Ode

“Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

What You Want

 

Every day I’ve been feeling the pressure
I always gotta know the plan
It’s a weight that I’ve tried to shoulder
I thought I could, but I can’t

And I’m so tired of chasing dreams
When I am wired to let You lead

You’re changing my heart
To what what You want
To love how You love
And that is enough
There’s no greater plan
That I need to know
You only ask me to follow

And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want
And want what You, what You want

Oh, there’s freedom in this surrender
I feel myself come alive
And the burden feels like a feather
When I let my agenda die
And I get so tired of my own dreams
When I am wired to let You lead

So many leaders
You ask for followers
So keep on leading
‘Cause You’re my Father

~Tenth Avenue North

Empty My Hands

I’ve got voices in my head and they are so strong
And I’m getting sick of this oh Lord, how long
Will I be haunted by the fear that I believe
My hands like locks on cages
Of these dreams I can’t set free

But if I let these dreams die
If I lay down all my wounded pride
If I let these dreams die
Will I find that letting go lets me come alive

So empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

These voices speak instead and what’s right is wrong
And I’m giving into them, please Lord, how long
Will I be held captive by the lies that I believe
My heart’s in constant chaos and it keeps me so deceived

But if I let these dreams die
If I could just lay down my dark desire
If I let these dreams die
Will I find you brought me back to life

So empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

‘Cause my mind is like a building burning down
I need your grace to keep me, keep me from the ground
And my heart is just a prisoner of war
A slave to what it wants and to what I’m fighting for

So won’t you empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

Empty my hands
Fill up my heart
Capture my mind with you

With you
I need you now

~Tenth Avenue North

I guess I’m too old to be a prodigy?

Or too young? I haven’t decided yet. It depends on whether my life’s goal was to be a piano virtuoso by the age of 5, or a marathon runner at 101. Either way, I’ve missed the prodigy category.

I’ve always enjoyed getting older. I hated any and all of the labels associated with young people. I hated not being able to reach some new pinnacle simply because I was too young or too short or too little or too inexperienced. I learned early on to forge my mom’s signature for all those permission slips that denied me a whole new world. [Okay, so technically I did it with her permission. Sort of? She would okay such and such, but forget to sign on the dotted line. So it was done with her blessing.]

But now? There are so many incredible stories about people who did things they shouldn’t be doing at whatever age they are. Who raps like Nicki Minaj? Not me, but apparently this eight-year-old can pull it off with the cutest British accent since these kiddos. I can barely manage the words to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I blame Lewis Carroll.

I’m pretty sure half of my hobbies were begun in an attempt to be as good as whoever amazing I saw on YouTube. Who doesn’t want to be the next Greyson Chance, Susan Boyle, or (can’t believe I’m saying this) Justin Bieber? American Idol ended up being one big parade of people who were better at doing what I wanted to do. Even in the writing community, there can be the envy of someone publishing or making a best-seller list before turning 25. I can safely admit that, due to my own insecurities, writing has never been one of those only-doing-it-because-I-want-the-prize sort of goals. (It has also been a hobby that has been deeply hoarded to myself. It’s one thing to try to wrestle out a manageable version of some dead guy’s piano composition to the pleasure of my teacher and a room full of unknown students. It is completely different to try to share written portions of my heart with those who may critique it.)

But it’s weird now, to get older, and see the contests only available to those in high school or college or what else. I feel like I’ve never quite arrived at the age bracket where I’ll actually get the golden ticket, you know? Why didn’t an adult win a trip to the Chocolate Factory?

I’m pretty sure this entire thing stems from our innate selfishness. And yes I’m saying “we”, partly because I don’t want to be in this boat alone, and partly because you can’t deny this fact either: we always want what we can’t have.  And when we can’t have it: *poof* goes the self-assured person.

If I was writing simply for the sake of being a prodigy who was published before I was fifteen, I would be facing a lonely road devoid of fulfillment. Just because I missed a deadline. Time doesn’t stop just because we want it to. Even in our pursuit of whatever goal we have, someone beats us to it. What’s the deal with having a record if someone shatters it before you get your book deal out?

The point is that there is always someone to beat. Some record to catch, some timeline to meet,  some smiling Ronald McDonald saying that you must be this high to dive into Playland. We will never find satisfaction in trying to meet somebody else’s goal. We’ll be Proctruses, except we’ll be forcing ourselves to fit the wrong-sized frame. Quit trying to be someone else’s definition of a prodigy.  If you spend your life chasing somebody else’s dream you’re going to end up unhappy, too old to be a prodigy. You’ll be left with a handful of YouTube videos showing off your Justin Bieber hair, while your real dreams crumble on the shelf because they weren’t good enough for somebody else. You’re always going to be disappointed.

Please don’t think that I’m eschewing competitiveness or shoot-for-the-moon goals, because I’m not. But don’t try to measure up to someone else’s definition of success. It doesn’t matter if you’re 15 or 56. You have the ability to define yourself. Why on earth would you want to fit somebody else’s mold? Answer the question for yourself: what does success mean to you? Example: some people consider being a stay-at-home parent to be the ultimate job, while others will only be happy if they make it into this list.   If your goal is to get published before you are 25, great! Just don’t lose your love for writing in pursuit of making a deadline. Define yourself. And toss out the dictionary of public opinion while you’re at it.

And hey, after all is said and done, technically you can still be a prodigy. You may not be an extraordinarily talented young person, but at least you can be monstrous or abnormal.

Road Trip Wednesday #168: True Love

This Week’s Topic is: It’s (the day before) Valentine’s Day! Let’s jumpstart the  lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing (and/or reading)!

Wow, what a question. What do I love most? Beyond the warm fuzzies that come with reading a well-written sentence or the ego-trip that accompanies a a finished manuscript? Beyond the drive to do better and the sense of accomplishment when you do? Beyond my capricious need to do terrible things to my characters? Beyond the community and connection that comes with writing and reading and loving both?

My reasons are purely selfish. What I love most about writing and/or reading is the way if changes my world.

Reading taught me to dream in the infinite. It taught me that I can go anywhere and become anyone. It showed me how to hold on to my family, and how to let them go. It introduced me to new friends and new enemies and taught me how to tell the difference. It showed me that it’s okay to question, but it’s not okay to settle for less. It taught me to hope for more and plan for twice that. It made me cry, laugh, love more, and long for more. Reading showed me the limits of my world and threw open the doors to make it bigger. I read books that taught me about speaking the truth, without the trappings of obsessive love or physical beauty. I learned how to strike out on my own and make the right decisions regardless of familial ties or popular opinion. I learned that happily ever afters are possible, but that they don’t always come wrapped in neat Prince-Charming packaging. I read about broken people and broken things and the love and loss that makes them whole.

And then writing made it my own. Writing took everything that I ever loved about reading and showed me what I actually believed about all of it. Because if I truly believed that reading could change the landscape of my world, then I should be willing  to write like that. So I did. I wrote about myself, and my questions, and my ideal Mary Jane life. I wrote about the person I wanted to become and the person I currently was. And through writing, I answered myself. I answered my junior-high self with the perfect-family story that (eventually) showed me the imperfectness of my own family and how that was okay. I answered my freshman-year self with a fairy tale that reminded me that truly happy endings can’t be manufactured by a fairy godmother. I took my junior-year self and wrote out the confusion into a girl who took charge of her life and had the confidence I wished I had. And then I poured out every bit of senior-year and post-high school self and crammed it into a draft that wrung my heart out and asked me what I truly believed in anymore. The writing pulled everything out of me that I was unwilling to let go. And if I was able to write about and read about how brokenness could be made whole, then I knew that in real life, it was possible for me, too.

I love to read. I love to write. Reading feels like being a passenger to anywhere. Writing puts me in the driver’s seat, and the view is infinite.

“I read and walked for miles at night along the beach, writing bad blank verse and searching endlessly for someone wonderful who would step out of the darkness and change my life. It never crossed my mind that that person could be me.”  Anna Quindlen 

Road Trip Wednesday #164

YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday: 

Imagine you get to open your own bookstore. What would it look like? What kinds of books would you sell?

Wow, what a question! I’m going into this with the assumption that money is no object, the location is prime, and the market is infinite. Because my ideal bookstore isn’t just a hop-in-and-out sort of a place that survives on the target market doing what it’s supposed to do. My ideal is more of a tourist destination.

First, you need an old home. Tudor style is a plus, with lots of old wood and at least three staircases:

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The house inspiration came from a Supernatural episode featuring this beauty:

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The inset is what it looked like in the Season 2, Episode 11 “Playthings”. I wish I could find photos of the inside.

But here’s what I imagine…

Once you enter,

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You’ll have to pick up a map and then feel free to wander the halls to any number of rooms, themed according to genre. (Unfortunately, most of the pictures I could find showed old books…but imagine new releases included, also)

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The books sold would be new and used, and people could bring old books to exchange.

After a day exploring, you could visit the restaurant/coffee shop, and we could sit down for coffee, surrounded by books…

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I would want the house as much a place to explore as the books…

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A place to spend the day relaxing and exploring and reading and loving books

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All books would be welcome. The number of rooms means you could host signings and Austen parties and Inklings and whatnot. I could have my own private living space attached to the house, which means the bookstore is my library.

I’d want it all to be more than just a place to buy a good book, but a place to enjoy one, as well. A place to find new treasures, regardless of the packaging.

Not just a book store, but a book house.

What does your bookstore look like?