Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How To Keep Writing (Or Questions I Don't Know The Answer To)

"How do you keep writing when you are relationally driven?"

Erica asks me this question as we start in on the second half of the broccolli and swiss quiche that she made for our Monday morning breakfast together. We meet every other week for these meals, red trimmed plates on red place mats, mugs of tea, glasses of mango orange juice, and a candle burning for aesthetics. Mostly, we talk about my spiritual life. What am I learning? How am I growing? What am I afraid of? What does Jesus say, what did he do, what did his followers say and do, that reflect this very human place that I'm in?

But because we both think of ourselves as shaped and even defined by word craft (or perhaps just our love for it), we talk about writing. Today, we are talking about my recent attempts at starting a plan to get to graduate school for creative writing. And how when my old profs, whose good opinion I value more than a little too much, ask me "Who is influencing your writing recently?" in an innocent and engaged voice, I panic. I don't know how to say that I haven't completed any pieces in the last two years. I don't know how to say that the writers influencing me recently are along the mystic and spiritual guide sorts, like Henry Nouwen and Frederick Buechner. That doesn't help them help me to graduate school, even it is helping me sense of life and sense of self and sense of God.

I don't know how to answer Erica's question. She doesn't either. "Let me know when you figure it out!" she laughs. She is a new mother and a campus minister of 8 years and has a book she's been trying to write for a while. But, somehow, for both of us, the people we love and who give us life... we let them step in the way of writing. People keep us going. And when "people" and "being with people" is a key part of your job description, writing alone at a desk becomes a strangely un-urgent activity. In those seasons, I don't even think about how I defined "writing" as part of my life long "vocation" in an essay my senior year of college. I don't know how it works anymore. I don't know how to keep it going.

People say the obvious things. "Schedule in time." [I tried] "Write with others."[who?] "Have you heard about this local and cheap workshop that could help?" [Still above my price range]

Erica encouraged me to accept the season. That the role of writing in my life, or the role of my life in the act of writing, is different. Things are different. They wont' be this way forever. Keep looking for the spaces and moments. Keep looking. Keep trying.

But in the mean time, it would be great to figure out how to solve this problem. How do you keep creatively committed to your craft when you are primarily motivated to accomplish tasks by relational gains?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Ender's Game

Check out this project

I just finished reading "Ender's Game". Derek loaned his two copies to me and Benoit last week at a super bowl party. This is the second year in a row that artistic happiness has ensued from a super bowl gathering (last year, I met Elaine and proceeded to be great friends).

Fun Fact: I was one of three people reading the book for the first time last week.

I had been told since junior high that I would like "Ender's Game". I knew I would get to it eventually and on this cold, lull week between frantic events like Jubilee Conference and the Grand Opening for The CommonPlace, I did.

My long time recommenders were right. I did love it.

I do know however that I love it differently than I might have loved it when I was younger. The world did not entirely swallow me up. I had other questions running through my head. I had other analysis I was conducting. And I was oddly, profoundly disturbed and disappointed in the ending. But perhaps other fans would disagree.

If you haven't read Ender's Game, perhaps you can think of it as a quality ancestor to current popular works like "The Hunger Games". It's a strange future earth that has to be saved through the brilliance of children turned into military soldiers and strategians. There is space travel and the threats are between humans and an alien species uncleverly titled "the buggers". Ender Wiggin is a child of 6 who is called the most brilliant human being who had existed yet and was needed to command the armies in the final battle against the alien species.

What was fascinating was when this book was written. 1977. But the themes and even technological pieces were right on. The students use things called "desks" which function like highly engaging ipads and 1st person video game scenarios. They are connected to "the net" which is the internet without much difference. Email wasn't even functional until the 90s. What was happening here?

I'm wondering just how much popular science fiction shapes what we end up making. And even more specifically, how we end up interacting with it. Does the way we envision our future actively determine our future relationships with future creations and innovations?

And the manipulation of a kind hearted boy into a killer he never wanted to me. The words "he became sin who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God" floated through my mind. Yet the manipulation was so violent and involuntary on Ender's part that I could not see a true correlation to the Jesus as Savior narrative arc that exists in Western Art. The side narrative with Peter and Valentine was also beautifully written but ultimately somehow not conclusive. The ending? It was as if it was the ending the author wanted to give but maybe not the ending that was truest to the plot. Or maybe I've read too many tragedies since undergrad.

I will give this one thing: it isn't trying to be a happy ending story. I appreciate that about science fiction. It so often deals with themes, topics, situations, realities that are avoided or difficult. But add uncreated gadgets and space travel, and suddenly it is safe and good to deal with profundity and engaged with by younger readers.

Genre fiction, no matter what happens in my life and my artistic journeys, I love you dearly.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's February, People

Check out this project to give some cheery summer green hope to the February blues.

Thinking about seasons.

About how life shifts according to different activities and focuses and ways of life.

As far as seasons go, I may just dislike February the most.

No one is happy in February. It's cold and grey unless you're somewhere near or below the equator. It's short and cramped. I mean, who thought it was a kindness to give the month two less days than anyone elses? It's full of work with no clear, tangible result. It's work work work but nothing changes.

Except that it has. The days are starting to change. I leave dance class at 5 and the sun is still not fully below the horizon. I'm working and there aren't visible changes yet but spring is already on the move, the center of the earth has shifted its axis and the northern hemisphere is slowly pulling back towards the sun.

Patience is needed. And a vivid memory of summer's heat.

My excuse for everything that feels wrong about my life: "It's February, people."

What else can you expect?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Indiegogo Campaign: The CommonPlace Commonplace Book

First, see the project video here.

This has been a while in the making. It started last April when Steve suggested I do a crowd sourced funding project to fund an arts project I wanted to do as part of my job. I wanted to get people together and make stuff.

Some beautiful things happened.

The first is that I got connected with Jon Noll who wanted to add to his film portfolio. The second is that I called up a bunch of friends who make stuff and got them to let us come around and video them doing their thing. It was a ridiculous amount of fun. They were talented and lively and wanted to hear about the project, and even more importantly, share the love of the things they were making.

It was a beautiful time. We took pictures. We took film. We made the video. Well... Jon made the video. He's good with that kind of thing. I talked and wrote the script.

Then. The door jam happened.

I was all set to go with Kickstarter. I was just waiting for a week to get the bank account things sorted out. But it kept not going through. I emailed and called Amazon Payments for months. I got to the point that I had even given up on getting this project off the ground.


Cue Steve again. He's my boss and very strategic and takes risks and likes to try things. The bigger the try, the better with him. He wasn't satisfied for me to write the whole project off. Nope. It was going to happen. He gave me a week to get it switched to Indiegogo and get the thing rolling.

I did. It's rolling.

Let's be honest: I'm scared. $6000 in 30 days.

Well... 29 days. We started yesterday morning.

The CommonPlace (115 S Fraser St) nearing completion.
That's a task and a half. My request? Share the project! Considering giving to it yourself. This is something I am so excited about making happen. I'm excited about arts in State College. I'm excited about a book of collected State College and Penn State artists. I'm excited about partnering with Calvary Church to make it happen. I'm excited about this beautiful space being finished to act as a conduit and canvas for these beautiful things to happen. I'm just thrilled. And I want you to be thrilled with me!

If you know me, imagine this entire post was accompanied by the intense waving of hands. I mean it. This thing is dear to me and I can't wait to see this community come out of the ground!