Thursday, May 17, 2012

Writing challenge: Insignificant

I chuckle at the way we define ourselves in this world. We often feel obligated to answer key questions about our career, our marital status or our investments as if proving ourselves to someone. I enjoy listening to conversations in malls, on trains, in offices…there’s that old joke about “be careful or you will end up in my novel.” But I listen to people as they get to know each other. There are “significant things” people want to know depending upon the person. Where are you from? What denomination are you? Where did you graduate from? How long have you worked there? Who’s your broker? Have you volunteered there long?

But I like to look deeper. The “insignificant” things make us unique and really define who we are. Take my girls, for instance. I can answer the “significant” things about each one of the. Yes, my daughters make good grades, play musical instruments, have a strong faith and are really good kids overall. I feel confident that they will be prepared for the future, whatever that holds. I know that education and strong roots are important. But I love the little things about them that you see only when you really get to know them, the things that others may see as insignificant.

One daughter refuses to let people make negative comments about others. She reminds those near her not to gossip, but to always find the positive in a person. One daughter sees the small things in life. She can find a ladybug or a tiny flower that I overlooked. She sees the rays of the sun before I do. Both daughters enjoy a good conversation. My daughters love mismatched socks. They draw hearts on their hands. They like cheese melted on saltine crackers. They fall asleep to music--one to contemporary Christian and one to country music. Both like history. One eats peanut butter on a spoon. One cuts her own hair. One can’t whistle.

Writer’s challenge: Create a character for a short story based only on “insignificant” aspects of life. Don’t identify a career or a school major or financial status. Try to write at from 500 to 1000 words about this character using only small details of life. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Nook releases Reflections on Suffering

Nook users, my latest book is now available through Barnes and Noble. If you purchase it, I hope you add some feedback to my site. 

Each chapter has some questions for readers. I suggest answering each question in a journal. I encourage people to journal about their faith as much as they blog and tweet about daily activities. Leave a faith legacy in writing. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Writer’s Block and Art

When writing about local artist Michelle East for a newspaper article, I remembered how many times I broke through my writer’s block with the help of art. It started with an art appreciation class that I took at Memphis State University (now University of Memphis). I had never studied much classical art--or modern art either, for that matter. A graduate student taught the class which was geared towards non-art majors picking up optional credits.

One week, I had two writing assignments due in other classes. I also had to tour a local gallery and answer a few questions about certain pieces of art selected by the professor. I tried to finish my writing assignments first, not wanting to get behind in any classes in my major. I took paper and pen to my quiet workspace and to the backyard. I tried writing in the library and in the student center. No words appeared flowed at all.

I gave up and headed to the art gallery. I answered the required questions in front of a colorful painting full of waterfalls and birds and foliage and wildlife. My mind started dreaming up scenarios in which photographers explored the area or conservationists preserved the scene. I wondered what sat just out of view of the canvas.

I took out my paper and jotted down notes about adventurers and writers and photographers. The ideas from this one painting seemed endless. While in the gallery, I decided to write a few notes for my upcoming papers. Ideas for those topics began to flow easily.

Later, when I attended Candler School of Theology at Emory University to work on my M. Div., I rode the MARTA rails to the area of the High Museum of Art, especially on afternoons when I could get in free. I worked on my hardest papers in front of paintings, sculptures or photography. The art opened my mind. It released the words again. Creativity inspired creativity. It still works for me.

Be inspired by the works of others…