Monday, February 23, 2009

Silver Linings

Many literary agents who blog have been posting that within the last few weeks they've been receiving a record number of submissions from wannabe authors. If you don't know, the general procedure in finding an agent is to send them a one page query about your book and your pertinent writing credentials. Then you wait and see if you get a bite. Most wannabe authors have to send hundreds (I exaggerate not!) of these out before they get an agent. Odds are better to buy a lottery ticket, if you want to know the truth.







BUT...






What I really want to know is WHY the upswing? The economy is bad, people are depressed and frightened, and well... a lot of emotions are heightened right now. But that's precisely why I think there are more people out there expanding their creative forces and artistic abilities. Art is an outlet for our emotions. It's cheaper than therapy and channels the natural instincts of humans to create. Perhaps I'm wrong, but let me illustrate my point. Out of the Great Depression, here are a few of the artists who emerged (and usually wrote about it too):

  • John Steinbeck
  • Willa Cather
  • Harper Lee
  • Arthur Miller
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Ezra Pound
  • William Faulkner
  • William Carlos Williams
  • James Cain





I realize this list is just the few off the top of my head. But I hope it shows just how much creative genius can be borne under physical or emotional duress. Most talented individuals, whatever the era of their birth, have some obstacle (usually health and/or money shortages) that you'd think would keep them from their creations. But we know that adversity can also make the stalwart stronger. Perhaps that's what these challenges actually breed: determination and refined skill. And maybe that's what we're seeing now. Maybe?




For now I feel that the outpouring of creativity is just one of the silver linings that come from hard socioeconomic times. There are others, I'm sure. (Sometime soon I'll post my thoughts on how financial strains can improve the environment.)



I am nervous about the future, much like everyone else, but it's lists like this that give me hope that we will see beauty even in the hardest of times.



And while I'm making lists of artists, I also thought this one was interesting and not completely unrelated. I came across it while researching for the Bodysnatcher book I'm eventually going to write...


From: Twelve Diseases that Changed Our World by Irwin W. Sherman

Some people believed that tuberculosis sparked creative genius. Among the imminent gallery of victims were: Baruch Spinoza, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Anton Chekov, Sir Walter Scott, D.H. Lawrence, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Jean Antoine Watteau, Niccolo Paganini, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Igor Stravinsky, Robert Lois Stevenson, Edgar Allen Poe, Franz Kafka, Amadeo Modigliani, Fredric Chopin, Henry David Thoreau, George Orwell, Eleanor Roosevelt, Vivien Leigh, and Reverend Bronte (and his whole family, including Emily and Charlotte).

Interesting list, isn't it? Though it's completely unfounded scientifically that TB sparked creative genius, it makes you think how much these people accomplished though they were very sick (and in fact dying).


And it makes ME think, what could I, a perfectly healthy and extremely privileged person, accomplish if I put my mind to it?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Money, My Life

I've been reading this book lately, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, and it's really changing my life! And I'm only on page 60! Okay, so I have a ways to go to finish it and the farther along I get into it, the more I'll post.
But right now I'd like to share my thoughts on one section.
This section discusses the trade-off between earning a living (or earning a dying, as they suggest), and your life energy (or your allotted time on this earth). And it's got me thinking how many hours I waste doing things that are so ineffectual or unimportant. How much life energy do I zap away from myself on Facebook? Or searching "publishing industry news" online? How much does that cost me, in the long run?
It's more than I care to admit. And there are so many other things that I could be doing with that time; like writing, playing with my kids, or saving the world.
I used to be a great time manager, but since I quit my day job...
The first couple of years I was good at prioritizing and getting the things important to me done. But now... I don't know... I feel like I've become complacent or lazy in the last few months. There are pockets of time I could be doing so much more... LIVING so much more.
Does anyone else feel this way? That they could use a rearranging of their schedule and better meet THEIR needs and priorities?
Here's a trick I've started applying--and I won't say it'll work for you because it's just in trial phase for me. But I'll let you know if it does work:
When I begin a task (or lack of one) I rank it on a scale of one to ten based on it's importance to ME--not to anyone else--just myself. If nothing that I could be doing beats it in rank, I continue with the task.
I also do this with money, now that things are tight in the economy and I sooooo badly want to get out of debt. In the case of money, if the ranking doesn't hit a 9 or a 10, then I put the item back and don't buy it.
But the same principle applies to time too. And I'll let you know if it works.
So my thought of the day: refuse to waste anymore of your life energy on things that aren't of value. And since our values are all different, I won't say what those values should be. Especially since you'll all likely roll your eyes at me that I still think an afternoon nap should get a high ranking.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

From Trash to Class

I have a lot of little (or big, depending on how you look at it) things on my mind today, so here they are, in no particular order:
1.
These little people just make me glow these days. How I love them! I'm so happy to be a mom and love the stage of life I'm in right now. That little man in front turns 2 today and I can't even begin to tell you how much that shocks me! They grow so fast!
2.
My WIP is going gothic! I never thought I had it in me to write a gothic-ish romance, but given the emotional turmoil the poor he and she in the story have been through, they are a bit... jaded. Nothing too dark. I don't think I have dark in me, but given the traits of Eastern Europeans and the medieval setting, this novel is darker than others I've tried my hand at. Such a contrast to my last, light-hearted middle grade caper!
3.
I'm thinking about cutting my hair. It's really long now and since I had The Boy, it's become so thin. And though it's too expensive (and pointless this late in the game) to have it made into a wig for my mom, I'll still send it to Locks of Love, of course.
4.
I'm ready for winter to end. There, I complained when I said I wouldn't. I try never to complain about the weather here in N AZ, since we need as much precipitation as we can get... but I NEED to get out and hike. I'm becoming a bit stir-crazy. Guess I should to go visit some place warm for awhile.
5.
I'm thinking of changing garbage companies--to one that picks up recycling as well as waste. You probably laughed at that one because it seems like such a silly thing, but it's hard for me to get out of the fifteen year mind set of 6 bins in the garage to sort my papers, plastics, glass, and what-not. Changing means no transporting and sorting it myself, but will it all fit in that one little can? Will they sort it and really recycle it? How much more money is it going to be? Switching trash companies is trivial, but habits are habits and hard to break.
6.
I went to the Kindergarten Valentine's Day party yesterday. How would it be, do you think, if adults were more like six year olds--so grateful for every little paper note given and be friends as a whole entire group? We have a lot of remembering to do, to become better to one another.
7.
Thanks for all the great responses I'm getting for The Last Lecture Project. I'm truly excited about this and have a few interviews I'll be posting soon. Remember, you don't need to ask all of the questions, just ones that you feel fit the situation. It's intimidating, asking someone those questions, but after the initial discomfort, it feels so rewarding. Send your stories whenever you want and there's no rush or pressure. I'll just post them perioidically as I get them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Small and Simple Means

I always say that I want to make a great difference in the world one day, but my friend Kathryn sent this to me and it made me think about what REALLY matters:
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schulz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip.
1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America pageant.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.
See how you do on this one:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
It really is the little actions that make a difference, isn't it? One person at a time...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ode to V-day

In the last two years Valentine's Day has dramatically changed around my house. Most of this is owing to the birth of my son, who now gets the dubious honor of being "the cute little love boy in class who was born on Valentine's Day." (Oh, I can hear his future complaints and the swoon of little girl classmates already.)

But I think something else changed even before his birth, something in the last ten years of being married. Maybe it's called old age. Maybe it's called having small children. But I remember prior to hitting that divide between newly wed and old hat, V-day was treated as sacred a day as our wedding anniversary. Now, the catering and mooning is just not there.


This is no slight on my husband, who is the world's greatest. I mean, how many wives can say that they get breakfast in bed 4-5 times a week, can have a girl's night out whenever she dang well chooses, and never has to lift a finger to dish duty? He's smart too, and funny, and has earning potential. And did I mention sexy? (No, you can't have him.)


But...


I think we've gotten old.


We used to cuddle up to movies on the couch and have dates once a week. Now we each cuddle our laptops and ask each other what just happened in the movie because we were too busy "looking something up just really quick" on the Internet.


And the weird thing, I'm okay with this change!



I love him more than I ever have and I know he feels the same way. The ga-ga days are long gone (not that they were ever very distinct with our personality types). Something deeper has taken it's place. Perhaps we SHOULD lay off our Internet obsessions. Perhaps we should get a bigger couch so that we can snuggle easier. But when the buoyant shininess of our initial love wore off, I felt the solid bottom beneath. The expression of our commitment has changed, rather than the commitment itself. There is a peace somewhere at the heart of all this that feels as unchanging as stone.



Why do I bring this up today, so near the tribute day of love? Because I'm trying to work this kind of love into my WIP. Is this the kind of love anyone else can relate to? (I mean the love I have for my husband, not the Internet love.) And moreover, does anyone else have similar stories? Would they read a book with a tinge of romance similar to this? I wonder. I seriously do....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Limited


I’ve been on blog holiday for a few days, readjusting my life and my perspective. The holiday has extended to my writing too. I’ve become a giant slacker and the state of my house can attest to it. It’s been for a good reason… and my positive perspective is returning. My new mantra has been plastered on my desktop, my filing cabinet, and even notebooks:

I am only limited by my own insecurities.

(It’s true, as embarrassing as it is to admit.)

I believe that every person—EVERY person—has unbelievable potential. More than any of us can comprehend. People can do anything they set their minds to and persevere through the toughest of obstacles... if only they can control their own mental state. Sadly, sometimes I let my own thoughts of inadequacy weigh me down. That’s how I’ve been about writing lately. This newest project has been hard for me. It’s a difficult time period and it’s an even more difficult voice… I’m really struggling. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the story is worth it and that it deserves my best effort. I just need to silence the negative voices in my head and move through the rough writing spots and the despair that I’ll never get published in fiction.

Such thoughts don’t help either way. I would not stop writing even if I had a crystal ball and could tell myself about the bleak future with no return investment. I need to write. I have to write.

And as sure as every preteen shirt in Target has Hannah Montana’s face on it, I will give this book my best shot.

So there it is: I AM limited by my own insecurities, but I will not bow to them.


Your question to answer this week: What do you feel limits you in your aspirations?