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24 June 2009

Live Creatively

I know I just posted, and I don't want to bombard you with words on this fine, sunshiny day, but this little ditty I just posted on one of my other blogs really spoke to me. I wanted to share it with you guys and see what you think.

I've been rereading Debbie Macomber's book "Knit Together" this week while house-sitting for my mother. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is even remotely fed up with their life's direction and want to follow their God-given passion and purpose. I'm going through it slowly this time, drinking in her pearls of wisdom and writing them down so that they will better stick to my well-oiled brain.

The book is peppered with quotes and scripture passages that go along with the particular point she is making in certain sections. While finishing up chapter one this morning, the scripture reference on the last past jumped out at me and jolted me away better than the coffee I forgot to brew. I'm not usually a fan of The Message translation. Call me old fashioned but I lean to the NIV or *gasp* the KJ versions. However, this verse is so insightful in modern translation that I wanted to share it with you. Consider this a little tea-time food for thought. Pinkies out everyone! Sip your Earl Grey and read the wisdom of Paul:

"Live creatively, friends...Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don't be impressed with yourself. Don't compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." (Galatians 6: 1, 4-5)

*pause*

What an awesome admonition! "Live creatively." When we live creatively we are searching for ways to express the dreams and desires God has placed within us. God is a creator. He's the ultimate Creator. Madeleine L'Engle once referred to writers as being co-creators with God. Not only writers, but everyone co-creates with God, be it through clay, stone, paint, wood, cake batter or their children. The thought that God put desires in me to create beautiful and meaningful things is enough to make me dance. (I won't however, seeing that I'm at work right now and that might cause quite a commotion in the office...)

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given." Who are you? What has God given you to do? No, no, I don't want to know your name. Who are you, deep down inside? What are those hidden desires you are passionate about? The things you have always wanted to do but were, perhaps, too afraid to do them? God has planted desires and dreams in all of us and He fully expects us to follow through with them. Discover your passions. Dig deep and find out what it is that makes you tick, what makes you want to get out of bed every morning. The things that bring you joy. These are the things that hold the answers to your purpose in life.

"sink yourself into that." Ah, now for the action part. We must DO what we're called to do. Simply coming to terms with what we're on earth for isn't enough. With knowledge comes responsibility and knowing what we are called to do requires us to take a step of faith and begin doing all we can in order to make that dream a reality. Sure it's scary and it will probably be hard. You may have to take classes or ask questions of strangers. But know that if you are being obedient to follow the plan you believe God has given you, He will be on your side and He has already made a way. He will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you. No matter how scary or impossible things may seem, God is with you and you can do anything with Him!

"Don't be impressed with yourself." Ah, yes. The issue of pride. Many times we fall to the opposite extreme and don't see anything good worth saving. I have found myself uttering countless times "I'm not good enough" "No one will like what I do" "What if I fail?". This is just as unhealthy a mind-set as thinking you're too good for anyone else. Sometimes it can be tempting to put others down because we see ourselves and what we do as superior. We may look at our dreams and compare them to the dreams of others and find theirs to be "lacking" in the light of our own. This is dangerous ground, friend. Not only will this push us away from friends and potential relationships, but it can have an effect we never anticipated. We may come to the point that we think so highly of ourselves that we decide not to share our gifts at all because the "lowly" and the "weak" who surround us would never understand. Either by self-deprecation or pride, Satan is wanting to keep us from achieving our God-given dreams. Keep yourself close to God, bathe every action, every step in prayer and refuse to give in to self-loathing or unhealthy praise.

"Don't compare yourself with others." I touched on this in the paragraph above. It's far too easy to see someone else who's ideas or talents are more flashy or more "important" than our own. I have been guilty of seeing a new book on the best seller list and thinking, "Gee...must be nice to have a book published." It's easy to fall prey to comparison, especially to those who do similar things that we do. Remember, however, that we all have our place, we all have our own outlet and realm of reaching. We may do something that someone else already has done, but we may be the only ones who can reach those who are around us. You have experiences and visions that are unique to you and there may be those who will never be reached until they hear or see the message through your eyes. Don't get discouraged if others are doing better than you. Learn from them. Ask them what they did to get to where they are now. More often than not, I find successful people to be more than willing to share their "secrets". Successful people aren't afraid of competition. If nothing else, it makes them work harder. Plus, they haven't forgotten what it's like to be in your shoes. Seek out a mentor instead of hiding behind grumbling and complaining. That person who ruffles your feathers just may be the push you need to see the beginnings of your own success!

"Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." There it is. The "R" word again. Responsibility. We don't like that word, do we? I cringe at it sometimes, knowing that it means I'm in charge and people are going to come to be if there's a problem or a question. It means I'm going to have to interact with others. As mentioned earlier, with knowledge comes responsibility. When we know what we're called to do, we are now responsible for what we do with that knowledge. No one can make us do what we need to do. Sure, we have those who encourage us, who cheer us on. But no one is going to hold your hand and do everything for you. If they did, you wouldn't be the one doing it, now, would you? Only we can achieve our creative best. Only we can get the most out of our time on earth. Don't shy away from responsibility; embrace it.

Take charge of your life, of your goals, seek out and discover all you have the potential to do and become. Step back and watch the amazing things that God has in store for you unfold!

Happy hunting!
~Jennifer

Have we met?

Inspiration can strike at the most awkward times. Inopportune moments are when my muse strikes, causing me the agony of looking lost and confused (or angry) in public. I'm certain innocent passersby are struck with fear when my muse sneaks up, taps me on the shoulder and yells, "BOO!". Not because they can hear her, but because I jump, quite high, into the air and usually tumble backwards. My husband, dear heart that he is, looks at me and says, "So you have an idea. Do it." "Yes, but..." "No buts. Just do it."

He's so practical that way.

But what if you see something (be it story or otherwise) that you thought was yours alone? You walk through a store and there, on the shelf in front of you, is "your" book idea, staring back at you. Don't do what I've done in the past and roll your eyes, mutter under your breath at how "lucky" they must be to already have an agent, or wonder aloud and quite angrily how that blasted PUBLISHED author sneaked into your computer and carried off YOUR idea? This will just get you more of those awkward glances and nervous murmurings by those passersby you already frightened away with your high jumping antics.

That happened to me last night. I am in the process of starting a small business as well as pursuing the writing life. It's a tough job (especially when I work 61/2 hours a day as a receptionist on top of all this planning and dreaming). My husband and I wandered into a shop and there, on every wall, at every turn!, I saw an idea that I'd had. Ideas that I thought were unique to me.

First, I jumped. Then I looked at my husband and grumbled. Then I saw something on another wall and grumbled again, louder and with a little more force. "I thought I was the only one who thought like this? I've never seen it before except in my head." I pouted and kicked at a stone that wasn't there.

"Well, look at it this way," he said in his calm, rational and most irritating voice. "It just means that you're unique and people who shop in places like this will be the ones to buy what you create."

Of course, at that moment, it was the last thing I wanted to hear. But after sleeping on these words of wisdom, I see them for what they are: glistening dew drops on my otherwise wilted lawn.

I've seen ideas of mine on the backs of published books. I've even seen one of my own characters look back at me on from the movie screen. I'm learning, slowly but surely, to not get offended or angry at these instances but to look at them from another angle. It just means I'm in good company. It means there are other people out there who "get" what I'm trying to accomplish with my writing and my art. And it also means that all those other people who are sitting in the theater, buying up the offending book, or purchasing the wares of another shop are exactly the types of people I'm hoping to reach with my work. It means I have an audience. And I'm quite glad it's not a mainstream one.

Does that mean I don't want the entire world to rush out and buy my every novel? Um, no. That would be crazier than the wild-eyed muttering I tend to do. Of course we want to be published and achieve critical acclaim. And some of us achieve that with the first book (or movie, or painting). But more often than not, we must start small, accumulating fans and supporters as they trickle in, who find us through friends of friends who enjoy what we do and who found us because what we do is similar to something someone else does.

Don't get offended or discouraged if you see a similar idea to yours already in the marketplace. Take it as a sign that you're on the right track. And remember that no matter how small the audience, it's still an audience. And people have the tendency to talk about what they like, return to places they enjoy, and bring others along for the ride!

Hang in there and keep creating,
Jennifer

22 June 2009

Thought for the Day

Doing what you're called to do, what you're passionate about, will give you a radiance you could never have any other way. This radiance reaches out and touches everyone around you; drawing them to you. Even if what you do isn't necessarily connected to their calling, the sight of you achieving your dreams, the motivation and discipline you have cultivated, will inspire them, encourage them to step out and achieve their own "impossible".

You may be the only person who can reach certain people. If you fail to achieve your dreams, you aren't just letting yourself down. You're letting down God (who created the dreams in you) and countless others who could only have been illuminated by your radiance. Achieving a dream carries a great responsibility, but it is one we must carry if we are to be truly successful.

*thanks to Debbie Macomber's amazing book "Knit Together" for inspiring today's post!

Have a great week!
~Jen

15 June 2009

Compulsion Among Other Blogs

Here's a little something from my other blog: http://lessonsintheartofslow.blogspot.com/2009/06/smell-of-scotch-tape-in-morning.html

Random ponderings from a random mind on a Monday morning with no coffee...

Now...on with the post!

The editing is going well. Not as swift as I would like for it to. Does anything in the writing world go as fast as we'd like? That, I highly doubt. I finished editing book one last week but as I started on book two, I realized there were things repeated. Things that needed deleting from one book or the other.

A conundrum.

The information is necessary. Both books have an ideal location for the divulging of said information. I thought at first to leave it in the first book, where it was to begin with. That's where it first appeared, after all. Upon reading both scenes carefully, I realized that the best place to put the revelation was in the place it would have more affect. More shock factor.

That would be in the middle of book two.

This means I had to go delete the ending of a chapter. At least four pages from what I thought was a completed edit ready for re-type. I would be lying if I said laziness didn't rear it's ugly head. "I don't want to delete all that! I'll have to figure out another way to end it."

Yes. I whined.

Then I looked harder and saw how very right my inclination was. We should pay more attention to inclination and a compulsions. They are usually correct, however bizarre they may be.

I deleted. I "x'd" out. I drew arrows and penciled in, scratched out and erased. I think I got it sorted out. And I learned a valuable lesson about editing: trust your heart. Your head will tell you it will take too much work, you'll have to throw too much out, you may have to go back and re-write whole chapters. You think I'd have already learned this considering this whole editing fiasco was prompted by things I discovered half way through book two. I've had to delete whole chapters, re-write whole chapters already. But it didn't hit me until last night how vitally important it is for a writer to listen to compulsion.

Trust your instincts. Even if they don't make sense. Write the story how it comes to you and let if fly. You'll be surprised where the story will take you.

11 June 2009

It's a Small World After All

I'm learning so much in this great wide cyber-world. There was a time (not too long ago) when I was intimidated by it, frightened by the prospects of getting out there, "meeting" others with similar interests, communicating with them, hearing their views, their struggles, their joys. "It's too impersonal" I complained. While it's true I prefer the handwritten letter over an email ( or worse, a phone call *shudder*), I'm discovering there's so much to discover via the Internet.

Before I get bombarded with anonymous comments telling me how horrible and terrible a place cyberspace is, let me issue a disclaimer: I am fully aware of the dangers of the Internet. Nothing is perfect; hate mail can be sent with or without a stamp. But let's face it, the Internet allows us to be connected with people we may not ever meet in real life. Blogging is just another way of communicating, and they allow us a broader reach than any other.

I've become a "regular" on several blogs that focus on the art and craft of writing. I'm "meeting" more and more people who do what I do, who day after day spill their hearts and souls out through their keyboards, hoping someone will hear the message they are so desperate to convey. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone. I knew there were other writers out there (obviously). Now I can connect with them, through their posts and comments, and realize my struggles are not unique, my frustrations are not mine alone to bear.

Writer or not, whatever it is you do, there's a blog about it. If there's not, start one. And don't tell me you can't! I didn't think I could start a blog. I thought I was too much of a self-professed Luddite to do so. So far, it's working, and I'm enjoying every post, every comment. Find a place where you can share your experiences, where you can glean from the experience of others who are struggling along, just as you are, and the wisdom from those who have "made" it. You'll be surprised at who you'll meet out there. I'm sure you'll make a friend or two.

You may even meet yourself somewhere along the way.

Happy hunting!
~Jen

08 June 2009

I Can't Believe I Won!

Yep, I won a contest! It was a contest posted on a blog I LOVE reading : seekerville.blogspot.com. All I had to do was read and post a comment. I usually post comments on anything that hits a nerve, and the question on this post was no different. Imagine my surprise when I logged onto my blog this morning, started reading my usual blog roll, and discovered I'd won! Huzzah! It's a toss up between two books, so I'll post which one I won after it comes in the mail. Anywho, just wanted to let you all know, blogging works! It enlightens you, it helps you, it connects you. And every now and then, it makes you a winner :)

If you're interested, here's the link. Scroll down to the middle of the post (past the photos of all the T.V. doctors) and there's my name :)
http://seekerville.blogspot.com/2009/06/seekerville-medical-weekend-edition.html.

Happy, happy week to you all,
~Jen

03 June 2009

New Life to the Old

"Write what you know."

As writers, we have at one time or another heard this. Perhaps a well-meaning friend told us. Perhaps we read it in a periodical. Or, perhaps like me, you heard it spoken to one of my favorite literary heroines in "Little Women".

Jo is, without a doubt, my alter ego. I've seen three versions of the movie and the one that always speaks to me most is the most recent with Winona Rider playing lead. My mother and I (whom, I should add here, I call "Marmee") were watching it years ago and she said, "You are my Jo, you know that?" Yes, Marmee. I do know that.

Jo's dream is to make it on her own, as a writer. A very dear friend, however, after reading one of her stories, remarks that it is not her. That she should write what she knows. This, of course, is the last thing Jo wants to hear. I should also say it was the last thing I wanted to hear.

Write what I know? Who cares about what I know? I want adventure, magical wardrobes and flying tigers. Sadly, I have yet to find a wardrobe that contained more than mothballs and coats, nor have I yet to see a tiger fly. Adventures? I've had a few. But nothing like I dream. I scour the bookshelves in search of travel journals and essays, gobbling up the tales are far away lands and the people who have been there. While I have been known to travel to far away lands from time to time (or just do crazy things right here on American soil), I still feel as though what I know is a far cry from what the world wants to read.

The other day, I decided to use my magazine addiction to my advantage. I took out an issue and started hunting for ideas. Ideas for business as well as pleasure, ideas for possible articles. My idea was not to copy articles already in print, but to glean from them and figure out how I could take a general idea, subject, and make it my own. To my pleasant surprise, I found quite a few ideas (and I'm still gathering from my endless supply of periodicals). Also, to my surprise, was the subject matter of the thoughts and phrases, the craft and essay ideas that moved me the most. Chickens. Cooking. Tide Pools. Trees. Pillows. Things I know. Everyday things that I have experience with, that I can take photos of and research, first hand, to my heart's content.

Hmmm. Perhaps there's something to this "write what you know" commission. Does that mean we shouldn't branch out into the unknown, take a chance, a leap of faith, from time to time? Of course not. What would life be without those blind leaps? Dull, that's what. No, what I think it means is, no matter what subject matter you write, be it science fiction or down home southern murder, you should write from your own experience. I've never murdered anyone, but I know what it's like to kill an army of ants intruding upon my space. I know what it's like to lose a loved one. I know what it's like to hurt, to cry, to laugh, to live. It's these emotions, these experiences, no matter how mundane they may seem, that we draw upon and infuse into our unique tales.

Next time you sit down to write (or draw, or paint, or garden) ask yourself, "What do I know?" You'll be surprised at the wisdom that is just waiting to be plucked from the ever fertile soil of your life.

What do I know? I'm ready to find out.