips, but I also really like candy and chips. I try to eat things that won’t get my keyboard all greasy.

Favorite beverage:

Water, a dark beer, a crisp chard or a big Cabernet.

How do you recharge?

I like to veg and watch crappy TV shows. It’s not the most romantic way but it’s the truth. I also really enjoy working out. I have recently started attending OakFit, a local gym, at least twice a week and it has helped me relax so much more.  

What encouragement do you have for other artists?

You’re important and needed and talented and uniquely made. Don’t be afraid.

What are you reading?

Besides Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, I’m doing my best to only read one book at a time, but in my queue is The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by Davis Simon and Ed Burns, which I started reading about a year ago and am having to read in small doses so that it doesn’t completely shatter my heart. Also a couple of Brené Brown books that were recommended to me, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg left over from Elora’swriting class.

Describe your dream vacation:

My dream vacation would be on a deserted beach with crystal clear water, a bag of books and a comfortable beach chair. I absolutely love the ocean; nothing quite relaxes me as much. I sometimes wonder why I feel so tied to Dallas when it’s the ocean that calms my soul so much. We take at least one beach vacation a year and it is always my most refreshing time of the year, even this year when I had a small baby to watch the entire time. Let me be clear that in this ideal world there would be a nanny. :)

Favorite outdoor activity?

I really enjoy a nice hike if the scenery is pretty, and if the weather is nice I enjoy camping a lot.  I’m not sure if this counts, but this year we have been spending a lot of time around a fire outside when the weather is chilly, and those are some of my favorite nights. 

Where can we find your work?

www.amandasteed.com / instagram: amandasteed / twitter: amandasteed

Amanda and her husband Kyle. Photo by Bethany Marie Photography

Amanda and her husband Kyle. Photo by Bethany Marie Photography