When Music Speaks

Guest Post by Isaac Kenneth - Plus Voting Contest

“Music expresses that which cannot be said, and upon which it is impossible to be silent.” -Victor Hugo

When Music Speaks

I believe that one of the greatest gifts God has given to man is the beauty of music.

A melody can move hearts and stir emotions like nothing else can. Memories of growing up. An Oldies favorite mom would sing when she was making breakfast on Saturday mornings. Sixteen years old and driving solo for the first time, with the windows down and the radio cranking. The hymn that was played at grandma’s funeral. A special tune from that first date with your soulmate. Times of unspeakable loss, of supreme joy and pleasure, the subtle sweetness of quiet ordinary days we used to know…can all be mysteriously carried in a simple song.

Called to Write: Victoria’s Story

You know those days, weeks, or even months when the creative well is running a little low, and you aren’t seeing returns for your grueling efforts? Those days where you just aren’t motivated–the ones that make you question yourself and your calling? Because let’s face it; we all have those days. Sometimes we wonder, “Is this really what I’m supposed to do?”

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Today I have the privilege of featuring award winning speculative author, Victoria Grace Howell in a guest post where she will be sharing with us the incredible story of how she discovered and pursued her passion. I hope you will all be encouraged by what she has to say.

Steampunk Earrings – DIY Tutorial by Ellana Turrell

Hey, folks! I’m taking a break from writing-related posts in order to have my friend, Ellana back on the blog today to show you guys how to make some awesome looking steampunk jewelry. I hope you all enjoy her tips, and feel free to check out her other tutorials at Bright’s Wanderings!

 

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The Two Most Important Things About Finding Creativity – Guest Post by Ellie DuHadway

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.

–Pablo Picasso

Every artist has a different recipe for finding creativity in the mundane.

And, most people have really great ideas for staying creative and establishing a routine of disciplined and organized work in the creative arts. Create something every day, even if you don’t feel inspired. Write a piece of prose a few different times and wait to see what comes out of those three different versions. Write short stories. Doodle. All of those things work well for getting the creativity going.

But what inspires creativity in the first place? I want to backtrack to the initial problem: finding creativity in the mundane.

What makes life mundane for you, exactly? What is it about your surroundings, the people you interact with, and the things that you do that make life so unexciting for you that you are consistently bored, consistently writing or creating the same things (whether that’s inside your stories or outside of them), and consistently talking about the same things?

In college and among the other creative folks in my life, I’ve sometimes noticed a plateau in people’s creativity, and I believe that it comes from an illusion of mastery.

I’ll explain. We all start out as knowledge less, correct? We arrive into the world just learning how to breathe the air itself. We learn rapidly from there – we learn how to eat and do the essential-for-living things, but as we grow, we learn SO MUCH about the world and what we are to be doing in it, and the world is still new to us and there’s still so much to be discovered.

Artists may recall drawing everything all the time when they were little, whether things were real or imagined. Writers may recall starting epic and adventurous novels with high ambitions of becoming the world’s youngest writer. We were so inspired when we were little. There was no shortage of creativity to be had.

What happened?

There are two things that kids are really good at, that I think we as artists and creative people need to bring back in order to revive our creativity (and really, our hearts along with).

Wonder and curiosity.

Wonder is your excitement about life. Wonder is when you collected autumn leaves as a kid because you thought they were beautiful. Wonder is the feeling you’re supposed to have whilst stargazing or ice skating or standing on top of a mountain. Wonder is, simply, our inborn recognition of the Lord’s beauty, power, and love in the world we live in. We’re naturally drawn to it. Wonder is easier when you’re small, and everything holds potential, and you’re free of a little thing called preconceived notions.

But when we grow older, we start to choose what we like – and more dangerously, what we don’t like – and we tend to stick to those things without allowing for new people or new experiences to fill us. We are content to be vaguely pleased with the things we’re pleased with, and content to be unhappy and complain about the things we aren’t pleased with. That is the easiest way to kill wonder – to basically say about your life, “Well, this is all there is and this thing is good and this thing is bad and that’s all I’m going to live by.” Run away from that. Run away from your life revolving around one thing, person, or idea.

C. S. Lewis explains the sense of wonder in The Great Divorce, when an angel tries to convince an artist to come with him to heaven:

“When you painted on earth–at least in your earlier days–it was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too…Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.”

And David Crowder explains why we are supposed to stay in a state of wonder in his book, Praise Habit:

When good is found and we embrace it with abandon, we embrace the Giver of it…Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is a choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment. This is the Praise Habit. Finding God moment by revelatory moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it. This is what we were made for.

When you belong to God, the world opens up for you because you don’t have to fear it or find your source of hope in it. You’re allowed to explore and enjoy and adventure with God on your side, and that makes for the very best creativity.

Curiosity is our innate desire to learn things. I have no idea how we get to a point where we think we don’t need to learn things anymore, but we do and it is the saddest thing I think we can encounter as creative people.

We live in a world where we can feel like we need to prove ourselves right, and sometimes the desire to be right can override the desire to learn. Admitting that we don’t have everything figured out is a humbling thing. It kills the pride of knowledge, the pride of being above others because you know more than them. When we get into that mindset of being superior in knowledge, then our personal desire to learn new things is silenced. And that’s not only kind of a hideous thing to happen, but if you don’t learn new things, you cannot create new things. Only God has the ability to continue to make new things even though he knows everything.

Wonder and curiosity both include a difficult concept that we may have trouble embracing – smallness. To open ourselves back up to a sense of wonder and a desire to learn, we must put down our pride and say that we have not yet discovered everything, and we have not yet learned everything.

This is hard. It just is. There is a certain power in feeling that you have figured out life. But we were not meant to be big. When we let go – and thus, let God and the world he’s created become bigger – your creativity will return to you in an overwhelming way.

Never lose the wonder, friends.

Friend and fellow OYAN alumni, Ellie is an artist, writer, photographer, musician, and hard-core Instagrammer. A freshman at Christopher Newport University, she is a deep thinker with many beautiful things to say. You can find her blogging at The Restored Artist

How to Read With a Purpose – Guest Post by Braden Russell

No two writers are the same. Some chug their stories out on laptop keyboards, some prefer the stark fluidity of pen and paper, and there are always the zealous few who swear by the adventurous medium of one’s own blood on dungeon walls.

Serious male student reading a book

There are coffee guzzlers, tea sippers, cigarette smokers, and those of us who can only write while listening to track four of that obscure indie album. But even with all the differences in daily routines and workflow, every writer shares two core similarities.

We love to write books. And we love to read them.

7 Tips for Surviving NaNo – by Irie Odessa

My good friend and fellow OYAN alumni, Irie Odessa shares some great tips from her experiences with writing a novel in a month–and surviving.

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When the month of November approaches, most people think about turkey dinners, family gatherings, and Black Friday. However, writers tend to forget all of those things, because November is National Novel Writing Month – most often called NaNoWriMo, or sometimes the Month of Insane Writing Madness.

What is NaNoWriMo? It’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days or less. That’s about 1700 words a day, oftentimes more, due to the fact that it’s difficult to write when you’re expected to socialize over the holidays. It’s not helpful for everyone, but for some – myself included – it’s a lifesaver when it comes to actually finishing novels.

I’ve “won” (everyone who finishes wins, so it’s not really winning so much as completing) NaNoWriMo four years running, and recently finished my first Camp NaNo, the summer version of the challenge held in April and July. During this most recent writing frenzy, I actually finished the 50,000 words in two weeks.

It’s difficult – writing lots of words very quickly without having time to look back at them – but it’s worth it. I’m going to list seven of the tips I’ve discovered over the years that lead to high wordcounts in short timeframes.

  1. Music. For me, I can’t write in the middle of everyday noises. However, it’s impossible to escape them in my house, so listening to loud music in my headphones drowns out the general clamor of the family and lets my mind focus on my story.
  2. Change of Scenery. I’m unable to write if I’m in one place the entire time. My bedroom’s great, but after a few days, I’m sick of it and my mind tends to wander away from the story and towards tumblr and Pinterest and all those other time wasting websites. It can be as simple as moving your laptop to the living room, dining room, or basement. However, if you’re feeling adventurous, the local library or your favorite coffee shop can be great places to write. Also, if you get any opportunities to physically leave your house for a time, like housesitting, take them. It’s much easier to write when you’re totally isolated with nobody distracting you.
  3. Outlining. I had no outline for my first novel. I had a little bit of an outline for my second, as I’d been trying to write it for ten months previously. My third was totally as-it-came, and handwritten due to my schedule at the time. For my fourth, I had an outline in my head, but nothing solid. I finished them all, but with the exception of the third one (which was written in journal form and I’d never intended to have a plot anyways), the storylines had fallen away to nothing. A simple outline with just the basic events that need to happen will help a lot.
  4. Freedom from the Outline. Feel free to deviate from your outline if it’s slowing you down. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write like the wind, and anything that slows your creativity should be trashed.
  5. Spreadsheets. With my Camp NaNo Novel, I made a spreadsheet with the descriptive titles of my 42 planned chapters. I had a column for wordcounts, and used AutoSum to bring the total down to the bottom. That way, since I had individual documents for each chapter and didn’t just have the one giant document, I could easily keep track of my total word count and where I was in the plot. Character spreadsheets are great, as well. Making a chart of your main character’s names, ages, physical descriptions, and other points that may be important to remember can be very helpful when you described Johnny six chapters ago and have forgotten if his eyes were blue or green.
  6. Turning off the WiFi. I usually don’t, because I enjoy writing best in short spurts with small internet breaks. But on occasion, like when I have a goal of writing ten thousand words in six hours, even brief internet breaks every few hundred words greatly increase the time it takes to get the words written.
  7. Take breaks. Seriously. After writing like crazy for six days straight, I’d reached twenty thousand words and was about to lose my mind. So I took two days completely free from writing and watched a ridiculous amount of television, not giving a thought to my story. After that, I was able to throw myself back into writing again with joy and excitement.

Writing a novel is hard, and writing it in a month may seem even harder, if not impossible. However, I’d suggest that every writer try it at least once. I’ve only finished one novel outside of NaNo. The pressure of the deadline and the knowledge that so many other people are writing like crazy at the same time is an incredible motivator.

So go forward, write boldly, and don’t fear the terrible quality of the words that will most likely come from writing so quickly. That’s what editing’s for.

Irie Odessa is an eighteen-year-old homeschool graduate obsessed with stories in every form. She also enjoys drawing, theatre, music, and dance, though she isn’t particularly good at any of them. She has finished five novels and is almost done with number six. Her favorite genre depends on her mood, and though she’s experimented with almost every one possible, she’s had the most success writing contemporary and fantasy. Check out her blog here

 

What and When [Blogging Tips by Ellana Turell]

A great post and some fabulous tips from my dear friend and fellow OYANer, Ellana. Enjoy!


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I spent several days trying to decide on a topic for this Guest Post. Then I realized that in my own blog I always planned What and When I would Write weeks ahead so that I never ran into this problem.

So I thought, perhaps others would enjoy reading a few tips on planning ahead with their blogs?

My blog is primarily geared towards my art. As a result everything I’m sharing will reflect that. Whatever your blog’s focus is, you could easily apply these same techniques.

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1. I like to keep things organized when I plan things. I begin by running off calendar templates with whatever month/year is appropriate. (Click here for a website full of free calendar templates in different styles, designs, and sizes.)

Four months ahead is a decent length of time to plan ahead for me, but this is only a suggestion. Whatever you write down to go in a slot 3 weeks ahead of time can always be switched out or removed.

2. In the picture above, it’s not the clearest, but you can see I have 4 different colors. Each color represents something.

Blue- Facebook (I have a Facebook page for my art where I share links to my blog)
Red- “Special” occasions (movie/book coming out, holidays, special event I’m going to, etc)
Green- Specifically blog post related
Black- Objectives for the month

Every Tuesday I try to post a few sketches that I’ve done over the week. This is something I can fill in all the Tuesday’s of the month instantly. In the same way I know that every Thursday/Friday I try to post a piece of writing of some kind (poetry, writing prompt, short story, etc). Because I know Friday is a major work day and I’m often busy Thursdays, I leave myself 2 days to post something.

That’s 2 blog posts every week. That’s approximately 8 “Green Posts” every month.

I mark down “Red Specials” because often they make good subjects for art or blog posts. For example: I’m going to see The Return of the King outdoors with a live orchestra playing the background music. This is a fun blog post waiting to happen.

Your blog could also be a way to motivate yourself. This is where the “Black Objective” comes in. Each month I try to focus on a larger artistic piece that takes a longer span of time to create. I don’t always fulfill my objective, but it takes away my most common excuses that “I’m don’t know what to draw” or “I’m not inspired.”

My Black Objective for this coming August is to create a Doctor Who piece since Season 8 will be airing on the 23rd. I’m tying in something I love with something that goes towards being productive with my art and blogging about it. 

3. Not everyone will want to or be able to post at this rate. How often you post doesn’t have to be set in stone and plotted to the day, nor do you have to choose one topic for each day. I find it easier to have a specific goal in mind so that I’m not swimming in 20 different ideas with no idea on when to execute them. Structure and limitations keeps you from feeling overwhelmed and creates a consistent feeling with your reader.

There are many who might post 3 months apart and then twice in one week. This isn’t a bad thing, I follow several blogs like this (and enjoy them!). But personally, from a Bloggers point of view it’s easier to plan ahead.

4. Keep In Mind– There will be times when you will fail to stick to your schedule. You will get tired of forcing yourself to write something up every single Thursday, or you’ll forget. And sometimes you will betoo busy. And that’s okay. Your blog should never take priority over your Real Life, your family and your education should never be pushed aside because you want to keep up on your quota.

This past April my life did a downward plunge into hectic work and family events. As a result since April 15th I’ve posted ONCE. So much for that glittering array of 8 posts per month right? However before that I managed to stick to my schedule 90% of the time September 2013-March 2014. That’s not something that should be ignored.

Now things are calming down a little, I know I have time to do a few posts each month again. Maybe I’ll aim for 4 posts per month instead of 8 for a bit. Maybe that’s a better goal to stick to in the long run.

Sometimes it’s good to pull away from things. As long it’s not covering up an excuse to be lazy and scroll through Pinterest all day (I might have some guilt over this).

5. You have to ask yourself if you have a message worth sharing. This is when you look at what you’ve done. If it has becomes a sea of blog posts all clamoring for attention, how many of those posts have something genuine to say? When you have 5 posts planned that could be transformed into 1 complete and fulfilling message… Which would have more impact?

Writers have their keyboards and napkin scrawls, gardeners have their gloves and sunburned necks, I have my pencils and brushes. We are all artists with our chosen set of tools, how we share our work with the world is up to us.

6. Further Suggestions to Expand Your Blog:
-Guest blog posts
-Blog tours
-Small giveaways
-Share through all media like Facebook, Instagram, etc.

Do any of you guys have specific methods when it comes to blogging? Do you plan ahead to the day, or write as the moment calls for it? I’d love to hear what you have to say.

 

Ellana Turrell’s accomplishments include: Almost completing an entire novel, playing the piano, and drawing on a level that satisfies her perfectionist tastes. She is a drinker of coffee and poetry. The Lord of the Rings is her favorite story in all of time and space. You can follow her blog here, or connect on Facebook.