Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, May 26, 2006

Do You Believe It or Not?

Do you ever wonder about passion? I’m not talking about the passion of Christ or the kind of passion we leave out of G-rated LDS novels. I’m talking about the passion (fervor, ardor, zeal) that we children of God all seem to share—the passion to create. Most of us work at it every day, whether at a keyboard, a drawing board, or in studios, kitchens, or classrooms around the world. I think the creative impulse is hardwired into our brains, so I don’t wonder why we do it. I wonder why we create what we do. My feeling is that’s where passion comes in.

I’ve been thinking about this since Jeff’s “Road Less Traveled” blog on Monday and Stephanie's follow up on Wednesday. As writers, why do we choose to write what we do? Does it depend on where our passion lies? If our most fervent desire is to produce a published work that will be read by millions (or, in my case, dozens) of people, then as Josh Whedon suggested we’re probably better off traveling the roads all those people are on. The exception is if we were blessed with the light of someone like Faulkner. (Forget rules of structure, he often ignored rules of punctuation and still did okay for himself.) An maybe talent isn't the only exception.

I don’t think the pursuit of fame and fortune is the reason every writer writes, but if it’s your motivation, it wouldn't hurt to start wishing on stars and picking four leaf clovers. Frankly, your chances of being struck by lightning are roughly the same as making the New York Times’ bestseller list. (It happens all the time, but not usually to people we know.) For my part, I simply enjoy putting characters on a page so I can follow them around for awhile to see what they’ll get into. I am not recommending this technique as a “professional author,” by the way. I am merely admitting it's what I do. For a reminder of how successful I am at it, refer to “dozens of readers” above.

I don’t think I’m the only oddball creator. In fact, I’m sure I’m not. I recently visited one of the many Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums. I love those places! I bypass the macabre and sensational—shriveled heads and pictures of fat women do nothing for me since I have a mirror at home. What I marvel at are the creations. In the center of the Texas museum is a 24-foot high model of the Eiffel Tower constructed from 110,000 toothpicks and five gallons of glue. I must have stood there for ten minutes wondering who would create that…and why.

It wasn’t the most amazing thing I saw. There was an awe-inspiring picture of Christ that from a few steps away looked like a charcoal sketch. When you looked closer, however, it turned out to be the Gospel of John (yes, all of it) rendered in some of the world’s teensiest calligraphy. How long did that take? Was its creator bored to desperation, possessed, or uniquely inspired?

And yet that wasn’t the most unbelievable creation either. The most awesome to me was a gorgeous, tremendously life-like picture of an ocean liner. The artist was so skilled you could almost see the ship move through the water while the sun glinted off its bow and seagulls circled overhead. It could have taken center stage in a bona fide art museum. At least it could have if it hadn’t been painted on the head of a pin. You had to look through a microscope to see it and the plaque said the artist had painted it using a single human hair. Who would do that? Who could do it? Why would he do it even if he could?

These are passions I don’t understand, and yet admire. Forget the roads less traveled, some creative souls forge paths through the wilderness! And isn’t that a good thing? If your passion leads you off the well-trod paths of genre fiction, I say go for it! Believe it or not (I had to work that in somewhere and I’m running out of blog) nobody had written a novel before Murasaki Shikibu penned The Story of Genji in 1007. Wasn't Mary Shelley, the wife of a renown poet, somewhat afield of the rose-strewn way when she wrote Frankenstein? Fantasy had been around since Beowulf, but it took Hugo Gernsback to set the publishing world on its soon-to-be pointed ear with science fiction. Most recently, and in our genre, who’d ever heard of an interactive novel? Not me. Then the brilliant Robison Wells schlepped along. All these people—and many successful creators like them—posses something beyond talent. They have passion.

Every day people around the world create beautiful, remarkable (and totally bizarre) works of art, music, and literature. I tend to buy a ticket to the show and then stand back to marvel. But that’s just me. What about you? Do you feel passionate about your creation? Pick up a lightning rod, why don’t you? Dare to step off the beaten path if that’s where inspiration beckons. Who’s to say the next lightning bolt of success isn’t headed your way?

I think I see it coming now.


At 5/26/2006 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anura Ranidae said...

It doesn't matter whether you choose the path least traveled, the freeway, or cut your own path through the jungle, the real point is that whichever path you choose, you choose where that path ends so choose your destination, then pick your path.

At 5/27/2006 12:53 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Good point AR, thanks. Steven Covey says the same thing in telling about how we sometimes overcome tremendous obstacles to "get somewhere" only to find out in the end that where we got wasn't where we wanted to be. I think his point was to make sure our ladders are leaning against the right wall before we start to climb them.

Having seen "The DaVinci Code" yesterday, I put five or six minutes into trying to decipher your name, assuming it is an anagram. (You'd think I have too much time on my hands.) Want to hear my guesses? No? Well, it was fun anyway...

At 5/27/2006 2:14 PM, Anonymous Anura Ranidae said...

Guess away, but I can assure you you're way off base

At 5/27/2006 2:45 PM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Anura, are you any relation to Frederick?

At 5/27/2006 3:17 PM, Anonymous AR said...

It's hard to keep the family tree straight,but there's a distinct possibility.

At 5/27/2006 7:18 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I spend my whole life way off base -- usually somewhere out in left field, in fact. Ah well, it's a fine name nonetheless.

At 5/27/2006 7:51 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

PS - I guess I should have mentioned that I saw your picture this morning, but still like the anagram names better. If you ever need an alias, come to me first.

At 5/27/2006 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anura Ranidae said...

Alas, I should have heeded the words of that fine blogger detective, the honorable Robison Wells, and just kept my mouth shut. I hope the photo wasn't the one the princess claims is missing from her bureau. I apologize for crashing your bog, er blog, but seeing your lily pads unattended for so long . . . I thought you might have room for a small Ranidae. I see now that there's a bigger one in your pond. If Frederick should happen by, please tell him kindly to watch out for his blind side, I didn't mean to double cross him or let his secrets out, and that I'm just shattered that I got caught playing counterfeit. I know he's a believer that this is his perfect shot at fame, but time will tell he's just a wild card and apt to get caught in the serpent tide. Merci!

Yours until the dawn is a time to dance, I'll be seeing you,
P.S. Please remember mum's the word.

At 5/27/2006 10:09 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Dearest Anne d'Auria:

Do you mean Frederick's house of secrets or the secrets he uncovered in Zarahemla? Either way, mum it is! I like palindromes almost as much as anagrams! Rest assured:

Anne, I vote no one to Vienna!

At 5/28/2006 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anura said...

My dearest Kerry,
An oz, I rap, Arizona.
Too hot to hoot.
Your kindness bids me linger yet a bit, before I search for yonder pond.

At 5/28/2006 6:58 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

First of all, Kerry, knowing your lovce of mummies, I don't believe for a second that you skipped the shrunken heads. Second, you guys make a mystery writer's heart go lub dub.

As far as your message. I think that knowing why you are writing is the most important thing for a writer at any stage of their life or carreer. Too many people place way too much emphasis on how many books they sell, what list they make, or how much acclaim they get.

That starts to turn something fun and creative into just another job.

Personally me and my fan are happy where we are.


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