Saturday, February 21, 2015

Golden Advice: Musing on Francis Bacon's Essay "Of Boldness"

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are my musings on Francis Bacon's essay "Of Boldness."

Francis Bacon was a philosopher and scientist who lived from the late 1500s to early 1600s.  He's the guy that came up with the scientific method. His thoughts of methodology came onto my radar when I was college. I was so moved by his thinking that I read all of his essays and bits and pieces of his thoughts wove into the fabric of my life. One of his essays, "Of Boldness," resonated. And now for my musing.

Here I put some of his thoughts into the plain English. The heart of boldness is action. The only downside of boldness, humans are generally part genius and part stoopid. This makes boldness a tricky thing. If you are standing on a foundation of ignorance and/or "never going to happen," boldness is worthless. It will get you in trouble. You boldly make a promise and then, heck, you can not really pull it together. Then you end up reneging on that promise after failing shamefully. What artist hasn't had this day?

One true thing is that perfectly bold people refuse to admit they have bitten off something bigger than they can chew and instead brush over their failure and then turn in a different direction. It's a wonder to behold such bold people. Boldness is often ridiculous. Here is the plain truth: great boldness always comes with some extreme absurdity.

Boldness doesn't see danger or inconveniences. It's probably not a good idea for bold people to serve as commander in chief. They need to be seconds under the direction of others.  At the end of the day, it's a good thing to see dangers, but when getting art done, it's good not to see those dangers unless the commander in chief taps him or her on the shoulder and says stop now!

As an artistic person, you may chafe because of all the bean counters, market gurus, editors and fans that direct your art. You are a person of ACTION. You have boldness in your soul.  Yep, and now you have a clear idea of what that is all about. Trust the process, trust the gate keepers, trust the critique group members, trust your fans, trust them all.  

Hope this strikes a chord with you. I will be back next week with the last of this series. 

Here is a doodle for you. "Flowers"


Knowledge is power. Francis Bacon

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Golden Advice: Inspired by I Corinthians, Chapter 13 -- Love

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose. This week's thoughts are inspired by I Corinthians, Chapter 13, The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, and a vast number of other books.

 I can barely touch a teacup of this topic in one blog. I hope that this little cup helps.

I think a lot about love. I think we live in a love-starved culture. People consume and consume trying to fill the love void in their lives. The McDonald's culture prevails. We are a throwaway, instantaneous, junk food society with a huge bucket of voyeurism and gossiping thrown in. Ugh.

Love does not thrive in this society; I am talking real love. Love is not safe; it's about risking all of yourself for nothing in return. It demands many things of you, but on the love journey, you gain your true self. I think of every story I write as a love journey. I think of my life that way too.

My definition of love flows right out of I Corinthians, Chapter 13.  Here's a verse: Love is patient. When was the last time you saw patience lifted up as a good thing. Patience often means spending mega time waiting for someone to change and suffering some wrong while waiting. It may also mean you wait and the other person never changes. Dang this tough. 

Here is the  big deal. Love is kind. It's about not digging into someone else even when you are are in pain. Kindness is about listening. It's about hearing. It's about admitting you are wrong.
Love does not boast. I come short in this one because I feel inadequate. It's not about tooting my own horn -- cough, avoid Facebook. I hope everyone who knows me feels more connected to me than my possessions, my achievements and my abilities. You know, I want to keep it real.

Love does not dishonor others. Ack. I struggle with this one too. I look at the mega success of others and feel like the smallest potato in the bag.  I have found myself saying ill favored stuff about others, because I feel lame and he or she has what I want. Dang, I don't deserve any cake. Taking time to offer kudos instead of degrading: note to self, get with the program. Creating characters who cling to honor, really is what I want to be all about. 

And at the end of the day, love never fails, even if you are shattered into a million pieces. Drag them all together and love through those pieces. You might nick others with  the shards inside of you, but don't let that keep you from loving. 

So that is the teacup of love for the day. 

As you create you artistic works, let each stroke be lit by love. Let each word be lit by love. Love is the light in darkness. Let it shine. Let it shine. Every little thing is going to shine. 

Here is a doodle for you: Tangled Hearts



You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Golden Advice: Inspired by Emerson's essay-- ART

Hi, folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.

Today I'm going to reflect on Ralph Waldo Emerson's Essay XII: ART. You may read this essay here if you wish. 

Emerson always stirs me up. He shares that the soul is on a journey. It's not a static thing.  Artists look out on this would and see the unseen. We see the light in this moment that will be lost forever if we do not capture it. We don't only see the surface of the world, but also the character of the world, especially when we turn the vision on ourselves and try to reveal ourselves through art.  No mechanical device can capture what the human mind perceives -- we are attempting to interpret that spark of life we sense and place it on our canvases, in our songs, our dances, our stories, in our every form of expression. We are capturing our moment in time. 

The art of every age is a reflection of more that just what is seen but the unseen. If you want to know what is going on in your culture, what are the signs of the times, look at what artists are producing. They can't help but let what is going on in their world seep in and shape what they are creating. That said, there is an inherent understanding in artists that we are an expression of this vast Universe -- an imperfect picture of the glory that we perceive.  There is no other creature on Earth that is so desiring to interpret what they perceive. We feel the invisible undercurrents and bring the invisible to the forefront. When we create our art and then consider it, we always find things that we didn't intend and that takes our breath away. 

Art has a big purpose in the course of human history. It's the thread that reveals who we are and what we want. We are not unconnected with the art that has gone before us. I think about the explosion of superhero, fantasy, and science fiction stories in our days as a good example of this. These stories are extensions of the human  journey of myth. I feel an undercurrent in them that we very much all looking beyond our times, staring into the void and wanting to be much more than we are now. We are also wrestling with "villains" so great that they boggle the mind. Also a perception is evident: a desire to do good will triumph, It will overcome the darkness. 

Does this seem like our world? 

So what does all this mean to me personally? When art is making me uncomfortable, making me squirm in my seat, I must take note, especially when art slips away from a pursuit of beauty. I consider our larger world and reflect about what darkness looms. I cannot help but respond. For me I am searching for the good and lovely of my times and seasons. I hunger for every voice to be heard. I want to find beauty and holiness in new ways. I want to be brave and earnest and see what springs up from my heart. This is my prayer. My heart's cry. My deep hope. I hope that you join me on this journey. 

I will be back next week with more golden advice. 

Here is a quote for your pocket:

Faith is what makes life bearable, with all its tragedies and ambiguities and sudden, startling joys.
Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Golden Advice: My Fellow Worms!

Hi folks, this is my February series on Golden Advice. I like to spend the month of February digging into the wisdom that has come my way, and that guides my art, my craft and my life. I find having some wise stuff in the soul helps me write stories with purpose.

I like to start with American poet Carl Sandburg. I always have this feeling that Carl is with me on my writing journey. His words whisper in the back of my heart. Something about his homespun writing gives me hope that I can be so much more. This week I'm going to respond to Carl Sandburg's broadcast in the 1950s called "My Fellow Worms."

Here's the first thing up. You grow older and you start getting a sense of what you really believe. This is the stuff that is tried and true. If you ask the question, "What do I believe?" and then answer it -- you end up writing a book or making a cute poster with a smart saying on it. Carl believed in "getting up in the morning with a serene mind and a heart holding many hopes." I am one the fellow worms. This little thought makes me want to put on some music and dance. Life is all about the small, tried and true things. I hope that you are waking up to this truth.

We are small in this universe. Tiny, tiny, tiny. Like Carl said about us: insignificant speck of animate star dust each of us is amid cotillions of billion-year constellations. When you realize this, it helps put perspective on all those hills you are trying to climb. In view of the universe, the towers of achievement that men proclaim just don't make a lot of sense. Note: I wrote a poem to bless my friends or I wrote a book that reached the planet -- not much difference in the scheme of things. Always keep things in perspective.

Next up, stop being so freaked out by pride. Pride is a good thing though it has a bad rap as a deadly sin. Be proud of your achievements but stay out of the sticky glue of  arrogance.  You know, don't lose your perspective and jump into vanity -- look at me!  Not so easy in this life -- we live in the look-at-me generation -- selfies, social media, online life.  Keep out of  the mirror gazing. Your personality is sacred. It's a holy thing.  Keep that in mind every time you share a bit of yourself. If you cut off enough, you will lose who you are. 

Finally, I share a love of platitudes like Carl. Occasionally I here someone disparage my love platitudes but old well used thoughts are hard won.  Moral content and thoughtfulness is much more than banal. You won't convince me otherwise. We should hold old sayings dear and not use them as lip service. 
Share the platitudes that you have earned the right to share. 

I especially like Carl thoughts about preserving our freedoms.  We live in a world that seems to forgotten that "eternal vigilance is price of liberty."  We are all in the struggle of freedom. You must get up today and fight. You will do it again tomorrow. Every life will find some "fiery trial and agony." Don't forget that as you share those tried and true words and suffer degradation because you have trusted others. 

We are small but wondrous. Every little thing is going to shine, shine. Every little thing is going to shine. I hope my response to Carl's wisdom helps you find your way. Let it guide your creative journey.  I will be back next week with more Golden Advice.   

Here is a doodle:  Spring is around the corner.
Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Time is the coin of your life. You spend it. Do not allow others to spend it for you. Carl Sandburg

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Novel Craft: Pottery Lessons

Hi folks, I'm writing a series about how certain artistic skills enhance other artistic skills. I am an artistic and crafty person. I buzz around art. I will dip my toe into most forms of expression. There are a few that I've focused on and have found that those experiences have informed my novel craft. This week I'm going to talk about pottery lessons.

Once upon a time back in my college days, I had the time learn how to throw pots. I have found that those long ago pottery lessons have always been with me as a writer.  At first, you need much support to even begin to throw a pot.  Someone else chooses your clay. She walks you through how to prepare it. You are given many hints on how condition the clay to make it suitable for throwing. Beginning writers need this same kind of support. I needed others to help me recognize my viable ideas versus my dead-in-the water ideas. I needed advice on how to approach ideas so that I could even get on the road to producing something that would engage readers. Seek out help in the beginning. 

Throwing a pot is about finding the center of the clay, and getting all the other clay to revolve around that center. At first it feels impossible. The clay bulges in weird ways. It will even go flying off the wheel. My hands and elbows would be scraped.  I practiced again and again.  Experience is everything. Finally the day came. I slapped the clay on the wheel and pressed it with my hands, and the clay instantly centered.  I had to have confidence and a steady hand. The first important step to writing is finding that story center.  Stories revolve around their centers.  It took much practice to throw the clay of an idea onto the wheel of my imagination and then center it with the force of my will.  I always feel that sense of knowing when I center a pot or center of a story. It is unimaginably satisfying. 

One more pottery lesson, once a pot is formed and hardened, it's time to fire it. A glaze is applied to the exterior of the greenware.  This glaze will harden into shiny coating when extreme temperature is applied.  All stories must go through a refiner's fire to come to elegant completion. This is a dangerous time for a pot and a story. I have worked hard to get it to this place, but the refiner's fire can destroy my work.   Pots crack. Glazes wonk. You may end up with something very different from your initial vision. You may end up with a muddy mess that has to be thrown into the scrap pile. Stories are the same. In writing, the fire is revision. Revision may lead to a new novel or it may lead to a worthless disaster. Regardless, it is the only way to success.  You may feel fear during revision time. You are right to be afraid. You will have to apply your hottest thought force to make your finished story emerge, and there is a good chance you will fail. Writing is not for the faint of heart. 

I hope these pottery lessons help you on your journey.Next week I will start my Golden Advice series. 

Here is the doodle.



Here is a quote for your pocket: 

Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures. Josiah Wedgwood.