Wild Words . . . Photos & Fine Art

Co-creating by heart with sandy cathcart through writers helps and art info, focusing on all things wild.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Here’s another question from my photographer/writer friend that should be of interest to all of us artists and writers:

I have a hard time convincing myself that magazine, newspaper, book publishers would be interested in what I have to write. I have no training in photography, nor in writing/journalism. While I think this lack of training is one of my biggest strengths, I know it hinders me as well.

This is an intriguing question. I hope what you mean by a lack of training being one of your biggest strengths, that you mean that no one has squelched your gut force—that part of you that knows instinctively what to photograph, or paint, or sing, or write. And it is true that we sometimes have to unlearn a lot of what we learn. I think it’s part of the process. You try something and it doesn’t work and you go back to what you were doing.

I also like for my students to stay tuned to their creative side, turning off the editor while doing so. I had to get away from my computer for a year in order to turn off the persistent editor enough to create something worth reading. Now it’s pretty well balanced out.

You say you have no training, but I see that you do. You may have taught yourself, but you took the time and effort to do so…that is valid training! As for your photography, you use your camera well, and I suspect you’ve read some magazines or books about photography. I know you’ve talked with others about both photography and writing, because that’s how you and I got connected in the first place. That’s training!

A lot of creative people who either don’t have the time or money for a formal education; often feel left behind because of a lack of training. That simply isn’t so. Most published writers I know don’t have a degree at all, let alone one in journalism. Most of us, including myself, get our training from a hands-on approach as follows:

1. Read! That is one of the best ways to learn to write. Observe and study the masters! Is one of the best ways to learn to draw or paint. Listen to compelling music! Is one of the best ways to learn to play an instrument or sing.

There are some great sites on my links to do this very thing!

I find myself drawn to the kinds of writing and painting and photography and music that I want to do. It’s very stimulating.

2. Doing the craft is another great way to improve. The more you write, draw, paint, play, sing…the better you become. Try some of the exercises I’ve had in past posts. I’ll also have some fun ones in future posts.

3. Read good references books and magazines on your chosen subject. My shelves are full of awesome books.

If you want to write and you don’t want to spend a lot of time on grammar, “Woe is I,”by Patricia T. O’Conner. It is a wonderful reference book. It’s written with a sense of humor but is packed full of helpful advice that is easy to find when you need it.

If you want to write fiction, I recommend, “Self Editing for Fiction Writers,”by Renni Browne and Dave King, and another must-have book is, “Plot and Structure.”

If you want to draw, I like Nicolaides, “The Natural Way to Draw.”

If you want to paint, I absolutely love “Harley Brown’s eternal truths for every artist.”

How about you bloggers? What are some of your favorite resource books? Let us know in the comment section.

4. Attend a conference! Whether it is a one-day or a week-long, a conference can do wonders to help you develop your craft, connect with other like-minded people, and come away inspired. Most conferences cover many aspects of the creative life including spiritual, life and craft, how-to, marketing, the business end, and other specialties.

Here are two that I will be teaching at this year:

Colorado Christian Writers

Oregon Christian Writers

5. Take a correspondence course! I started out by taking the Nonfiction Article Writing Course through Writers Digest. It was just what I needed to get a jump start on becoming a published writer.

6. Join a club or critique group! Being a member with other like-minded artisans will keep you motivated and help you grow in your craft. Members usually play off one another’s gifts, so each member ends up achieving a higher goal than they would have on their own. Sometimes it takes a while to find a group that works for you. Don’t expect your first meeting to feel as comfortable as your third. If it’s not happening by the fourth, then you should probably look somewhere else.

7. Make a lunch date with someone who is successful at what you want to do. Pick their brain.

8. Read interviews about the people you admire. See how they did it. What obstacles did they overcome? How can you relate? When I read Steven King’s book, “On Writing,” I came away totally jazzed, because finally I found someone who said it was okay to write the way I write. If it works for Steven King, then it must be okay for me!

Infuze Magazine has lots of good interviews. So does Novel Journey.

9. Take a class at a local college. I teach “Writing for Publicaton,” at Pacific Bible College and a majority of our students go on to become published writers. Look for a teacher that works well with you. I try very hard not to change my student’s writing voice and style, while teaching them to become better at what they do. One of my biggest joys is that my students don’t all sound like me.

It’s the same in my art class. I love my teacher! Karen Cain-Smith is wonderful! I’ve taken classes from her for several years, as have many other students, and none of us paint the same. We each have our own styles.

10. Go ahead. Get that degree if you really want. But don’t become so in love with big words that you begin to sound stiff and academic.

My pastor has a doctorate and he’s going for something even higher than that (I didn’t even know there was something higher). He proudly informed me recently that his humongous paper was zero percent passive. Hooray! You don’t have to be stiff to write a good academic paper, and even preachers are better if they stay away from preachy language.

There are good schools and bad schools; good teachers and not so good teachers. The problem is more in the choice of training rather than whether or not to receive training.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Exciting Week!

Wow! What an exciting week. I worked and prayed through hitting the "Wall."

You probably know the place I'm talking about. For me, it was knowing that something different needed to happen with my chapter, but not knowing what. Then I met with my critique group, and together, we worked through it. I've been writing all day today and am very excited about moving forward once again. It feels just right.

Do you have a critique group?

I can't overstress the benefits of belonging to a good critique group. By "good," I mean one where you are not only encouraged to write on a regular basis, but each member actually presents fresh work every meeting. It's important that each member contribute their individual expertise as well. Some members are good at catching grammar errors, others are good at spotting inconsistencies, and still others are gifted at helping with a "fix."

How big should a critique group be?

Mine is limited to five members and we meet twice a month. That really keeps us on the ball and allows plenty of time to review everyone's work. It's amazing how close you grow as a unit when you work like this. When one member rejoices, we all rejoice. When one member hits bottom, we all pitch in to cheer them up.

Don't know of any critique groups?

Why not start your own? That's what I did. The first time was over fifteen years ago when I only knew one other writer. He and I were the only members for several months. Then our group grew to be so big, we had to split in several units. It's easy to get on the phone and start calling your writing friends. But it's a good thing to pray first. A good critique group will be one of your greatest treasures!

Enjoy the Son!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Writing Question from a Photographer Friend

This question from a photographer friend I’m encouraging to write, because the two go so well together:

My first problem is I don't commit to writing. Everyone tells me that I have to journal, journal, journal, and I am starting to realize I just don't like journaling. Does one have to journal to be a writer? I much prefer to write when the inspiration hits.

No. You do not have to journal, journal, journal.

That works for some writers, but not for all. I always journal when I go on a trip, because I want to remember every detail, but I don’t journal every day. I don’t do much of anything every single day. My journals are a laugh. Sometimes I journal for months at a time, then a year, maybe two goes by and I pick up where I left off. Ha!

With that said, I will say that journaling is good if you can do it. There are so many things I’ve forgotten because I didn’t journal.

So, I do the next best thing. I have a Moleskine book . Have you heard of those? Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway used this awesome little book. Makes me feel so creative just to own one of these things. The more worn it looks, the better. I’m up there with the big guys! Ha!

I use my Moleskine to write down the things that inspire me, just like you already do. The calendar on my wall at home also works for writing down quotes I don’t want to miss, or the opening of the spring flowers or the trill and color of a new bird I see out my window. Scraps of paper are the worst. I’m forever losing those things.

Some artists and writers use tape recorders. That doesn’t work well for me, because I never get the words off the silly tape! Then the tapes pile up and I rarely get them labeled, so I have another mess.

I also have a little Handspring (Palm Pilot type of thing) with a keyboard that fits in my coat pocket or backpack. I take that thing everywhere. It’s no surprise to see me in the middle of the wilderness typing away with a log as a desk.

And yes, when driving, I’m often pulling over to the side of the road because inspiration has struck.

The pulling over part came after my husband caught me driving down the road trying to write and steer at the same time. He called me on the cell phone…now, if that wasn’t a trick…writing, and driving, and answering the cell all at once! “Quit writing and look at the road,” he said.


All that to say, it’s okay to only journal as inspiration hits, but one thing to note…inspiration will probably hit more often if you get into more of a habit of writing.

So, if you’re not going to journal, at least have a time and place to write something…even if it’s simply to write something worth remembering about your day, or your feelings, or a question that’s been bugging you, or the color or smell of something you take for granted. You’ll learn to see with new eyes and meet the challenge of putting those new sights into words. Sounds a bit like journaling. Eh?

What's New?

I about killed myself today by breathing toxic fumes from a burning coffeepot. I can barely see the computer because of running eyes and running nose and sneezing and coughing. Ouch! But I'm alive, and I'll probably survive. So much for courage.

But I was a quick thinker. Hey! I put a towel over my face, grabbed a potholder, got rid of the offending pot, flung open the windows, turned on the fans, and quickly changed my workspace to the deck. Got a little cold . . . but a nice change of scenery.

So, that's enough courage for today, but I promise to get back to the topic soon. I've been thinking about it a lot.

Today, I'm switching a bit to start answering some of the questions that have been coming from artists and writers. You'll find the first one above. From now on, I will be interspersing the week's (or should I say month's?) topic with some down-to-earth help.

So, be sure to place any questions you have in the comments section or e-mail me. The more, the better. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to find someone who does.

Hey! Do you see James Byron Huggins over there on the Infuze Link? He's one of my favorite authors. Check him out.

And the flying boy in the photo below is Ron, the son of my artist friend, Kim Ragsdale.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Wow! This courage stuff is harder than I thought. I'm falling through thin air here.

I’ve spent two days praying about what to share with you about where and how to get courage, and I’ve struggled with getting enough of it for myself to keep on writing.

I’m at a wall in the writing of my book right now. Just smacked it right on! Then panic hits and I wonder if I will ever get through to the other side. I was in such a groove, then life happened. Now, I’m determined to get the groove back.

So, today, I stopped, emptied my schedule, skipped art class, and am seeking God. In doing so, I’ve returned to the following prayer:

God to give me enough financially that I'm not always on the verge of tears about it.
God to give me enough encouragement with my book to keep me writing.
God to give me the strength to carry on in what He has called me to do.
God to give me wisdom to know which way He is leading me.
God to give me good health to be able to keep on keeping on.
God to help me realize joy in spite of circumstances.
God to help me rest in Him.
to focus on the good.
to focus on Him.

So, if you’re stuck like me, this might be a good prayer for you too! And while you’re at it, pray for me to have encouraging words for you tomorrow.

And what about your schedule? When’s the last time you emptied it and made an appointment with your Creator?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

What are we afraid of?

Tomorrow we'll talk about giving courage to others, then we'll talk about why we need courage in the first place. See ya here!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Taking Courage

I was reading this morning in Ezra and came to 7:28 where Ezra says, “I took courage” (NIV). NAS says, “I was strengthened.” Both versions imply that courage comes from outside our selves.

Isn’t that interesting? I think we are most often told that courage comes from inside us.

In a sense that is true . . . for the follower of Christ, because courage (strength) comes from God and He lives inside the believer.

It’s worth thinking about whether it is actually true for the unbeliever—would make a good research study. I suspect that the unbeliever will run into a wall before the follower of Christ will, because the unbeliever is relying on his own power, which is limited. The believer has unlimited power . . . “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens (gives courage to) me,” that is if the believer is calling upon God for that strength.

Webster Collegiate defines courage as,
“mental or moral strength
to venture
and persevere
or withstand
or difficulty.”

The meaning seems to get washed out a bit when you try to use synonyms. But a further meaning to explain the difference between tenacity and courage is also interesting,
mean mental or moral strength
to resist opposition,
or hardship.
Courage implies firmness of mind and will
in the face of danger
or extreme difficulty
(the courage to support unpopular causes).

” It goes on to explain the differences even further, but I like that “firmness of mind.”

The Hebrew word for courage (as found in Ezra and many other passages) is “Chazaq,” which means
to strengthen,
be strong,
become strong,
be courageous,
be firm,
grow firm,
be resolute,
be sore

So, looking at all the above, I would say courage is something we reach out and take from God. He hands it to us, and it’s up to us to take it, and it gives us a firmness of mind as well as strength.

This reaching out and taking it implies that courage is something we don’t have until we face danger, fear, difficulty, opposition, or hardship, because we don’t often reach out for it until the need is there.

Tomorrow, I’ll give you and example of this reaching out and taking courage.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fun and Rewarding Writing Exercise

Wow! Did we have fun in class tonight. Twenty students with twenty awesome dialogue scenes. I was so totally impressed. Beginning through advanced writers make up the class, and they all came up with wonderful stories. Amazing.

For some of you students and anyone else who would like to give this a try, choose one of the stories below (either Bugs or Bigfoot? or My First Example of Courage. Bugs or Bigfoot is a straight dialogue scene, sometimes a little harder to do than the one we did tonight. My First Example of Courage has some dialogue, some scene, some interior monologue, and a lot of narrative.

Before you begin, do the following:

(1) Choose two characters for yourself. They can be fictional or real. Give them names. Know their gender.(If you choose My First Example of Courage you also need an animal.)
(2) Choose a place. Set up the scene.
(3) Choose an event.

In other words. You have these two characters (who?) who are in a place (where?), doing what (what action?)

In Bugs or Bigfoot, I have myself and a doctor in a doctor's office, talking through an exam. In My First Example of Courage, I have myself and my father and my dog in a truck traveling down the road.

After you've chosen your people, place, and happening. Then copy the structure of your chosen story. Wherever your chosen story uses narrative, you do the same. Wherever there is dialogue, you do the same. Wherever there is a beat, put in a beat. Wherever there is a tag, put in a tag. Wherever there is interior narrative, you have your character think. You get the gist. Oh yeah, don't forget to make the scene from ONE character's viewpoint.

I bet you'll be surprised at what you come up with. You may have to set it aside for a while before you'll really see the worth. And no! This does not change your style or mess with it in any way. Twenty people in our class kept twenty styles by doing this. Each person kept their own flavor, but improved their structure.

This is especially helpful when you already have a project and you use characters you've already created. Several students are using their results in their current works. At least one of my students created an entire novel surrounding this one scene she wrote from this exercise.

Do this exercise several times with some of your favorite scenes written by your favorite authors. And, yes, it's okay to expand.

Have fun! And be sure to post in the comment section if you dare share!

More on courage tomorrow . . . yikes! It's after midnight . . . more on courage later today.

Bugs or Bigfoot?

Another excerpt from my upcoming book, "Wild Women":

“Tell me again about where you live,” Dr. Dan asked when I was pregnant with my fourth child. He sat on a stool peering over my open medical chart.

“It’s in the mountains,” I answered. “We hike a half mile from the car to the house.”

“Up hill?”


“And you have no electricity?”


“No running water.”

“A stream runs nine months of the year.”

He shook his head. “How’s the fishing?”

“Great at the lake.”

He shook his head again. “That’s incredible.”

“Not so incredible,” I answered. “I awake to a wonderland every morning, either an awesome stillness pierced with birdsong or the roar of God’s voice upon the wind.”

“So, if you’re so stress free, what’s causing your blood pressure to skyrocket?”

“Oh that,” I said. “Bigfoot.”

Dr. Dan set my chart on his knees and crossed his arms. “Bigfoot?”

“Or bugs. I’m not sure. One’s as bad as the other.”

He settled back, waiting for the rest of the story.

My first example of courage

I had my first remembered example of courage when I was nine years old. Here’s a rendering of it from my upcoming book, “Wild Women.”

When I was nine years old, traveling with my father in the dark of night over the backroads of Northern California, I had my first encounter with a mountain lion. The color of its fur was as black as the inside of an abandoned well. Dad called it a panther. But there were no panthers in our area, or so we were told. It was about the size of a full-grown man. It fell off the side of the mountain and landed right in front of our truck. My dog and best friend, Nipper, went wild with barking and lunged at the windshield. Dad barely stopped our old pickup before nearly running into the lion.

“Stay in the truck, Sandra,” he said.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

With Nipper barking frantically in my ear, I watched as Dad squeezed out of the truck, closed the door with a snap, and walked to the crumpled black form made easy to see by our headlights.

Panther. Just the sound of the word on my tongue conjured up horrifying stories of young children being dragged from their beds into the jungle. It didn’t take much imagination to envision the panther grabbing Dad and dragging him into the thick forest, leaving Nipper and me alone. I wasn’t sure which was worse—to see Dad taken off by a crazed panther, or to be left alone to face Bigfoot, because one thing I was sure of was that Bigfoot would come, and Nipper was no match for him.

Dad had just passed the left headlight, making a big shadow spread across the road, when the panther sprang to its feet and took off over the side of the mountain. I never saw Dad move so fast. He was around the truck and back in the driver’s seat before the panther’s tail disappeared. Nipper jumped in my lap, pawing at the window and barking madly.
Dad and I talked of little else for days. Everyone thought we were crazy.

“There are no panthers in our woods!” neighbors kept insisting.

But it was hard for them to argue when Dad pointed me out as an eyewitness. I reveled in my high standing for as long as I could, and I never forgot how brave my father was, getting out of the truck like that on a seldom traveled rural road to check on that mountain lion.

I decided right then and there that I wanted to have that same kind of courage in my life—the courage to have firmness of mind in the face of fear, danger, and difficulty. I suspect there are varying degrees of courage, but we’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What is the Meaning of Courage?

The last couple of days we’ve talked about whether courage is an accident or not and about not mistaking foolishness for courage. Perhaps it’s time we put a definition on courage.

Webster Collegiate defines courage as, “mental or moral strength to venture and persevere or withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

The meaning seems to get washed out a bit when you try to use synonyms. But a further meaning to explain the difference between tenacity and courage is also interesting, “Mettle, spirit, resolution, tenacity mean mental or moral strength to resist opposition, danger, or hardship. Courage implies firmness of mind and will in the face of danger or extreme difficulty (the courage to support unpopular causes).”

Webster goes on to explain the differences even further, but I like that “firmness of mind.” It’s the kind of courage it takes to stick it out as a writer, or photographer, or painter. It also helps us face opposition. Yet it comes from the same place as the courage to face danger.

Today, here’s an exercise I learned from Lauraine Snelling. I teach it to all my students.

Power of Ten Brainstorming:

Get out a sheet of paper and number one to ten, leaving a blank line between each number. Then set the timer for two minutes and start writing. Write whatever thoughts come to your mind regarding courage. The idea is to fill in all ten lines. You can write a word, a line, or a paragraph, but you MUST fill in all ten lines. Do you think I’m repeating myself? I am.

You will probably get six or seven without much difficulty. Then your mind may go suddenly blank. If that happens, make yourself write whatever comes to mind, even if it’s something silly like, “I don’t know why I’m doing this silly exercise.” You may discover some real gems by the time you get to ten.

This exercise is a way of turning the editor off. I’ve been teaching writing for many years to all ages, including grade school, high school, college, and at writers conferences. Children through middle school are the very most creative; still pretty good at it through high school, then it starts going down hill after that—not for everyone, of course, but generally speaking.

Why is that?

I believe it’s because we’ve learned how to write properly. In other words, we’ve turned on the editor. And boy howdy! Once that editor is on, it’s sooooo hard to turn it off. I had to get off the computer for a year and write by longhand in order to loosen up and let the creative side have a chance.

To prove my point a bit further, I’ve never had to teach anyone to turn the creative side off.

“Fine,” you say, “so forget all the grammar stuff, already. I’ll just write!”

Ah, but there’s the rub. A lack of good grammar skills will limit your creativity. So, go ahead and learn the editor stuff, but keep exercising that creator side as well, and your toes will curl and you'll kiss the sky—see the awesome post on Mike Duran's site called, “Wringing Words.”

So, if you do the Power of Ten Brainstorm, and you fill in all the lines, give yourself a gold star. You are still in touch with the creative side. But if you didn’t fill in all the lines, don’t despair. Just be aware that you need to get back in touch with the creative juices. Repeating this exercise often will help stir up your creativity, especially at the beginning of your writing or art time.

If you artists are thinking there’s nothing here for you, think again. This exercise will get you in touch with the creative side no matter what venue.

After you come up with your ten words or phrases regarding courage, then take a few minutes to look them over and think about what you have. If you need more help, take one of the good words or phrases and do another Power of Ten Brainstorming with it. Then look that list over. When you finally have some ideas, give yourself two minutes to write your own definition of courage. That may be all you need, but go ahead! Take more time if you need, and edit and polish until you have something good.

I would love it if you would share your definition on the comment section of this web site. Or you can always e-mail me if you prefer.

Have fun!

A couple of awesome links for you writers!

Here is a quote from Mike Duran's blog that is totally awesome!

So listen up. Can you hear it? That shrill peeling in the distance? It's not a bell. Or a siren. Or the whistle that signals the night crew from the dusty quarry. It's the sound of the writer at work. Wringing. Always wringing. Squeezing, stretching, slicing and extracting. Can you hear it? It's a wringing... the wringing of words.

For another great article by Mike Duran, click here.


Thanks to those of you who leave comments!

I love your e-mails, too, but it's really fun to comment here on the blog where we can all share. More cool stuff coming up soon!

Let's not mistake foolishness for courage.

That’s another line from The Cat Man. To be more precise, it usually goes something like, “Let’s not mistake foolishness for a death wish.”

Speaking of which, let’s talk about that wolf photo. If you haven’t seen it, scroll down to January 12 and take a look. On the morning of the photo, Cat left me with the parting words, “Don’t do anything foolish.”

“Who me?”

He rolled his eyes.

I honestly didn’t plan to do anything foolish, it just happened. A friend invited me to help out at a facility (which I will not name) that works with injured wild animals to ready them for return to the wilderness.

My friends don’t call me an animal magnet for nothing. Every animal in the place took a liking to me. The grizzlies kept dancing for my cooing, the mountain lion kept staring into my eyes (was that love or looking for dinner?), and the wolf thought I was absolutely wonderful—and tasty—he kept licking my face. I couldn’t resist him…or her…I didn’t stop to check. I didn’t stop to think either. I simply went on impulse. Impulse and foolishness are kinda like synonyms. But I have a very good angel who understands my unique personality. He’s always a step ahead.

After viewing the photo, I realized that my impulsive act was probably the very thing Cat had meant when he said not to do anything foolish. Oops!

What if that wolf suddenly decided he didn’t like me so much after all? What if I still had jelly on my face? What if he was having a bad day? Would he have licked? Or would he have chomped?

Now, I’ve been honest with you about my “courageous” act of petting a wolf. Honesty is more an act of courage than my act of petting a wolf. Honesty is also something that is sadly missing in a lot of today’s writing and art.

As a nonfiction writer, I must be honest enough to show my failings along with my achievements. I can say I’m fearless, but that would be a lie, even though I do a lot of things that make me appear to be fearless. When I’m writing about others, I need to honestly portray their process of reaching their goals. I don’t need to uncover every dirty secret, but I do need to show some of the warts.

As a fiction writer, my characters need to be able to reveal their true identities. If they’re impulsive like me, then I need to show the results. If they’re courageous like The Cat Man, then I need to show his true inner feelings . . . that he believes his courage is an accident.

As an artist, I can either take the courage to paint the things that thrill me, or I can wimp out and paint what sells. Of course, it’s wonderful when the two go together. It takes a lot of courage for an artist to say when the painting or drawing is finished. I’m often tempted to let someone else be the judge of that. It’s wise to take good counsel, but it’s also wise to not overwork my art.

Courage is there for the taking, right when we need it. Tomorrow we’ll talk more about how to take it.

Don’t forget the fun writing exercise in yesterday’s posting. I’m still looking for some wild stories to be turned in!

Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Courage is an accident.

So says my husband, Cat, who is also well-known as The Cat Man in my outdoor articles.

Cat is a courageous man. He reacts faster than anyone I’ve ever known. When our house, which was tucked away in the wilderness with no running water or electricity, was burning to the ground, I grabbed our kids and headed for safe ground. Cat arrived an hour later while flames reached high into the sky and kerosene lanterns, rifles, and butane tanks pierced the air with explosions; he started grabbing things, rescuing several prized possessions. He swatted at the fire burning the seat of his motorcycle and moved it to safety, all the while knowing it could blow up at any moment.

That’s courage, and I don’t think it’s an accident.

What do you think?

Courage is certainly not an accident when it comes to having courage to write or create a work of art. It’s more a choice. We can either attack that blank page with a joyful thrill, or we can sit and stare at it until our eyes cross and we decide to go eat chocolates (or follow that herd of wapiti that’s been hanging around my forest yard).

On the other hand, perhaps it is an accident. What about the times we simply start writing words or begin painting, and we don’t quit until we have a finished product? We didn’t even think about mustering up the courage, we just went for it, kinda like an accident.

I love those times when the words just flow, or the painting totally consumes me. I usually love the end product as well . . . at least for a while. Then, when I look at it another time, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written. Then another day, I’m back to loving it again. Goodness!

Tomorrow we’ll talk more about where and how to get courage. For today, let’s try the accident thing. Take ten minutes (don’t allow yourself more) and write a story using the four nouns and four verbs found below. You have to use them all in one story (no fair editing). This little exercise is to get your creative juices flowing. You can turn on the editor another time.

Nouns: shark, gondolier, mandolin; elephant.

Verbs: flipped; swaggered; galloped, exploded.

Now, write your story and be sure to share if you dare. I’d love to read it. The wilder the better. And don’t forget to give us your comments about courage being an accident.

Yes folks! That really is a wolf!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It takes courage to be a writer, artist or musician

It’s not exactly the same kind of courage it takes to venture alone into the wilderness for ten days at a time—there’s not really anything threatening my life such as wild cougars and bears; I don’t have to worry about falling over a cliff and no one ever finding me; I’m safely tucked away from storms—but in another sense there’s a whole lot more at stake.

Fear of rejection threatens my writing and artistic life. What if I do my very best and no one likes it? Or worse yet . . . what if no one cares enough to even look at it? What if I get lost in the slush pile? It’s easy to fall into a pit of depression and stay there. And it takes a lot of strength and resolution to claw my way back up once I hit bottom. Talk about storms. Horrendous black skies full of lightning come out of nowhere and tend to circle back and hit me again when I’ve barely come up for breath—the storms of looming deadlines, a blank page and blank mind, bills needing to be paid, and the hurry up and wait that drives me crazy. Discouragement strikes me down hard.

So where do we get courage?

That’s my theme for this coming week. I plan to weather the storms enough to give us all a bit of courage for each day, Monday through Friday. Be sure to check back for your own special dose.