The Creative Life

Calla Lilies
Calla Lilies

“Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.” ~ Brené Brown

“Curiosity is what keeps you working steadily, while hotter emotions may come and go.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

A few days ago I began reading, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. It’s about living a creative life without fear. Some books blow your mind, others help you work through trauma, others are just plain fun. Then there are the books that confirm your feelings, your point of view. Those books can give you courage to continue on the road you’ve chosen. Big Magic is that kind of book for me.

Though I’ve only been writing for eight years and consider myself a new writer, I do have years of experience in the world of theatre. And to echo something from Elizabeth’s book, when you commit yourself to the creative life, you have to stick with it through thick and thin. I’ve been cast as characters that were very different from me and consequently very difficult to play because I had a hard time relating to them. On the other hand I’ve played characters that were so much like me that it was difficult to know where the character ended and I began.

Writing is like that too. Some days I sit down to write my weekly blog post or work on my novel and the words flow out my fingers with little need of revision. Other times I struggle with the concepts I’m trying to convey. I write, then dump whole sections or sometimes begin over. Since I’m under a deadline for my blog, I have to publish it even though what I’ve written may not adequately express the idea that’s been running around in my head looking for an outlet.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I’d like to try my hand at writing essays and stories to send to publications with open submissions. One particular opportunity struck my fancy. The magazine, Story has called for submissions on the theme of identity. When I saw that, I thought, “I have lots to say on that topic,” and I began writing. That was over two months ago and I’m still struggling with the piece. The deadline for submission is fast approaching and I have too much to say about identity. I can’t narrow my thoughts down into a coherent whole. It’s like when I get close to a vital idea for the piece it floats away from me. As a result I may not get it together in time to submit it for publication.

I was feeling discouraged about that, but after reading Big Magic, my viewpoint has changed. Maybe I’m not supposed to write about identity. On the other hand a story idea flitted toward me the other day, and it’s demanding attention. This story wants to be written, and written by me. Elizabeth’s theory is that creative ideas float around until they find the person who is supposed to bring the idea to life. That’s how this new story idea feels to me, unlike the essay on identity. I’ll continue to work on the essay until it tells me to quit. That’s all a creative person can do, follow the breadcrumbs and see where they lead you.

You also have to put your work out into the world anyway you can. Last night in the section I was reading, Elizabeth related a story of the first piece she had published. The title of the story was “Pilgrims”, and the editor of Esquire magazine wanted to publish it. She was ecstatic. Finally after years of trying, her work would be published in a major magazine. Then she got a call. A large advertising sponsor had backed out of placing their ads and the editor would have to reduce the number of pages for the edition that was to include her story. They wanted to know if she would be willing to cut her ten page story by thirty percent. She could wait for a future publication, but the magazine business was changeable, her contact warned, and her story might never be published. She chose to rewrite the story and it turned out to be a good thing she did, because two months later, the editor left for a new position and her story would have gone into oblivion.

Choosing the creative life sends the practitioner off into a mysterious world. There are peaks and valleys. One day everything is going well with your project and the next, the idea well is dry, or tastes funny, or has gone underground and is flowing toward another artist. All we can do is commit to the work. I find that the deeper my commitment, the more I’m supported by the creativity fairies who sometimes lead me in directions I had no intention of going. Yet, I’ve committed myself to them, so I must follow. The point is, I look forward every morning to sitting down at my computer and following the breadcrumbs left for me that day.

Well, this is one of those blog posts that is kind of all over the place. My ideas are still not completely formed. The ideas from Big Magic are still drifting around in my head, and out in the ethers waiting to crystalize. That doesn’t matter. I’ll publish this post anyway.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

The Blessing of Patience

My Favorite Books
My Favorite Books

“The longest journey
is the journey inwards.
Of him who has chosen his destiny,
Who has started upon his quest
For the source of his being.” ~ Dag Hammarskjöld

“Imagination is what is there after you know everything; without knowledge, one’s imagination may be too thin – lacking in strength and too fragile to build on.” ~ American director Zelda Fichandler

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” ~ E. L. Doctorow

I’ve discovered this book revision business is not for sissies. It’s a long process of peeling back the layers to get to the real thing I’m trying to say.

Before Christmas, I was very impatient to get the revisions finished during my month long break from teaching. But, of course, my hopes did not come true and in a way that’s a blessing. To tell you the truth I’ve been impatient to finish my novel for a year or more. That was part of the problem with earlier drafts. I rushed through important sections of the story. It’s never good to cheat the reader by not exploring an issue the characters must deal with.

The other day I watched Sense and Sensibility as my personal tribute to actor Alan Rickman who died last week. He’s one of my favorite actors. Part of the reason I love his work is because he never rushed through his lines. In his movies, you always know exactly what he’s saying because he enunciates every word enhancing the emotional emphasis.

After watching the movie, I was reading the trivia on Internet Movie Database. In it Emma Thompson, the screenwriter, stated that she’s a slow writer. It took her three years to finish the screenplay. When I read that, I had to admit I’m a slow writer too. And something about her saying that, allowed me to finally let go of trying to finish my book quickly. I am going to hold it within my being so I can more easily see beneath the surface of where the story is leading me.

Something else helped me decide that working slowly but steadily is a good thing. I watched the movie Proof in preparation for my dramatic structure students watching it tonight. It’s about Catherine, a mathematics genius, who has to put her life on hold to take care of her mentally ill father, Robert, who is a mathematics legend for solving an important proof when he was in his twenties. Catherine and Hal, Robert’s former student, are talking about Hal’s work in mathematics. He’s discouraged and doesn’t think he’ll ever make any significant contribution to the field. Catherine encourages him by saying something like, “You have to chip away at a problem. Sometimes you have to come at it sideways.” That’s what creative people do. They think outside the box.

It’s too bad we live in a fast food society where we demand instant gratification because the invention, the social change, the play, musical piece, or painting all take time. Sometimes many years. Building a healthy business takes lots of work too. Just as changing your life for the better takes a consistent effort and sometimes you have to sneak up on your problems from the side to get the perspective you need to solve them.

I’m not quite sure how I’ll approach my novel from the side. Perhaps being silent and listening to my characters speak to me is the best way to do it. In any case, I’ll keep chipping away at my novel until it tells me it’s finished. I’ll let you know from time to time how it’s coming.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with a friend.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2016

Allowing the Stretch

Temporary Book Cover
Temporary Book Cover

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” ~ John Wooden

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” ~ Bruce Lee

“There’s no limit possible to the expansion of each of us.” ~ Charles Schwab

“My ambition comes from my passion: finding what I love and then expanding on that.” ~ Miranda Kerr

In general I love learning new things except when I don’t think I have a facility for it. Then I resist the lessons. I have this idea in my mind of my skill set and for the most part I don’t want to stretch past that. Most of us don’t want to do things we don’t think we’re good at. But sometimes we surprise ourselves if we try to learn something new.

When I became a full-time writer, all I wanted to do was concentrate on the writing. I didn’t want to think about the marketing and promotion that I was inevitably going to have to do when I published my books. I’m not a marketing genius, nor am I a good salesperson. The idea of peddling my book made me cringe.

Knowing that at some point I was going to have to address this issue, because I plan to self-publish, I would from time to time read how-to essays by artists and writers about the ins and outs of getting their work noticed by the general public. Unfortunately, after reading only a short portion of the book or article, my eyes would glass over and the pit of my stomach would sink. The experts I read said you have to be aggressive, you have to get your name out there, you have to talk about your work on social media, you have to push, push, push. Ugh. I hated it.

I’m an introvert. I don’t want to do blast marketing where every hour a tweet or post screams at people to go buy my book. That’s just not me. It seemed to me that most marketing and promotion wisdom is created by extroverts who have no problem tooting their own horn. I have a difficult time doing that. But the problem of how to market my book kept nagging at me. I knew I needed to come up with a plan but what?

So, I meditated and prayed about the problem. I hoped that providence would send me a new way to promote myself and my work that wouldn’t feel awful. I was just beginning to despair when Hay House sent me an email about Jeff Walker, with an internet marketing scheme that intrigued me. His business is called the Product Launch Formula (trademark). I watched the first video and was surprised that he gave so much great information about how to market anything I might want to sell but, as he said in the video, not is a sleazy or used car salesman kind of way. A few days later another email with a video link came and a few days another. By the time I’d watched the three videos I had the outline of how to market my book in a way that fits who I am.

Jeff is all about giving good value to your prospect ahead of time and asking for their advice and comments. If you can get to know the people who are interested in what you have to offer, it’s easier to promote your product. I loved that! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign up for his six month course this time. But when I was poking around his site I discovered he had written a book (Launch) that contains the information I needed to get started. I bought it that very day and have since read it. As I read, all kinds of great ideas of how to promote my work popped into my mind. This method was exactly what I needed. Because of this book I feel like I can be an expert at building a list of followers without coercing them to buy. That’s something I didn’t ever think I’d be able to do.

Before the Jeff Walker videos, I couldn’t imagine how I was going to build a list of followers. Part of my mind was closed. I didn’t want to have to market my books myself. Couldn’t I just have someone do it for me? However, the reality for authors today is that you’ve got to be actively engaged with your readers or potential readers even if your book is published in the conventional way. There are so many books being published, that it’s hard for new authors to get noticed and to gain a following. Jeff suggests you begin by using your email list to grow your customer base. You can start small by directing potential customers to an opt in page and you can also use word of mouth to attract new followers. I love that!

Even before learning about Jeff Walker, I made it a practice to avoid the best seller lists and read books by authors who aren’t as well known. If I like their book, I write a review on Amazon, iBooks, and/or Goodreads so that hopefully the author will expand their readership. Already I’ve made some online writer friends because I’ve written reviews, or retweeted the link to their book. It’s amazing how many new people I’ve met using this method.

Maybe I’ll coin a new phrase, “Karma Marketing,” in which helping others be successful will help me be successful too. That’s what Jeff Walker advocates. As you start your business, you make connections with people who resonate with you, and you support each other. He uses the term Mastermind Group, which is more than just a networking group. In your mastermind group, you hold each other accountable for improving your business by offering new products or services that your customers or fan base can use. Always give more value than they expect. It’s a new trend in business to be of service, rather than bilk your customers by selling inferior products and getting top dollar for those products. That’s something I can get behind.

Of course building a fan base takes time and effort, but it’s effort I’m willing to make if I can offer my readers something they will enjoy. Something extra I’ve created just for them. When I do this I may make some friends along the way. That’s always a good thing. Now I can breathe a sigh of relief. Finally someone who thinks like I do, and who is willing to help me build a business that is people friendly.

I’m going to do a little bit of word of mouth promotion for Jeff. If you buy his book, Launch, you get a step by step process that will help you begin your business, and access to a resource page with videos and instructions on how to do some of the technical stuff that an online business requires. This is what makes me excited. I won’t be alone as I step outside my comfort zone and stretch into learning a new but vital skill I will need to help me grow my fan base. Thanks Jeff and thanks Providence!

Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015