Don’t phone it in

Students of history may be familiar with the famous (or perhaps, infamous) perfectionism of Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the Nixon and Ford administrations. Politics aside, there is an illustrative story of his uncompromising standards during the late sixties:

Winston Lord, the Ambassador to China at the time, was tasked with writing a speech for Kissinger. Kissinger, a gifted speechwriter himself, had exacting standards for those who served under him.

The story is told that Winston Lord brought the first draft of the speech to Kissinger one evening for his feedback and approval. The next morning, Kissinger called him back and asked, “Is this the best you can do?”

Lord thought it over. He thought he’d done his best. He answered, “I’ll try again.”

A second time, he tinkered with his speech and brought it back to him after a few days had passed. And again, Kissinger asked him, “Is this the best you can do?”

Lord was shaken up, but stated he could do better.

The process continued for eight drafts. Each time, Kissinger resolutely asked, “Is this the best you can do?” After the ninth draft, Lord finally responded, indignantly, “I know it’s the best I can do! Not a word can be improved upon!”

Henry Kissinger looked on Winston Lord and replied, “In that case, now I’ll read it.”


Maybe this story made you smile. Or maybe it made you cringe at the unrelenting perfectionism showed by Kissinger. In any event, I believe there’s a takeaway for each of us, as artists, from this anecdote.

They say that artists are perfectionists by nature. I didn’t get that gene.

The first time I read this story, I felt a sort of conviction related to my writing. True, I’m not delivering important, policy-shaping speeches to heads of state…but how often do I just “phone it in” when I’m working on a new piece of writing? If I’m being honest with myself, it happens more often than I’d like.

Steven Pressfield makes a great case for rugged self-discipline when it comes to writing in his book The War of Art. If you’re struggling with writer’s block, I highly recommend it to start winning “your inner creative battles,” as he puts it.

That book (and this post) is not for everyone. Some writers edit and revise their pieces to ribbons. Some artists trash their seventeenth version of a painting before tearing their hair out. But if you’re like me and you sometimes struggle to “give it your all,” I hope this blogpost acts as the kick in the pants that you need.

Featured Artist- Nanci Stoeffler

While the purpose of this blog is, in part, to meet up with like-minded artists who follow the teachings of Jesus, it still came as a surprise when I was able to do just that last week: I had the utterly unique and unprecedented experience of meeting up with someone who I met through this website!

The artist in question is Nanci Stoeffler. We first connected up on WordPress due to our affinity for good art that glorifies God. As we continued to chat, we recognized that we lived in the same vicinity, and agreed to grab coffee together to chat about the confluence of art and ministry.

Nanci is an incredibly talented artist who works with a variety of medium, including painting, writing, pendants, and more. While her expressionistic paintings are breathtaking and profound, what really struck me about Nanci is her spirit. 

As I sipped my Flat White at a local coffee shop, I listened to Nanci talk and I was enamored by the scope of her creative vision. Her passion (both for art, and for the Lord) is evident at an instant, and her Spirit-led approach to the artist’s life practically explodes off the canvases she paints.
Her vibrant expressionist paintings utilize a distinct technique. Nanci describes her discovery of this technique as “finding a gusher,” after searching for creative oil her whole life.

The Lord has laid upon Nanci’s heart the desire to help other Christ-following Creatives find their place, both in vocation and in community. In so doing, it’s her desire to proclaim the gospel and advance the Kingdom of God.

Part of this passion wells up from Nanci’s personal experience. The Lord helped her to extinguish two lies from the enemy: 1.) that she is not an artist, and 2.) that art doesn’t matter to God.

I am excited about potentially partnering with Nanci on her mission to share the gospel and further build up a community of artists in the future. Stay tuned for that possibility!

In the meantime, however, Nanci’s art can speak for itself. Please visit her website and social media pages! In viewing her art, I believe you’ll feel her sense of urgency to co-Create with the One who crafted our universe.

https://www.stoefflerartstudio.com/
https://www.facebook.com/StoefflerArtStudio/
https://www.instagram.com/stoefflerartstudio/
https://stoefflerartstudio.wordpress.com/