Member Spotlight: Author, entrepreneur Jeff Goins

Kathryn Nielson  ·  Oct 30, 2017

Jeff Goins is on a mission to spread a message: Find your passion, do it for the glory of God, and get paid to do it.

Talk to Jeff Goins for just a minute or two, and you will feel his passion for creating art, and more specifically, writing. Despite dreaming of being a professional writer, he never thought it would become anything beyond a dream until the day a friend challenged his thinking, called him a writer, and told him he just needed to write.

He jumped in with both feet and spent the next 365 days writing every day on his award-winning blog, goinswriter.com, amassing over 10,000 people on his email list and a steady online following, building his dream. What followed were e-books, online courses, speaking engagements, and books. His latest book, Real Artists Don’t Starve, promotes the idea that art, ministry, and vocation can go hand-in-hand.

This is no easy task, given the popular assumption that pursuing art full time can only result in poverty.

After meeting two different types of people—those who insist making art isn’t a viable means of earning a living and those who are doing just that—Jeff felt compelled to dispel the long-held notion of the starving artist. He set out to discover what the thriving artist knows that the starving artist doesn’t. After reading over 100 books and surveying more than 400 working creatives, he came up with a sort of 12-step program that he hopes will usher in a new renaissance for today’s artist.

It all started with a little-known story about Michelangelo. By most accounts he was a painter barely getting by. Yale professor Rab Hatfield discovered that, over the course of his lifetime, Michelangelo amassed a fortune that was the equivalent of $47 million in today’s dollars. Goins uses this story as the jumping-off point for the modern-day creative who wishes to serve others while supporting themselves with their art.

Although not everyone will make millions off their talent, Goins defines thriving as doing what you love, making a living off it, and being happy with that life.

He insists that it can be done.

“You just have to be willing to do the work,” he says.

The first step in moving from a starving artist to a thriving artist? Understanding that real artists aren’t born, they’re created. To become one, we must believe that we are one. “Activity follows identity.”

For Michelangelo this meant learning to move in the aristocratic circles of his day. Though not born into nobility, he believed himself to be an artist with important contributions to make, and he earned respect. In his book, Jeff has this to say about the famous artist:

What made him succeed was not a genetic predisposition or some cosmic giftedness. It was how he thought of himself.

For the Christian, this is especially meaningful. Goins argues that with God as the original Creative and people as His image bearers we’re naturally artists. Understanding that we are made in the image of God and are His sons and daughters will have a profound affect on our art.

“What’s killing the Church is this misunderstanding of who we are,” Jeff says. “I think most of us still think of ourselves only as saved sinners, when we’re also saints, children of God.

“If we are born in His image, we are all artists too.”

The problem, Jeff finds, is that people often put art into simplistic categories. It’s either Christian or secular. Jeff says it’s much more important to evaluate art as good or bad, and being considered “Christian” art doesn’t mean it’s good.

Good art doesn’t need Bible verses or the word “Jesus” on it to make it beautiful or Christian. A sunset does not have Bible verses across its horizon, but that doesn’t mean it’s secular and not good. Quite the opposite. As Jeff points out, “Any time you create something beautiful you are embodying the spirit of the Creator God. There are certain things that are innately spiritual.

“There is a difference between good art, which is inherently Christian in the sense that it embodies a beautiful creative spirit, which IS the nature of God, and Christian propaganda. We need to be careful of the practices we impose on creative expression.”

Living in Nashville, Jeff is surrounded by all kinds of Christian music and art, some he finds very frustrating and some that helps inspire his work. Wherever we find ourselves, Jeff believes it is our calling as Christians to be looking at the world and culture and directing attention to good art and saying, “See how this is pointing to the Creator.”

Jeff’s art is writing. As a kid, he wanted to be a rock star and even had the opportunity as an adult to tour in a band. However, writing “was always something I was doing, a constant companion in my life.” Now he realizes that it’s not about what he wanted to be. He’s just alway’s been a writer.

He credits his firstborn, Aiden, for making him the working writer he is today.

“I wouldn’t be a full-time writer if I wasn’t a dad first,” Jeff says. “My wife wanted to stay home, and we couldn’t afford it, so I had to find a way to make it work.”

So he did. In 2010, he started his award-winning blog, goinswriter.com. In 2012, he wrote Wrecked and You Are a Writer. Then in 2013 he quit his job of seven years at Adventures in Missions, where he had worked as a marketing director and then as a communications director.

Finding success took hard work, something he learned from both his mother and father.

Growing up in Illinois, Jeff learned early on the value of hard work and the sacrifice necessary to make dreams come true. He tells the story of his dad’s many blue-collar jobs, before he decided to pursue his dream of restaurant ownership in Alabama. His dad would spend all day and into the night in a condemned rental unit working to turn it into a restaurant. At night he’d put  an air mattress on the floor, sleep for a few hours, and get up to do the same thing the next day until the dream was a reality. Jeff remembers thinking, “That is what it takes to follow a dream. Getting to see it was a gift.”

Jeff grew up in a good family, but it wasn’t necessarily Christian. While in college, he came to Christ after a dramatic experience one day.

“I was overcome with the tangible love of God,” he says. “I wasn’t the same after that.”

The summer following his freshman year in college, he got involved in ministry.

Today his art is both his ministry and his vocation. Jeff is the author of Wrecked, The In-Between, You are a Writer, The Art of Work, and Real Artists Don’t Starve. Through books, speaking engagements, and online courses, Jeff is sharing his art with the world in the hopes that it will reflect Christ to non-Christians and encourage Christians to get out there and make something beautiful. 