Conundrum of creativity

creative life

A conundrum, dear friends, is a dilemma, or in more complicated terms, a “paradoxical insoluble,” a  “logical postulation that evades resolution.” I’ve been evading resolution as long as I can remember. A conundrum is what I am and a conundrum forever I shall be.

So may it be with you.

I can’t help but think of Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, “Girl,” when I think about my life. “Girl” is a very long monologue that is a very short story, and while it seems to be from the mother’s point of view, I can hear Girl’s voice, speaking the words like her mama and seeing herself as she thinks her mama sees her.

Do all people, especially creative people, in moments of doubt, see themselves like that? Like characters in somebody’s else’s story? Reading the prescribed script? Playing the expected role?

Like Girl, I know the rules, when to do what and where. But I don’t hear my voice. I hear somebody else’s monologue. Don’t sing benna. Don’t play like a boy. Don’t pick people’s flowers.

There’s a part of me that wants to push past my fears to break the rules and to spit into the wind. But my fears won’t let me. Thus, resolution I can never find.

When my daddy was a little boy, his dog, a family pet, turned on him. Turns out, the dog had rabies, and the little boy who became my father had to go through rounds of shots in his stomach. And because of that bad experience, both my daddy and my mama warned me about ALL the dangers in the world.

And I listened, taking every precaution to avoid ANYTHING that could cause me harm.

I continue to listen. I’m very, very cautious. But creative people have a spirit within them that’s like a tornado. How can you tell the wind not to roar? The sun not to shine? The flowers not to bloom?

I grew up on the outskirts of town near a stock market where animals were bought and sold. My greatest desire as a little kid was to own a horse, and when one escaped from the market, I believed destiny had brought it to my door, or in this case, my backyard.

I remember it so well. My mama was literally hiding behind a tarnished picket fence, holding back the neighbor boy she used to babysit, and screaming at me, “Get back! Stay away!” And I was trying to catch it. I saw no dangers, just a horse.

Even though they mean well, sometimes there are people in our lives who warn us to get back or to stay away from the very thing God made us to be. I’m not saying we should trust our impulses. I’m saying we needed to lean on our instincts and discernment.

So, dear creative people, especially those of you who have a heart that desperately desires to use your talents for a greater purpose, here are words of encouragement.YOU are a writer, a painter, a musician, or a poet, you CREATE. Put down the coloring book and connect the dots, and find yourself fresh canvas, a blank sheet of paper, or a new day, fresh with morning dew. Then do what you do. Don’t be afraid.

I am a teacher, and I am a learner. And I have spent most of my life learning the rules and following them. Here is what I know.

  • You have to know the rules and master them before you break them. That goes for writing fiction, non-fiction, or song. A novice who marches into the industry with a first-attempt “masterpiece” that breaks all the rules will get NOWHERE. Fact is, you have to pay your dues, earn some respect. Bottom line–leave the arrogance at the door and slip into your humility. You’re going to need it if you’re going to fulfill your heart’s desire.
  • Once you truly know your skill, then you can try something new. Then, and only then, should you attempt to color outside the lines or to change the rhyme scheme. Choose your own metaphor here. You’re the artist. You know what works for you.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Once you learn the skill and pay your dues, let go of your fear and try something new. This is the part where you have to hush the monologue in your mind so you can hear your own voice. You may fail miserably, but you may succeed.

Isn’t it worth taking a chance?

WORDS OF WISDOM
The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but for deliverance from fear.  ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

MUSIC NOTES
“I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean. Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens. Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance. And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance.” ~ “I Hope You Dance,” recorded by Lee Ann Womack, written by Mark D. Sanders and Tia Sillers

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://kayedacus.com/2010/06/17/writing-tip-10-when-you-need-a-kick-in-the-pants/

FINAL THOUGHT

SPONTANEITY

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Writer dare or truth

TRUTH

I have the pleasure of teaching a creative writing class at my school, and every day I’m thankful, so thankful, I get to follow my passion, my creativity. Sometimes, like tonight, I deliberately do the same assignment I give my students.

We’re working out of Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write. During one of her Initiation Exercises, she asks the readers to complete the following sentence ten times.

A writer is _______.

Cameron then asks the reader to follow up with an explanation, a positive spin to what some writers could have initially considered to be a negative.

For example, one person might say, “A writer is broke.” An optimistic outlook would point out that the writer spends her money on conference fees and ink cartridges so that there’s no money left over for those delectable, calorie-laden pastries, available wherever $5 cups of coffee are sold, pastries like scones and cupcakes and pumpkin bread and donuts that add to the waistline and deplete the wallet.

I’m taking the challenge, but with a twist. I’m calling it Truth or Dare, the (unpublished, totally unknown) Writer Truth or Dare, only backwards.

A writer dares to be adventurous.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer’s idea of adventure is going to a workshop by herself for the first time. She walks into a large convention room for the opening mixer and picks up a fancy dessert and drink and sits down at a table with a group of people who have been congregating at this particular conference for the last decade. These people are so excited to see one another again that they don’t notice the outsider, that is, until she gets up to leave. Then the other people at the table assume she is part of the help, and they hand her their dirty dishes.

A writer dares to write 1,500 words a day, no excuses.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer writes 1,500 words a day…and then erases them one by one even though she has been taught to write first, edit later. It’s not easy being a perfectionist. Has anybody other than God ever gotten it right the first time?

A writer dares to take on every interview, every guest blog, every question to promote her book.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer sits down with her favorite group of busybodies and prepares to answer their questions and to listen to their free advice:

“Your Johnny told my Johnny that he had to eat another supper out of a fast food bag last night. In my house, we consider missing a deadline if we’re all not sitting down at the dinner table at five. Just what do you consider a priority at your house? Maybe you should put away your little hobby for a little while and focus on what really matters.”

(Never mind that she has worked all day at a full time job, delivered all the children to their dance lessons, football practices, and scout meetings on time, and saved up enough extra cash to treat the kids once a month to their favorite happy meal so she can finish another chapter.)

A writer dares to write every opportunity she gets.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer will wash the dishes, wash the laundry, wash the car, and wash the dog before she writes one word because she is afraid that one word will be the wrong word. She will also sweep, dust, and mop. And, yes, she will do windows if it means she can procrastinate twenty more minutes.

A writer dares to flaunt her glamorous writing lifestyle, which may or may not include sharing a cup of coffee with Jan Karon, Karen Kingsbury, or Kaye Dacus.

THE TRUTH: The unpublished, totally unknown, downright desperate writer dares to flaunt even the most pathetic detail of her “glamorous” writing lifestyle, especially after she has attended a big writer’s conference:

“I just made my first elevator pitch!”

“No, it wasn’t with an agent…it was with Terri Blackstock’s housekeeper.”

“What? How do I know that was her housekeeper? I was watching her room to see if I could catch a glimpse of Terri Blackstock.”

“No, I do not consider that stalking. I call it research and investigation. Anyway, I think the housekeeper liked it. She smiled a lot…before she ran out the door.”

Monday Mentor: Kaye Dacus

Having just returned from the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers (MTCW) conference in Bellevue this week, I’ll have to admit I’m pumped about all the information I gleaned from this conference. I’m just about to set sail on the most intense writing adventure of my life, two back-to-back conferences, one in Indianapolis (ACFW) and the other here at home in Nashville (Midsouth SCBWI). I signed up for these conferences totally ignorant of what to expect. I am a newbie, afterall. However, after attending (and joining) the MTCW group, I feel much more sure of what I need to do to prepare. I’m not there yet, but I now have a very clear picture of what I’m aiming for.

Kaye Dacus

This week’s Monday Mentor is Kaye Dacus. Kaye is an accomplished writer, an experienced editor and the current president and co-founder of the MTCW. She is, in her own words, a woman whose life is dedicated to “hope, humor and happily ever afters.” I am especially grateful for Kaye’s dedication to make the MTCW conference a wonderful success. I also appreciate her taking the time to visit SerendipiTeeBlog.

Just who is the REAL Kaye Dacus?

I’m the daughter of Mike & Judy Dacus; sister of Michelle Dacus Lesley; aunt to Josh, Caleb, Michaela, Jordan, Benjamin and Jacob; and granddaughter of Crawford & Julia (Caylor) McLellan and W.C. and Edith (Bradley) Dacus—and cousin to a bunch of people!

I’m the author of humorous, hope-filled contemporary and historical romance novels with Barbour Books and Harvest House Publishers. I served as an officer with American Christian Fiction Writers from 2003–2005, and have served as president of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers since 2006. Even though I write romance novels, I love action movies and football and am not afraid to admit that I’ve never been kissed!

If we look closely, I believe we might catch a glimpse of your super woman cape. You seem to have found the right touch for writing books that readers can’t wait to read. You’ve had two books come out this summer. Please give us a taste of what’s waiting for us.

Ransome’s Crossing is the second book in the Ransome Trilogy from Harvest House publishers. Charlotte Ransome, desperate to reach Jamaica to see her secret fiancé, disguises herself as a midshipman for a convoy led by her brother, Captain William Ransome. Meanwhile, William and his new bride, Julia, face the rough swells of the sea and of marriage as they try to adjust to life together. When yellow fever befalls Charlotte and her identity is discovered, she begs first officer, Ned Cochran, and Julia to keep her presence and illness from her brother. But could this secret create insurmountable waves between Julia and William? And will Ned’s tender care of Charlotte change the tide of her affections forever?

 

Love Remains is the first book in a new contemporary series, The Matchmakers, with Barbour Books. Every grandmother wants to see her grandchildren happy, especially when it comes to their love lives. Join five active senior ladies—and one gentleman—who take a great interest in the lives and loves of their single grandchildren and become The Matchmakers. Zarah Mitchell and Bobby Patterson become the first focus of meddling grandmothers when he moves back to Nashville to work for the Tennessee Criminal Investigations Unit. Will Zarah be able to forgive the man who years ago chose a military career over her—especially when she learns he is investigating the historic preservation agency for which she works?

 What do you believe is the greatest conflict writers face today (especially writers who do not want to compromise their faith)? How do you believe they can overcome these obstacles?

I think the greatest conflict for most believers who are novelists is a conflict of reconciling the business side of the industry with what they believe is a personal ministry through writing. Publishing houses, whether publishing Christian fiction or general-market fiction, are in business to make money. Many believers feel they are called to write fiction as a way of ministering to or evangelizing others—and the lose sight of the fact that publishing houses aren’t there to support their ministry, but to publish books and make a profit from them so that they can continue to publish more books.

The best way to overcome this is to keep everything in perspective. If God has truly called a writer to write, then God will determine how that writing is to be used for His glory. We have to remain open to the possibility that, while He may have called us to write, He may not be calling us to be published—or to be published within our own timeframe. We just have to keep faithfully doing the work He’s called us to do and let Him handle what’s out of our control.

Why do you write?

My heart is, as it has been for more than twenty years, focused on writing light-hearted romances—romances that cast a ray of hope into the lives of people who’ve been told their situation in life is hopeless. I like writing characters who represent a growing segment of the population that seems to be increasingly left out in Christian circles: women in their late-twenties, thirties, and early-forties (and even older) who have never been married and who want to be loved and accepted for who they are, not pigeon-holed into a category, labeled, or, as happens most often, shoved to the side and ignored/forgotten about by their churches, coworkers, or even friends and family. I’m writing to the women who, like me, expected to be married before they turned twenty-five (-six, -seven, -eight . . .), but who may find themselves now in their mid- to late-thirties or forties and have never even had a date or meaningful relationship.

I’m writing for them (me, actually) so we can hang on to the hope of finding a well-adjusted, loving, marriage-minded Christian man out there somewhere and having a “happily ever after” ending with him (with the hope that he may be closer than we realize). I’m writing for the woman who, like me, feels most alone when she goes to church and sees all the married/engaged couples and families sitting together; who has to endure the family-focused activities, Bible studies, Sunday school lessons, and sermons (if you’ve never noticed, start keeping track of how often your pastor talks about families and/or marriage); who begins to feel it isn’t just the church that has pushed her aside and forgotten about her, but that maybe God has too.

How do you find joy in your creative journey?

Because I’m single and I write romance, the most fun part of writing for me is falling in love right along with my characters. It’s that fantasy of what could be, and what I hope God will one day bring into my own life.

Everybody has misadventures on the road to success. What is one of the wackiest things you’ve ever done to find your fifteen minutes of fame?

Hmmm . . . I’m one of those people who lives in a perpetual state of being anxious that I’m going to embarrass myself, so I try to avoid situations like that. I guess I’d have to say that the closest I’ve come to anything like this was when I got up in front of 500+ people at the 2008 ACFW national conference to give a devotional and told everyone that I was stalking James Scott Bell.

What is the best advice you can give a writer just getting started?

Above all else, finish your first draft. Spend more time working on your story—on developing the depth and breadth of your plot and characters—than on anything else. It’s less important to have a trunk full of rejections than it is to have a great story that will catch the eye of your dream editor/agent. And don’t rest on just one or two completed manuscripts. Once you send something out, start writing your next novel—and be planning the one after that. The best way to prepare for being a multi-published novelist is to write multiple manuscripts before you ever sign that first contract.

Please answer the question I didn’t ask but that you wish I did.

My great-grandfather was a multi-published author. John Caylor, Sr., held degrees from Howard College (now Samford University), Oklahoma Baptist University, the University of Alabama, and was awarded the Doctor of Divinity degree from Louisiana College. He served as Editorial Secretary of the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he was editor of Home Missions magazine, which, at the time, had a circulation of 175,000. He was listed in “Who’s Who” in America, and was a much-beloved pastor. Amongst his published titles were America Needs God, In Evangeline’s Country, A Path of Light, Ways of Witnessing, and, my personal favorite, The Great “I am’s” of Jesus (published in 1957 by Zondervan). Unfortunately, DeeDaddy died of cancer several years before I was born. But I’m pretty sure it would have made him proud to know that I’m (sort of) following in his footsteps.

Finally, please leave us with your favorite Bible verse, inspirational quote or song lyric. Tell us what it means to you.

My favorite passage is Hebrews 12:1-3:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NASB)

To me, this is my Christian journey in a nutshell—I wouldn’t be anywhere if it weren’t for those who’ve gone before me, who now surround me, and who will come after me; I must persevere in the tasks God has set before me—and I can do so only by living on faith in Jesus, who endured so much more than I will ever be asked to go through.

If you want to be a writer and are ready to take the first steps, you absolutely MUST begin your journey with a visit to Kaye’s website. She has a passion to unselfishly encourage beginning writers (like me). I can tell you first-hand that when I made up my mind to become serious about honing my writing craft,  I visited Kaye’s blog and found just what I needed to give me a clear understanding of the expectations of a serious writer. 

http://kayedacus.com/

I also highly recommend the Middle Tennessee Christian Writers group, which meets every second Saturday of the month in Nashville, Tennessee. If you live in the Middle Tennessee area, you should consider a visit. You’ll meet wonderful people who share your passion for writing and your love for Jesus Christ. 

http://mtcw.wordpress.com/