Writers’ Wednesday

Madeleine L’Engle on Writing

One of my long-time favorite authors–going back four decades now!–and writing mentor (via her written words) always has such sage advice for writers. In fact an article titled “Words of Wisdom” in the June 2002 edition of The Writer was information collected and reprinted from the book I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog–Madeleine L’Engle: Herself–Reflections on a Writing Life (published the previous year). Here is a small excerpt of her advice to writers taken from that article. I think it is timeless and spot on. Not that I always follow it, but it’s great to aim for!

Three Recommendations

Read at least an hour a day. I try to read something I feel I ought to read for most of the time and then for a little bit of the time I read something just for sheer fun. [I do just the opposite these days, although for a long time it was the reverse.] Fun reading is important, and I think we underestimate reading for fun…

Part of your technique of writing is built by writing, and with this you should also have fun. I do think that keeping an honest, unpublishable journal is helpful. Include what you are thinking, what you are feeling, what you are responding to. Include what you are angry about that you heard on the news. Don’t talk about the news in terms of politics but in terms of your own life. What does this mean to you?

Write every day.

 

 

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Writers’ Wednesday

I’d like to try featuring some regular posts about writing, writers, and perhaps even my own experience with working on crawling out from under my shell as a writer. So today is my first plunge into this venture. Join me as we explore together something that, I hope, will be of interest to those of us who are newer to this craft. Those of you who are more experienced are encouraged to fill the com box with your own inspiration, tips, resources, etc. Since there is so much written about writing I know I could just share favorite authors on writing, websites, and writing services but what I’d like to do is go beyond that, although I’m sure I’ll include a fair share of them along the way. Here we go!

I’d like to start with sharing a post from a wonderful author, blogger, and generally amazing online influence on me who has been an enormous inspiration to me long before I began blogging but was longing to do some kind of writing other than journaling. It didn’t hurt that during the years I homeschooled our approach to learning was so similar. I always wished she lived near me so I could meet her in person—still do!—because I felt we had so much in common. The versatile woman I speak of is none other than Karen Edmisten, a convert to Christianity (eventually Roman Catholic) from atheism, who has multiple book credits, has written for magazines, and maintains a unique online presence–plus she loves naps, as do I (an added bonus, in my opinion).

The story of how she came to find her own writing vocation can be found here:

http://karenedmisten.blogspot.com/2008/09/vocation-surrender-and-writing.html

I’ve reread it multiple times since first seeing it and printing it out for my own personal motivation to push past my fears about pursuing writing. But although I set up a blog domain, it took me until 2011 to overcome my anxiety about writing for anyone’s eyes other than my journal’s, even though I had published an article in a small magazine for the homeschool community in 1995, despite not yet having any children (the article being on infertility). In the intervening years, my chronic anxiety levels had become amped up and it wasn’t until the past few years or so that I was diagnosed with mood disorders, which explained, in part, the difficulty I was having with my writing (or lack of it, other than in fits and starts).

In my case, I think the biggest problem was I always secretly wanted to write fiction but never felt I was creative enough to do so, so much so that even when I would get something down on paper it started to overwhelm me almost instantly and I gave it up almost as soon as I started. Non-fiction is another matter. I can gab on my blog almost as easily as I can rant (my son’s favorite term for when I speak at length about any topic). Then one day it finally occurred to me: why am I trying to mentally think of myself only as a writer if: a) I write fiction, and b) I get published? I owe my release from that self-prison to Marshall J. Cook, author of Freeing Your Creativity: A Writer’s Guide—How to write more and better than you ever thought you could.

http://www.amazon.com/Freeing-Your-Creativity-PAPERBACK-PRINTING/dp/0898796644/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1423692014&sr=8-2&keywords=freeing+your+creativity

 

This quote of his from that very book is what finally liberated me:

“Not all writing has a large audience—or any audience at all. We write because we want to, because we need to, even because we have to. We write for what the process of writing can do for us and to us. For some of us, writing is as much a part of life—and as necessary—as breathing.”

Now I just try and follow the old adage, “Write what you know.”

For what it’s worth, the “Coach” (Marshall’s nickname) maintains a fun, contributor-friendly monthly newsletter for writers. I have found it a refreshingly unstuffy e-zine that always leaves me pondering both serious matters as well as usually laughing so hard it results in some level of inconvenience; a small price to pay for inspiration. You can find it here, including back issues:

http://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/writing/extra-innings/

So, if you also are a writer—and if you write then you are, whether or not it’s for anyone else’s eyes—what is holding you back from taking the next step in developing your craft? Or if you’ve already done that, it would be great to hear what helped you get over that hump.

Until next time…fellow writing nerds, keep writing if you want to keep breathing (not really, but it sounded cool!).

Wonderful new blog I recommend

http://beckismswithasideofbacon.blogspot.com/

If you like to laugh, cry, and live for the Lord and your life has been and continues to be anything but perfect, join Beckie on her quest to do just the same, while keeping a handy supply of bacon on hand to make everything better!

Start your year off right with special attention to the fourth paragraph of her most recent post:

http://beckismswithasideofbacon.blogspot.com/2014/12/all-i-want-for-christmas-is.html

We all need more Beckies in our lives and I’m glad to have her in mine. I didn’t know she liked to write or had a blog as our conversation in her workplace didn’t usually allow for more than the smallest of small talk, and many times no doubt both us were probably depressed simultaneously. But then a mutual friend told me about her blog and I checked it out and I was hooked. Beckie is a wonderful conveyor of life experiences through the written word and points us to The Word to help keep us grounded plus shares various ways she’s learned how to talk back to the negative self-talk in her head, something I also struggle with as well. Anyway, get your New Year off to a great start by reading Beckie’s blog and I promise you will be blessed! Thanks, Beckie, for using your gift of writing to speak the truth, motivate and inspire others, and share your journey with us.

PS A little birdie told me that a piece by Beckie Peterson will be appearing in local magazine, Connections’ January 2015 edition. Congrats, Beckie!

 

Of Madeleine and Me

Happy Birthday, Madeleine L’Engle!

What a treasure it has been to grow up with her in my life. From my first experience with her—first reading A Wrinkle in Time as a youngster—to enjoying the Austins’ and O’Keefes’ lives with them—then moving on to an assortment of her adult novels (A Severed Wasp is my favorite) and the Crosswicks journals. One thing Ms. L’Engle never did was sanitize life. She presented as it is: the good, the bad, the ugly, and the excruciatingly beautiful. She also expanded my mind in ways it most definitely needed expanding, often through multiple rereads (having an addiction for reliving my favorite authors’ books).

One of my favorite of her quotes is:

“We are homesick not so much for something that was, and was lost, as for something that will be, and is to be found.”

Her words on writing are of enormous encouragement to someone who has always wanted to be a writer–starting in childhood through journal writing (which has never completely stopped, but there have been seasons of life which seemed to painful to write down) and the rare short story, the occasional poem that continued through adulthood, then a short article and book review in a small circulation magazine in my 20s. My 30s were when I had our son and was totally across the country so most of my writing was in email, although around 40 I began to wonder if maybe I could write for publication at some point, but probably not until The Teen was grown and we had finished home education.

But several years ago I realized I didn’t have to wait until an empty nester–Madeleine didn’t–and began reading writers on writing and occasionally starting a short story or collecting ideas for possible writing projects, usually non-fiction. Then I began my blog, which has been more off than on due to my health issues and family priorities and eventually, once my health got really bad, I started binge watching TV or movies because reading was too hard and writing was inconceivable. As my next birthday will be the 50th, I want to make the most of whatever’s in me, so that I can be a conduit of grace to others as she and Elizabeth Goudge, Jan Karon, Judy Christie, Patricia Sprinkle, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie have been to me. It most likely won’t be via fiction writing but whatever I’m supposed to do I’m committing here, on the vigil of the first Sunday of Advent–and our very last day of this liturgical year–to a new outlook.

Recently, the most affirming words I’ve read in a long time came from her journal on her 40th birthday, at a time when she was experiencing piercing pain from publisher after publisher with their rejection letters and she had fallen into such great despondency that she decided she was meant to renounce her writing. But after a day of tears and a typewriter ensconced in a shroud, she finally came to a place where she realized something profound about herself.

I have to write. That’s the gift I’ve been given. And even if I am never, ever published again it is still what I have to do…I’m glad I made that decision about myself as writer in the moment of utter darkness in the pits, because it’s very real…It was a very real decision. And it is a decision we all have to make.

Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase, from the chapter “The Discovery of the Vocation.”

In the response to the question, “What book changed your life?” writer Annie Dillard says:

“A Wrinkle in Time” saved me because it so captured the grief and sense of isolation I felt as a child. I was 8 years old when it came out, in third grade, and I believed in it–in the plot, the people and the emotional truth of their experience. This place was never a good match for me, but the book greatly diminished my sense of isolation as great books have done ever since. I must have read it a dozen times.

From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/books/review/anne-lamott-by-the-book.html?ref=books&_r=0

For those interested in learning more, the best website is
http://www.madeleinelengle.com/
where you can find Twitter and Facebook feeds, and a blog with unique and informative posts.

By the way, the day I found a hardcover copy of Wrinkle signed “Tesser well!” by the author was one of the most eerily joyful days of my life, as if I had connected with a writer whose books had helped me and whose words on writing always inspire me to just do it…or as Yoda would say, “Do or do not. There is no try.” And so now I’m doing just that. Thank you, Madeleine, for your honest revelations about the writing life but also thank you for writing, your contributions to your family, community, and the world at large. I look forward to meeting you one day when time has wrinkled for me and I’m no longer bound by chronos time but exist in complete kairos time.

P.S. I find it interesting that today is also C.S. Lewis’ birthday as well, another favorite author…”Coincidence? I think not!”

Of Gifts & Givers–and no, this isn’t a holiday post…

Whilst jamming out to “Sing, Sing, Sing”—which we always play at LEAST twice in a row in this house, as it’s mandatory, the Man of the House reminded me that Gene Krupa’s seriously pulse-pounding drumming was the influence behind a drummer whose music I first heard during my tweens in the mid 70s (gasp), Peter Criss, a.k.a. The Catman. This was courtesy of a family member who had taken up drumming (hi Mike!) and ever since high school I always loved Criss’ song “Beth”—especially playing it on the piano. As I got older my tastes in music eventually included hard rock and metal in high school, on top of all the other beloved genres I had already come to know and love, in great part to the delightfully eclectic tastes of my parents (thanks Da’ & Mom!). I continued to embrace pop, rock, jazz, classical, big band, military & patriotic marches, some opera & operetta, hymns (traditional/folk/contemporary), soundtrack scores (a major fave!), some country and CCM, plus now there was new wave. Then during my freshman year of college I found artists who defy genre to me (e.g., Steve Taylor & Bruce Cockburn). Thanks to my brain I’ve probably left something out–oh yeah, Dean Martin, Harry Connick, Jr. and their contemporaries for starters–but you get the drift. My interests were and continue to be as diverse as my ADHD brain (for which I usually thank the Good Lord for having because it’s allowed life to be anything but boring).

So, that brings me to the topic of this PSA: Gene Krupa is why Peter Criss is such an awesome drummer. As he himself said about Krupa:

He is the reason I play drums today. I love big bands. When I hear the word drums, I think Gene Krupa. He was a pioneer. He brought the drums up front. He was my idol. I got to talk to him and he really liked me. He gave me lessons for about six months...
He was great to take the time out to teach me. He once said to me, “You got it kid, You really got it.
I’ve never seen anyone who wants it so bad, so I’ll take the time out to teach you.”
Today when I do a drum solo I have that Drum Boogie Sound and nobody uses it.
The kids go wild but it’s not original. I’m doing something that was done in 1935.

So, just remember, ladies and gents, musicians, artists, writers, homemakers, gardeners, architects–to name but a few–and creatives of all types draw their inspiration from the most unlikely (to us) places, but God gives the gifts and whether or not the person using them recognizes that, He, The Creator and Ultimate Artist, is always the giver of gifts and we should seek to discover ours—if we don’t already know them—and use them, as they weren’t given for us but for the world, as unlikely as that often seems to us because we can’t see them as good enough to share. As one scared artist to others, STOP THAT! Let’s just press on the best we can and see what happens. After all, allowing ourselves to be the conduit by producing our work is what matters. After that whatever happens is really none of our concern. (Easy to say, hard to live; I know!)

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