LTUE Keynote Speech: James A. Owen

At LTUE writing conference, James A. Owen gave a masterful speech that I found exceptionally inspiring and encouraging. Gratefully, I had my little podcast recorder, so I captured this awesome story. My only regret is that I didn’t catch a photo of the drawing of the dragon given at the end of the speech. It was the kind of picture that would have been discouraging to see (as in, ‘I’ll never be that good’ king of thing) if it hadn’t been for the deeply moving message he gave about simply drawing lines and choosing where they go–and never giving up. It was an incredible work of art, drawn in two minutes.

And by the way, you’ve GOT to check out his book on this subject, Drawing Out the Dragons. I’m reading it now. If you like the speech (and of course you will), you’ll love the book.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Mind if I let my thoughts wander for a minute?

I heard of an interview recently where an author was asked, “What would you say to encourage new authors?”

He replied, “Nothing. I would discourage them, because good authors can’t be discouraged from writing.”

Kind of an odd thing to say, I guess, but it made me wonder if I can be discouraged from writing. Is there something someone somewhere could say to make me decide to completely stop trying?

I don’t think so.

That brings on the question, are you intrinsically motivated, or extrinsically motivated? Basically, are you motivated by what you think of your work, or what others think of your work?

Obviously a serious writer can’t ignore what everyone else says. It’s his/her job to provide quality stuff that people want to read, but that doesn’t have to be where the origin of the author’s motivation.

I’m definitely intrinsically motivated. I’d write even if I thought no one would ever read my stuff. But I also want to make a serious effort to become a fully established, successful, full-time author. I motivate myself, but I’ve got to provide writing people want. It’s an interesting balance.

Besides, one of my other motivations is to bless and help other people through writing. I can’t do that if my work isn’t interesting enough to read.

Anyways.

How about you? How are you motivated?

The Creative Power of Limitation

I think one of the greatest ways to promote creativity is to have limitations that seem to hamper the progress you are able to make. Think about it. If material is lacking, you learn to be creative with what you’ve got. If money is an issue, you get creative with the money and resources you already have. If you don’t have much space, you either turn a bedroom into a studio or find a way to do your work outdoors, where the atmosphere is better anyway. Limitations and roadblocks promote greater creativity.

If you think your limitation is hampering your creativity, maybe you just need to think more creatively about your creativity.

It rarely does any good to put off an aspiration until you have the money or means to do something about it. Whatever it is that you want to do, start doing it, with whatever time, money, and resources you DO have.

For example, let’s say you want to take up sculpture, but have no clay, and no money. That is an issue – but not enough of an issue to justify waiting until you have money or clay before moving forward. Start with home-made playdough. Does that sound too cheap?

Have you ever heard of Don Marco? He’s a crayola crayon artist, and he’s AMAZING. It’s not the fact that he uses crayons for art that’s amazing – your kids do that, (though yes, they are amazing in their own way, but you know what I mean). It’s the fact that he makes incredible art with crayons.

Use what you have to do what you want to do. Then when the resources are available, you can move up – and still have a unique portfolio.

What if time is your limitation? Become a five strokes a day artist, or perhaps “The Five Minute Painting” artist, or whatever. You don’t have to base your career on your limitation, but turn your limitation into an asset by trying something creative with your creativity.

Creativity is spawned where limitations prevail.

I’ve been publishing CD’s for years, and though it would be awesome and ideal to record with a real grand piano in a real studio, that’s never been an option to me, because it’s so dang expensive. But instead of complaining or waiting until I had the funds, I record with a professional program that allows me to fix minor mistakes that would be untouchable in a studio recording. That made my first CD better than it would have been if I’d had a studio to record in. Limitations aren’t roadblocks, limitations promote synergy.

If something goes wrong and you suddenly find yourself lacking what you once had, turn your disability into a superpower. Only you can figure out how to do it. That’s the beauty of creativity.

Progress never comes from maintaining the status quo, but from running into problems and coming up with solutions that were better than the initial plan.

Preparing for Turn Thirteen

I heard an interesting interview with a bobsledder. He was talking about a ride where one of the major turns went incredibly well, and then, almost without warning, the sled flipped, and the crew was going down on their heads.

Being the one responsible for leading into the turns, he apologized to his teammates, who asked what went wrong.

“I did turn twelve so well that I lost sight of turn thirteen.”

Photo by familymwr on flickr

How easy it is for writers to make the same mistake; after experiencing a small success, to get lazy with the next thing. It could be a well written chapter, a book that was accepted for publication, or even a brilliant signing. When confidence clouds vision, and you become lazy with with your discipline, technique, or schedule, you crash. A great turn, though invaluable, is not the finish line.

How to Prevent Missing Turn Thirteen
Let a successful turn refine your focus, rather than distract you from it. You should be grateful, and celebrate—but don’t look back. When things go well, work harder. Instead of softening your grip, tighten it, and let the momentum of your mini-success propel you into complete success.

Hobby vs. Occupational vs. Serious Author

Photo by J. Paxon Reyes

I’ve been thinking a lot about my role as an author.

It’s been almost eight years since I started writing my first book, and I hope I’ve come a long way. I used to think of authors simply as people who wrote books, but now I see that while that’s true, there are also many kinds of authors. Most are one of three kinds of authors (or working to become such).

There are those who work on a book once in a while, and ten or fifteen years later, they complete it. They have day jobs, various hobbies, and writing is one of them. They will probably only write one to three books in their lives.

Then there are authors who are experts in a field, and as a way of advancing that field, they write a book on the topic. They have day jobs doing the very thing they write about. They’re authors as a means of promoting their day-job. They may write multiple books, but those books will most likely all be relating to their niche.

Then there are serious, full-time authors. They are the authors who write and write and write. By the time they finish a book, they’ve got at LEAST one more underway. They may also write for magazines, newspapers, journals, or any number other places, but they write. They may participate in events, seminars, and teaching, but for the most part, writing IS their day job. They may be fiction or nonfiction authors.

I suppose there are a dozen other kinds of writers, but these seem to be the main three.

I started out as the first. I wrote my first book as something to simply pass on to posterity. As I got near the end, I decided to clean it up to make it marketable, but by the time it was finished, I discovered something interesting: I absolutely LOVE writing. I love it passionately, every bit as much as I love composing music, sometimes more so.

By the time I completed the first draft of my second book, I was fully converted to the writing life, and determined to write for a career someday.

Only recently have I realized that aiming for some etherial future career isn’t going to be enough–not really, anyway. It’s not enough to passively write and hope for the best. I’ve got to make plans, give myself deadlines, and become a serious, SERIOUS author. I may not be able to up and quit my day job, but it’s time to stop working for the future and simply BE the author I’d intended to one day become.

I’m not suggesting that one type of author is better than another. Obviously every author will have a different story, focus, and plan.

But as for myself, I choose to be the serious author.

Anyone Want to Start an Online Manuscript-Critique Group?

I have a writing group, and the members are great. We inspire each other, give each other feedback, and boost each other’s motivation.

But in addition to that, I’d like to get together a group of serious authors, who like me, need fellow authors to help them get their completed manuscripts ready for submission.

Here’s what I have in mind, and it’s open to any serious writers. We get together a group of as many of us as we can (at least 4, but any number more), and trade contact info. When one of us finishes a manuscript (either roughdraft, second draft, or tenth draft, whatever you want), we send a copy of it to the others. Then everyone (everyone who has the time) reads it, offering as much or as little critique as we have time for. I would suggest that all critiques come back to the author within a month of when the manuscript was sent to the group, since the author may be wanting to submit it to a publisher (or self publish) as soon as possible, and will need time to make any changes before sending it.

If you get a manuscript and don’t have time to read it, that’s okay. That’s why we want a number of people, so at least a few will have time to look over it. We don’t meet or contact each therewith any regularity, but just when we have completed (albeit unrefined) manuscripts needing feedback.

With such a short time-frame, the critique need not be comprehensive. In fact, a couple paragraphs of feedback would be perfect. We don’t want to put strain on the time of struggling authors, we just want to help each other out in getting our manuscripts refined.

I’m open to different approaches if you have other ideas.

Anyone interested in being part of such a group?

Interview with Author Misty Moncur

Interview with Misty Moncur

Show Notes:

Misty Moncur is the author of the LDS novel, Daughter of Helaman. As her bio on her website, http://mistymoncur.blogspot.com/ states,

Misty fits in writing like other people fit in breathing. She writes in the Romance, Young Adult, and Religious genres.

Misty lives in Utah with her husband, her Wii-addicted son, and her curly-haired daughter. They spend a great deal of time laughing and the rest of it eating pizza

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Questions discussed in the Interview:

What gave you the idea of creating a young woman who is interested in joining Helaman’s army of 2000 young men?

I noticed that Keturah has a very strong view of gender roles. Was that difficult to write into the Nephite culture?

What kind of research did you have to do in order to write about day-to-day living in Nephite times?

There are probably many members of the church that would like to study more about what Nephite life may have been like. What sources or tools would you recommend?

Was there anything about the history or characters in the story that you didn’t include in the book (deleted scenes, unwritten backstory, etc)?

The book is obviously intended for an LDS audience. What do you hope members of the church get from Daughter of Helaman?

How did writing this book effect your testimony of the Book of Mormon?

What got you started in writing?

How did you get from an interest in writing to actually starting your first book? Was the task harder or easier than you expected?

What do you recommend to other writers who would like to write a book, but haven’t started yet?

What’s next? Sequel? Do you have another book underway?

Any advice or suggestions you would like to give new writers?

Thanks to Misty for allowing me to do the interview! Everyone go buy her book!

Launch Party Recap

Randy Lindsay asked me recently about my launch party last month for Marriage is Ordained of God, but Who Came Up with Dating?, and I realized I hadn’t blogged about it. I make the excuse that it was in the middle of one of my nonblogging months, but that doesn’t really hold water, so I’ll just say I’m a little slow and mention it now.

It was a blast! We didn’t have enough people to unbalance the earth’s magnetic pole, but I was so glad people came, and some even bought books.

We had it at the Fairview museum and had balloons (in the color theme of the book), cake (see above), cookies (also color themed like the book), games, tables, chairs, books, pens, giveaways, music download cards, a woolly mammoth, and tons of Doritos,

I wish I’d gotten more pictures, because it really was a cool setup, and I think those who came had a great time. Thanks to all of you who made it, and especially all you who bought books! You keep me writing!

You can’t tell from the photo, but the cake was a half-sheet, which means it was massive. Kudos especially to my mom for decorating it. Didn’t she do awesome?

Just a couple weeks later I attended Michael Young’s launch party for his book, The Last Archangel, and had a great time! He had all kinds of angel themed games and activities. Even my kids had fun coloring, though I couldn’t get them to wear my crafty multicolor pipe-cleaner halos I made them for more than a few seconds. Plus my son loved going home with a glow-in-the dark pitchfork prize.

So how do you all do launch parties? How have they gone for you? Have you seen cool things (or not-so-cool things) at other’s parties that you would recommend?