Tag Archives: creativity

Get Courageous

When I was in graduate school at the University of Iowa, I read in the college newspaper an interview with the director of the Playwrights’ Workshop. The reporter asked for his advice to would-be playwrights. His response was so outrageous, I remember it after a bunch of years.

He advised, if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, get rid of them. If you’ve got a husband or wife, disown them. If you’ve got kids, drown them.

I suspect he was practicing dramatic hyperbole. Yet I, like Saint Paul, agree with the basic principle: lovers and dependents can get in the way of our work.

If you dedicate yourself to writing, at some point you’ll suspect people are conspiring to stop you. They will demean your efforts overtly or by lack of appreciation. Your family will fail to hide their resentment of the time you spend dreaming over the keyboard and the fact that you don’t make as much money as you could if you applied the same effort to pulling weeds for minimum wage.

And when you’re having a creative reverie, or even if they catch you transcribing directly from the spirit, they will interrupt.

We can’t blame them. When pursuing our art, we’re lost to the world. We’re remote, boring, often cranky. We’re loners who may elicit jealousy when our loved ones begin to doubt we really need them.

But most of us do need them, at least in times when we’re not creating. So, if I were asked for advice on this issue, I might suggest we try hard to be extra good to our loved ones whenever we break away from our art. And we might try putting a lock on our office door.

In practicing art, we risk alienating family and friends. That’s a fact. Artists aren’t recognized as the best husbands, wives or parents. But neither are soldiers, policemen or preachers, other occupations that require courage.

As Olga Savitsky taught me, King David was “a man after God’s own heart” because he was both a warrior and a poet. I imagine David composing his psalms with the same focus, zeal, and courage as he used attacking Goliath or the Edomites.

Read on in Writing and the Spirit

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Why Write?

A prologue: Though I have plenty (probably too much) to say about many subjects, I need to limit my blogging or else give up other pursuits, such as writing novels or helping with my Zoe’s softball. I’d rather limit. A blog post once a week seems to fit my inclinations and circumstances.

The first week of each month goes to a blog for my mystery publisher, Poisoned Pen Press. I try to post something that might be of interest to mystery writers and readers. My day is the 8th.

And as I’m the guy in charge of communications from Perelandra College, I attempt to post on the college blog insights primarily relevant to writers who are Christians, which lots of our students are, though I hope those posts might also resonate with other writers.

The last week of each month I devote lots of time to The Scoop, a newsletter mostly about happenings within the Perelandra College community (you could subscribe through the link on the college website home page).

Which leaves me about a week a month to pursue thoughts about a subject dear to my heart, which is living as a writer, how to do so with the minimum of tragic or debilitating consequences and instead with the maximum of inspiration and joy. So, I’ll try to offer some words on this gnarly topic each month. Please note the word “try”.

Today I’ll tackle a question at the heart of the matter: why do we choose to write, anyway? Because, if we can’t answer that one, how can we begin to make sense of our lives?

I’ve attended dozens of writing conferences. Almost always, the keynote speaker tells the story: How I Got Rich and Famous. I find that story offensive, because in the context it implies that the reason we write is to get rich and famous.

In the film Citizen Kane, the tycoon’s old and wise advisor tells a reporter, “Well, it’s no trick to make a lot of money … if all you want is to make a lot of money.”

If I chose my career for the sake of making money, I would turn to buying, selling and developing real estate, and thereby boost a thousandfold the odds of my getting rich, if not famous.

So if not to get rich and famous, why should anyone choose to be a writer?

Some of us may be cursed by a need for closure. A story idea comes to mind, perhaps as a character or an image, and we get obsessed by a craving to follow it and see where the story goes.

Once I went to a party in a cabin on the shore of Lake Tahoe. In the living room were two distinct groups. One group was reading and discussing the Bible. The other group was passing a joint and laughing about something (probably about the Bible fans). A pretty girl stood between the groups, staring back and forth, appearing bewildered by the decision to join one group or the other. At last, she turned and rushed outside, ran straight to the lake and plunged in. I watched until she came out and trudged in her sopping boots, jeans and t-shirt, away down the beach.

I should’ve run after her and tried to make friends, but I’m shy. So instead I made her into a girl named Jodi, got inside her head and wrote Midheaven.

Even now, some decades later, I love that girl.

I miss her and wonder what became of her after I wrote The End, which I intend to find out in a year or two when she meets Clifford Hickey, another of my favorite people.

By the way, Writing and the Spirit, my book of reflections about inspiration and how to find it, was released not long ago by OakTara Press. Every writer and other kind of artist ought to read it. No kidding.