Art and Fear - Featured Artist: Suzanne O'Dell

This week I am delighted to feature Suzanne O'Dell for the Art and Fear interviews! Suzanne is a good friend and an amazing storyteller and writer. I am so grateful to her for her friendship, for her many suggestions on editing my own work and telling stories better, and also for her vulnerability in this interview.

What art do you make?

I am a writer and story designer (Not sure if that second one is an official “thing,” but I do it, pretty much all the time.) 

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

Definitely my work on creō stories. It’s been some of the most challenging and refreshing work I’ve done in a while, particularly because I’m allowed to discover stories rather than invent them. I’m not writing to market anything or to execute someone else’s vision; I simply get to uncover the beauty that’s been there all along.

How has God provided for you this year?

Having only moved to Dallas a little over a year ago, I really had no idea how I would ever meet other creative people. All my closest friends are on the east coast and now I was thousands of miles away in a place without mountains beaches, or North Carolina BBQ . . . not exactly ideal. 

I was also a new mom and was pretty much freaking out that I would never have the chance to speak with an adult my age ever again. It was a lonely, perplexing time. Then, through a string of really interesting events, I got connected at WELD, where I’ve now been for almost a year. That was the beginning of everything changing for me . . . and it was overwhelming. I didn’t just meet one or two great people, I met dozens of them. All profoundly creative, all incredibly encouraging. I mean really, I’ve never met another INFJ in my life . . . at WELD alone there’s at least 6 or 7 of us. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find a place like that . . . full of so many beautiful and loving people. God totally outdid Himself. 

Another unexpected means of provision came through my church. I’ve learned more about what God’s Word says in the past year than I have in the last ten. The more I learn, the more in awe I am of God’s sovereignty over my life. In the midst of this I’ve found a community of friends who genuinely love me, my husband, and our son in a way that I’ve never seen from a church before. I know these are the people I’m going to walk through life with, raising kids, watching ball games, and sharing meals. And to think, I’ve never been a Baptist (or enjoyed being around one) in my life. I love what this says about God. He’s a master of toppling our own set of prejudices and expectations and then surprising us with what we never knew we needed. 

 Photo by Miah Oren

Photo by Miah Oren

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

“You can’t be a mom, a wife, and an artist at the same time. You are not being fair to your family.” 

“If something is hard, you should try to avoid it.” 

“If something is uncomfortable, you should try to avoid it.” 

“If you’re not in complete control of your life at all times, you are weak.” 

“There’s no time to rest.” 

“You’re too busy to be happy.”

“Being vulnerable enough to share how you’re really doing is ok for other people, but not for you.” 

“You’re a woman. Stick with woman things.” 

“Quick, do your laundry! Re-organize the pantry! Tweeze your eyebrows! That thing you really don’t want to do can be done later.” 

“If you ask for help, people will be annoyed by you and will start to avoid you. You will be “that needy girl” and will not be included in group texts or fun outings anymore.” (That may sound ridiculous, but welcome to my neurotic mind) 

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

Planning/Time Management: 

Bullet journaling. YA’LL. IT WORKS. I try to make sure that at the end of the day, I’ve already planned out exactly what I need to do the following day. Then I won’t have to waste my creative time in the morning on scheduling. 

Tip: Schedule creative work in the early mornings. Admin and meetings in the afternoon. 


Tabata Intervals: I usually do all my prep work before starting. Then do 30 minutes intervals of work, then a 5 minute break, not allowing myself to stop working until the timer sounds. Even if you have to break on project up in several “tabatas,” stick with the same task until it’s done (or you’ve finished your quota for the day), then move on to the next.

Tip: Start with the task you want to do the least . . . you’ll feel totes better getting it out of the way first. 

Tip: If you’re writing a first draft of something (and you don’t need to switch windows constantly for research) I highly recommend OmmWriter. It’s basically like being transported into a magical snowy forest that you never want to leave. I put in my headphones, set my timer, and GET. SO. MUCH. DONE. 

 Photo by Miah Oren

Photo by Miah Oren

Favorite beverage:

Coffee with a small splash of cream 

Favorite place to dream: 

The car. I’m not sure this is my favorite place per se, but it does provide an ideal environment for letting my mind wander There’s no distractions, I can turn my music up, and usually I’m alone. I take the time to pray out loud, dictate ideas to Siri, (including items I need to add to my bullet journal for the following day) and sing loudly (and very, very badly) along with my latest Indie-folk obsession. 

What encouragement do you have for other artists?

Everything we’ve been given--including our artistic ability--is a gift of grace, and that, I believe is deeply significant. A scholar of the acclaimed writer Flannery O’Connor is credited with the observation that “Writing was God’s means for her [O’Connor] to experience His grace.” I believe this is exactly so with each of us who create. Not only are we called to steward our gifts, we are to be fully expectant of God to use of our art to discipline, teach, refine, and encourage us to be conformed more and more into the image of His Son. Art may be the very crucible God is using in your life to convince you to depend on him. Fall into that truth and fall into Him. He can be trusted to waste nothing--your suffering, your pain, your joy, your fear, your control, your anger, your doubt--He can be trusted with everything. 

 Photo by Miah Oren

Photo by Miah Oren

What are you reading?

Home by Marilynne Robinson

(Normally, I would have to list 5 or 6, but I’ve promised myself this year to read one book at a time, start to finish, before moving on to others.) 

 Describe your dream vacation:

White sand. Blue water. Umbrella-laden drinks. Exotic food. A surf board. A stack of books. My hubs. No internet.

Favorite outdoor activity?

Pre-Texas: Mountain biking, hiking, soccer, and (attempted) surfing.

Texas summers: At the pool, splashing around with my boy.

Other Texas “seasons”: Walks to the park, picnics in the backyard.

 Where can we find your work?

@suzanneodell @creostories 

 Photo by Miah Oren

Photo by Miah Oren