Archive for the 'writing' Category
I’ve spent 13 years in Tennessee. The trade-off for the hill-topped horizon line and the simmering hues of the Autumn trees is Winter. Darkness and despair at 4:30pm and days empty of anything but gray. Rather than adjusting to it, I’ve grown more and more offended by it. You can tell me that I need the gray season in order to appreciate the pomegranate and apricot colors come Fall-you could tell me that, but I would wait until Spring arrives because right now I might have an unpleasant reaction.
At the moment I’m contemplating migration or hibernation. Neither of which were designed for humans. I’m still entertaining the possibility. Hibernation seems tempting since it knocks out any reason for grocery lists or cleaning the house.
Human Hibernation: A List Poem
One incredibly, cozy down comforter
An Electric Blanket (the color of a faded fireball just like the one I used as a child),
An occasional peppermint hot chocolate (delivered, of course),
Children (optional, depending on their need to be fed and ability to remain cuddled).
There is still a little time left to decide.
“If I thought I had to say it better than anybody else, I’d never start. Better or worse is immaterial. The thing is that it has to be said, by me. We each have to say it, to say it in our own way. Not of our own will, but as it comes out through us. Good or bad, great or little: that isn’t what human creation is about. It is that we have to try.”
- Madeleine L’Engle, A Circle of Quiet
After Hutchmoot 2012: Day 3
If New York is the place where everyone is really an actor, and just a waiter “on the side”, then Nashville is the town where every other person is a graphic designer, but what they really want to do is play music professionally. By this I mean that it’s a city of ambition.
One would think that if one attended a conference with musicians, songwriters, and authors, in Nashville, it would be one big schmooze fest of making contacts and getting oneself noticed. (I’ll admit, I wouldn’t have minded getting noticed.)
“When I came here I introduced myself by my professional name, but by day two I found myself introducing myself as Matt. I realized I was not making business contacts, I was making friends. When N.D Wilson introduces himself here he introduces himself as Nate, Andrew is AP and, Pete (the Moot Master) is just Pete.” These are the words of one Rabbit on the last day of Hutchmoot and they’re a great introduction to the atmosphere of this gathering.
“There is no backstage, we’re all out here together,” declared Andrew Peterson and his description was not just a pretense of humility. All of the musicians and writers were standing around in the general hubbub and there was no special table for Charlie Peacock or Steve Talyor, director of the recent film Blue Like Jazz. Is this possible in Nashville, where every artist has a clause for the kind of drink or furniture he wants in the green room? There is no green room at Hutchmoot.
In the same way that Jesus knelt down to wash the dust and grime for His weary disciples’ feet, I saw the leaders of Hutchmoot serving the guests.
“I want some water,” I said to my husband, getting ready to look for a cup of refreshment. Pete, who is not just a Head Rabbit but also the author of two outstanding books, apparated from somewhere to the space beside me and asked, “You need water?” How had he gotten there and why was he concerned for my needs out of the other 180 attendees? I tried to reassure him that, yes, I did indeed need water, but that, no, I did not need him to retrieve the beverage for me. He pointed me toward three locations where fresh water was available, then apparated to the bathroom to refill the toilet paper.
Didn’t these leaders find their self-worth in the artistry of their books, songs, and films? Weren’t we supposed to lift them up and remember that we humbly come with nothing but hearts to learn from their wisdom of the ages?
In session after session I received this heart-probing message,”Go use your skills, but don’t define your worth by what you do.”
In the theater session, a profession that begs for praise and adulation, Stephen Trafton reminded the room, “Your worth and identity come from God and will never come from anything you make or create.”
And in Phil Vischer’s testimony of broken dreams he quoted C.S. Lewis, “He who has God plus many things has no more than he who has God alone.”
The capital “R” rabbits were also quick to share their weaknesses.
In my first session, one of the pastors confessed readily that he struggles with the longing to boost up his vanity at every Hutchmoot as the other staff have books and cd’s to show on the tables but he doesn’t. “I don’t mean I used to struggle with this, I mean this morning, about 4 hours ago, I struggled with it.”
One musician shared openly about the many dark places of his depression, and all around I heard men and women release their breath as they realized they didn’t have to hide the mess in their lives to be accepted or prove their artistic significance in order to start using their gifts.
This is a new kind of community, or maybe, a very old one.
“Write a bad story.”
I read the words and consider closing the book on such a ridiculous idea.
Why would I set out to write a bad story? I want to write truth-infused stories that compare to the giants of literature and stir the hearts of readers everywhere. (music swelling in the background)
It’s true that I’m not currently writing stories of such caliber. In fact my daughter, (who is currently sketching daily and taking a creative writing class) and who knows of my dreams of writing, asked me just the other day,
“Have you been writing anything lately, Momma?”
“No, not really.” No. Nada.
In fact I haven’t written any blog posts, or picked up my sketchbook to create a drawing or watercolor in months. I’m surrounded by artists of great skill, some of them young in my house, some of them lining our shelves, and some in my surrounding community. I want to draw like them (but not like them). I don’t want to do bad paintings.
Turning to my last (and most dear) genre, I think about plays and theater, and I certainly don’t want to teach, direct or write anything of poor quality. So I haven’t done anything. For about 12 years.
If I’m paralyzed by such lofty aims, and certainly by the chance that someone might catch a glimpse of my mediocre failings, maybe changing my target could be helpful.
I think of the words again. ”Write a bad story.”
Can I aim for bad, and possibly create more than, well, nothing.
And if I aim for bad and fail at bad, does that mean my failings might be good?
A perfectly preposterous idea.
But what have I got to lose with preposterous ideas?
That’s right. (Nothing.)
Write a bad story. Draw a bad picture. Start a mediocre theater class.
Extra: Watch this video by NPR’s Ira Glass, on creative work.
The quote, ‘Write a bad story”, can be found in the book If You Want to Write by Brenda Uleland, an absolute gem of a book for anyone dreaming of creative pursuits, writing or otherwise.
Up until now this blog has been a place to work out my heart-thoughts into words and I usually find myself coming to peace with the inner turbulence inside as the words also find a pattern, a winding journey. It’s also been a place to share joyful family moments and harrowing parenting perplexities. Often it’s just been a conversation between me and my friend. Calling me out a night or two a week to sit at starbucks to face the challenge of the blank screen, it’s been writing practice as well.
So why am I suddenly without a drop of compulsion to grab a tea latte and hen and peck out the making of my abundant life?
I find that blogging, for all of the many things I said above, also splits me in the moment of living my life. My brain registers, “This would be a good topic for my blog” and therein blog lines take shape in my head, even as I’m still in the making of. Right now I need to stay in it. Instead of moving so quickly to the process and production stage that blogging moves me toward. And finally, I need to stay in my house, instead of outside of it, writing about it. There’s too much happening in that 7-9 hour that I don’t want to miss right now.
I can call it a season. It might be two weeks. It might be 6 months. This might be my last blog post.
Whether you write about your life on a blog, or follow other people’s lives in your reader, take the time to feel your life-the joy, the pain, the reasons to praise, the blessings filling up your arms and bouncing on you when you try to rest, and all that’s in between. It’s all happening now. Words, even very well-written ones, are still second hand knowledge to the real thing. Both are gifts that I treasure.
A torrent of words and sketches
have shacked up in my chest.
Poem them, story them, call them wretches-
If I art them, will they let me rest?
A relentless slideshow and ranting wordsmith
are spinning on my hamster wheel,
they call themselves real and my real job myth.
Pastel them, design them, film them from my head,
Cut them, collage them, glue them last to best.
Can I hope, is it possible, skipping past the dread,
If I art them, do you think they’ll let me rest?
Illustrated by 10 year old Mookie
It was one of those kind of days.
It was the kind of day when you let the almost two year old run around with the permanent markers, caps off, because you’re trying to defrost the the block of ground beef with a metal fork and frying pan while you burn the taco shells and the oldest child yells, “Grab your blankets and start waving them near the vents” as the smoke pours out of the oven.
The kind of day when you wonder whether you should even make goals for yourself if it means you’ll turn into a super bug-eyed yelling mama when your kids interrupt your efforts for the 43rd time even though no ones bleeding or missing a limb.
It was the kind of day when you’re glad you did decide to start the goal of sneaking off for twenty minutes to exercise in your room(dance and jump to The Kooks) so that when you emerge slightly revitilized you might be able to face the 8 year old who says, “Mommy, do you think we’ll have a better day tomorrow?”
The kind of rare day when your other three children are squared away and just you and your almost two year old head out for a jaunt at Traders Joe’s and you decide she should try out one of those cute little carts and you both squeal all the way through the store as she tries to pile six bags of cheese puffs, dried prunes, and seaweed into the cart. You realize most people in the store probably think you’re a poor first time mom who isn’t very good at the parenting thing yet and you get a warning from the cashier, “Now you know these Super Chocolate Covered Powdered Berries are adult candy not for children” and you realize he thinks you’ve been slipping them to the pint size person by your side and that’s why she’s been squealing.
It was the kind of day when everything seems funnier, later, after a brownie, and fours hours after the kids have been in bed.
Did you have that kind of day?
I’ve particularly avoiding reading any posts that start or end with the word Resolutions. The whole idea leaves me slightly nauseous as I think back to an excerpt from my 5th grade diary.
“Exercise. Diet. Lose Weight.”
I was not overweight and I was only 9.
Since finding that excerpt, the whole ritual seems to me it could be equally titled, “Things That I feel Guilty About. Huge Goals That Will Make Me Feel Like a Failure in a Few Weeks.” Or, “Things I Think I Should Change Because That’s What My Best Friend is Doing or What the Magazine Article Said.”
Does that mean I should rebel against any changes at all, out of my annoyance at resolutions?
In my pastor’s exhortation for the New Year, he suggested(strongly) that some of the struggles each of us were dealing with might not have a giant, spiritual answer that begins with “Thou art burdened unto death” or some similiar sentiment. He went on to say that a person might need to sleep 8 hours, eat better food, create and apply a budget. Not the most popular advice that he gives out in counseling, he admitted.
“But, Pastor, that’s not very spiritual. I want God to do something great.”
“He will, when you carry out some of the very practical wisdom He placed in his Word.”
Around that same time we chose Proverbs as the next book of study for our children’s daily quiet time. Five chapters in, we’ve all gotten the theme wonderfully. ”Don’t turn away from God’s wisdom. Don’t walk in the way of the wicked. Apply his wisdom everyday.”
When daily issues come up with disrespect, or for a completely hypothetical example, when one sticks staples into one’s mouth, we’ve turned them right back to their verses from the day. ”Did you apply your parent’s wisdom? The Lord and your parents don’t give you wisdom so that you can have a big list of rules to follow. We want to keep you safe. We want to give you what’s best. The Lord disciplines those He loves.”
I’ve begun working on a few daily habits, and thinking about a few others. If I’m trying to make new habits, is that the same thing as those old, guilt rendering new year’s resolutions? I’m sure they could be, but habits brings out something different in the undertaking. It doesn’t feel like a giant lunge that will end in a crash. It’s smaller, it’s daily, it’s forgiving, it’s getting back to the habit again the next day. It’s an act that will carry out the practical wisdom in my own, personal walk with the Lord. It’s individual. It’s based not on guilt, but hope for what life the new habits will bring.
I found myself attracted to the idea of recording these habits when I saw Ann Voskamp’s 100 day Calender. The same 3 habits recorded and checked off for 100 days. A habit started, a habit kept. I’m expecting to leave some boxes unchecked, but just keep going the next day, looking back encouraged by the days before.
Here’s my list.
My blog is most certainly an outlet, but if I were honest with myself, I really want to write a novel, some plays, some stories for my kids. My friend doesn’t know yet (but this seems like a good way to tell her now) that we’re going to start spending 10 minutes a day writing creatively. Sending each other prompts, sharing our writing for accountability and inspirations, but not for the sake of criticism or reaching a product. Practically speaking, if I hope to write any of the projects above, I have to, well, start.
We pray together as family, we listen to the girls share their proverbs at night, I read my son’s daily devotion. My own prayers are caught on the wind as I go about consuming daily tasks. I’m sure their heard by the Lord amidst the yelling, the school books, the cries for lunch. But nothing about my spirit is quiet in those times. I’m hoping for a habit of being still(without a novel with my hands). Practically speaking, if I want to quiet with the Lord, I have to, well, stop. Everything.
3)Exer-I mean, 20 Minutes to Get Fit
It was incredibly hard to admit this was on my list after all my complaining up above. Forever, exercise has been a means to eating. Like going out the next day after a food hangover to fix my mistake. I tell the kids it’s about being healthy, but secretly it’s meant being thin. Last month the Lord gave me the gift of a new habit of sleep. And now He’s working powerfully in the nighttime eating habits that accompanied my lack of sleep. I wake up rested. I wake up, on most days, without the shame of my nocturmal eating actvities. Now I’ve been grabbing twenty minutes in my room with an exercise routine. I feel stronger. Literally, measurably, stronger. I’ve gone from one pitful push up to almost 5. Practically speaking, if I want my kids to value moving their bodies, I have to do it myself, daily.
While resolutions always felt connected to the expectations of the world, these habits, in their best form, feel more like an extension of prayer. Practically, speaking.2 comments
I suppose our meeting place could be called Classroom, since this was during my high school and college years, but the action really happened in the constant creative buzz of activity and ideas. With no orchestration on my part, I found myself daily discussing a character or play over a bagel, learning a new skill to help someone’s idea move along, and all of this sent me running to my journal to fill it with dreams to bursting. Every day I created, and took it for granted that I had the time and that I would be with others doing the same thing.
I didn’t realize that the rich creative time and resources at my fingertips were limited.
A few years into marriage and mama-hood, I took a good look around the utterly foreign world that was now mine. It wasn’t until I was reading through Madeleine L’engle’s journals that I realized I had left my club behind or even realized there was a club, or how much it had stimulated my creative life. L’engle had an unofficial club too, although hers was quite a bit more elite than my college days. Her stories are filled with the mythical names of vibrant New York theater, she had dinner parties with names I only knew as legends from classes. Like my group though, hers was in the off and on hours, gathered around a piano in a small apartment, backstage in the theater, in Greenwich Village where dreams were being followed and lost.
At that time I thought of those around me and I couldn’t name one potential member in my little world of mama friends. I’d left them all 12 hours behind. Instead I was the new mom who heard often from friends “Oh you’re so creative.” I didn’t really want that moniker, I wanted to hear “Let me tell you about this idea I had, the movie I saw, this book I want to write.” I wanted a fellow creator, not a reminder of how alien it felt to be me.
My husband was the only one in my club and thank goodness for him. A graphic designer, a painter, a drawer, a lover of films, I think I would have continued splicing myself without at least his passion allowing my fire to stay lit. When I did get ideas, though not nearly as often as before, he said, “Go.”
“Go write, go make frames, go see the play.”
“Your ideas are great. Yes, take photos for money, I’ll watch the kids. Yes, writing is important let me design your blog.”
Eventually, L’engle’s dinner parties lingering as a reminder of what was lost, I decided to make something happen. Mr. Darcy and I put our hand to leading a group through a creative focused Bible study, which lead us to other people who were just as stuck. I found I really didn’t want to lead a group, just be among people who got more excited about creating something from nothing than excel spreadsheets and football(yes, I know there are those of you out there who would be in my club AND breakdown a budget while watching Sunday’s game).
In this lonely time, I found out a few things about myself. Creativity isn’t a hobby added on, when I’m doing it I feel better fitted into my skin and spirit. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out how it fit into my “new” life, I couldn’t blend the shades. I’ve learned to recognize the restlessness when I haven’t done something with my hands or with words, it only takes an hour of writing or making a collage to find order and peace. I can see why L’engle compared writing to praying.
My world has grown-a little. I have a close friend who loves to write, who understands the need to create and be a full-time mama at the same time. I have kids who get out their sketchbooks almost daily.
“Mommy, ask me if I’d rather a)sketch b)eat chocolate or c)play Webkins. A-sketch, I just want to do it all the time!”
Our walls are adorned with family originals. They beg me to write stories with them, to create radio dramas. It’s a gift and an affirmation to have motherhood and artistry naturally blended into a day.
It’s a small club. I’d like to see it grow. I hear about artists who live isolated lives and maybe they don’t need the energy found in shared passions, but as for me, I’ll take the club. I’m leaving the door open. T-shirt anyone?
A short break broken into a loud, lingering
Fingers grown accustomed to short bursts of emails, awkwardly pecking to catch up with my thoughts.
No that’s not true.
It’s my thoughts that are awkward, chaotic, jammed like a stuck elevator and cluttered like the laundry on my bed.
Writing for me is a search for order, meaning, to the rapid input/output happening each blink of the day(and night for that matter). My husband finds order in the beat of music. If I’m already experiencing high traffic, music just clouds the frequency further.
But writing brings calm. Also, like tonight, it brings dread at what I’ll find in the chaos, what’s calling out to be sorted. But there’s a peace, a rightness, in beginning the process.
So I guess I’ll start at the beginning.
On another day.
Nice to see so you again.