Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Relentless Artist

If there’s one thing that homeschooling does, it reveals the general laziness of humanity.  I see it in my kids quite often, and I recognize it in myself at times as well. I’ve written about the Craft of Creativity before, and the fact that it takes loads of work to really hone something to make it good. And now I just got my book back for a second round of (official) edits, and so I can attest to the feeling of exhaustion thinking about doing another work through, this time of primarily technical editing.  This is where the adult in me accepts that this is what is best for the manuscript, but the child in me wants to throw myself on the floor and yell “I DON’T WANNA DO IT!!!”

Thankfully, my adult self wins.

Teaching children this concept is difficult.  The idea of the revision is nonexistent in their minds.  Every word they write, every drawing they create is a Final Draft.

I know that a lot of this is that they are still learning the basics of things.  Their little hands get tired after writing their spelling list, because the act of shaping words with a pencil is still new, they still have to think about it.  To get really comfortable writing requires you to be able to do the technical aspects of it without thinking about it.

Kind of like acting in a play… you can’t do any real “Acting” until the lines you have memorized are so deeply ingrained in your brain you don’t have to think about them. I’ve worked with kids doing drama – even teenagers have a hard time understanding this. It’s not art just standing onstage reciting lines.  The art comes when the technical disappears.

But to get to the point where you can make “Art,” you have to go through a lot of drudgery and boring work.  It’s this concept that separates the Artist from the rest of the world, in my opinion.  The drive to want to create something pushes the Artist through the hours and hours of practice. 

It’s why the writer of plays is called a playwright  - a wright is a worker, a craftsman, someone who has to sometimes beat something (like iron) over and over in order to make something awesome (like a sword). 

It’s so tempting to do things “just good enough.” To think, well, this is okay, and it’s better than most people could have done, so that’s it.  Practice makes perfect, and practicing requires discipline. Discipline requires motivation, and I think people are motivated when they are inspired.

So how can we find out what inspires our children?  I’m not exactly sure, because my kids are still little, and I don’t want to jump the gun on anything. But I do know that I can help them develop their work ethic now and attempt to show them that their hard work in dedicating themselves to something that they love will pay off in the end.   

To get it to look effortless, Artists have to be relentless.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What's Next?

I've been spending the past few days debating about what to do about some things in my life, mostly in relation to blogging (hence my online absence for a few days).

My book is going to be published next year sometime, and I'm an unknown author.  This makes me feel a little nervous about how my book is going to sell... because people can say all day long things like "Oh, it doesn't matter if it sells or not, at least you got published!" but that's not the reality.  The reality is that I would like for this to be a source of income. Ultimately (and I'm just being completely honest), I want to do this full-time, or at least have my books be successful enough so that it will lead to full-time employment of some sort.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Board books, and the small people who love them.

I love books - reading them, writing them, buying them.  Books for adults, books for children, you name it.  But there's this one subset of books that I never knew about until I had kids - the board book.

What's the point of the board book, you ask?  Well, have you ever seen what small children do to "regular" books?

Take, for example, my Bible.  I'm actually missing the first five chapters of Genesis because of a small child.  Thankfully I already know about Creation and the Fall, but what if someone steals my Bible out of my car (this happened to my college roommate) and then tries to read it?  So sad.  This person may never know about how it all began.

Actually, if babies had better organizing skills, and could work together without pulling each other's hair or snatching toys away from each other, they would most certainly have a Baby Olympics, and Book-Ripping would be one of the events. Some other events would be Breaking-Out-of-the-Crib (it would be timed), Clothes-Change-Thrashing (the one who manages to evade his parents the longest would win), and Poop-Smearing (there would be an artistic score for this).

Back to Book-Ripping, though.

It happens a lot in our house because we are always leaving our books around.  Although ripping is only one of the many ways that small children can undermine older people's reading pleasure.  There's also the "Bookmark Pull-Out."  Oh, this is annoying.  Your book looks like no one's touched it, but then you settle into the couch for five minutes of peace, and lo! A small child has pulled out the bookmark.  Now, your five minutes turns into 2 minutes of actual reading because you spent 3 minutes trying to find your place.

This is why we buy board books for our little ones.  For although they do not keep the smallest Keen family members from tormenting the rest of us by assaulting our books whenever they can, at least they can start to learn the joys of reading with something that is a slightly more difficult to destroy.