David Hayward AKA NakedPastor is considered one of the most prolific Christian cartoonists in the online world. After 30 years in the church, he left the ministry to pursue his passion for art. Hayward’s art expresses the stories and struggles of spiritual refugees and independent thinkers who question, doubt, or oppose the confines of religion. Art pieces that encourage difficult conversations and acts as a catalyst for critical thinking.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I was born in Toronto, Canada, and grew up around there. My dad was a cop and so we moved a lot. But he was also an amateur artist and I watched him paint with oils. I don’t ever remember not drawing or painting. I spent hours by myself just drawing and shading and painting with watercolors. When I was a very young age in school… first or second grade… it was time for us to line up to sharpen our fat pencils. I didn’t want to sharpen mine. I preferred it dull because I liked the shading effect it had. The teacher smacked my hands with a ruler because I refused to sharpen my pencil. To this day, although I like a sharp pencil for lines, I prefer a dull pencil for shading. This suggests to me that when an artist has a preference for certain tools and supplies, it’s hard to beat that out of them. Work with what you prefer.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

As an artist and writer, I wish I didn’t grow up with so many hang-ups about money. I, like so many others I know, grew up with a scarcity and poverty mentality full of negative and limiting beliefs about money and success. This trickled into other areas, such as branding, marketing, and sales. The idea of promoting myself or my art was repugnant to me. Of course, these unfortunate attitudes had a massively negative effect on my business and income as an artist. When I left my career in 2010, I knew I had to cure myself of this huge problem and went to work to do so. It’s a work in progress, but I’m so much healthier in this area than ever before. In fact, I wrote a book about it called, “Money is Spiritual” as a way to exorcise my demons on this topic.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

One of the worst recommendations I hear is that artists should go where the money is. In other words, artists should pander to the whims of their audience. For those who do this, they might see some increase in income. But for me, this kills my creativity. I’m not saying it’s not possible to be creative plus make money. What I’m saying is if I’m creative in order to make money then something insidious about this infects my work in a way that corrupts and degrades it. My creativity is best and most fruitful and honest when I create for creativity’s sake. The weird thing is, when I do this, the money often shows up. The extra plus is I don’t feel like I’ve sold my soul.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

In 2010 I decided to leave my career to become a full-time artist. Now, my career ended before I thought it would, so it came as a total surprise. I wasn’t prepared for it at all. But it had to happen when it did. The next couple of years was chaos, fear, and doubt as we were suddenly thrust into financial and vocational confusion and even disaster. But this was all mixed in with a level of excitement and hope that I’d never experienced before. I read all kinds of books, attended some conferences and workshops, got some coaching, and worked on my money and business issues. Sure enough, after a couple of years, things started coming together to the point that now I do what I’m passionate about full time and am making my living from it. Now, I know that taking such risks is sometimes an important ingredient on the road to a fulfilling life. And I try to encourage others to take such risks when they feel they are ready.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

My website is called “nakedpastor” because I wanted to let people see behind the curtain of the life of a pastor… not just the good, the successes, the victories, and the wonderful things, but also the bad, the struggles, the losses, the conflicts, and the fears. “Naked” means raw, real, authentic, vulnerable, unadorned, transparent, open, and so on. I think people are attracted to my honesty which’s conveyed through my art, cartoons, and writing. The spin-off benefit is that they themselves feel validated in their own journeys and find the confidence they need to live autonomous and independent lives and to be honest themselves.

What is your morning routine?

I wake up early like 6 am. I don’t need to set an alarm. Right now, in wintertime in Canada, I get dressed, put on some music, stoke the fire, put on the coffee, fill the dog’s bowls, let her out, and back in. Then, I usually sit with my coffee, music, dog, and fire, and read something contemplative (right now a collection of Rumi’s writings), and write in my journal. If my wife’s not working (she’s a palliative care nurse), she gets up a little later and we have coffee together and chat. Then at about 9 am I get to work drawing cartoons, writing, working on my business, and interacting with my many followers around the world on social media.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Exercise! Actually, I’ve done this for more than a few years. But I’ve noticed that if I take care of my body, I’ll travel further, be more productive, and happier too. I know that sometimes it feels counter-intuitive. Some days the last thing I want to do is exercise! But, I run, do intense interval training, and ride an assault bike, and none of these things are what I would call fun. But they make me feel better, give me more energy, and boost my happiness and a general sense of well-being. I not only feel better but look better and do better too. Exercise… as much as you are able… and the benefits are worth it.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

One of the most important strategies I can do, not only as a form of self-care but also as a way to refuel my creativity, is to create and respect space for myself. I need space to be creative. This means long periods of time when I’m doing nothing. It also means being in the open… our house is open-concept, and we live close to expansive natural space. The temptations with being a business owner (all artists who are selling their work are business owners whether they like it or not) is that I can get all caught up in the administrative and business side of things. Even though these things are important, they rob me of joy and therefore of creativity. In fact, I think this feeling of spaciousness comes out in my cartoons, in my art, and in my writing. Space… in my physical space, in my schedule, in my head, in my heart, and in my work. This is the most productive strategy.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

Of all the books I ever read, The Urgency of Change by Krishnamurti has had the most influence. I’m often asked if I can have just one book when stranded on a deserted island, I answer with this one. I nonchalantly picked it up in a used book store. I’d noticed the name “Krishnamurti” come up in some of my research on spirituality, so I got the book. It’s a small paperback, but it packs a punch! It’s one of those books that, for me, totally pulls the rug out from under my assumptions and thoughts and ideas, which is the perfect place from which to grow.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

I read an interview of Obama some years ago in which he shared his struggles. When he was experiencing some defeats in his younger years in politics, he had to keep reminding himself “it’s about the work.” My art and writing can stir up controversy and as a result, I can receive a lot of hate mail and nasty messages, as well as people who try to get me to shut and or shut me down. At the same time, I hear from many more people who are encouraged by my work. When I’m attacked and get down and feeling doubtful about myself, I remember the quote “it’s about the work”, and this helps me get back on track and back to work.