My Artistic Toolkit

I’ve spent this past week being inspired by the questions in my 52 Pep Talks for Writers book by Grant Faulkner, the executive director of National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. I’ve talked about and participated in this organization’s events. They’re actually the group that inspired me to get back into writing so when I bought this book last year, I knew it would be useful for me going forward. The prompt that inspired me this past week and which I’m going to delve into further today is this one. “What is an art form you rarely engage in, but have respect for? What similarities do you see between it and your writing? What differences? Pursue it and notice how your writing is enhanced by your practice.”

I’ll start with the first question. There are two art forms I have engaged in before and really enjoyed. But, I haven’t engaged in either of them since the new year began. The first is using markers to color in those adult coloring books that are all the rage. I know this seems very basic and probably something more for children, but it spoke into my writing when I was doing it. Trying to decide what colors to use to make the pictures and the words on the pages stand out helped me to visualize the pictures my words were creating in other people’s minds. It’s a skill, I’ve read, that is important to authors of all abilities. When I color, my mind drifts, and the words seem to come more easily. As far as differences go, any art form that creates pictures that can be seen instead of imagined is very different from the creative pursuit called writing. While I know people can interpret any kind of portrait or painting differently, the ability to see the colors and the finished product on the paper or canvas is a different exercise than using the imaginations we all have to create the pictures in our minds like we do when we read our books or stories. I’ve been thinking I need to get back to this pursuit and seeing the benefits written in black and white might be the impetus I need to do so.

The other art form I rarely engage in now, but have the utmost respect for is crocheting or knitting. Crocheting was the one I learned, but both of them are similar enough that I felt like I should mention both. I especially like the pretty colors of the yarn and the way they can be arranged into patterns. This art form is more difficult than coloring, or at least I found it so, but I was able to make some small things I was pleased with. It helped with my writing in similar ways too. When I got to where I could do the simple stitches at a reasonable speed, I was able to come up with ideas for my stories while I created something that someone else would find useful. I was able to expand the creative parts of my mind while crocheting, and I experienced a time of expanded creativity.

But, it got harder, and I think that’s why I gave it up. I wasn’t able to create the potholders or pretty blankets I saw other people crocheting, and it was hard for me to see other art forms being preferred as gifts than the writing that was my offering. So, I gave up pursuing other forms of art so I could work on getting better at my writing. That was what made it different for me and made me think I couldn’t pursue other forms of art.

I’ve changed my mind now though. I’ve gained more confidence in myself since I gave up practicing the other forms of art. I know that having a wide variety of items in my toolkit can only help me in my quest to become a better writer. So, I’m going to start pursuing them again, at least one of them anyway, And I would encourage those of you who are writers to do the same with other forms of art that intrigue you.

Have a great day, all!

Word of the Month – Believe

The calendar has turned from January to February which means it’s time for a new word of the month. Last month I talked about discipline and how I was working on retraining my brain to focus on my words and what I wanted to do with them. I wanted to make it clear to you all, but mostly to myself, that discipline was necessary to be a writer. This month I want to switch direction and talk about what the word believe means to me in my quest to write the best words I can write. Believe. It’s an easy word to write, but oh so hard to put into practice when I’m referring to myself. My hope is I can do it justice for my February word of the month.

There are many definitions of this word. The first one is “accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of.” Another one is to “accept the statement of (someone) as true.” A third is to “have faith especially religious faith.” The fourth, and I believe the truest part of what I want to say, is to “feel sure that (someone) is capable of a particular action.” For me, that action would be writing. If you read my post last week, you know that belief in myself is a very hard thing for me. To me, everyone else seems to accomplish their goals effortlessly while I have to slog and wade through mud to accomplish even the smallest part of what I want to do. I can accept the truth of my faith. I can accept other people’s statements as true, but when I am called to believe in myself as a writer, I struggle.

The struggle is the same when I consider the noun belief as opposed to the verbal form believe. The definitions are similar, but the way belief is defined is not as active as the definition for the word believe. (Yes, I do know that verbs are supposed to show action, but I do have a point for this.) Here is the first definition. Belief is “an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.” It can also be defined as “trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.” I don’t understand how or why I can hold strong beliefs in my faith or in other people, but not be able to hold them in myself.

I think it might be because I’m afraid. Afraid of being rejected by my closest family and friends. Afraid of getting slammed against a wall and told that I’m a horrible writer. Told that I would be better if I just gave up any notion that I ever had of publishing my words or my stories.

I believe this is why I need to have the more active form of the word as my word of the month. It will help me to gain strength in my chosen craft and confidence to defeat all the negative things said about my writing. If I can say ‘I believe I’m a writer,’ for twenty-eight days in a row, I will be much further along on the path to believing this is something I can do and do well.

I wish that same belief on all of us who are writers and creators this month.

God bless you all!

Feeding the Muse

Last fall I went to a writer’s workshop in my hometown. I gained many tidbits of information to add to my burgeoning knowledge of all the different facets of writing, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. No, I want to talk about¬† the book I received at said workshop and the most recent chapter I’ve read out of said book. When I was at the workship, I was surprised to hear from the author or librarian (I can’t remember which.) that we would be getting something to take home. I looked over at the selection of books, and she further said that the workshop had been funded by a grant from a big company. After the workshop was over, I went to the table and picked out a book by Ray Bradbury called Zen in the Art of Writing. It’s a compilation of several of his essays about writing, and it has been wonderful so far. I’ve had takeaways I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and it’s taken me some places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone. Sounds remarkable, right? That’s today’s topic though based on my take of Bradbury’s “How to Keep and Feed a Muse”.

The muse is a funny thing. I’ve heard it described as the place where all great story ideas come from, and I’ve also heard people denying the existence of a muse (that stories are only written through blood, sweat, and tears). These are also the same people, I believe, who deny the existence of writer’s block and that anything can be written if you put the right amount of work into it. But, all of us who write need a place to get our ideas from, and that’s where I believe the idea of a muse formed.

Bradbury knew this well. In the chapter I mentioned earlier, he talks about all the different ways he feeds his muse. To him, the muse is represented by our very being, and it was fascinating to hear all the ways he nourished his being and mined it for story ideas. He talks about listening intently to all of the story-tellers in his life and how they made events and scenes real to him. Pieces of thsoe stories made their way to what I would call his muse, and he was able to deepen his reservoir of writing ideas.

He also talks about the experiences in his own life and how they led him down the path of more and varied story ideas. I think we, as writers, tend to forget that each of us has unique and particular circumstances that add to any story we’re writing. Bradbury didn’t though. He writes of making lists of nouns in previous chapters. I found that one particularly fascinating and put it in my bank of knowledge to try when I’m stuck for a story idea.

Another thing he speaks about is the reading and research we do and how we should read things we wouldn’t normally read. He says these forms of writing can stimulate areas of the creative brain not normally stimulated. It made sense to me so I decided to try it the other day with a graphic novel I received as a Christmas present. I’m also going to eventually try it with poetry and essays as these are forms of writing I read rarely. This writing, as well as the novels and short stories I normally read, should keep my writing muse well-supplied for years to come.

And, with that, I thought of the approaches I have to my writing and the excitement that comes with each. Because, Bradbury talks about that too. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I can see his point. I believe this excitement can show up in our stories and make them even better. So, over the past few days, I’ve taken the pains to be more observant. First, with the graphic novel I started reading. It stirred pictures in my own head of how I can make the scenes in my book more vivid to my readeres.

Second, with the walks I’ve taken. There is a tree outside of my apartment that reminds me of Halloween with its hulking shape and the amount of leaves it carries in the spring, summer, and fall. The lake on the property reminds me of drifting away to a new world every time I see it.

Finally, with the bread I’ve baked. The smells I’ve experienced and the decisions I’ve made during preparation time have helped me learn different ways of verbalizing the five senses in my writing.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to become more observant, and between that and remembering that our muses are functions of who we all are and our experiences, we can take pains to make sure our muses are always fed.

May we all be inspired by our muses in 2020!

 

Inspiration

I read a question earlier about what inspires me to write and thought I would write a short piece detailing my reasons. First, let me state the reasons that were written in the prompt. Is my writing a desire to create lyrical prose, to escape this world, or to explore my inner world? I think a combination of the last two reasons is what inspires me to write. My world is so normal, and I feel insignificant a lot of the time like I’m not important to people. I want to write about characters who are important, who save the day and the planet. They start off insignificant and then become heroes to those around them. I want them to be recognized as valuable and important people who make sure that all around them who are also insignificant are recognized as valuable and important. That recognition, of course, does not happen in our society, or even in the Christian church, so that’s one of the main reasons I want to escape this world through my writing and write about a better world.

I believe exploring my inner world is a natural extension of the first reason so I’m throwing that out there as well. I want the world to be better so I make-up worlds which then need to come out of my head and be written down on paper so I won’t lose the world or the thoughts leading to it. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing about my inner world and describing the ways it can be better than the world I’m currently living in.

I also feel like writing is a big way for me to redeem my past. That is what brings me back to my book and other things I’m writing after a long time away. I’ve used my circumstances to block my writing time for way too long, and this is what I’m hoping to change in 2020. I’m capable of achieving my goals even with four people and a dog in the house, and it’s about time I proved it.

Another part of the prompt said I should write about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. It was last fall when I noticed the listing for a short story contest. It said to write a story about why the United States hadn’t been back to the moon in fifty years. Any reason, any scenario. But, history had to stay the same. A light dawned. I could fit my character and her desire to be a pilot/astronaut right into it since women were still being discriminated against in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A story started forming in my head. I was able to write over 27,000 words of it during NaNoWriMo. Where I fell down though was in the planning and execution of it. I didn’t flesh out the outline enough which is why the words stopped. I’ve been able to get back to it now and am combining my writing with reading and research to make sure I get the details right because I want this story to be a good story.

Finally, what makes me come back to writing on the worst days? What makes me sit down and write when times are bad? When I write bad times down, they stay on the page. They communicate my thoughts and feelings, and I gain the courage to live another day. I don’t say that lightly. My feelings of insignificance diminish with every word I write down. The stories I write show other people slaying their demons which helps me, and someday others, I hope, to slay their own demons and make this world a much better place.

 

Catching my Dreams

I’ve spent this year learning more about my craft. I’ve written stories and worked on a book. I’ve taken classes from people who are writing pros through Master Class (Check it out. It’s excellent.) I’ve also written blog posts and entries in my journal. If all of that was added up, I’ve done a lot of writing. And people I’ve talked to say my writing has improved. But, I’ve noticed something, and it’s changed how I’m going to approach my writing for the rest of the year. I got stuck on a book I was writing. Yes, yes, I know all the stats of beginning writers abandoning what they’re working on to move on to something else, but hear me out.¬† When I couldn’t think of where else to go with the book I was working on, I started considering where I was trying to go with my writing and what I was really trying to accomplish with it. That’s what I want to talk about today. Catching my dreams.

Dreams can be elusive. Over my lifetime, I’ve gained and lost dreams that have been important to me. I’ve raised a family and homeschooled my children. I’ve moved from place to place so my husband could pursue work which supported our family. I’ve pursued hobbies and maintained relationships. Now, I’m at the place where I want to pursue my dream of becoming a published author, and I didn’t have a book inside of me that I could finish and then improve. Where could I go if I didn’t have that? Not very far, I’m pretty sure.

So, I reached back into my past for the book I wanted to write and made myself a promise. I formulated a main character who was just starting out and had dreams of her own. I did research on those dreams and figured out the best world I could put them in. It would be a story about overcoming obstacles to achieve dreams. And, I would have a first draft completed by the end of November. This draft would have at least 50,000 words which is the goal of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). So, you won’t hear from me for the rest of the month as I chase my dream. As I tell the story that only I can tell. I wish you a wonderful November as you chase and hopefully, catch your dreams which makes the working title of my book appropriate, Dream Catchers. Have a great month, and God bless you!

Life is Short

I was struggling with what to write this week. I had thought of beginning to include some short fiction pieces in this blog so I could continue my practicing in public, but nothing was coming to me. Then, I started looking through one of my writing prompt books, and I found a question. This question, along with events that have happened in the last few days, gave me my answer. Here’s the prompt. “What is something you have learned in the past few days?”

The answer, of course, is today’s title, but there is so much more than just those three words. I’m not going to go into detail about the events themselves to preserve my friends’ privacy. I just want to write about how they affected me personally. As you can imagine, both events had a “life is short” theme, and I thought about what I had been working through for the past few months. Thought about how I had felt awkward showing my true self because I wanted to fit in and feel less lonely. Thought about how I had felt my true self wasn’t worthy to be shown even though I am a daughter of God. Thought about how I had felt like I was standing on a precipice.

But, God showed me where my thinking had been wrong, and I said, “Enough!” He reminded me of Psalm 139:13-15. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” He made me the way I am, and He wants me to acknowledge it as I live my life in His service. Just because another Christian brother or sister is doing something doesn’t mean God wants me to do it and just because others feel the need to put up shields doesn’t mean I have to. My true self is worth showing! I’m going to show it, and if someone doesn’t like it, that’s too bad. God has too much work for me to do to reach those on the edges for me to do otherwise. Life is too short for me to try to fit into a mold even if that mold is the church. God doesn’t call for us to fit into a mold either. He calls for us to have a heart like His, and I know He wants me to show my true self as I share His love.

So, as I think about my friends and the events they are having to deal with, I will think about what God has taught me and put it into practice in my life. Very thankful for my Lord and Savior who is the truest friend I have!

Hope everyone has a great day!