Creative noise, priorities, and unexpected God things.

 

Sigh. So God has been doing a lot of interesting things in my life lately. Did I tell you I went on vacation for two weeks? It was an international trip, and I was loathe to lose my laptop in airport security somehow, so I left it behind. Being so detached from the internet and media and all my creative outlets really made me aware of how peaceful it was to be without those things.

Coming back made me realize how noisy, how hectic, how nearly frantic my mind had become.

A long time ago God really began to speak to me about creativity, how He gives us natural talents, and that honing them honors Him; that He is very much a creator and that our creativity reflects and glorifies Him. I loved that as a writer, I could do what I did, and worship God with my talents in that way. But I always longed to honor Him in a more direct way with my creativity. I never felt like I knew what that outlet was. I just knew I was looking for it.

But back to creativity honoring God. Since I always felt that, I always believed, too, that creativity came from God. Certainly, you could say con men are creative, and so are spouses who cheat on one another, and so are manipulators and liars who never get caught. The Bible talks about how humanity has an enemy who will do anything to take the things God created for good and pervert them to the bad. But that God is constantly reclaiming what the devil has stolen and redeeming what the devil has destroyed.

So I knew that, too.

Fast forward. For a while now, I’ve sensed God trying to teach me a tricky concept. It goes something like this: the gift of creativity is from God, but creativity can become a distraction, a noisiness, if you let it.

My life has been noisy. Too noisy. I was staying up late, writing. My mind was churning out video ideas endlessly, and it was distressing, to wade through every one. Every problem or thought or interesting thing I saw instantly became, in my  head, an idea, that I had to either create or feel regretful about losing.

Coming home after vacation, for a few brief days, I hated the thought of getting on my laptop. I knew if I got on that the fuzziness would fill my mind again. It was never satisfying, to pore through Youtube videos and Pinterest boards, not the kind of deep satisfaction that lasts through a night and a day. I was sick of it.

So, you guys, I’ve been taking a step back. God is clearly doing something here. My priorities have been shifting. On one hand, I know God is prodding me to cut out the creative noise that has been distracting me from Him, and on the other hand, I see him maturing my creative skills, so that when it comes time to get a job in my field of education — and that time is coming very soon — I’ll be ready to handle it.

Even my writing, which for years has been a mainstay, I sense God shifting about, pushing out here, pulling back there, changing priorities for whatever move He has in mind next. For now, I am taking a break from the world of YA. Not from SHUTTERBUG — I haven’t sensed God asking me to do that. But the networking, the discussions on whitewashing and grittiness and which debut author is getting all the publicity at the moment? That, I’m taking a break from. And if I’m being honest, it’s a big relief. It feels like I know the industry inside and out, and I don’t always agree with its values.

Anyway, I’m rambling. Let me share this quote by the amazing C.S. Lewis. (Chronicles of Narnia, remember?)

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to?

The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Oh, you guys. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I knew the shape of the house God was building, only to find myself scraped down to the foundation and rebuilt from scratch. It is a bewildering process at times. And then I remind myself that God did create us and sacrifice so much to be in relationship with us just so that we could have a quiet, happy little life. He calls us to a radical life full of battles and victories and purpose.

* * *

So all this is happening — and then I look back on my previous announcement, made only a month ago, about challenging myself to creating more multimedia and to focusing on creativity on Saturdays. Guys? That might have to change. I don’t know if it will get scrapped. I don’t know if it will simply shift gears to fit whatever God is doing in my life right now. But I took a step of faith, making that post, and now God is taking that step and using it to take me in a new direction.

(Let me just say how much I HATE it when I announce something on the blog, and then turn right around and change it. Blogging makes you feel like the biggest flake sometimes, because everything you say takes on a whole new weight. Everything is heavy with accountability. But God is doing an unexpected God thing, and that post simply doesn’t line up with it. So. Change the plans shall.)

That’s really all I have to say. Perhaps that is a lot more of hearing me talk about God than you guys are used to. And perhaps you’re rolling your eyes at the irony of my announcement/taking-back-my-announcement announcement. Or maybe you’re used to it.
God does unexpected things. Scary as they are…they’re also exciting.

And that, finally, is where I want to leave things. What will happen next around here? I don’t know. I’m hopeful…I’m excited to find out.

Yours truly,
-Creative A

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WIP Wednesday – The Minor Flirtation, part 2

My last novel, MIRRORPASS, took me three years to finish. I am not normally that slow of a writer. Spending so long on a single novel was torture. It was three whole years of having new ideas and not being able to write them. When it finally (finally, FINALLY) came time to pick a new novel to focus on after shipping MP off on submissions, it was a pretty even tie between two ideas.

One was Shutterbug.

At the time, Shutterbug was brand spanking new. Like maybe six months old, or even newer. It was the idea I had begun because I wanted something entirely unlike my other novels to think about; I wanted sweet, early teen romance;  I wanted a boy protagonist, and dual POVs; I wanted to set it in a city, which I’ve never done before.

The other idea was old. Very old.

Before I wrote MIRRORPASS, I took a whack at this big-concept story called “The Eternity Shift,” about a girl with a deadly disease getting frozen in cryo, by accident, and waking in a world where everyone was cursed with immortality and couldn’t manage to die. They wanted to die, though, because immortality sucked, and they were all cryo survivors in a weird new world, and nobody knew how they’d gotten there. And somehow this girl have managed to stay mortal when everyone else hadn’t. So she had this cure.

It was a great idea, but I didn’t realize how many flaws it had until I got that iconic 20k into the first draft. I pushed through, though, for another 10k, until the story petered out just short of 30,000 words and I had to trunk it. It was the first novel in years that I’d gotten so far with and had to trunk. It was a colossal failure. And even worse, the idea refused to release it’s grip on me. I still liked it, after all that waste.

So. I told the idea, fine. I’ll keep you. But you have to sit nicely on the shelf with the other bits and bobbins and percolating concepts, and every once and a while I’ll try solving you again.

Which it had done quite nicely. Over time, especially while writing MP, whenever I got bored I would take my Eternity Shift idea down off the shelf, poke at the beginning (and by poke I mean write 2,000, or 5,000, or even 8,000 words) until things went wrong again and I had to stop. I never managed to get it right. Ever. I’d solve one piece of the puzzle, but find the others were still mucked up.

Thing was…while writing MP…I started getting close to solving The Eternity Shift. (Which abbreviates to TES. Do you mind if I just call it TES? I’ve been doing that in my head, and it works great.) By the time I finished MP, I felt TES was almost ready to go again. Maybe was ready.

But Shutterbug was maybe ready, too.

And so was Time Travel story, come to think about it.

As you know from my previous post, The Minor Flirtation, trying to write two novels at once is, in my opinion, not only a very bad idea, but also pretty near impossible. I had to let all but one go.

I spent a tortured month or so turning them all over in my minds, writing bits and pieces of their beginnings while trying to figure out which one I wanted to spend the next 6 months+ with. And in the end, as you may have guessed, I chose Shutterbug.

Time Travel story behaved nicely. It kind of like, sighed, and went back to sleep.

But TES did not play nicely. TES hovered. It waited a month or two, and then presented itself with brand new solutions that made everything which hadn’t worked before work. Crap.

But I told myself, no. You are writing Shutterbug. You can poke at TES, but you cannot write it.

Okay. Poking at TES. Writing Shutterbug.

That seemed to work okay. TES, it seemed, still had a few minor details to iron out. (Does she run into the forest? What would motivate her to do that? And like, do I really want her to be a dancer? Should she have another hobby, maybe?)

And that was fine. Shutterbug roared ahead and lurched to halts during finals. Roared ahead again. All in all, things were going good.

And then…

Sigh.

Then this month happened.

TES happened.

I was doing my poking thing to TES, as I commonly do. This was on the wings of a sudden spurt of inspiration, as it usually is. Nothing unusual here. Except that for the first time ever, I was landing those first chapters with voice.

VOICE. The voice of TES has eluded me for so long. I have known the plot I wanted to write, much of the feel of how I wanted to execute it; I have even known the voice I wanted it to have. But the subject matter was so…strange, sometimes, that it was nearly impossible to hang onto the voice.

And this time I did.

Not only that, but I got the love-interest-sortof-maybe guy right, first try. And I got the tricky opening plot points right, first try.

EVERYTHING WAS WORKING RIGHT AND WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE SHOULD I STOP SHOULD I KEEP GOING I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DOOOOO.

I kept writing. Couple days ago, I tweeted about writing 8,000 in one day. Yeah, that was in TES. This morning I woke up, sat up in bed, had an important paragraph I knew I needed to type before I lost it, and ended up writing 2,500 words before breakfast. I added another 1,300 this afternoon.

TES is going nuts, guys. I’m already at the 14,000 mark and it’s been less than fourteen days. Because I’m switching back and forth in time, I have a good first third of the novel plotted out almost in entirety. And I am already very close to getting over the speed bump I’ve always encountered during the first plot movement–the second plot movement is where things always used to fall apart. Thankfully this time I’ve solved that.

I know, once my characters enter the third plot movement, things will have to slow down because I am very vague now where things go from there. Which is kind of a relief actually, because hey. Backup plan! I’ll be forced to stop writing and just think for a little while. Which will give me an opportunity to pick Shutterbug back up. In case, you know. I dropped Shutterbug to write TES.

Which I don’t intend on doing.

I intend on writing Shutterbug and TES at the same time.

Even though that never, ever seems to work.

Even though you always say to yourself, “but this time is different!” and it turns out, no, it’s not.

What can I say? This time is different.

*Headdesk*

 

*

 

And that, guys, is my crazy WIP update. I’ve decided to start including some kind of stats with these WIP posts, so, here goes:

SHUTTERBUG MEETS (INVISIBLE) GIRL — YA magical realism with romantic elements. 16-year-old Toby McCleary sets out on a renewed quest to find the mysterious disappearing girl of his childhood, with only the clues in an unsolved mafia case, the pictures on a lost camera to guide him, and his own faith to guide him.

Current word count: 82k out of 85k
Why this is not as good as it sounds: because I’m just wrapping up Act 2. I lingered too long on a specific plot movement, and now I need to get the plot back on track by hammering out some important scenes so we can get to the good stuff. Am working on hammering out those now–successful so far, in that I wrote one already this month (between writing TES. Hah, hah.)

And speak of the devil! Introducing, my second-possibly-WIP…

THE ETERNITY SHIFT — a YA dystopian. A girl who loves to dance wakes up in a future cursed with immortality, where, as an accidental beta-tester for the first cryogenic pod, she’s the only mortal left.

Current word count: 14k out of 90k
Status: Moving from the opening, establishing chapters (which have always given me grief in previous drafts) to the exciting part, when Robin starts digging into her relationship with the guy who she really, really shouldn’t fall in love with, because he was bred to be a killer and oooh…tension!

TES also has a Pinterest. In case you’re interested. (Because getting a Pinterest is, like the first thing I DO with new ideas nowadays.)

So ANYWAY. That concludes my massive two-part WIP update.

 

What about you guys? How are your WIP’s going? Does anyone else out there storyboard with Pinterest like me? Share!

 

Truly and always,
-Mandy