Books, Inspiration, Time for Art, Writing

Why Write?

Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2

“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”

I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal.  Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.

I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.

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Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.

The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.

But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?

What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?

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The question remained: Why write?

And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.

We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.

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I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”

She answered me quickly,

“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”

Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.

As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.

Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…

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I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.

I have a goal now for my little board books.

That’s what they are. No permission needed.

 

If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.

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Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM

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Fear, Time for Art, Writing

Time Is Ticking

Thoughts on writing, fear, and time | Part 1

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I saw my friend and fellow writer, critiquer and encourager, Belinda at church. She told me she had sent her second query out to an agent. We attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference together this year. Since the conference she was the first to send out her work. And now she’s sent out her second query. Belinda two. Me zero. She’s on a mission. I’m still nervous to hit send.

Later that day I headed out to the beach for some time with my family. They were here for a visit and their lovely condo was right on the ocean. A week of beachfront lazy days together was in order. At least that’s what I envisioned for the group.

My husband had a different idea in mind. Somehow he and my son decided an hour jet ski rental would be great fun for the whole family. Aunt Heidi, the cousins, little sis, my husband and I, gliding across the surface of the ocean at reckless speeds.

I was terrified.

Listening to the safety rules and ocean regulations didn’t help calm my fears-

Don’t get too close to the swim markers, best to stay a hundred feet out since swimmers don’t pay attention and often go beyond the markers. Don’t pass the buoys. Don’t go over the reef. Stay 300 feet away from scuba divers and other boats. If you flip over, stay calm and try to turn the jet ski back over before it sinks. If you ride over too much seaweed you need to be able to hop off and reach your hand under the jet ski and pull the seaweed out of the intake.

Riding a jet ski is the opposite of relaxing at the beach.

My husband and son rode first. Next was our daughter. Then we switched drivers and my sister took her two girls. We still had time. She came in and Mike and I went out. Our guide steadied the jet ski for us while we were getting on.

“Hop on!” my husband says. I do, but completely nervous I try to hop on the back.

“No, you’re driving. Get up front,” he says.

“No, you drive. I’m not getting up front.”

“Yes. Yes, you are. Get up front!”

And then our guide chimes in, “Time is ticking!”

Whoa. Really? Who does he think he is? We’ve already paid for our time. I can take a few minutes here. If I want to waste part of our time being afraid, I can.

And then I realize just how stupid that thought is. Our ride is paid for. Just one hour. Time really is ticking and then the opportunity is gone.

What about life? Time ticks here too. We just don’t readily see it. I’m busy being afraid to hit send on a dream because I want my query to be just right. I don’t want to fail.

But time is ticking.

I hopped on the driver’s seat and adjusted to holding down the throttle. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t graceful. I hit a few waves. I screamed a bit. I drove the jet ski though. My husband and I ended up switching places somewhere out over the water. I got to see what fearless driving really looked like! It wasn’t so bad…

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And we all made it back to shore.

I’ve read about other artist’s journeys, I’ve listened to podcasts on fear and productivity. These were good, but not a kick in the pants kind of good that I needed. Who knew all I needed to do was drive a jet ski? The thing I fought against doing was the thing which taught me the greatest lesson. I’m thankful for the kid who steadied the jet ski and reminded me time is ticking.

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What fear is holding you back?

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