How to Move to the Next Stage in Your Creative Career Sooner

“Our job in life is not to be successful, but to be faithful.” — Billy Graham

Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have a dream or calling. You have failures and too few successes. You harbor resistance and discouragement. You ask yourself, “Will I ever be a __________?”

My question was: Will I ever be an author?” Instead of God dropping at my feet everything I needed to succeed, He grew me in several stages. Most likely, you’re in the right stage now. But if you understand how stages work, perhaps you could move to the next stage sooner than you think.

All Stages Have Steps in Common

Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of samuiblue at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. You have an image of what success should look like.

2. You try something. Let’s call it Something Now.

3. You get lazy when Something Now gets hard or doesn’t succeed.

4. You feel guilty for procrastinating and try a modification of Something Now: Something Else.

5. You get better at Something Else and enjoy a success.

6. You notice different facets of Something Else and have the urge to know more.

7. You think, “Now, I’m on the fast track!”

Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

8. You look ahead and see what experts say is a necessity for success: Necessity. You think:

a. Necessity requires way too much work.

b. Doing Necessity takes all the fun out of the art.

c. I’m good enough at Necessity.

9. You become proficient at Something Else, but you’re not moving forward.

10. You think, “Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this work.”

11. You reconsider Necessity, grudgingly or hopefully.

12. You learn more about Necessity and begin to embrace it.

13. Bam! You’re in the next stage.

The next stage works similarly to the last stage. A caution: If you jump to a Necessity two or more stages ahead, you may become overwhelmed and experience a setback. After I attended a marketing session as a novice writer, I stopped writing for a short time.

Example: My Stage 3

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Before Stage 3, I stacked up partial, bad manuscripts. Then, I self-published two books of short stories. I had some non-monetary success. So I finished Novel 1, an inspirational historical romance, and secured an agent. The novel was rejected. That’s when I entered Stage 3.

  • I pictured a novel on a bookstore shelf with my name on it. So, I switched to the inspirational romantic suspense genre.
  • Novel 2’s rejection letter said the idea was good but my writing was substandard.
  • Although I’d just retired to write fulltime, I redecorated our house.Remodel
  • Finally, I listened to my guilt and wrote Novel 3.
  • I improved my grammar, sentence structure, and other “surface” writing.
  • I received better scores on contest submissions than for the prior two novels.
  • I was on my way!
  • Novel 3’s rejection letter said the idea was good, but the balance among the spiritual, suspense, and romance elements was lacking.
  • On an author email loop, experienced authors mentioned classes and books on plot and characterization. Studying these seemed overwhelming and no fun. I would simply try harder.
  • Novel 4’s rejection letter was a repeat of Novel 3’s. I struggled to rise above my doubts about God’s calling on my life.
  • We moved away to a remote community. I read writing craft books and went to conferences and workshops. I wrote and reworked the plot and the characters of Novel 5, an inspirational romance.
  • Bam! I moved to Stage 4, where I received a contract on Novel 5, Calculated Risk.

In Stage 4 I started Novel 6. With novel 5 coming out, I grudgingly no longer resisted learning social media and marketing.

What is the activity in the next stage of your creative career that you’re resisting?

How to Use Your Creativity to Make Good Choices

“Take only your imagination seriously.” — Thomas Berger

MP900385316

We have a choice. A or B. Temptations slither in and suggest Reason go eat an apple. We make our choice with the serpent’s help. Later, we discover another choice would’ve made life easier.

Here’s a creative method that will help Reason fight temptations and lead you to a good choice.

Imagine accurate experiences of each choice.

 

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our imaginations tempt us to make bad choices. We imagine how good we’d look in the red Camaro, and we buy the smokin’ hot car. Then reality bites when those age fifty-plus legs have to lift our time-grown bodies from ground zero every time we exit the car. Talk about hot. Sweaty hot.

Since misdirected imaginations get us into trouble, let’s use our creativity to cultivate truth-telling imaginations.

When you make a choice, make a mental movie of the experience living with choice A. Do the same for choice B. Choose the best experience.

Example: A realtor took John and I to view river properties. We hoped to purchase one to entertain our family and visitors.

The lots surpassed our dreams. The realtor said the owner was prepared to take lower offers.

River PropertyThen temptation tickled our greed. We could buy three adjacent lots, A, B, and C, with riverfront of 600 feet total for a reasonable chunk more than the price for F, a deeper lot with 175 feet of riverfront. How could anyone pass up such a deal?

While John talked to the realtor, I walked the properties. I imagined the experience of our guests on A, B, and C lots combined.

Lunching near the river, we’d sit in the hot sun, unless we bought a shelter. We’d view a house on the other side of the river. We’d listen to occasional passing cars from the nearby road. To free shade trees, we’d bush-hog wild growth. Sweat almost trickled down my face. Our young grandsons would climb the trunks of the two trees that leaned over and shaded the river. One would fall in. My heart stopped.

Then I imagined our experience on lot F.

Boys' Fort?
Boys’ Fort?

My three young grandsons would pretend the space in the copse of ten large shade trees was a fort. My granddaughter would nap beneath another tree. We’d eat in the shade, listening to water gurgle over rapids, and view lush trees across the river. We’d pitch tents near trees farther back and hear occasional cars high up the slope. The boys would drag sticks through the small creek. I almost smelled hamburger and hotdogs grilling over the existing fire pit.

Lot F filled the dream. We didn’t need to get greedy for more land.

Take your best imagined experience seriously. 

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once we’ve pictured the best experience and made a choice, we must avoid discounting it.

Stop thinking you can change yourself or things to improve poor options.

Example. During a family vacation in Brazil at age thirteen, I tried on gorgeous loafers. The too-small shoes were the only pair. I imagined limping with painful blisters. But I convinced myself that with hose on I could bear the tightness at school. Others would admire my shoes.

I wore them once.

 

MP900314284Re-imagine the experience when the situation is different.

Example. At our last house, we chose to allow two water snakes to live in our pond. Then one made the mistake of chomping down on a goldfish while I snipped cattails nearby with pruning clippers. Snip. No more snake.

Then today at our new house, the mowers asked if I wanted them to kill a black snake. I pictured the field mice near our house. I imagined the snake as the most natural mousetrap. I saved his life.

A good choice for one circumstance may be poor for another.

What experiences have you imagined in making the best choice?

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

2 Tips to Pump Up Flat Characters in Your Story

“Men are not moved by things, but the views they take of them.” —Epitectus

We storytellers want our characters to be interesting, plausible, and memorable. But often our characters come across as one-dimensional.

But with a little work, we can do two things that will inflate our flat characters.

sunset.jpgTo make your plot work, let’s say, three-quarters of the way into your story, your hero needs to remove an engine from an RV and restore a 1970 Chevelle. So right before this event you write: He’d spent many of his teen years working on cars and dreaming of restoring a 1970 Chevelle, so he set to work removing the engine from the old RV’s chassis.

Tips to round out your character. 

1. Layer his dreams and expertizes throughout your story so they don’t seem contrived when the plot suddenly needs them. However, don’t overdo this and slow the story down with many prior events. Your hero might admire a shiny Chevelle early in the story and recall when he worked on cars in high school. Later, a Chevelle in a junkyard might catch his eye. This layering will make your character’s dreams and expertizes more plausible.

2. Understand his passions and the value he sees in things that mean nothing to you. It’s difficult to write an interesting, memorable character if you can’t put your opinions aside and understand what he considers valuable and why. Try interviewing him.

The example below shows what you might need to know to understand your hero’s dreams, expertizes, and values. You wouldn’t employ all the details in your story. You’d simply understand him.

winnie.jpgExample:

In 2007, John and I bought a 1983 Winnebago RV, dubbed it Winnie, and parked it on our land before we built our house. Our youngest son popped the hood, and his eyes lit up. He said the 454 engine was the biggest and one of the rarer engines. His dream 1970 Chevelle was the first model year to have such an engine as an option.

I hadn’t thought about the engine, other than it worked. I cared more about the bed, sinks, and shower. Over the next four years, our son occasionally asked how Winnie’s engine was doing. “Still running,” we’d say.

After we built our house in 2011, our son advised us not to give Winnie away. He said the engine and transmission were valuable. So we put Winnie up for sale on a nearby RV lot.

After a year, it hadn’t sold. We mentioned to our son, we’d be glad if the owner of the RV lot junked Winnie to rid her from our responsibility.

Later, we received a call from our son. He said if we planned to junk Winnie, he’d like to have the engine and transmission. With our happy consent, he:

  • old-chevelle.jpgcalled around until he found a nearby scrape metal place that would take Winnie,
  • purchased a 1970 Chevy Chevelle to put the engine in,
  • ordered original 1970 parts for the Chevelle on eBay,
  • traveled four hours to our house with his family,
  • drove Winnie from the RV lot to the salvage yard, and
  • made the four-hour trip again in his truck the next weekend to get the engine and transmission.

the-engine.jpgWhile I write this, he’s at the salvage yard in 26-degree weather, removing his treasure from Winnie.

My son saw value in something we were ready to trash. He pictured more than an old engine and transmission. He envisioned a rusty Chevelle restored to its original beauty. He grasped the opportunity to make his dream come true. And he enjoyed honoring Winnie’s retirement. I received a deeper understanding of my son’s passion with cars.

What have you done or could do to understand your story character better?