Saturday, December 11, 2010


Confession: I am struggling to find my voice. What is this elusive thing called voice, anyway? Shouldn’t it automatically come out when we write—or is it wholly evident to others when we feel the least bit self-conscious?

I had an experience when I was in middle-school drama that seems to confirm this. I hated the class. I got sick when in front of a group of people that were all looking at me. Waiting for me to perform. However, one day I was feeling a little bold. I decided I didn’t care. I was pretending to be a stick of gum, after all, and there was no dignity in that. So I just let go—and I couldn’t believe the response. It was all I could do to stay in character with everyone nearly falling out of their seats as they were.

Is that how you find your voice? I think a huge part of it is being unafraid. So, why is it so hard to overcome the need to protect our weaknesses, hide them from the world? As artists, we almost have to put our weaknesses on display, and smile like we just don’t care. Also, we have to speak our hearts without fear. We have to put our deepest emotions out while overcoming the vulnerable feeling it brings. I always have dreams that I’m showering, only to look around and suddenly realize the shower’s one of the displays at Home Depot. I wonder if this has anything to do with that?

Ever since I was little, I have always wanted to hide my emotion. I struggle so much to overcome that. What about you? What have you done to find your “voice”?

“Inspiration may be a from of superconsciousness, or perhaps of subconsciousness—I wouldn’t know. But I am sure it is the antithesis of self-consciousness.” Aaron Copland

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Someone Else's Story

Have you ever wanted to write someone else’s story? In the beginning, it was books like Harry Potter that made me want to write. The problem was, when I sat down with pen in hand, planning to whip out my own magical tale, the only thing that came to mind was Harry Potter. Once, in desperation, I prayed, “I can never be like J.K Rowling!” It was one of those rare times that the answer came immediately: “You don’t have to be her; you are you.” What surprised me was that these words came to mind as if the idea was something good, something to be pleased with. It took me off-guard a little. That’s when I discovered if I could truly figure out how to be me (and this applies to any of us), our works can be amazing in their own right (see The Power to Dazzle).

Spencer W. Kimball said, “What God-given roles each of us could play in this great divine drama! What satisfying personal lives we can live!” I feel both hope and distress in that comment. I mean, why are we not given a set of instructions at birth? Even a fortune cookie would do. I want specifics! I don’t want to die and be like, dang, I just wasted my whole life. It can’t be that hard to find out who we are, can it? But yes, it can, if we are always looking to be like someone we admire instead of who we are.

Dale Carnegie said, “You are something new in this world. Be glad of it. Make the most of what nature gave you. In the last analysis, all art is autobiographical. You can sing only what you are. You can paint only what you are. You must be what your own experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. For better or for worse, you must cultivate your own little garden. For better or for worse, you must play your own little instrument in the orchestra of life.”

You can’t try to be successful, you can only try to be a better you. You can do nothing but make yourself better than you were. You must allow a period of trial and error, of experimentation. And how can anyone do that with all the pressure of trying to be good?

“Man is asked to make of himself [only] what he is supposed to become to fulfill his destiny.” (Paul Tillich)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Things I Love

“A mind too active is no mind at all.” Theodore Roethke

In my life I have often found the necessity to disengage. There were times I was driven by a force that wasn’t healthy. Maybe even fear. My goal: to make decisions not out of fear, but from a sound and comfortable mind. How can you enjoy life any other way? I made a list of 20 things that I love, in no particular order.

1-Read or listen to a really good book

2-Watch a movie at home with my family

3-Go out with my husband and no one else

4-Sit at home on a Saturday afternoon with nothing scheduled

5-Write a story about whatever I want—however weird and silly I want it to be

6-Imagine scary things

7-Go out with friends

8-!!!Disneyland!!! with my family—particularly Pirates of the Caribbean

9-Driving in the rain

10-Driving at night, especially if it’s raining

11-Cooking a new meal, having all afternoon to do it

12-Go somewhere I can relax and explore by myself

13-Look at the moon and imagine scary things

14-Look at the lake at night; imagine scary things living in it (is there a recurring theme here?)

15-Dance with my kids (it’s been way too long)

16-Play summer games outside at night with family, like croquet and badminton

17-Browse the library or bookstore. Browse people here too

18-Go out on family dates, zoo, movies, etc.

19-Read with my kids. We especially like “Goosebumps”. They like to get blankets and pillows and snuggle under them while I read as scarily as possible

20-Take a long, unhurried shower

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Power to Dazzle

I saw a dance once that changed my perspective.

Old perspective: I used to think that some people could be successful and some people could not. Perhaps, even, some people were simply more important than others. Who knew why? I mean, maybe it was a matter of luck. Maybe there were golden balls thrown into God’s bingo roller. Maybe some were just “special”—chosen ones, so to speak. As for everyone else, if you don’t have the “chosen” gene—sorry, you’re out of luck.

It’s true—it was a dance that showed me these thoughts were wrong.

There was nothing special about the televised dance, other than the fact I was struck with the impression that everyone seemed to be completely in their element. It was as if no one was pretending. No one was trying to be someone else; and even better, no one was feeling self-conscious. Everyone's inner light shone through without restraint. I was mesmerized. And the thought struck me: Are we, as a human race, magnetically drawn to those who are, perhaps, closest to self-actualization?

I realized we all have an inner light. We don’t have to force it into existence—if anything, the opposite is true. We should relax and stop blocking it. So what I realized was this: the power we all have to be special, chosen, successful, lucky, etc. is in our ability to learn how to unblock ourselves. We all have the potential to spell-bind another. It’s in there; you find it through a process of hard work and discovery. Like you find a buried treasure. We go through a process of searching, giving, sometimes being rejected, and trying again. The latter requires believing in ourselves to no small degree—which can be hard in the face of rejection.

I always loved the children’s story You Are Special, the one with the stars and dots. I believe we are all God’s children. He’s the one who can let us know who we are. Since He created us, we are all sublime. He is filled with all power and all things right, all things with force. I get excited when I think about the power we can tap into.

It’s not a race, I realized after watching that dance. It’s not even a contest. If we could all simply be our true selves, it would take competition out of the equation—because we all have the power to dazzle.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Object Lessons on Writing, and Follow Your Instinct

Object lesson #1: Writing is not like following a recipe. When I follow a recipe, reviewing instruction and measuring is a good thing. And I never substitute ingredients. It saves me from making something that would cause my family to raise their eyebrows yet again and ask if I have tried another experiment at their expense.

Really, it’s too bad you can’t just follow a recipe for writing. Heaven knows, I want to. I’ve searched dozens of books on writing looking for them. The problem is, I’m a follower. I’ve never been one to trust myself. Back in high school, when I worked out a problem, even if I was sure I was right, I often changed it if someone else disagreed. And it was more often than not a mistake. The message has always been there, it seems. Trust your instincts.

Using the recipe analogy, I find another thing to be true. The way you assemble the ingredients is not nearly as important as the ingredients. When self-editing, I often focused too much of my revision on the cutting and dicing, so to speak, rather than the ingredients themselves. Yet, if the ingredients are good, and fresh, and you enjoy that particular combination, the way you cut and dice is secondary. In other words, I wasted SO much time in perfecting form rather than really looking at what I was working with. Ironically, the latter takes far less time and effort. The work of perfectionism is set aside for the time being to make room for play.

Object lesson #2: Writing is a lot like golf. I saw an article about putting entitled, “How to See the Line”. I knew instinctively that if I read that, I would putt worse than ever. I’ve never been a measurer of spatial things. If I try to measure, for instance, to put pictures on my wall, things go horribly wrong. Similarly, while golfing, if people tell me to stand a certain way, to look a certain direction, blah blah blah, I freeze up. So I’ve learned to listen to the inner voice that tells me “that feels right.” I tried it one time, while miniature golfing, just hitting what felt right. Sometimes I felt better about hitting the ball slightly to the right or the left of the hole, even though I couldn’t see a break. When I followed that little voice and did it, I was surprised more often that not to see it turn and go into the hole. Instinct, I tell you. I think it’s a force we can all tap into. And, can I brag, just a little? Out of 18 holes, 6 were holes-in-one.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Musings on Creativity

The best creations break rules. Things flourish when they know they can fail; possibilities become endless. Art+Play=Discovery. An accident that is no accident.

Writing is a way of searching, a way to discover truth. We humans are all in search for truth. Stories tell us what we already know. We must allow ourselves to wander in the realm of creativity, seeking out the light. We wander through the darkness, meeting new ideas, trying things, feeling our way around, constantly and instinctively gravitating toward the light. As we feel our way forward we discover stories.