30 June 2013

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with a Peaceful Path

As you may or may not know, my life is generally chaotic. There's been a lot going on in my personal life, and I've had some difficult decisions to make.

The good news is that today, I've come to a major decision about how to move forward with something, and I feel very much at peace about the path I've chosen.

Today I'm thankful for the incredible love and support I have in my family and friends, people who support my journey no matter where it takes me.

I don't know exactly what's to come in the future, but I know that where I'm headed is a good place, and that I'm strong enough to take this journey.

23 June 2013

Renew Your Spirit Sunday with Music

Today is a special day. This afternoon, I have the privilege to be in a choir performance celebrating a friend's 35 years in music ministry.

Music is a big part of my spiritual walk, and I am blessed to get to sing with Sean every week at church since he plays piano and organ at my home church. His music helps bring my heart to a quiet place for services, celebrate and praise, and sends me to a busy week with a spirit centered right where it needs to be. He may not know it, but Sean's ministry at church is important to me. I'm so thankful to be able to sing with him every week, and especially in the church choir.

Music is like that, isn't it? It has a way of touching souls, connecting people, and moving something in us that no other art form can. Music is special, and people who dedicate their lives to music--like Sean--are special, too.

In an article for the local paper, Sean mentioned that when he was little, an organist introduced him to the organ. She showed him how it worked and let him sit beside her. It was her patience and care in fostering curiosity that led to Sean pursuing the organ.

I would like to note that it's Sean who introduced my son to the organ. We were in church one Sunday, sitting close to the front on the organ side of the sanctuary, and Puck realized that the music he was hearing was coming from the organ pipes, but that Mr. Sean was making the music off to the side. He became completely entranced by the music.

After the service, while Sean was still at the organ, I took Puck up to show him, and explained that Mr. Sean played the keys and pedals, and the music came from the pipes. So Sean showed Puck how it worked, showed him how to adjust the volume, and told Puck that when he's tall enough to reach the pedals, he can learn, too.

I don't know if Puck is going to learn to play piano and organ or not. If he does, I'll make sure he knows that it's thanks to Mr. Sean that he started.

And in the meantime, we'll continue to share in Sean's ministry and celebrate with him.

Congratulations, Sean, and thank you for your beautiful ministry to the community.

20 June 2013

The fallacy of writer comparison

My fiction-writing career is not where I'd like it to be. I'm making progress on the collection, but from time to time I think about what I want to accomplish and how far I am from that, especially when I hear about other writers younger than me doing so much more.... I get a little disheartened. In the competitive world of the publishing industry, it's easy to compare yourself to others, isn't it?

There's a book I read for my day job that I think applies here. It's Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. The main message in the book is to secure your position in a "blue ocean" rather than a "red ocean." The red ocean is the industry you're in where companies compete fiercely for customer. The blue ocean, on the other hand, is taking your company to a new, uncharted space separate from your competitors.

The example given in the first pages of the book is Cirque du Soleil. In a dying market (the family circus), this company said, "We're not a family circus." They re-imagined this form of entertainment and have created a new market because of it. They didn't compete with Ringling Brothers or Barnum & Bailey. They had no competition at all. They were just Cirque du Soleil.

That's the mindset we need as writers. Yes, there is competition, particularly when you get into genre fiction. But my goal is to write a story that is outside of my genre. I want to have a story that can't really be compared with other stories because it's so different.

There have been many blog posts and articles I've read by agents, editors and writers that say you can tell an age-old story, but tell it in a way that makes it seem new. There are some who think that's all you can do, actually.

I took an independent study on personal mythmaking in college with my mentor. In it we discussed monomyth, and how some believe that all stories are based on this archetype. In that way, there are no new stories, and all stories have to be told in a way that makes them seem like they're not based on the monomyth. You can do this by jiggering Freytag's Pyramid a bit. (Chuck Wendig has an excellent post on story-telling. I encourage you to read it.)

When you figure out a new way to say something old, you're creating a blue ocean for your writing career. You're no longer competing with other writers who tell stories because their stories are so vastly different from yours.

That's a good position to be in, isn't it?

Okay, so that's my long-winded way of saying "Don't compare yourself to other writers." Here's the thing: everyone has a story to tell, but no one's story is the same. No one's path or experiences or life is the same, so what good does it do to compare yourself with someone else?

To use a racing metaphor, other writers aren't running the same race as you are. How can you compare someone running a 100-meter dash to someone running a marathon? That's what you're trying to do when you look at other writers and get down on yourself. I do it, too, and it's something I'm trying to remind myself doesn't matter.

Tell your story. Don't worry about anyone else. Swim in a blue ocean.

Happy scribbling.

04 June 2013

The Runaway Bunny

The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown is one of my favorite children's books. I read it to my children constantly and still get a little choked up when the baby bunny becomes a bird and the mama bunny becomes a tree.

I love the idea of the book: the baby bunny is loved, and mama bunny wants him to come home so much, that she will go after him and bring him home to her, no matter how far he goes. Puck and Tink, too, will know that they are so loved that they can always come home to me, no matter where they've been, what they've done, or who they are.

But the cheesy in me wants to take something from it for myself, too, and I've come to associate the book--and its message--with my writing life, and (specifically) the collection.

The correlation being that no matter what path my life takes, no matter what else I have going on, I can always "come home" to writing.

Here's the thing.

Writing doesn't care what else you've got going on. It doesn't care that things are tough (or easy), that you're struggling or succeeding, that you're dealing with drama or creating it. All that matters is that you show up at the page and put words on it. That you tell the story. Anything else is an excuse.

Regardless of what's going on in my life, I still manage to write. I may take a break for a while, but I always come back to writing. And, like coming home, it rejuvenates me, re-centers me and keeps me pushing through to the next lap.