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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Friday’s Forecast: The Beatles

Some final thoughts:
  • Synergy is king! The sum of two people (as in the case of John and Paul) working together increases indefinitely.A partner who supports, challenges and competes will allow you to become much more than you could ever be on your own.
  • Even people who have “made it” still have doubts. Doubts are a normal part of living and writing. We must say: Get thee behind me, Satan!
  • As our world crumbles (in this case, the break up of the Beatles), we have a choice. We can choose to continue on or simply give up. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney brought us great music after their world collapsed.
  • When first starting out, the Beatles played in Hamburg, Germany for over 10,000 hours. Success does not come easily even for the talented. Some estimate that a person needs to write one million words before they began to produce good quality work. There are rare exceptions, but talent is not a substitute for hard work.
  • We should never compare ourselves to others. John Lennon was often jealous of McCartney’s success, wondering why his songs were more popular. Yet, today, most people believe Lennon was more talented. Commercial success does not equate to long-term success.
  • Without the help of their manager, the Beatles would not have basked in such adulation. To their credit, they listened. Brian Epstein advised them to wear suits and to act professionally, i.e. polite such as when they bowed at the end of their performance. It would behoove (don’t you love that word!) us to listen when others offer advice, even if we perceive that advice as criticism. Sometimes, especially if we perceive it as criticism. 
  • Take one step at a time. I loved Lennon’s quote: “The goal was always just a few yards ahead.” For me that might mean simply finishing one chapter or even one scene. Small steps lead to great strides.
  • For the past forty years or so I have not listened to the Beatles. Now I am rediscovering their music. I guess it’s true as we age we enter into our second childhood!
Next week’s theme: Life-changing Books

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wednesday’s Writing in the Moonlight: The Beatles

These are a collection of quotes I found inspirational as a writer.

John Lennon’s quotes:

  1. “My role in society, or any artist's or poet's role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
  2. The goal was always just a few yards ahead.
  3. You can be bigheaded, and say, “Yeah, we’re going to last 10 years.” But as soon as you’ve said that, you think, “You know, we’re lucky if we last three months.”
  4. It’s still the same up there with the mike, you don’t try to work out what it all means, you forget who you are. Once you plug in and the noise starts, you’re just a group playing anywhere again and you forget that you’re Beatles or what your records are; you’re just singing.
  5. It’s a bit haphazard. There’s no rules for writing.
  6. What's talent? I don't know. Are you born with it? Do you discover it later on? The basic talent is believing you can do something.

Paul McCartney’s quotes:

  1. I just always enjoy it; if you really enjoy what you do, you don't want to stop.
  2. I just want to do my job well. And really, that's all I'm ever trying to do.
  3. Nothing pleases me more than to go into a room and come out with a piece of music.
  4. I don't know how I got here, and I don't know how I write songs. I don't know why I breathe.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday’s SUNrise: John Lennon and Paul McCartney—A Lesson in Christianity?

The Beatles—love them or hate them, they were a cultural phenomenon. Most people recognize John Lennon and Paul McCartney as great song-writing partners, perhaps the greatest in history. But it was a relationship that almost didn’t happen. John Lennon, twenty months older than Paul, started out with a band called the Quarry Men. He explained his thought process to a journalist when he met the then fifteen-year-old Paul McCartney: "I half thought to myself, 'He's as good as me. I'd been kingpin up to then. Now, I thought, 'If I take him on, what will happen?' " . . . . In a 1970 interview with Jann Wenner, Lennon described his dilemma even more plainly: "I had a group. I was the singer and the leader; then I met Paul, and I had to make a decision: Was it better to have a guy who was better than the guy I had in? To make the group stronger, or to let me be stronger?" (http://www.slate.com/id/2267342/entry/2267343/)
As I read these words at Slate, I couldn’t help but think how this parallels our decision to become a Christian. We are in control of our lives; we’re calling the shots and then God comes along. We have to decide if we’re going to allow God in, if we’re going to let go and let God decide the direction of our lives.
The ironic thing is, and the Bible tells us this, that we must forget self to be saved. (If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? Mark 8:34-37)
This irony was manifested in an earthly fashion with The Beatles. John Lennon, by allowing Paul McCartney into the band, allowed himself to become a greater musician. McCartney pushed Lennon to become his best and Lennon was willing to learn from McCartney, albeit for human reasons. He didn’t want to be overshadowed by McCartney, so he strove to be a better musician. Without their competiveness, their great body of work would never have come into being.
In much the same way, Jesus pushes us to be our best. And he is our competition, our only competition. We must study and learn from him and pattern out lives on his. By becoming the best Christian we can be, we also become better in all areas of our lives. Better writers? Just imagine!
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Writing Life (3)

MC900382618[1] The book I’m currently working on has been with me all of my life. My mother told me these stories from the time I can remember. I was born at the right time, a time when some homes here in the south still had outhouses, when hog killings still took place, when some still relied solely on a fireplace to keep them partially warm in winter (only the part turned toward the fire), and relied on nothing but hand-held fans or old fans that could cut off a finger, if you got too close, to keep a little cooler in the hot, humid summers. I walked barefoot in the fields of cotton, burning the soles of my feet. I helped slop the hogs and watched my grandmother milking the cow. I saw the one-room school my mother attended and the red-clay hills she walked to get there.
So the stories solidified in me because I saw and experienced some of the same things my mother did. And I knew I wanted to share these stories with others.
I took the stories and molded them into a book, but changed the characters. The mother in the book is not my grandmother. My grandmother was a kind, loving woman. We’ll just say the mother in the book is not so kind. I never met my grandfather, but I did not base the father on what little I know of my grandfather. Except perhaps his sense of humor. My mother said my grandfather would sometimes explode into laughter and never told them what he was laughing about. And the main character, Sarah Jane, is not my mother. Some say writers cast themselves as their main characters. Perhaps Sarah Jane is a little like me, but I think she is more of who I wish I had been growing up. Perhaps me, but a better me. Not that she doesn’t have flaws.
And I organized the stories into what I think is a coherent, entertaining, and touching book.
Thundersnow is the book. And it will hopefully be published—if not by a major publisher or a small publisher, self published by me. It is too much of the lives of others to never come into a life of its own.
And too much of me.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writing Life (2)

I thought we were heading into summer. Really. It took a minute or two to think about it before I realized it’s fall not spring.

What’s wrong with my brain? (Just rhetorical—don’t answer that!) I was confused because I’m working on Thundersnow and the weather’s warming up and spring is almost here (or there) in the book. It’s the middle of March and daffodils are blooming. So, for a moment, I was still in my book—still in spring with cool nights and warm days instead of our fall with cool nights and warm days. 

Scuba diving is what I liken my writing experience to. I don my gear and plunge into the water, going down deeper and deeper. The world above is gone for now. I’m looking at the fish swimming by and the occasional shark. Seaweed floats by and I see a lobster scuttle along the ocean floor. If the phone rings, or someone comes to my door, I have to resurface—sometimes so quickly it gives me the bends. (And that’s why writers are irritable!) And sometimes people make me take off my scuba gear to deal with things. And then I get ready to write again and image have to put my scuba gear back on, but now it’s wet and harder to get on. But I manage and down I go. But, now, the surge of the sea has changed things. Where was that coral I was examining? What happened to the seahorse? It was here just a few minutes ago. And so I have to search until I can find them again.

But sometimes that special piece of coral is gone forever. I have to find something to replace it, because I can’t resurface empty handed. I sigh and fog up my mask. And then I call it a day. I emerge from the water and reenter the land of dryness. But sometimes at certain moments I feel like I’m still down on the ocean floor. And suddenly I remember just where I saw another piece of coral.

And I can’t wait until I can scuba dive again.