by Francine Puckly
On a tiny shelf in my writing space sits an even tinier piece of cardstock. One word is spelled out in beautiful calligraphy, though the cardstock is worn and faded.
Ten years ago, the leader of my women's weekend retreat walked around our closing circle with a bowl containing strips of cardstock, each bearing unique words or phrases. We were instructed to center ourselves and make a thoughtful selection from the bowl, as it would be the word “we needed to hear.”
As the leader came closer and closer to me, I anticipated which “word” I would get. I was coming away from the retreat refreshed, optimistic about my life and my writing prospects, and excited to take my dreams by the horns. At last she stood in front of me. I closed my eyes and reached in. I waited for several seconds before allowing myself to read it. I prayed about the good things that would be in store for me. Then I opened my eyes.
I stared at the word, full of indignation, and thought, “Why on earth do I need—” WHAM! Before I could finish my thought I was spiritually slapped across the face.
Oh, I was going to need endurance. Lots and lots of endurance.
The creative journey is a long one for most of us. Training for endurance—that marathon of bringing a creative project to fruition—is the only way to succeed. I’ve spent the last several months talking about long-term planning. Visions and detailed plans are critical, but they are only the building blocks of forward movement. The work must be completed. Over and over. Even when no one is buying it. Even when it’s just “not quite right.” The creative mind must keep churning out the material, and we must continue to siphon those ideas off the tops of our brains before they clog up. We must write the pages, sift through revisions, and fill in the character sketches.
24 Carrot Writing is about dreams, goals and rewards—and encouraging small celebrations when we overcome a fear, step out and take a risk, reach toward a new aspiration or take on a new challenge. We’re also about big celebrations when we hang in there for the long haul. For slogging on. For doing something that matters—to us, to our families, and to our readers. For enduring.
As we head into the last few months of the year, holiday stresses and family demands make our shoulders sag. But don't forget we also enter the most popular month of writing and illustrating challenges! This is not the time of year to shrug and say, “Maybe next year.” This is the time to give ourselves the gift we can’t find in a store—time with our pages, plots and characters.
Eight weeks is eight weeks. Sixty glorious days. Numerous writing hours. It’s time to show everyone what we’re made of.
My once-black “Endurance” reminder has faded to a pale yellow over the years. I can only hope to realize the long-sought goal of publication before if fades completely to white. Until then, I will keep taking the challenge, lifting the pen, powering up the laptop, writing notes to myself in the middle of the grocery store, and celebrating the small milestones along the way.
This November set a small milestone for yourself. Then be sure to celebrate your endurance at the end of your challenge!
~by Amanda Smith
“Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters”
~ Sara Groves Why it Matters
As writing weeks go, last week was less than stellar. A month ago I felt particularly brave and sent out a whole barrage of queries. And, typical to the querying process, the rejections started rolling in last week. The high point of this phenomenal writing week was that I didn’t get to spend one single day writing; creating something new; doing the actual thing that fills my cup. And so, by this weekend, I was seriously questioning my career path.
It seems like such a cheek, such a nerve, to take all this time and pour it into this frivolous thing called “writing for children.” It seems like such an audacious luxury to contemplate and feel, and then pour it in story form onto a page. And call it work.
And that’s when I stumbled on this short video by Sara Groves, my favorite singer, song writer, and human rights activist. In the video she refers to artist Makoto Fujimura discussing utility, pragmatism and art. “Utilitarian pragmatism chokes out art, love and beauty,” Fujimura states in his blog post Art, Love and Beauty: An introduction. Sara encourages artists to push against practicality and usefulness. We should make space for contemplation. We need this “extravagant, wasteful, space” in order to create beauty.
Because beauty matters.
Like the band that played while the Titanic sank.
Like Vedran Smailović, the cellist from Sarajevo, who played his cello in ruins during the siege of Sarajevo.
Like Karim Wasfi, conductor of the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra, who played his cello at the devastation left by a car bomb in Bagdad. “Why do we keep on doing this? Because we appreciate beauty and we want to build, not to destroy,” said Wasfi.
Like Syrian artist Tamman Azzam who superimposed an image of Gustav Klimt's The Kiss on a war torn building in Syria.
Like Jessixa Bagley who provides a channel for recognizing absence in BOATS FOR PAPA. Like Peter Reynolds who inspires and validates creativity in DOT and ISH. Like Jo Knowles who leads readers to better understanding and empathy in SEE YOU AT HARRY’S or PEARL. Like Terry Farish who sheds light on refugees in THE GOOD BRAIDER. Like Miranda Paul who raises environmental awareness in ONE PLASTIC BAG. Like Dan Santat who stirs up imagination in BEEKLE. Like authors such as Tara Lazar and Mo Willems who create frivolous, yet significant, laugh-out-loud fun. Like Brian Floca who steals our breath in LOCOMOTIVE.
That is the beauty to which I want to add.
Those of us who identify as artist; those of us who are thinkers; those of us who sit with an emotion, or an idea until it becomes words, something concrete, something useful:
We add to the beauty.
It is an extravagant luxury.
And it matters.
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