At some point this afternoon I looked up from my work and discovered the clouds had cleared and the garden beckoned.
As I went out into the rain scent and blossom, I spied this little tree frog.
On a petal throne
A moment later, something red caught my eye.
A ladybug on a daisy
The bees moved too fast for my camera.
But they love the foxgloves.
It only took a moment to remind me of the wonder in a little space of our world.
A light went on (so to speak).
A connection I hadn’t thought of before fused in an unexpected way.
In April I was at the Western Washington SCBWI Conference. I attended Justin Chanda’s session on editing picture books. Justin Chanda is the vice president and publisher of a bunch of imprints at Simon and Schuster, and he edited, among many other books, Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett’s book, Battle Bunny, a book I happen to adore.
Justin Chanda was fantastic! Not only did he hand out actual manuscripts for three great picture books (I love, love, love models to work from), but he explained how he felt editing was a lot like directing a play.
This is when I had my connection.
During the month of April I was working on “Main Course,” my short comedy I wrote for the Orcas Island Ten Minute Playfest. I attended rehearsals as a very talented director worked with actors to create life from my script.
The results were much more awesome than I even imagined. I never grow tired of the magic which transforms words on a script to a live performance.
Stage Magic with Adam and Brian
Adam, Aaimee, and Brian
(Photos by Michael Armenia)
When Mr. Chanda made the director/editor connection, I could totally see this. The editor, like the director, coaxes and encourages the story along. As I considered the writing versus the finished picture book, I thought, perhaps, the artist is like the actors; the ones who make the story come to life.
Suddenly I could see what I do as a playwright in relation to what I could do as a picture book writer.
Playwright, director, actors: Performance
Writer, editor, artist: Book or story.
I love it when this happens!
Remember those who are willing to speak
those who inspire hope in others
and weave the threads of understanding
to connect our world.
Those are the people who inspire me.
Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
How many times can we wrestle past our doubts and try again?
This TED Talk on stress caught my attention today. I’ve been told by many well meaning friends and family members—even my doctor—that I’m too high strung and stressed out, and my stress will make me sick.
Yes, yes, I get it! Yet, some intuitive vibe told me certain kinds of stress have helped me. I couldn’t quite articulate what I meant until I saw this. Thank you Kelly McGonigal for giving me science to explain my vibe.
You see, when we believe we are feeling the stress because it’s helping us, we feel good and our body responds appropriately. It also makes us connect with others (the beautiful part). I learned long ago that sleeping through life wasn’t going to work, and though I’m a bundle of irrational fear, I jump in and make it happen—even if that meant stressing out.
The following thought is most likely universal for all writers when they face agents, editors, and their critique group. This is my brain talking:
I live in the world of this manuscript. I poured everything into this story. I’m pretty sure a piece of my heart is now missing. With that said, I’m willing to rip everything apart and start over again if it means making it better.
The past couple of years I’ve been more stressed out about my writing than I ever have been before, yet I’m also more excited. I’ve faced more disappointments and setbacks, more doubts and moments where I wonder what I’m even doing. The doubt drops away. I’m elated, I’m lost in the world on the page, and my ideas bounce around like those little rubber balls in a small room.
I recently read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
This book takes a scientific look at the habits we form, and it made me think about a few of my own habits, particularly writing.
I get up at five to write in the morning. I’m not a morning person (well, a 7 a.m. person, not a 5 a.m. person), yet I love having a quiet hour to crawl into my story. My dog interrupts me sometimes. Otherwise, I have my solitude—oh and that cup of coffee. . .
After reading Duhigg’s book, I think that first perfect hot cup of stovetop espresso is as much of a reward as my uninterrupted writing time. I don’t drink copious amounts of coffee, but the first cup is the best. Early morning hour writing = coffee. It sounds so unromantic, but if it helps me squeeze an extra meaningful writing hour in my busy day, I’ll take it.
Recently, my youngest son joined the middle school basketball team. It came as a bit of a surprise. Though we encourage exercise in our family, team sports hasn’t played a big role. Up until now, both my sons have been more interested in individual activities like parkour, weight lifting, swimming, and running. We’ve never even watched a professional sports game (no, not even the Super bowl).
I like basketball. It’s fast and furious. It requires skill and speed, but also, like many sports, it requires that in-the-moment/in-the-face approach. My son is very talented with defense (ahem, parental pride moment). He’s not afraid to get in the thick of things and keep the other team from scoring. Watching these boys focus is nothing short of amazing. As some of you might know, middle school is a weird time in life. Focus isn’t always part of the picture, so the intention and connection really stands out.
How it Works:
As writers we know stress is part of the game, and it will help us become better writers. We have to get out on the metaphorical court, run like mad and attempt to score over and over again. Our writing is a habit worth developing and cultivating, even if we have to bribe ourselves with a morning cup of steaming caffeine. Even if we have to remind ourselves over and over again that one day we will write something beautiful; our words will resonate with readers. A million setbacks and disappointments may be part of the picture, but so will the joy of creating and connecting.
Those quiet dreams start out as shimmers of possibility and blossom into a life worth living.
I know I often say how busy I am.
I am super busy right now. To give you an idea, a full schedule with my day job is when I teach four classes. Often I teach five.
Well, this fall I’m teaching six classes for four different universities.
The life of an adjunct . . . But, that’s another topic (too ugly for today).
Yes, I am busy.
Oddly enough, despite my lack of time, I’m jolting with creative energy.
While I’m finishing up a YA novel, I had an idea on how I can completely change the voice of a middle grade story I wrote long ago. I thought of a picture book story, and another ten minute play. I worked on some monologues for an upcoming show, drafted two articles, and and plotted out three new YA novels (I will need to choose one to start with).
I feel like I’m standing outside of myself looking in and wondering what happened. Where did all this creative energy come from? Why now when I don’t have time? Part of this is wonderful. Who wouldn’t want all of these cool writing vibes to play with? Yet, I’m frustrated as well. I would like to drop all six of my classes and run down the paths of all of these stories.
From where I stand, the scenery ahead in stunning.
Oh, I’m so sorry if you’re seeing advertisements on my blog. WordPress started adding them (without alerting me), and now I will have to pay extra to have them removed.
I’m not very happy with WordPress right now.
I’ve been busy, but here’s a quick note to remind everyone to celebrate Banned Books Week.
I’m going to read something about underpants.
Scientists are working on creating a warp drive.
“You don’t really understand this, do you?” my oldest son asks.
“Well, I understand that warp drive means you could go very, very fast in space.” See, I have watched enough Star Trek to understand.
“But, you don’t really understand.”
Okay, I can’t really wrap my brain around quantum thrusters, but I applaud the efforts. I understand the value of this speed and ease of travel in space.
I tell my son discussing imagery in the poetry of Emily Dickinson is a little like a warp drive. He sighs loudly.
This one is easy: A deeper understanding of a poem is like a journey through space.
When I was very young I thought I could be an airplane when I grew up. I’m not kidding. Even after flying in one, I still thought it was possible.
During my sixth year, when my family and I went on several trips across the country and to Ireland, I think it finally sunk in. I couldn’t be an airplane.
Yet, as a writer, I create worlds, characters, and stories. I transport readers to unique destinations and allow them to experience exciting adventures. Well, this is my goal . . .
See, I’m an airplane!
I need to create my own warp drive.