Posts Tagged With: Writing

We Are God’s Artwork, His Artists

A friend gave me the book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman.

The term art is painted with broad strokes. Freeman’s scripture-based premise is that we are God’s image-bearers, his artwork, and as such, it’s our task, our privilege, our terror, to find and live the individual artistry God has placed in each of us for His glory and the benefit of others. Everyone—even Dorothy, “the meek and small,” as she describes herself to Oz, The Great and Terrible—is God’s artist.

I’ve just started the book, but here’s a sentence that stopped me in my thought-tracks:

We’re desperately afraid of desire, terrified that if we consider for too long what we most deeply want, we will be confused about which desires come from us, which ones come from God, and how to tell the difference.

Bull’s-eye!

Daring to dream is God-given. And not following those dreams might be a waste of one’s purpose at best and disobedient at worst!

This same friend once said, “Are we going to be accountable for our unopened gifts?” Hmm.

I’ve known that God made me me for a reason: allowed me to develop certain interests, skills, and passions. Freeman gives us a gentle nudge, or kick in the pants, in the direction of doing something about it.

All right then—ready, set, GROW.

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Categories: Christian Life, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Writing is Like Knitting

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My friend Sue keeping warm in the hat I knit for her.

Writing is like knitting. Here’s how—for me.

  • I’ve learned a lot by studying online. There are lots of videos, tutorials, tips, blogs—you name it—online.
  • It’s very technical. A new language of terms.
  • It involves words. Untangling the directions for a knitting pattern can be a challenge.
  • It takes practice, practice, practice (much like skiing!).
  • I make mistakes. Oh, do I make mistakes. Correcting them is both a pain and an art. The trick is to first find the mistake and then figure out how to correct it.
  • I get to give it to friends. I enjoy the process of creating, but giving away a gift is the best.
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Writing is Like Skiing

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The process of writing is a lot like skiing—for me.

  • It takes practice, practice, practice—for years.
  • I need lessons and critiques from experts.
  • I make lots of mistakes and feel clumsy half the time.
  • Sometimes it hurts—my body and my ego at risk.
  • It’s frustrating.
  • It’s extremely technical.
  • It’s hard to remember everything I’m supposed to be paying attention to.
  • It’s the most fun—ever.
  • There are times when it’s absolutely, crazily, achingly sublime: when it all comes together, and I feel like I’m flying, that I can’t do anything wrong.
  • I’ll never regret doing either.
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Next Novel—Like Climbing A Mountain

Pity me—I’m starting to think about beginning work on my next novel.

It’s fun, but it’s also like standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at how far you have to go. We wonder—why in the world do people climb mountains?—really. Because they’re there? Not likely—it would be much easier to go around.

Taurus mountains, Antalya, Turkey

I think people climb mountains because the process of getting to the top fulfills some need—maybe a dysfunctional, masochistic need, but a need nevertheless—and the view is gratifying, even incomparable.

I climbed a mountain once, sort of. I got up at 3 a.m. and joined a group for a trek up a smallish peak in Switzerland. We had to start early to get off the mountain before snow melted, opening up unseen crevasses. It was mostly a hard slog. We followed switchback paths, marched over a snowfield, and clambered up the rock pinnacle with the assist of embedded chains, to the hut at the top. But what a view! Of the Matterhorn, Dent du Midi, and other surrounding peaks. On the way down, a woman panicked when we had to leap over a petite crevasse (the bottom of which I couldn’t see), and she had to be encouraged down step by step.

Writing is like that. Regardez la petite crevasse! Watch out for the little crack! (Our Swiss guide really said that.)

My next novel might be set in the Scottish Highlands or an island and then England, starting in the ’50’s or ’60’s and moving forward in time to the ’70’s or ’80’s. I foresee complexity (crevasses)—things I’ll have to research—all over the place. “Why?” the writer laments, “Couldn’t I pick something simple?” Because, when I’m done, it will have been worth it.

Cristine Eastin © 2012
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Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

Sigh.

My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.

Sigh.

I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012
Categories: Christianity, Psychology, Travel, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing Believable Characters

LAuthor Jon Hassler wrote brilliantly. I haven’t finished devouring his work, but Rookery Blues, The Dean’s List, and North of Hope are set in small-town northern Minnesota where people cope with life. Obviously, people cope elsewhere, but crafting a fascinating story about fascinating people doing not much in the middle of nowhere takes skill. No wonder Hassler taught creative writing. He was a master.

In my opinion, one of the reasons Hassler’s work crackles is that he creates extraordinarily believable characters. I picture him writing with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of mental health diagnoses, propped next to the keyboard.

To create real, consistent—believable—characters, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if writers really did that—familiarized themselves with the criteria from the DSM-IV.

It’s jarring if a character does something we just know people like that don’t do, because we know these people.

Read the descriptions for: Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, Adjustment Disorders, Childhood Disorders, Cognitive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Impulse Control Disorders, and Psychotic Disorders. That will get you started on drawing real-life people and their problems, remembering the continuum factor.

Writers love to get characters into trouble and watch them squirm to see what happens. The process and outcome of coping should usually ring true to a character’s personality, whether it’s reactions to trouble of the character’s own making, or events or actions of others. A narcissist is unlikely to be overcome by a wave of altruism, unless it’s self-serving. A hoarder, chronic worrier, or clean freak is unlikely to ever be free of all obsessive-compulsive behaviors or anxious thoughts. A character who’s basically OK before a seriously depressing event occurs is likely to have the resources to cope and be relatively OK again. And eating disorders aren’t about being thin, though the client may protest too much, they’re about emotions and control.

There was a time when I railed against diagnosing my psychotherapy clients, but I did it because third party payers require it. I’m resigned that we’re stuck with the medical model and insurance companies. (And if I continue down this particular bunny trail, I’ll start foaming at the mouth.) Diagnosing has its point, though, in that it gives therapists a framework within which to understand and treat people.

Diagnostic categories can also be the basis for putting flesh and bone on our fictitious characters.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
Categories: About Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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