How do I?

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I have this idea for ____, but I don’t know how to get started.

Fill in the blank. What word comes to mind? Book? Story? Song? Magazine article?

I get this question all the time. As a people cheerleader, let me offer you a bit of advice. Realize you are not alone. Everyone who has ever felt the passion to create feels both the spark and the hesitation. It’s up to you, however, to decide how serious you are about your “idea.”

I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer—or could be a writer—until my college professor asked to publish one of my papers in a professional journal. Even then, it wasn’t until years later that I started pursuing writing. Even then, it wasn’t until NOW that I finally realized that, yes, that idea to write CAN become a reality.

But it won’t be easy. Then again, nobody ever said it would be easy.

If you are REALLY serious about idea, read the Ten Rules for Getting Started and FOLLOW them.

  1. Don’t dwell on things that are not meant to be. Why bother talking about your idea if you aren’t serious about pursuing it? Almost everyone has dreamed of getting  rich from writing the great American novel, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make it happen. This dream doesn’t come easy.
  2. Sacrifice is a real word, by the way.  We can all talk about writing, but bottom line, we have to do it. The task is not as easy as dreamers make it out to be. Only those who want it badly enough will finish what they start.
  3. Accept the fact that your first attempt is what it is—a first attempt. You may show potential, but still have a lot to learn. There is no room for arrogance for beginners. I have witnessed novices slam  seasoned writers for giving them an honest critique. Mission to write? Terminated. No one wants to help a know It all.
  4. Once you have accepted the fact you have a lot to learn, go learn! Start by reading EVERYTHING. Pay attention to the style. Don’t read for entertainment. Read to fill your mind with thoughts that may someday inspire you.
  5. Do not expect favors. Your chances of an editor handing you a publishing contract as a favor are about the same odds as Ellen or Oprah giving you a million bucks. Expect to pay your dues.
  6. Play up. When I played softball, I had the opportunity to play on the older girls’ team. What’s so important about that? I had to either keep up or sit on the bench. I certainly was not the star, but I had to opportunity to learn from people better than I was.
  7. Accept the fact that if you don’t write you will probably never be fully happy. Writers simply cannot NOT write. Recognize your passion and find ways to satisfy it.
  8. Start small. I hear many beginners complain about not getting paid. Again, expect to pay your dues before you can cash in on your talent. Your paycheck is called a BYLINE, your name in print by what you have written.
  9. Take it to the next level. There will come a time when, YES, you need to leave behind the free writing gigs. Otherwise, you will put all your time into efforts that will not pay off. Once you have a few clips (samples of your writing), you can move on to paying jobs.
  10. Pray. If it is meant to be, if it is your passion, if you cannot NOT do it, then God probably put the desire in your heart. Listen for answers, and then do what you have to do.

TODAY’S CHALLENGE
Be honest with yourself. If this idea is real, do something about it. If not, you don’t want to make the necessary sacrifices, move on to another hobby.

WORDS OF WISDOM
Follow your heart and raise your standards, or you’ll never get what you truly want or need.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

MUSIC NOTES

So give it your best, and don’t worry about what some may say / Follow your dreams. It’s really all that you can do. / And give it your best and remember that life is what you choose / Go on, follow your dreams and do it, follow your dreams and do it. / Follow your dreams and do what you love to do.  ~  “Follow Your Dreams” by Poco

LOOK AND SEE CYBER SERENDIPITEE
http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/02/how-to-get-published/

FINAL THOUGHT

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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

Five words every writer should use

Don’t let the title fool you. I’m not talking using the words in your writing. I’m talking using the words as you are writing. I lived in the Boro this summer, almost quite literally, and picked up some great wisdom from my graduate classes. I thought I’d share.

Curiosity
I loved my literacy class. Felt right at home in there. The vibes among the professor, the doctoral students, and the outcast, me, were all in sync. My professor opened my eyes to one word that makes all the difference when it comes to learning—curiosity. We teachers can’t teach natural curiosity. We can inspire and encourage, but the really great learners have a natural curiosity that drives them toward answers. So writers, let loose your curiosity and feel free to explore. I love it. I could spend hours researching online. I could spend hours traveling across country to visit special places. I could spend hours reading or hours talking to people who have their own natural curiosity.

Conceptual metaphors
Most entry level English students know what a metaphor is. It’s like a simile—without the like. He is a dog. She is a social butterfly. The guy who sits next to me in class is a vulture. Conceptual metaphors exist on a more subliminal level. Take the novel Heart of Darkness, for example. The novel itself expresses a theme of uncertainty or ambiguity. The author uses numerous vague words throughout the novel to create a sense of dimness. The metaphor runs through the entire work and adds a deeper level of meaning to the story. I like using conceptual metaphors in songs. Crafting the conceptual metaphor is a great mental work out for every writer.

Liminality
Speaking of ambiguity, here’s a word that was foreign to me until I stepped into my stylistics class. Liminality literally refers to a state of ambiguity, that feeling of being stuck in the middle, on the threshold, too far to turn back, too close not to keep going. Liminality is a vital element of YA fiction. The characters find them in a state of liminality as they cope with transcending from adolescence into adulthood. Not an easy place to be. I suppose teen angst is a by-product of liminality. But liminality isn’t just limited to teens. Adults find themselves there too. We change every day. Who I am today is not who I was yesterday. Adults find themselves stuck in the middle of caring for the children and caring for their aging parents. It’s hard watching your parent grow old. The inner turmoil that comes with change creates a sense of liminality. Liminality creates tension. Tension keeps the reader turning the pages.

Limerence
I picked up this word totally by accident. Some might say by fortunate discovery, ah, serendipity. Actually, I was writing a paper on liminality and clicked on the wrong term as I Googled. But the word limerence is quite similar to liminality, but it very specificially deals with romance. So romance writers take note. You probably already know this, but now you’ll know why your writing techniques work. It’s a psychological thing. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov came up with the term. Limerence refers to a romantic state of mind that occurs when one person is so attracted to another that she or he becomes obsessed with the need for reciprocal feelings. When these feelings are not reciprocated, the limerence goes away. Limerence can develop into true love. Or not. The concept is worth researching if you are writing about relationships. Human beings are weird, obsessive, sensitive, emotional, dramatic creatures. When one of these creatures suffer from limerence, a story naturally evolves. And limerence involves tension, lots and lots of tension, again a key ingredient in what makes a novel a success.

Serendipity
Of course, I had to include my favorite word. But writers beware. Too much serendipity in novel makes the work unbelievable. Having the right people or tools to magically show up just when they are needed to solve a problem seems a bit unrealistic. Serendipty, of course, is a happy accident, something someone discovers without looking for it. Sometimes you can search your entire life for the answer to a question, and then almost miraculously when you finally give up looking, you stumble across what you’ve been looking for. A happy accident? Happy, yes. Accident? I don’t think so. God orchestrates everything. I believe in divine appointments. I believe in answered prayers. I believe in miracles. He knows our hearts desires, especially when we’ve honored Him. So open your eyes, and roll with the serendipity when you find yourself face to face with it.

So, folks, it’s your turn to get to work. Share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear what you think  every writer needs to use—or know.