Monday, July 30, 2018

Book Report?

My husband discovered me reading (again) the other day. Amused, he pointed down at the notebook on my lap. “You doing a book report?”

I smiled and mused to myself that fellow writers know why I lug a notebook with me along with the book I’m currently reading. I’m not doing a book report, but strong writers have a tendency to bring out the best in my writing. Good books are excellent at pointing out holes in my own stories. When I’m inspired by a book I’m reading, I never want to be caught without a pen when the fresh idea hits or a character arc solidifies. This is also why I keep a notepad near my bed at night, and I’m seriously thinking it’s time to leave a pen and paper outside the shower.

Ideas are like prairie dogs, you never can predict when they’ll pop up. (I recently read somewhere that the language of the prairie dog is more advanced than any other animal language that’s been decoded.) I consider it part of my job to pay attention. Not only to the world around me, but the world within books. This includes everything from pacing to sentence structure to identifying something akin to a musical rhythm in the paragraphs.

Does this steal the joy from reading?

Absolutely not. Most of the time I’m doing these things without even realizing it. Like training a muscle, I started this practice years ago and it felt a little uncomfortable initially. Dissecting books did feel a little like writing a book report in the beginning. But now I hardly notice I’m doing it. I still read for enjoyment, entertainment, and to learn. I’m always pleasantly surprised when book starts to work its magic, when the sentences stir something in my brain and a lock is unhinged, a new idea freed.

This process of transference, reading good writing in order to produce good writing is one of the unpredictable thrills of writing. I never know when I’m going to stumble upon brilliant writing. Oh, but when I do! I want to savor every word.

Two books worth mentioning:

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’veLoved by Kate Bowler. Absolutely loved this book. I connected with this author’s viewpoint on so many levels. Highly recommend this read!

The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean E. Pendziwol. Currently reading. I’m getting so much from this one. Character development is fantastic. Pacing and building suspense on point. Can’t wait to read more!

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Seahorse is Born

I saw her eye first. {See it?} Over the weekend, I knew I wanted to paint something on this wood. It was a project waiting to happen. And so this seahorse came to be.

As I painted I thought about how similar the onset of this project is to when I get an idea for a novel. Usually a novel starts with a specific character trait or a unique idea. Then, as I plot out the concept, I watch as the book gradually comes to life.

I encountered surprising details and twists as I brushed the seahorse to life on the wood. I didn’t know she’d end up with swoopy tendrils on her head. As I thought about what to paint next, I took hints from the knots and whorls in the wood. I find this happens a lot while working on a novel. I’ll wake in the middle of the night struck by a fresh idea. I’ll hear a conversation or conjure a memory and the pieces come together. I follow the creativity to see where it’ll lead.

I took breaks from painting to google what actual seahorses look like. Of course I veered from the actual depiction of a seahorse, but that was part of the fun—knowing what I was veering from and having a solid visual to begin with. One of my favorite things about my vocation is that I consider reading novels a necessary part of my work. Research.

It’s pretty cool when you think about it. My creative process shows up in everything I do. It’s more than a formula or a systematic methodology. It’s a way of life. Painting a seahorse (this one in all her quirky glory) is a far cry from writing an entire full-length novel. Except my approach to both felt amusingly familiar.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
~ William Blake

Monday, July 16, 2018

Summer of Discernment

Thanks to our recent move, I’ve been enjoying the unusual and special privilege of spending a lot of time with my girls this summer. I’m making use of our time together. I’m teaching them the art of discernment. Age appropriate, I’m helping them to weed through impulsive words, to look for patterns, and to recognize inconsistencies and hypocrisy they identify in themselves and in others. I’m not making a big show of it. We don’t sit down and have family meetings about this. But I’m teaching it. Because now more than ever these things matter.

“Eomer said, ‘How is a man to judge what to do in such times?’
As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn. ‘Good and evil have not changed since yesteryear, nor are they one thing among Elves and another among Men. It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.”

J.R.R Tolkien, The Two Towers

Monday, July 9, 2018

My Vow to Other Women

I’ve said a lot of things off the cuff through the years. The older I get, the more I want to weigh my words, to consider the how important something is—how valuable—before it leaves my tongue.

There is one thing I can’t stand being said to me. And believe it or not, I hear it a lot.

I bet you’ve heard it, too.

“You look tired.”

Major pet peeve. Why? Because it doesn’t take a genius or a clairvoyant to know I am tired. Most of us are tired and it doesn’t always have to do with lack of sleep. Sometimes it’s a sign we’ve sacrificed, we’ve cared deeply, and we’ve loved until we feel wrung out.

I’m learning to take better care of myself. This seems to be something I have to remind myself to work on. My natural inclination is to pour it all out for my family, but then I find myself crippled with exhaustion, depleted, and not all that useful to anyone.

When I see you and I catch you mid-yawn, or your posture is stooped, or your eyes are unscored with dark shadows, I won’t speak the obvious. Instead, I’ll elect to ask how things are going, how I might help, or I may figure out a way to connect and empathize with you.

I won’t tell you that you look tired.

Because we’re both feeling it. Really, we all are. It just shows up more on some of us.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Splotchy Solution

Two rooms down, one to go. I’m in painting mode. When it came time to paint my youngest daughter’s room, my husband and I took a step back and let out a “Ruh-roh.” We bought the gallon of chipper blue paint before we thought about how we’d move the massive bunk bed in her room. With each move it has taken multiple men to haul that beast (and that’s before they put it together). Our heads spun as we proposed a few ideas to our daughter. Paint only one wall? Chevron stripes? It seemed every idea was quickly shot down.

Until . . . stencils.

I got excited, found one she loved, then went to work. When it comes to painting I’ve never been an obsessive perfectionist, but I wouldn’t consider myself sloppy either.

That’s why my heart sunk when I peeled off the first try.

Maybe it was the brush. Or I went to fast. Or I focused on making the color too dark.

But this is what showed up . . .

I then brainstormed ways I’d solve my solution to the original problem. Use the original paint and paint over my splotchy attempt? Fill it in and create a polka-dot wall? My brain began to hurt.

Enter kid.

She liked it. She really liked it.

Still, stubborn as I am, I wanted to prove I could paint the stencil on the wall the way it’s supposed to appear.

And this showed up . . .

 And she liked both. Something about the variety spoke to her. And you know what? I agree. I’m a fan of how it’s turning out.

Oftentimes in life what we believe to be mistakes end up being the exact opposite. Splotchy solutions have merit. Perspective reigns, creativity thrives, and open-mindedness is an excellent teacher.

Taking Time

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