Saturday, June 30, 2012

Creativity Margin

Busyness is a virtue.

You know why? Because, when I look back on my life, I don’t want to see wasted time.

I want to set goals, get involved, use my gifts, change the world, even. I never want to be bored, because that means I’m lazy. I’m not even sure how often I want to be silent and still, because what does that accomplish?

I stay busy because there’s so much to do. And if I don’t do it, who will?

Or maybe . . .


That couldn’t be it.

But maybe it is for some people. Not me . . . right?

Except sometimes I wonder if maybe I stay busy because I’m afraid that when I look back on my life, I won’t have accomplished anything.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Different Kind of Average

Would you want to read a story about any of the following people?

A jealous leader with control issues, a clumsy twenty-something, a sickeningly-perfect employee, an overprotective single parent, a husband trying to relive the glory days, an arrogant jerk without any friends, a rat, a lonely guy who does the same job every day, a cranky old man, and a rebellious teenager.

These sound like tired old clich├ęs . . . until you realize that they’re the protagonists of ten different Pixar movies (Woody, Flick, Sulley, Marlin, Mr. Incredible, Lightning McQueen, Remy, Wall-e, Carl, and Merida, respectively.)

You could easily write a formulaic story using the general descriptions I listed in the first paragraph. None of these characters are particularly original, to be honest. There’s no paraplegic ex-flame-thrower who wants to be a librarian or a megalomaniac dwarf who is deathly afraid of luna moths. They’re all bordering on stock characters, people you might see every day at the grocery story.

But the story transforms them.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Thanks For That Image

An image is supposed to give you a better picture of something.

Is that statue in the park covered with random bird droppings really the town founder? No, but because it’s there, you have a face to the name. You can relate to him and understand him a little more.

Humans are made in the image of God. Yes, that means that we are supposed to reflect God to those around us. I’ve always known that.

But we can also learn about God by watching other people.

That one I missed.

Think about all the people you admire or love being around. Name the qualities they have that make them that kind of person. Then think about this—everything good in us comes from being made in God’s image, right? So everything you love about other people is fully present in Jesus.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Defending Snail Mail

Letters are scary things, apparently. Or they take too much time to write. Or there’s the rising costs of stamps. Or that disgusting glue on envelopes.

Yes, there are lots of excellent reasons not to write letters.

But there’s one very good reason why you should, and it sounds a lot like the Golden Rule. Think about how excited you get when you get a real letter in the mail. (If this never happens to you anymore, send me your address. I’d be happy to give you this experience so you can relate.) It’s nice to know that someone cares enough to take a writing instrument in their own one hand and jot down a note.

So do that for other people.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Low-Fat Grace

I make fun of worship songs.

There. I said it. Sure, I know, everyone has an annoying habit. Mine just happens to be sacrilegious.

I’ve ruined several worship songs (and even—gasp!—a few hymns) for my friends by making sarcastic comments related to lines of fluff or bad poetry.

One of my favorite little gems is in the song “He Loves Us”: “If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.” It makes me picture a giant whirlpool of death, which is not the image that usually comes to mind when I think of Jesus saving us. I mean, if grace is a riptide ocean, who’s the lifeguard, Satan?

(I’m probably alienating a large portion of my audience. So let me make this disclaimer: I do believe He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves. I’m just not crazy about the song, whether or not the version contains the “sloppy wet kiss” line.)

The people who defend the line tell me it shows that God’s grace is vast and overwhelming. At which point I snobbishly point to a stanza in “The Love of God”: “Could we with ink the ocean fill / And were the skies of parchment made / Were every stalk on earth a quill / And every man a scribe by trade / To write the love of God above / Would drain the ocean dry / Nor could the scroll contain the whole / Though stretched from sky to sky.” And I say something like, “Top that, Chris Tomlin.”

They’re right, though. God’s grace is vast and overwhelming and beyond our comprehension and description. Maybe it’s a little bigger, a little more dangerous, than we like to let on.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Write What You Love

Have you ever seen parents with children who don’t like children?

Sometimes it’s the mom who dresses up her little girl like a doll and tries to cover up her scratches and bruises with tights and makeup. Or it’s the dad who doesn’t have time to play right now and probably never will. Or the couple in the ice cream shop who figures it’s easier to give in to the tantrum and buy the chocolate sprinkle cone than to face their five-year-old’s wrath.

These people like the idea of kids. They usually love their own kids. But kids in general? Not so much.

And you can tell.

Guess what? There are writers who don’t like writing.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I Didn't Want To Write This Stupid Blog Post

I’ve been avoiding writing this for months.

Even now, here are my thoughts: Why can’t I be the expert for once, the one who teaches lessons from someone else’s dumb mistakes, the kind of person you’d want to look up to? Why do I always write posts like this?

I’ll tell you why, self. Because it needs to be done. So there.

One day, I was on Facebook and I accidentally clicked the little history button at the bottom of my browser. It showed me how many times I had visited the site. I can’t remember now what the number was, but it was excessively, ridiculously huge. Like national-debt, I-can’t-believe-that’s-right, has-someone-been-hacking-my-computer-five-times-a-day-for-a-year huge.

You know how some people stress eat? Well, I think I stress Facebook.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ten Lessons from the Editor's Cubicle

Time for a few early observations from my internship at the book publishing department of Focus on the Family. I’ve been there for one whole entire day! I’m clearly an expert now. So you all should listen to my vast store of wisdom.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

  1. There really is such a thing as a diva author who refuses to accept changes to his manuscript. I always thought it was a myth. I haven’t met one yet, but I heard some great stories.
  2. Everyone can give parenting advice. Everyone.
  3. “It takes the brainstorming people five minutes to think up an idea. It takes us twelve months to make it happen. And then they ask us what’s taking so long.” (According to my supervisor.)
  4. It’s much more helpful when an author at least delivers a manuscript that’s “medium rare” instead of “bloody and raw.” (Also according to my supervisor.)
  5. Hide from the Adventures in Odyssey people. They’re crazy. And if they think you’re bored, or might possibly start feeling bored in the next few minutes, they will hijack you for some project. Because it’s their 25th anniversary/birthday/whatever-you-call-an-annual-celebration-for-a-non-human. And that means we need a ton of Odyssey-related books (fun for me!).
  6. I know pretty much nothing about copy-editing (“Um…is it 9 PM or 9 pm? Because we have both within three paragraphs.”). I’m also probably butchering the proofreading symbols to make what looks like the grammatical version of modern art. But I’m having fun!
  7. At the end of a day of editing, what I want to do is go back and write. After reading seven or eight different authors, I want to find my own voice so I don’t forget what it sounds like.
  8. Cubicles are surprisingly bad for long-distance eavesdropping. You know how you can jerk your head up when you hear your own name, no matter how focused you are? I’ve done that a few times, but no matter how hard I strain, I miss the rest. Maybe because those crazy Adventures in Odyssey people are being loud….
  9. You know it’s going to be a good day when you’re asked, “So, do you want to work on Corrie Ten Boom or the cannibals?”
  10. And, finally, after a long day of working with words, you don’t feel like writing out a blog post on writing, so you end up making a semi-informative list instead.
Well, off to my second day of work, where I’ll acquire so much more wisdom that it will be unbelievable. (I might do this post again at the very end of my internship. We’ll see what has changed.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

How To Talk to People About Stuff

I mentioned in my post on Wednesday that an interesting conversation is like a gift to me. Which, besides being excessively corny, is true. And I had never really thought of it that way before.

This is probably why I love dialogue, first-person narrators, and writing scripts. Forget the action scenes, beautiful imagery, or sensory descriptions. People talking! Woohoo!

As I was thinking through my love of talking with people, I started listing the things that make a bad conversation. Most of them are mistakes I make. I am super good at doing stupid things that I know are stupid. It’s one of my mad skills. (The other ones are writing treasure hunt clues, baking cookies, being bad at sports, and making fun of myself. It’s an impressive skill set.)

Anyway, here are the three that first came to mind. Sure, there are other ways to hijack a good conversation (complaining constantly, giggling at inside jokes, or talking at all at a play or a movie come to mind), but these are some of the more subtle.