Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Best Writing Advice

The best writing advice I’ve ever received is from a dead man.  Mainly, it comes from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.  I thought I’d share some of my favorite inspirational quotes from him today, as they were the most influential in my finishing and publishing The Field.  Enjoy!

“Avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: they are the hardest to work with, and it takes a great, fully ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious traditions exist in abundance.”

“Irony: Don’t let yourself be controlled by it, especially during uncreative moments.”

“Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come.  It does come.  But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast.”

“Have patience with everything unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.  And the point is, to live everything.  Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

“Don’t observe yourself too closely.  Don’t be too quick to draw conclusions from what happens to you; simply let it happen.”

Welp.  Time to do it again, folks.  The new project is called Update and the first draft deadline is August.

As for The Field, it is now available online at Lulu.com.  Check it out: http://www.lulu.com/shop/lydia-thomas/the-field/paperback/product-21528565.html.

 

 

 

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All My Fountains

Yesterday I was reading in Jeremiah and was reminded again about Judah’s sin: forsaking the Lord, the fountain of living waters. I remembered Psalm 87:7 – “As they make music they will sing, ‘All my fountains are in You.'”  And then the Chris Tomlin song started running through my mind. It’s a Holy Spirit thing, because this was exactly what I needed last night.

All My Fountains

by Chris Tomlin & the Passion Band

Verse 1
This dry and desert land
I tell myself, “Keep walking on”
Hear something up ahead
Water falling like a song
An everlasting stream
Your river carries me home
Let it flow, let if flow

Verse 2
A flood for my soul
A well that never will run dry
I’ve rambled on my own
Never believing I would find
An everlasting stream
Your river carries me home
Let it flow, let it flow

Chorus
Open the heavens
Come Living Water
All my fountains are in You
You’re strong like a river
Your love is running through
All my fountains are in You

Bridge
Come on, and rain down on us
Rain down on us, Lord

My source of life is Jesus.  I don’t have anything without Him.  He is everything.

Abundant life, y’all.  Can’t get it anywhere else.

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In The Arena

This is the story of how I entered the arena.

I came across this quote nearly two years ago when I was editing and writing the FortyOne20 blog:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).

The FortyOne20 blog was always a place of analysis and critical thinking, but when I saw this quote, I felt a conviction about how critical I was being about gender portrayal in film:

“Most of the film theory classes  I took in college dealt with gender on some level, but it was always from a humanist perspective. At the same time, God was dealing with me personally on His ideas about gender, and I became extremely dissatisfied with how men and women are portrayed in movies. I genuinely believe there is reason to be concerned with these portrayals.

“However, if you watch the movies I’ve made, none of them address gender issues” (Lydia Thomas).

One month after I published this post, I began work, not on a film, but on a written story. The Field tackles a theme I’m dying to see Hollywood tackle: redeemed womanhood.  As in, what changes in a fallen woman’s life when she is loved unconditionally? Of course, The Field also deals with spiritual warfare, and legalism, and crises of the faith, and a number of other things, but womanhood…that’s what I went into the arena to talk about.

And I did.

But I’ve been dealing with a level of discouragement about my book.  Normal stuff, I think.  I get to thinking about how it’s not that great, and it could be better because it can always be better, and I don’t want to release it and not have anybody who “gets” it.

And I forget.  This one is not really about readership.  It’s about having written it.  It’s about having gotten out of my critic’s seat and entered the arena to put up a fight for what I strongly believe in.

It’s different in the arena.  I find myself less critical of others, and am able to be less critical of myself.  I find myself satisfied with where I am, at this moment, knowing I am in this to grow and develop as a writer – not just to grow and develop one piece of work.

I will continue exploring gender and spiritual themes in my writer.  Next time, I will do it better.  The time after that will be the even better.  And I will grow and grow and grow.

At least, I must keep telling myself, I am finally in the arena.

Don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy of The Field here through June 30th, 2014 or purchase your copy today.

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Writer Regrets

My greatest fear as a writer is not really letting the world read my work.  The person I am most intimidated about reading my work is my future self.  I am afraid that in five or ten years I will look back on my work today and think it is nothing special, that it’s not very good.  That I’ll wish I’d written things differently.

Given enough time, I become my own harshest critic.  That is the truth.

As I was really considering this several weeks ago, a story was trending about J. K. Rowling.  She mentioned that if she could go back and do it again, Ron and Hermione wouldn’t end up together, and something about personal wish fulfillment.

That’s when I realized: of course as I grow as a writer I will begin to see more of the flaws in my own writing.  The difference is that now I’m okay with it.  If J. K. Rowling can look back on a series that so many people love and talk about things she sees differently now, I can certainly do that.

The point is not perfection.  The point is to put myself out there, and grow in the process.

Must keep reminding myself of this!

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The Fourth Wall Crumbles

In theater and film and pretty much anything involving story there is a term called “the fourth wall.”  It refers to a theoretical space between the story and its audience.  Essentially, the story cannot acknowledge it has an audience, or the fourth wall crumbles.

I am rewatching The Office for the third time.  It’s funny and always makes me giggle (which these days is a good thing), but the third time through makes me a little bit more objective, and my RTVF brain kicks in and I start noticing different things.  This time I’ve been analyzing the use of the fourth wall in the series, how sometimes the characters acknowledge the presence of a camera, and other times they don’t seem to know it’s there.  It’s completely fascinating to me, but I’m pretty sure it would bore you, so I’ll save it for an academic paper.

However, all of this has got me thinking about the fourth wall in all of our lives.  You know, we’re all just kind of observers in each others’ lives, watching everything play out, unless that fourth wall comes down.  Unless we acknowledge the presence of other people and involve them in our stories, we’re really just putting on a show – letting people see what we want them to see, our carefully edited stories.  Sure, our stories may allude to obstacles and risk and we may welcome people to watch, but we rarely involve them in the story.

There is a form of film called cinema verite – literally means film truth. The idea behind it was to just film what was, no editing, no letting people see only what we want them to see. It’s not packaged in this neat little narrative structure, it’s more like real life.  It is so different from reality TV, because it’s not manufactured drama; in fact, it can get a bit boring and tedious.  In a real cinema verite work, the fourth wall is absent – the subjects are there interacting with each other and the camera.  Not acting for the camera or because the camera is there, but acknowledging and involving the camera, and thus the audience.

I am burdened so much by integrity.  I don’t want to be one person for you, and another person behind the scenes.   I want to involve you in my story, my real story.   That’s why I’m honest and I talk about things most people consider private.  I make no distinction from the person I am privately and the person I am publicly.  (This might not need to be said, but if it involves someone else’s privacy, I do keep things confidential – anyone else’s fourth wall is their own business).  I am learning that it’s not enough to tell people about what I’m going through, I have to involve them in it as well.

I am processing a lot at the moment and trying to understand who needs to be involved in my life and its manifold issues and struggles and to what extent.  I want to be open and honest, but contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think everybody needs to know everything.  I also don’t want to put myself out there (online or anywhere else) as being someone I’m not.

I can’t entirely dismiss the fourth wall on this blog (where I’ve never met most of my readers), but I’ll take a little bit down for you right now. I don’t have it all together and I’m not optimistic about my prospects in life.  I wish I could keep on telling you that things are coming together and I’m going great places to do great things, but that’s not reality.

As to my readers who DO know me, the wall is down.  I am trying to acknowledge you and involve you in my life by bringing down the wall and let you see the unedited version of me.  I know it’s a lot to handle and its messy and well, ugly.  I know sometimes its tedious and boring.  I know there are people who don’t want to be involved, and that is okay with me.  I know there are many people who have so much love and counsel to offer when I break down this wall.  This one is for them.

 

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