Monday, February 24, 2014

Good Art—Miserable Heart?

Maybe you’ve noticed…the “greats” of just about any art form, be it music, or literature, or painting, or sculpture, just to list a few, tend to be tortured souls. We authors sometimes joke about how the copious consumption of alcohol or other addictive beverages is a given within the writing community, but beneath the laughter there’s an unease that the shades of truth bring.

While I’m no “great” in either writing or art, the older I get, the more I find the compulsion to make things an inextricable part of who I am. In my 20’s, I had a job in the animation field, and so I drew 8+ hours a day, which left me comfortably managing the less-creative facets of life in my off hours. Then I moved into a phase of life that was a blur of pregnancy and toddler-chasing, punctuated by a yearly stint in decorating the entirety of a church campus for Vacation Bible School. During these years, the creative beast made few demands…went into hibernation, so to speak, probably because I knew I was pursuing something worthy (the molding of my children) with the bulk of my time. There was never a question as to the meaningfulness behind my daily pursuits, even when spit up and diapers and tiny missing socks characterized my waking hours.

Well, now I’m seeing my 40’s loom large on the horizon, and I’ve traded drawing for writing as my primary
means of creative expression, and while I love writing, I’m also pretty sure my neurosis has peaked. (Well barring the stretch of life from about age 14 to 17 where I was certifiably delusional in grieving the loss of my father and trying to navigate the teen years as a co-dependent, witchcraft-dabbling sociopath. My college years improved slightly in that I dropped the witchcraft and the delusions…but that’s another story of broken relationships for another day.) I’m beginning to understand, to empathize, with the tortured personalities of the arts, as much as I wish I wouldn’t.

If I’m being honest, however, there’s a part of me that knows neurosis feeds passion, and passion makes for better stories, and that’s the part of me that’s a little bit afraid to get well. To be too “normal” to make anything compelling.

But there’s a point at which emotional baggage becomes too much to bear. A point where the lows become unfair to the family that has to carry on, even if the sufferer in their midst can’t function. A point where the interior monologue that plays in times of silence becomes frightening.

I’m at that point.

Vacillating between manic periods of crazy-productivity (this is the part I’m loathe to lose) and emotional weight so unmanageable that I literally have trouble moving is no way to live, and so I’m finally doing something about it. I hope.

So it begins with a visit to a new doctor and a round of blood work—something I have been meaning to do for a year and a half, ever since a sleep study came back with no discernible issues to justify my horrible fatigue. If this comes back with no red flags in terms of physiology, that may mean my doctor and I take the road of antidepressants.

Why am I telling you all this? Mostly to give you perspective as to where my mental state may be headed as time presses on, and to give you a sense of the likely internal struggle that will provide the backdrop to what I post here in the next few months. Partially, I hope that my struggles and the road I find out of them will provide some encouragement to others who wrestle with similar issues to mine. It is my sincere hope, that although I may never become a “great” in the fields of drawing or fantasy writing, that if I can shed the weight of lies my fatigue and misery load upon me by the shovelful, that I will become more apt for what my Maker intended me to be, and that my ears will finally be clearer to hear his plans.

I invite you to walk along side me as I navigate the twisting road of creative vs. crazy. I’m increasingly convicted as someone who belongs to God, you don’t have to be one to be the other.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Realm Makers Blog Voyage: Day 2

When people ask me the question, ‘Where did you get the idea to put the Realm Makers conference together?” I can’t help but chuckle a little. You see, as much as I was part of the conversations about how Christian speculative fiction enthusiasts needed a place where they could enjoy their genre without being confronted with either near-nudity, aggressive atheism, or wide-eyed, “Well isn’t that . . . interesting? What’s a nice girl like you doing writing about zombie . . . what was it? Assassins?” I definitely never saw myself as the person to create that place. After all, I’m an introvert to the point where answering the phone is a struggle if I don’t know who’s calling. I have young children, a full time job, and novels of my own to write. Why would I take on something as terrifyingly behemoth as a writers conference?

The answer is, I didn’t “get the idea,” so much as it marched up to me, grabbed me by the shirt, and said, “You’re doing this.” Thankfully, because I have been able to see that God is in this conference every step of the way, I’ve had lots of opportunities to watch him work things out when I knew I was truly inadequate to make the pieces fit.

I knew what my plans were, but true to form, God brought me some wonderful surprises during the first Realm Makers, so here, for my leg of the 2014 blog voyage, I’ll share a few of those excellent discoveries.

1.)    People are more awesome than I thought they ever would be. From the shepherding spirit Jeff Gerke showed me in coming along side of me Thursday night before the conference and helping me have everything in order, to the giving group of volunteers that helped set up the conference bookstore in less than two hours, to the appreciative spirits people maintained (even when the shuttle left people hanging around in front of the dining hall until it inspired snarky cartoons being passed between attendees), the authors who came to Realm Makers were a gracious, enthusiastic crowd. I was humbled and blessed that people were willing to entrust me with their time and their treasure, and from those pioneering attendees, I gained a whole new circle of creative, amazing colleagues and friends.

2.)    Serving people really is its own reward. It’s kind of cliché, but it’s a reality I have lived since I first landed the job of drum major of the marching band in 8th grade, and then again in high school. Not because of any applause or words of congratulations, but because of the relationships serving a tight-knit community fosters. I won’t lie . . . the conference takes all year to organize. It’s exhausting. There are times I wish I could just sit down to a Doctor Who marathon and catch up on all the seasons everyone else has been watching while I’ve been arranging class schedules, answering emails (too slowly) and combing through proposals from possible venues. There are times I question: Why spend all the hours to do something that scarcely breaks even financially? But when I see everything coming together, and I see the conversations the conference and its social media presence fosters, I remember that the sacrifice is worth more than I will ever be able to measure by earthly standards.

3.)    Serving the niche is not a bad thing. I’ve waffled more than a few times about whether we should downplay or remove the “Christian” element of Realm Makers in order to draw in a wider attendance base, and hence more revenue to offer more content. But the more I’ve prayed it through, the more obvious it has become that Realm Makers is unique, and the people who took a chance on it the first year (nearly double the number of people I dared hope would show up, incidentally) did so because they saw something special about this conference as compared to the dozens of others that already exist. In my heart of hearts, I believe it’s better to delve into the core of how speculative fiction and Christian worldview intersect than it is to generalize. We pour our souls into our work—how sad would it be to only talk about that in a superficial way?

Because of the unquantifiable satisfaction of filling a community’s need, I am happy to press on and make Realm Makers: 2014 the best possible conference God can use me to create. I hope you join us this year, and if you do, I look forward to hearing how your experience during that weekend surprises you.

Thanks for dropping in my “port” in the blog voyage. If you didn't get a chance to read yesterday's post, stop by Marcher Lord Press's blog and check it out. And if you want to know who else will be talking about the conference as we near the opening of registration, head over to the Faith and Fantasy Alliance blog.

Below, find the Rafflecopter giveaway, which makes you eligible for an awesome array of prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rafflecopter Giveaway for Realm Makers Blog Voyage

Since Rafflecopter isn't compatible with certain blogs, I'm throwing this post right here so that you can pile up entries for the awesome Writer's Tardis Basket we're giving away to folks who spread the word about Realm Makers: 2014. For all the particulars about the conference, visit...

The Realm Makers website
And the Conference Blog

And finally, here's the Rafflecopter. Have a blast!

a Rafflecopter giveaway