Category Archives: Creativity

Challenges to Writing

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For the past five or six years I’ve become aware of the increasing importance writing is having in my life. Writing used to be an activity I did when the yearning was too strong to ignore. Now my writing is demanding an everyday, disciplined approach. Being a person who never followed the same schedule every day (at work and at home), this is a challenge for me–one I’m still working on. I’m confident that problem can be handled with some thought and research, as I read how other writers handle such a problem.

The other challenge is much darker, as it tries to sow seeds of doubt and despair. This slides into my mind in moments when my guard is down, after I watched, heard, or read some negative news item. The challenge is best expressed as, “Why bother to write when the news is so bad? What good will your writing do?”

I used to let such questions keep me from writing. Now, I take my cue from three ideas.

One comes from the example of the Apostle Paul. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote some of the New Testament books of the Bible (Philippians is one that comes to mind) while he was in a Roman dungeon, chained to a guard. He didn’t have the power to change his circumstances, yet he still wrote, convinced of the importance of his message and the necessity of getting it out.

Two is some words given to me several years ago in a prayer meeting. The pastor asked those who had the gift of exhortation to walk among those of us attending, and to speak to whomever needed spoken to. A husband and wife came up to me and said, “The Lord wants us to tell you: “You are too reticent. You have things to say. You need to say them.”

Three is the very fact that there is opposition means that it is important to go on, to not quit, no matter how negative things get.

©P. Booher

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Thankful For–Rejections!

Recently I heard a pastor say the opposite of thankfulness is bitterness. For a writer, rejection can certainly provoke bitterness. It’s natural to want your work to be accepted, the more so for a recovering perfectionist like me. So, how can I say I am thankful for rejections???

I am discovering that rejection of a piece gives me the opportunity to improve my writing. Rejection says, “This (whatever “this” is) needs to be changed before you can succeed!” When the rejection notice doesn’t spell out why the piece was rejected, I can sit down, put on my thinking cap and work to decipher the mystery. I can ask a writer friend for input. It’s valuable to have two sets of eyes and two brains looking at the material.

When a devotional I submitted was rejected, after the sting of disappointment eased, I sat down, read it over, and saw my devotional had issues. It wasn’t nearly as great as I thought it was. One of the Scriptures I chose didn’t go along well with my story; awkward phrasing popped out, and nonessential words bobbed to the surface.

I sent the devotional plus my critique to a writer friend and asked if she had more suggestions. She did, and I incorporated a couple of her ideas and added more of my own into the revised version. Last week I resubmitted the devotional to the magazine. I know the piece is better now for having been rejected. It’s tighter, clearer, easier to read. All that makes it closer to acceptance.

Thankful for rejection? Yes, I can be! It helps me get further along to where I want to be!

©P. Booher

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Moments of Quiet Satisfaction

I took time out one evening to “scratch an itch” and practice drawing. Two or three weeks before I picked a plant, an ordinary “weed”, from the driveway and put it in a vase of water, intending to try my hand at sketching it “soon”. By the time “soon” came, the leaves were slowly turning brown but the largest ones were green and the tiny flowers on top pinkish-purple, so the plant still served nicely as a model. I dug out my sketch pad and after some false starts, managed to make a decent (to me) representation of the plant.

Wanting to practice more, I burrowed around my tote box of art supplies and found the workbook for beginning artists. Using the sketches in the workbook for ideas, I drew some more. I practiced for maybe a half-hour to an hour. When it was time to put away the supplies, I was surprised at the sense of quiet satisfaction I experienced inside. It seemed to blanket my nerves in relaxation.

One Saturday not long after that, my mother and I had what I call a “packing party”. We gathered items we wanted to donate, and then packed them in boxes I’d collected previously. This was a little project we’d talked about doing for awhile, but never got around to it until that Saturday. As I sat there surveying the boxes packed and ready to go, I noticed that quiet sense of satisfaction flooding my soul once again.

I notice these moments came during times of outward focus–periods of creativity and working to benefit others.

In this year of so much upheaval, have you noticed any times of quiet satisfaction–times of relaxation for your nerves–and if so, when did they come?

P. Booher

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Diving Into a Sea of Books–The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers

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As an avid reader, I get excited about the great number of books out there to read, either for entertainment, education, inspiration or with some books, all three. The quantity available in print, audio, and e-books reminds me of the vast amount of life in the oceans, so I call these book reviews “Diving Into A Sea of Books”. As with diving into an ocean looking for interesting objects, diving into books means you come across mixed results: over here, a book you don’t bother to finish, over there, a “treasure”—one that you like so much you can’t wait to reread it, and over there, a book you read and think, “Meh”.

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice To Writers by Betsy Lerner, appears on suggested reading lists of different blogs about writing. The author, with years of experience as writer, editor, and now, literary agent, is well-qualified to write this helpful book.

In Part I, “Writing”, the author talks about traits of writers she knew, worked with, or read about. She points out the things writers are known for—introversion, perfectionism, working in solitude—have their downsides. This part of the book dragged for me, I have to admit, but her compassionate tone for writers was evident early on, and my interest in the book shot up when I started reading the second part of the book, “Publishing”.

Part II gives writers a valuable insider’s perspective on editing and traditional publishing. The author addresses questions such as: “Why is it taking so long for my editor to get back to me?” and “What is my publicist doing?” She emphasizes the importance of patience and politeness in the writer’s dealings with the various people involved in bringing the writer’s creation to the outside world. Ms. Lerner describes the many steps involved in a book’s publication, from the time a writer turns in the final draft of the manuscript to the time the book hits the bookshelves or appears online. Among other topics, she writes about dealing with rejection, what an author can do if the publisher doesn’t have much of a publicity effort going, and the reasons a book may not do as well in the marketplace as the writer hoped. Part II sounds like the advice and empathy you might find at a writers’ conference.

Language Alert: for readers who find certain words/phrases offensive (aka “adult language”), a few of those appear.

©P. Booher

 

 

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Learning from Crocuses

My last post, here, showed a few crocuses blooming. I saw the crocuses blooming, and the number of flowers surprised me. I counted around thirty—way more than the number of actual plants. But the plants didn’t get there by themselves. My mother and I planted them.

As a developing writer I am tempted to envy those writers who are better, more accomplished and more successful than me.

Seeing the crocuses blooming reminded me that it takes work to get success. Success doesn’t happen overnight or by itself. It requires investing time, effort, and depending on the venture, money and a willingness to take risks.

When envy starts to show its face I ask myself: Have I put in hours to learn craft, new technology, and marketing? Am I doing all I can to grow? These questions foil envy in its tracks.

©P. Booher

 

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A Life-long Learner

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Years ago a family member said to me, “You just want to be a professional student!” He didn’t say it in a complimentary way.

While I have an idea why the person said that (getting a formal education costs a lot, and you can never be sure you’ll get a job that makes that education worthwhile) his statement still hurt my feelings. The person was right, though. I enjoy learning facts—can’t help it. When I was eight or nine years old I used to sit and leaf through a book from our big set of encyclopedias, or even get lost in the dictionary. Now I sit in front of a computer and take online courses in writing; I get lost on the internet reading articles on diverse subjects such as Niagara Falls, the story behind the 1997 movie “Titanic”, and service dogs. It’s all good, and it’s all fun for me. It makes the little gray cells in my brain jump up and down for joy.

My family member’s comment aside, writing and other activities in life show me it’s valuable to have the mindset of a “professional student”.  I need to be humble enough to be teachable. I need discipline to keep myself learning. I don’t think it’s possible to improve in writing, or in a lot of other endeavors, without that type of mindset.  I’ve found an unexpected benefit of such a mindset is it adds richness to life. You get to see how the process of learning affects you, you figure out ways to learn things you need to know that you may not be naturally proficient at, and you see how facts are intertwined.  Yes, being a professional student costs, but the rewards are without measure!

©P. Booher

 

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Lights, Camera, Action! Off to the Movies–Little Women

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A couple friends and I saw Little Women, the latest movie adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s book about the March sisters. I don’t go to the movies much, but wanted to get out of my routine, so when a friend suggested it, I jumped at the opportunity.

I never read the book, so the movie was my first acquaintance with spunky sisters Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth March.

What did I think of it?

First off, I give Little Women an A++ for decency. There was not even a hint of sexual innuendo, which I greatly appreciated.

Secondly, the acting was good. The people portrayed seemed real, not characters in a movie. I cared about what happened to them.

The film shows people considering their beliefs and values, wrestling with consequences of their humanity, and making decisions and taking responsibility for their lives.

The movie did a good job of showing a writer’s life in following Jo’s setbacks and triumphs in her writing career. As a practicing writer, I identified with Jo in those scenes—her exhilaration when a story sells, her almost single-minded devotion to writing, and her frustration when writing dreams are threatened.

Set in the 1860’s, the film gave a view as to how people lived then—their customs, circumstances, concerns, and perspectives. It was a history lesson you got by osmosis.

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God, Calling, and Creativity

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I believe God is the original Creator (see the Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2). Those chapters vividly describe God’s creativity. I also believe God calls people to creative work, whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, gardening, architecture, finding better ways to solve problems, or any other way creativity displays itself. God is the Caller; we are the callees.

The following ideas are from thinking about The Soul Tells A Story:Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life by Vinita Hampton Wright.

  1. You can fulfill your calling from God in a variety of ways, depending on your situation and the time you have available in any one day. There’s flexibility. A calling never ends. You may do one kind of creativity for awhile, then start another, but it still falls under your calling.
  2. No one else can (or should) judge how you go about fulfilling your calling. That’s between you and God. Any person who does judge has no qualification to do so.
  3. Calling isn’t necessarily something you do for money. It might be, but often it is not. Calling goes “deeper” than work. It is in who you are and what you are gifted (in reality, created) to do. Calling makes God and you happy, and you aren’t happy until you are in some way fulfilling that calling.

 

©P. Booher

 

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Dueling Forces–Creativity and Its Enemies

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The more time I give to writing, the more I realize my creativity has “enemies”–things that can sap my creativity if I let them. Some are external, some internal; some are physical, mental, or emotional, but I need to be aware they can appear, and be prepared to deal with them.

“Enemies” of creativity:

  1. Tv shows which have violent, sexual, or just plain stupid content. That mental garbage stays in my mind too long.
  2. News programs–while most end with a positive, heartwarming story, 98% of the coverage is negative. I can’t do anything about the bad stuff. I can easily slide into despair, and that sabotages my creativity.
  3. Workplace gossip and drama. Again, it’s negative, not anything I can do about, and provokes anxiety.
  4. Physical aches and pains–if they are bad enough to be all-consuming. Normally, focusing on writing pushes whatever pain I may have away. I don’t have any pain. But if the pain is severe enough, it’s all I notice, and I have a real battle on my hands to do anything that is the least bit creative.
  5. Perfectionism–a “natural” enemy of creativity, because perfectionism demands perfection, and creativity can’t be forced into the confines of perfection. Creativity requires a sense of freedom, and perfectionism and that sense of freedom are at odds.
  6. Depression–another “natural” enemy of creativity. Depression sometimes comes as a result of physical pain.
  7. Low self-esteem–no surprise, because if you think lowly of yourself, you’ll feel as though you don’t have anything inside you to create with.
  8. Little self-care–this goes along with depression; low self-esteem, and perfectionism (perfectionists are often unrealistically hard on themselves and don’t allow themselves to get the support they need, whether that’s a massage or making a needed doctor’s visit, or whatever).
  9. Clutter–whether it’s physical clutter like papers all over the desk, dust bunnies in plain sight (not even hiding under the bed), or mental clutter such as bitterness, un-forgiveness, resentment, or a tightly-scheduled to-do-list, clutter can be highly detrimental to creativity.
  10. Giving too much weight to other people’s negative opinions of your creative expression. Years ago, a family member told me that “I’d never make any money writing”. I allowed that to squelch my desire to write for a long time. (BTW: that person was wrong; I’ve already made a little bit of money writing. I’ve also received much joy.)

I’ve been thinking of ways to fight these enemies. Creativity means too much to give up without a fight.

©P. Booher

 

 

 

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Reflections for This Writer’s Heart

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“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”  Proverbs 4:23, KJV

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”  Psalms 19:14, KJV

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Philippians 4:6, KJV

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8, KJV

Keep going, don’t give in and don’t give up. Keep moving forward.

Till your own field; keep your attention on your own work; you have enough to do with that!

Don’t be distracted by what someone else has, does, says or whatever. That can lead to envy, jealousy, bitterness, gossip, and resentment–even of friends. Those attitudes will affect your creativity, big time, both in quantity and in quality.

Cultivate faith and be led by that, rather than fear.

©P. Booher

 

 

 

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