Sunday, May 22, 2016

My first Guest Blog Post!

I wrote my first ever guest blog post! Elly over at the Spilled Inkwell was looking for a guest writer and I decided to try it! At first I wasn't sure what to write about and had second thoughts about writing the post at all since I was busy this week with my birthday and all but she was all right with me taking a week to get to it!
I ended up changing my mind a few times but then just sat down and let my thoughts flow and it came to be a decent-sized post!
Go check it out over at the Spilled Inkwell here and subscribe to her!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: The Artist's Way

How to Get Out of Your Own Way and Unblock the “Spiritual Electricity” of Creative Flow | Brain Pickings:

A few days after I had the revelation in my last post here, I ordered a book from the library called the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I don't know what made me want to get it except it's been on my to-read list on Goodreads a while and I know a lot of successful people benefited from going through it. I finished the book today.

Ways this book changed me:

1. It helped me be much more honest with myself and aware of any little lies that I sometimes let into my system.

2. It made me think more about God as a coach who supports my dreams because he made me with them and sometimes pushes me towards them and reminds me of them with "coincidences" or what I like to call "God echoes".

3. Over and over again this book talks about how any kind of creativity is a leap of faith, bravery, confidence and how it's a spiritual practice. I would have to agree, because I've experienced creating music as a form of worship.

4. It helped me become more confident in my creative endeavors and get rid of any preconceptions that it doesn't matter.

5. It argues that everyone is meant to be creative, not just the NF types or special chosen ones.

6. Big big thing: In order to learn how to be a good artist, you have to give yourself permission to be bad at first.

7. Another big big thing: this book promotes self-love, which I think is very different than selfishness. Selfishness is unhealthy indulging in destructive self-deception that ends in actions that harm other people. Self-love is self-nurturing thoughts of encouragement and acts of kindness towards yourself (this can include naps). Because hey. People need love and healthier habits and sometimes we have to learn how to encourage ourselves.

From The Artists Way.... reclaiming your creativity:

(via pinterest)

What this book is not: 

It is not a book that will tell you to ignore the world outside and other aspects of life in order to thrive in your creativity. In fact, this book highly encourages exercise, yoga/stretches, healthy relationships, healthy boundaries, and "unnecessary" hobbies that will make you a more fully rounded person.

When I first started reading this book a few months ago - I gave myself room to spread it out into a few weeks longer than the prescribed 12 weeks - I was very excited because it sounded like the author was a Christian the way she talked about God, and I was excited for another reason. The exercises in it and ways of thinking reminded me of what another Christian minister, Dr Jim Richards, teaches about how what we believe highly affects everything around us.

The more I kept reading this book though, the more it seemed that the author was talking more about a big energy source than a powerful being with a personality who wants a relationship with his children. However, she tries to make the book accessible to people of all backgrounds and not be preachy.

One more thing. The preconceptions the author has about her audience are sometimes incorrect.
Some of the exercises and questions in this book probably won't apply to you or your background.

Having said those things, there is so, so, so much truth in this book that is valuable and that I've never seen in other books on writing (that includes Stephen King's book On Writing) and there's far less language in this one.

I highly recommend it to any and all artists, especially anyone dealing with writer's block or creative insecurities. Take notes, think about it, talk to people about the ideas in it. It's one of those books you'll want to talk about with creative friends to confirm or disprove the ideas in it.

Use the book in the way that is most helpful to you. Go read it.

Whether or not it's worth buying:

I know I'll be rereading through it and underlining things and making notes. And I bought three copies of it, one for myself and two for two friends.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Revelation I had about Writing


I've been meaning to write an official testimony about my writing since February 9, and I've also been meaning to update on here! I did Storycoaching through OYAN (One Year Adventure Novel) and that took up a lot of my time but now I'm free!

So you know how it’s been really really hard for me to find the beginning of my story? I’ve rewritten it over twenty times and wasn’t satisfied with it because it felt wrong. And I got stuck outlining the book and I just wouldn’t try writing. I’d still write little bits of possible dialogue that get in my head and little snippets, but I wasn’t confident with my book and felt creatively blocked.

But recently I found my official beginning, at least story-wise - I’ll still edit it and rewrite parts of it but I’ve got the first sentence and last sentence of the first scene in stone. Right before I wrote that official beginning, I had a revelation and started writing it down.

Sometimes I think writing is too easy. Like I want it to be harder to physically put pen to paper so I feel the impact of every word but really it’s slippery, like ice skating or playing the piano. It’s in the words, not the physical pain. It’s in releasing the story and letting it out, not in personally taking up a sword and learning to sword-fight without hurting yourself or letting someone else kill you.

When you write, you don’t have an enemy, unless you make yourself an enemy, or you are trying to be a voice in the billions of voices shouting in the world or you’re trying to combat a specific voice that deeply bothers you. In other words, if it’s hard, it’s because you’re trying to make it hard or you are trying too hard. I mean, physically, it’s really easy to write! Just go take a pen and write the word “gibberish” over and over and over again!

Just because it’s important to do something doesn’t make it hard to do. We often take it for granted, procrastinate to the last minute, and because we put so much pressure on ourselves because it’s really important to us, we can go blank. And perfectionism doesn’t help either.

“Don’t overthink writing. It’s a weird thing but then there’s a lot of weird things in the world. I’ll find the right words, just let me tell the story first. Before I tame the story, I must first tame myself.”

Right after I wrote that in my journal, I had this determination that I would write the official first chapter and then I wrote it and that was that!
And what I meant by it was that we have so many negative voices in our heads that we’re so used to that we accept and don’t even notice that they’re harming us! 
I had started writing down in my journal at night stuff like this: 

“I’m going to write a gorgeous book and not be afraid. It exists. I will find it. God will help me. It’s okay. It’s okay to write a really bad first draft. That is natural. It will get better with rewrites.” 

It felt weird to encourage myself but when I got into the habit of it my creativity has been feeling freed up and I don’t feel so stifled as I did before.
There’s a lot of negativity that we don’t realize we actually believe, and it’s really important to acknowledge it and replace it with the truth till it /feels/ real to you.

I’m not completely out of the dark yet but I’m on my way and I thought I’d tell everyone and hope it helps someone!
Does anyone else write affirmations? If not I highly recommend it. It’s like realizing anything is possible and it’s really fun.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Echoes of Eternity and Shards of Heaven

"E la luna è una palla ed il cielo è un biliardo / quante stelle nei flipper sono più di un miliardo" Lucio Dalla, Anna e Marco:

There’s a kind of joy that hurts yet contains no sorrow. It's the best kind of joy because of its sharp edge.

I'm not talking about bittersweet happiness.

I'm talking about a smile that hurts because it's larger than you ever thought you could smile because your mind lights up with an emotion you never knew existed so strongly. It stretches muscles you haven't used in a while.

There is no sorrow attached to this joy, but it hurts because it is pure and without strings attached, and because it’s sometimes hard to believe it could ever exist when so much sorrow preceded it. And maybe "hurt" is not quite the right word, though it's a joy that pricks you and makes an impression. Overwhelm. Yes. That's a better word for it. An overwhelming joy.

There's a phrase of music that seems as important as something someone has spoken to you and you feel you must remember it but you don't understand why. When you remember it, nostalgia hangs in the air even while reason tells you you're being silly and shouldn't have a reason to linger on this melody.

There's a story that makes your heart lurch, though reason says it's just a story. It's not just the characters but their normality and humanness that grips you with its simplicity. It's not just the world but how it breathes. Why does it make you feel such longing?

There's a man named Mr. S who had a secret to tell: Stories matter.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

And the Word became flesh.

Our God is an author.

Recently I noticed how words are important in an elegant, gorgeous way, because words created life. The story Inkheart holds a shard of truth within its obsession over the beauty of books and words and fiction coming to life because of the spoken word.

There's a shiver I get whenever I listen to Beautiful Things by Gungor. That drumbeat during the chorus. The shiver on the back of revelation that GOD LOVES US. And in fact, the last night of a family reunion with young writers with visions to change the world, there was a narrow parade of writers listening to this song as we marched on back to our dorms under the stars. I watched them go, leaving the gym empty with the lights on. And I ran back through that echoing gym, shouting "YOU MAKE BEAUTIFUL THINGS YOU MAKE BEAUTIFUL THINGS OUT OF THE DUST." I ran for the thrill, I half sang half shouted for my awe. This fire has woken in me. This fire.

God is here. We're not alone, even in the haunting silence.

C S Lewis said the beauty and nostalgia we longed for wasn't in the songs or stories but shone through them, and what shone through them was the longing for heaven, the world we were meant for in the first place.

There's an overwhelming sense of love when you really /see/ God with the eyes of your heart, when you open yourself up to the mystery, when light floods your life and you realize that things are going to be okay and you never needed to be afraid.

And as writers we've been told that to write is to be alone, but I find that writing calls us to fellowship with others who write, and in this circle you find you are not alone. There's a joy that comes from seeing other worlds in the eyes of brothers and sisters in Christ, and a security in knowing God has you and cares about the story you want to write enough to lead you to the people who can help you make it better.

Now in this family of writers filled with fire, writing feels more valuable than it did when I did it alone.

We're not the sun. We're the moon and stars. We reflect God's light for the world when it is dark and light is precious. We search for jewels filled with light, echoes of eternity that harmonize with our hearts' desire for heaven. And we weave stories for the telling.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Writer's Perspective: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice is another book I started and then took months to read. :P Started at the end of January and finished some time in June, and typed up most of this then.
It was worth reading if only for the characters, big vocabulary, and diversity in the books I read. And it felt so refreshing.

It is written in a simple style like the Grimm brothers' in recording fairy tales with little to no description, or that of a newspaper written in the 1800s with commentary, and I found it pleasantly entertaining.  The only difference is that Jane Austen goes deep into her character's heads and doesn't return for pages sometimes.  She tells. She doesn't show very much, but when she does show a side of someone's character by a gesture or sudden smile I notice it.  It was very refreshing to read another old book.

There's much less description here than in Charles Dickens' volumes and it gets right to what's happening. This has strengths and weaknesses. One strength is that you don't have paragraphs of description you don't want to read through, as most readers agree that too much description is bad.
But if you haven't watched an adaption of the book, it can be hard to imagine what the characters look like and sometimes they can be mixed up. It was hard to imagine anything in the book without referring to the movie adaptations.

The thing about classics is that they seem easier to read than everyone is telling me. True, you occasionally have to read the whole of a long sentence several times in order to understand what it means and not misunderstand it, and omit phrases like you learn in English to get to the core of what the sentence is saying, and look up words in the dictionary, but I found it fun to learn how people used to talk back then.

The biggest strengths in this book were:

The dialogue - Most of the time I could tell who was speaking just from how they talked.

The characters - They were much more fleshed out in the book than in the movie with Keira Knightley, as good as it was, and I better understood their flaws and virtues from the book.

The realistic simplicity - Austen probably borrowed from realistic life more than she did from fiction. There were no movies to borrow inspiration from then as opposed to now, where it takes days to finish tv shows and it's easy to spend more time in the fictional world than in the real world.

There were a few times I wanted to stop reading the book but I pushed through and am glad I did.
I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the 1800s, Jane Austen, an example of good romance, or simply an old book that's considered a classic.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Narrowing down the To-read List

It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read. -Lemony Snicket  From 27 Totally Relatable Quotes About Books on buzzfeed

So... I had about four hundred and fifty books on my to-read list on Goodreads.  This was because it's the only shelf I thought I could use for books I hadn't read yet but were interested in.
Sidenote: if you don't know what Goodreads is, it's a very wonderful website.  It is probably my favorite website in existence.  You will never run out of books to read, and you will never lose all the recommendations you get from your friends.  Also.  If your favorite authors are on Goodreads, you get to see what books they like and don't like and which ones they're reading right now.

There's a cool tool on there that allows you to make an "Interested" shelf to put books on instead of "To-read" and this is a good thing for me.  I decided I needed to prioritize and see which books are more important to me that I read, and which ones aren't as high on that list.  So last night I began to weed through my To-read list and move a bunch of the books I'm not making important /must-read/ books to the Interested shelf.
I ended up putting half the books on my to-read list on the "interested" shelf.  Now my to-read list doesn't seem quite as impossible as it did before.

I'm a writer after all, right?  I shouldn't read just /any/ book that someone tells me I have to read.  Sorry... but there isn't enough time, literally, to read even a tenth of all the books in the world in my lifetime.  I have to choose which ones I'm going to read.  I have to choose.

And how do you choose which books are more important that you read?  Well, the ones in the genre that you're writing or are interested in writing.  If you write science fiction, you might find reading early science fiction works very important.  If you write literary stories, you will find that reading literary books is very important for giving you ideas for your writing and giving you an idea of what is out there.
If you write fairy tales, you'll want to study fairy tales.  If you write literary/romance YA, you'll want to read books like The Fault in our Stars by John Green and the like.
And if you want to learn how to better your craft or understand it better, you may want to read nonfiction works like Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle and essays by C S Lewis and Tolkien and G K Chesterton.

You don't have to read every book that falls into your lap.  I own several books that I haven't read and don't plan on reading for a while because there are some books I think are more important that I read.
I even made a list of books that I'm planning on reading /this/ year.

In a way it's like I'm choosing my own education and schooling in writing.  Regardless, I think it's important that we become aware of what we read and don't feel obligated to read every book someone recommends us, or every book that is famous.
I haven't read the Hunger Games or Divergent or Harry Potter or Twilight or the Fault in our Stars.  They aren't really the kinds of books I want to write right now.  And I tend to write a bit like whatever book I'm reading.

What about you?  Do you have a protected list of books that you mean to read at some point?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Movie Review: Cinderella (2015)

Click to view full size image

This is the most Cinderella of all the nine -- wait no, if you count Once Upon a Time's Cinderella episode and Into the Woods, make that eleven -- Cinderella movies/tv series I have seen.  That is a very good thing for me because this is my favorite folk tale we're talking about.  This one will definitely be a classic.

This Cinderella film, though it claims to be based on the Perrault tale, borrows skillfully from several different sources of the story without feeling choppy:
The Grimm's tale (1800s), the animated film (1950), the Perrault tale (1697) and the ballet.
And the makers did take a few creative liberties with the story too, giving this version its own flavor.

The Story:

One thing I was very thankful for was that in the marketing and whole of this film, unlike Ever After and Maleficent, they never said "This is how it really happened" or "If you think you know the story, think again."  They never implied that there can only be one version of the story and that the rest were to be discarded.  They didn't rush through it as though to say, "Oh, you know about this and that so I won't explain it."
Instead, they told the story as though they were telling it for the first time and that made it special.  They explained a few things we might have taken for granted when it comes to the tale.  For instance, the name Cinderella, and how she became a servant girl.  And they executed it very well.
You may have seen in the third trailer that Cinderella meets the Prince before the ball in this version, and I think it worked fairly well.  I could tell Ella wasn't merely against animal-hunting but that she was upset at the time and probably wanted something to live well, if not herself.
At the time I wondered what it would mean for the story.  If the prince could recognize her, then there was no reason for the slipper test!  This is something that's bothered others though -- the prince not being able to recognize Cinderella in other versions except when she was in a royal gown -- and so I could understand why they did it this way.
The emphasis was on her identity, not her appearance and ability to be recognized.
It's the little things that change the perspective of the story entirely.
Overall the story was well told.


Have courage and be kind.  It is a very strong theme in this one, reinforced at every opportunity.  Some would say it does the film a disservice to mention it as many times as possible.  Maybe it wouldn't have been as noticeable if they had omitted one of the uses of the sentence.  But it wasn't merely said, thank goodness.  There were actions that came with it, and struggles revealing how hard it can be.


They were all well cast and felt real.  I was glad they were able to expand on a few of the relationships Ella has in the story.

Ella was sweet and innocent but not boring either.  The Prince actually had some time to show his character qualities, unlike the animated film in which he hardly shows up or says anything.
The romance felt the most authentic that I've seen in a long time.  Ella was falling in love with a decent person and that was great because there are many versions of the story in which the prince is proud and only loves Ella for her outer beauty.  They were attracted to each-other pretty quickly, and not just because of appearances but also because they noticed a similar struggle in the other and wanted to care.  It was sweet to watch their relationship deepen.

The stepsisters felt like real people you may have met somewhere before, and I liked that so much. They weren't too crazy or inhuman.
The stepmother, played by Cate Blanchett, was wonderfully acted and was a good villain.
Also, the script was clever and added a lot to the flavor of the story.  A line here would make me gasp and grin at how whimsical it sounded, and another would reinforce the time period pleasantly.

The Visuals:

Some have said this film is possibly the most beautiful one they have ever seen.  I will not go quite so far.  Maleficent had even more beautiful visuals than this one.

Having said that, this film is pretty.  The most gorgeous part of it though, was the ball.

I almost cried during the ball at how grand it was.  In some versions of Cinderella, I'm not very impressed with the ball at all, but this was a ball you wouldn't forget quickly.  The music for the dances was pleasant for one.  It actually looked like fun to be there, like a place you would have to get a pumpkin to turn into a coach in order to get there, or an event you might beg to go to.  The dances actually looked fun.  The costumes weren't too crazy and looked like they belonged.

Three things I thought could have been improved:

1.  Ella's distracting low cut dresses.  It just seemed uncharacteristic of her to wear something like that of her own free will and be comfortable in it.

The next two contain minor spoilers.

2.   The transformation of the animals and pumpkin with CGI.  They could have used real people for the footmen and driver and not have wasted time on them when the end result ended up looking out of place in the movie and not as good.  I did appreciate the nod towards Perrault though, since in the tale there were lizards used for footmen.

3.  I felt the movie was trying just a little too much to make us cry.  The third time someone died, it was beginning to feel repetitive and lose its power.  They could have cut Ella's father's death, as it was the least necessary for the story. He could have just been away all the time so he couldn't know how hard it was for Ella.

Okay spoilers over.

The Soundtrack:

Done by Patrick Doyle, who also did the soundtrack to Brave and quite a few other movies.  It was great and wasn't distracting, but it was fitting for the movie.  Two songs from the animated film were redone and sung by the actresses for the end credits: A Dream is a Wish your Heart Makes and Bibbity Bobbity Boo.  They were delightful.


I liked it so much.  If you have never seen Cinderella or given the story much thought but are interested, if you like the story, if you like fairy tales, go see this movie and enjoy it if you can.  It's going on my Christmas list.
And if you have seen it, what did you think?