Go make something. It’s good for you.
July 24, 2018
Nearly 7:00 a.m. in Lubbock, Texas. A chilly 29 degrees and it sure was hard to get out of my warm bed this morning, especially with one cat sleeping on my hip and the other one in the small of my back.
But here I am, showing up at the page, searching for meaning. I know it’s here somewhere.
What are you going to create today to make the world a better place? It’s up to us, you know: the painters and the writers and the musicians and the gardeners and the seamstresses and the actors and the singers and the photographers and the mechanics and the chefs and contemplatives. The creatives. We are the ones who make life worth living. And not just for ourselves–though sometimes that’s what it seems like what we’re doing, trying to save ourselves, looking for meaning, being these self-absorbed little artistic types just flailing around being flaky and angsty.
No. Here’s the meaning we’re all looking for: We, the artists? *We make the world worth living for everybody else.* Remove our gifts from existence and the darkness that would be left is the most terrifying thing that I can imagine.
Imagine a world without music. Without paintings. Photographs. Books. Cakes. Sculptures. Movies. Beautiful clothes. Tapestries. Well-built and nicely decorated homes and gardens. It wouldn’t be Eden. It would be chaos.
We, the artists, are the ones who take the naturally occurring beauty of nature (color, sound, thought) and distill it into the human experience. Conceit? Maybe. But truth always has that flavor of conceit.
So I have a challenge for you today, all of you, even you lurkers (especially you lurkers):
What can you create to make this world we live in a better place?
We are going to heal the world and in the process, heal ourselves. Let’s get started.
Here’s how I got started nearly ten years ago on this strange and difficult road of writing novels. I was getting a migraine (you that have had them know they sometimes start with this flickering, wavering ‘scotoma’ that looks like you looked too long at the sun coming in through the blinds and then looked away, and that grows until your vision is mostly blocked by it). I started wondering what it would be like if the migraines (which I have had since I was 11) were not a curse but a blessing? What if this little flickering flashing light dancing across my vision was not a portent of the debilitating pain and vomiting that was about to follow, but a portal into another world?
So there it was. A tiny idea. A curse becomes a blessing.
And I was driving up the hill to Los Alamos at the time so I couldn’t really think too much about it because I needed to focus on my driving because I was going blind in one eye from the scotoma but when I got home, I wrote it down, that little idea:
“Migraine aura is a portal to another world.”
And that percolated for a long while because I wasn’t in a great place physically or emotionally. Maybe you’ve been there.
But a few months later, I scraped up a handful of change and went to Target in Santa Fe and bought a big pad of paper and some markers. I went back to my house in Cochiti Lake (a much better place physically and emotionally) and spread open that pad on the kitchen table and wrote:
Because that was his name, this hero I had imagined, this Iraqi war veteran with a head injury who has migraines.
And then all around that name, I wrote everything I knew about him:
- Hair shaved
- Big eyes like Paul McCartney
- Loves video games
- Went to UNM and majored in philosophy but got disenchanted, became an EMT, enlisted
- Scar on his head in the shape of a cross
- He sees things in his migraine auras
- He sees saints in his migraine auras that tell him things.
And so there was a tiny seed of a story there.
Then I wrote:
- Micaela Martinez
- And around her I wrote:
- Tiny and plump, dimples, really long hair
- Math genius, graduated high school at 15
- Former nun
- Now teaches math at UNM
And then I wrote:
Micaela meets Isaac when he’s trying to put his life back together and he goes back to school at UNM. She helps him figure out what the saints are trying to tell him.
And there’s a little more of a story.
Now all of this was knocking around in my head but I didn’t really know it until I wrote it down.
So here we are, ten years later. I’ve written three books about Isaac and Micaela. The first two no one else will ever read because they were just the warm-up, the practice, the dumping of all of my autobiographical junk. I’ve also written quite a bit about a time-traveling monk in Isaac’s world: one book I never finished and one I’m working on now.
From that one idea I got, driving on that winding road to Los Alamos and trying not to fly off into the canyon because I couldn’t see, I have a 140,000 word novel that needs one? more revision before I’m ready to put it out there. I have the second one in that series about half-finished and the other four roughed out. I have a canon (story bible) that is HUGE. I have drawings and maps and Pinterest boards and even a color map of all of Micaela’s tattoos. A whole world. Isaac’s World.
I made something. Something I love. In the process, I have learned so much more than just the craft of writing. I have learned about persistence and rejection and focus and fighting the resistance and discipline. Writing has healed me and wounded me and healed me again. It has given me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to hide my head under the pillow. It has given me insight into who I am.
It’s everything, everything, everything I’ve ever wanted.
So that was long. You may have I heard that I like to write? But I’m going to challenge you today to take that little idea and do something with it. Do it now. Write it down. There’s power in writing something down, you know.
You don’t have to write it here. In fact, baby ideas are sensitive and tender and are best kept quietly in an incubator until they have matured and toughened up. But if you wanted to write here *what* you did, that would be good. Put it out there and let the Universe see that you mean business.
Here. I’ll start.
(Post written for our Creative Accountability Facebook group.)