A few years ago I went to the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference. While there, I bought a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Why? Because more than four conference lecturers mentioned the book, I figured it would help me insert greater detail into my prose.
I went home.
I read the book.
I thought about the book (which, by the way, was very well written).
Tried to apply the information from the book.
Did the book make a difference in my writing? No.
What I found out after buying way too many books at conferences, is that very little written material will help you complete a novel.
What does work? Sit in the seat and write. Then sit in the seat and edit. Then send the writing out to be read. Then sit down and cut out the crappy parts and rewrite the scenes that don’t work and put in the details that truly need to be there. And how do you know what needs to be there? Your beta readers/writing group/folks who read the work you’ve brought them will graciously tell you.
Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. ~Psalm 116:7
If I could, I would do everything valuable in the calm quiet of the early morning. Devotions. Writing. Exercise. Even paying bills or cleaning. For me, there has always been, in the beauty of the sunrise, the power of hope. Before the day truly begins, I have hope for how the day will turn out.
I’ve battled anxiety for the better part of my adult life. I’ve never had to take medication, and I’ve never been prescribed anything, which is likely a blessing. Negative thinking, anxiety, depression…you can battle it back but you never really overcome it. It’s kind of like having asthma or bad allergies. You learn what to do to keep it from raging out of control. If you are wise, you avoid excess sugar and caffeine. If you are a believer, you connect to the God that controls everything and place your worries in His hands. You learn to keep yourself fit and to move a bit each day (dancing and running have been lifesavers for me).
I woke up this morning, and before I opened my eyes, the negative thoughts were there. Early morning. Before the day truly started. So, I got up and got myself downstairs and I connected with the Lord. And that’s where I got today’s scripture. The words of the Bible speak to me…and today’s scripture reminded me that the Lord has been good to me. He is there for me. In the morning time, and always.
I am no better, but at least I am different. ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau
This week I saw a post on TheRoot.com, about an author named Kyra Davis who has an e-book hit with a series called “Just One Night”. The series is supposed to be the next “Fifty Shades of Grey”, and the hit is optioned for television. Fifty Shades of Grey started online, grew in massive appeal, became a dollar-churning hit and now the author is reaping the benefits.
Now, in all fairness, I have not read any of Ms. Davis writing work, so I can’t comment on the quality of her writing. In the 80s, Jackie Collins sold a new bestseller each year and all her writing was filled with sex. About eight years ago, the writer Zane came on the scene and became an “overnight” success with her sizzling novels. Her work was optioned to Showtime for a…
I’m an unpublished writer, so of course I have some opinions on this subject.
For once and for all and for everyone to understand…having a talent, or even being a talented artist, is not directly connected to becoming a star.
Why? Well, for one, talent is relatively common. I’ve seen it in my family for years. Two of my cousins were extremely talented singers with voices better than Mary J. Blige. One male cousin is a phenomenal drummer. Two of my friends are laugh out loud funny, with enough wit and intelligence to be actual comedians. My own mother is such a great organizer and home stager I’ve often wondered why she didn’t have her own TV show on Bravo or TLC. People are born with gifts for this or that. They just are. Sometimes its a great brain or athletic ability, or musical chops, or whatever. Take a moment and think about your own collection of family and friends…there’s likely some talent there. But all of the folks I just mentioned are regular people, they aren’t famous.
Artists? Umm, there’s a lot of us out here. Poets. Novelists. Painters. Cartoonists. You name it. And most of us work regular jobs in computers or social work or medicine or what have you. Mostly because successful careers in the arts tend to be scarce and because we like to eat…we use the other areas of our brains and get jobs in different fields. Like technical writing (smile).
Last year I was blown away by the documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom”. I’m a music addict and this was a documentary about background singers. You know, the voices behind the hit songs. These women and men, we’ve heard them on every major hit song in recent history. Their voices are the ones we sang with on Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”, and through every single song on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. And I can’t forget The Blossoms and Darlene Love, who sang with everyone from Elvis to Tom Jones to Phil Spector and Frank Sinatra. They even sang the chorus on the “Monster Mash”. All of them…incredible singers. Not a missed note anywhere. They should have been as famous as the people they sang with. But they weren’t.
And then there was Merry Clayton. Merry Clayton sang that blow-you-out-the-water-and-shoot-you-into-the-sky part on “Gimme Shelter”. Merry sang just as good if not better than Aretha Franklin. But stardom never came her way. Sure, people in the music world like Ray Charles and Joe Cocker and Carole King, they all knew who she was and she sang with all of them. She gave all her talent and emotion to singing, and when she launched out on a solo career…it tanked. Not for lack of talent. Not even for lack of commitment. I’ve never been one to believe in luck or fate or anything like that…but after I heard her story…I just couldn’t help thinking that talent can sometimes be a curse. What happens when you have the ability to produce art as well as the next person, but your career says otherwise?
Which brings me back to writing…of course. The one thing Merry’s story taught me is that talent does not and never will guarantee money, fame, or accolades. Sometimes it is what it is. Though I’m so glad that the documentary captured Merry’s story and put a face and name to the voice we’ve heard so much on the radio.
I can write. And it’s my decision to keep writing and, God willing, use my skills to tell stories that glorify the God that I serve. Which likely means I may end up as the Merry Clayton of the writing world. Where no one knows my name or that I spent a large portion of my life writing. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll write something that resonates in another person’s soul and changes their outlook on life.
If I can ever write a sentence as good as Merry Clayton’s riff in “Gimme Shelter”…I think I’ll take that.
That title is a joke. I absolutely need a vacation in the worst way. So much so I cringe when I read my Facebook seeing pictures of everyone going everywhere sipping on tall frosty fruity drinks having the time of their lives. Me? I’m on the job…writing…getting my kids everywhere imaginable, and having a lot of growth experiences.
But its all good.
Anyway, because my days are fairly routine, I have been writing (YES) and researching (ALRIGHT) and putting in a good amount of back story for my next set of characters (WHOO HOO!). I am now biased because mentally, I’ve left my previous characters in the dust and don’t really care one whit about them because that book is done and I’ve moved on. What I’ve found is that I can clearly see where I was when I wrote that novel, and where I am now is WAY different. I’m embracing the subject matter differently. I’ve started using Scrivener (WOW) and it actually helps me to craft my ideas in a more organized fashion. I feel like more of an author when I use it. I take the writing seriously.
And should I introduce you to the three lady leads of the next book? They are just dying to meet you? Nah…I’ll put that in the next blog post. Until then…God loves you…keep that with you always…
If someone had told me that I’d reach a point in the midst of raising a family where I wanted to throw up my hands, quit everything, and run off and be homeless in Hawaii, I’d have told them they were crazy.
So…umm…how much are flights to Honolulu.
Just kidding…kind of…
Alright, life is busy, no secret about that. I’m the chief ringleader for three kids during a hot and wild summer. In the middle, I’m still trying to get in some writing. Which brings me back to the blog :-)
Blogging isn’t frivolous. Actually, its a great way to get back to writing. It forces me to get the words out of my head and onto paper. Its no secret that I read a lot. I complete at least 2 books a week, and that’s on a slow week. I’ve been a speed reader since my teens, so my nightstand holds at least 5 books from the library. I speed through them, only lingering on the ones that really capture my interest. But last night, in the library, it occurred to me that I need to spend less time putting words into my head and more time getting them out.
Hence my return…ahem…to the blog.
I’m going to try to blog at least 3 times a week, for the rest of the season. Okay, maybe some of the posts won’t be all that great. I know they won’t. But I am happily looking forward to getting the words out. And maybe I’ll talk a little bit about my new novel. And maybe I’ll spew out my frustrations about tinkering around on the novel that seems to live forever on my Macbook.
In any event…I’m getting back into the pool. Writing. It feels good!
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, godmothers, and mothers at heart.
I love Mother’s Day. It’s probably the one day a year when I allow myself to sit back and be completely selfish about my time. My kids bring me breakfast. My husband brings me coffee. The family allows me to go to early morning worship service so that I can be back in my bedroom sipping gourmet coffee and reading the paper by no later than 9:30am. I get my choice of lunch and dinner. They spoil me. I love it. Its nirvana.
And since I love top ten lists…here’s the top ten list of things I do not do on Mother’s Day:
1. Pick up clothes, towels, or children off the floor. They can all stay there until Monday.
2. Do dishes, sweep, or mop floors. Nope. They can all stay dirty.
3. Put away clothing, shop for clothing, mend clothing. While we can’t go around naked…I assure you that everyone has enough clean clothes or at least fuzzy robes to put on during the day.
4. COOK! Enough said.
5. Sign permission slips, homework pages, test pages, sports forms, recital picture order forms…or ANYTHING else the kids want to shove at me along with a Sharpie and ask me to SIGN!!
6. Pick up family members and drive them back and forth to any destination.
7. Count calories. I am a Mom. This is not a day to worry about what I weigh. This is a day to celebrate that I got to be a MOM!
8. Yell at my kids. I love them too much. Sure, that sopping wet towel can stay on the bathroom floor, I won’t move it or yell about it…’til tomorrow.
9. Worry about my kids, their future, or how the world is going. It’s all in the hands of God anyway.
10. Get tired of how much my husband calls me sweetie/cookie/honey/baby and tells me he’s proud of me for being the kids’ mom.
Part of being a hardworking mom is that much of what we do goes unnoticed. Your family and friends can take for granted that your house is always clean because they don’t think about the amount of time you take cleaning it. When you shepherd a group of kids day in and day out, you can seem like a nag (where’s your homework…pick up this room…choose the right friends). But a mother’s role as teacher and guide is probably her biggest role. When done well, you’ve succeeded in producing loving, hardworking, kind, and respectful human beings who care about their neighbors and the state of the world.
I spend a great deal of time with the three youngsters God has blessed me with. I lovingly call them Harvard, Sweetie, and Crazy. And somewhere along the line I started to pray for them more than I pray for myself. This world is not an easy place, and the older they are, the closer they are to finding that out. Raising them with my husband is not an effortless task, but it has its own rewards.
And…there are days when I sit back and review my time as a mother and look at the good and the bad and know I’m not perfect. But my children are kind. They are loving. They are respectful. They read and write well. And they love me. And on this day, I appreciate the fact that they’ve given me an opportunity to be their mother.