Had she lived, my mother would have reached a milestone birthday yesterday. She would have been 90 years old.
Shortly after Mom’s death in 2010, after repeatedly reading her admonitions to her children and grandchildren “to utilize their God-given talents,” I decided to do just that. In her honor, I put together a power point presentation on utilizing creativity in everyday life. I first presented it to a room full of young homeschooling moms.
“My mother never doubted for a moment that each of her children had talent,” I opened with. “Do you ever doubt that each of your children possesses some inherent talent?”
The women shook their heads, smiling with pride.
“Do you encourage your children’s natural gifts and spend money on lessons or training?”
They nodded in response.
I paused, before adding, “But what about you? Do you ever doubt your own inherent creativity?”
Their smiles faded. Suddenly, they couldn’t meet my eyes.
A few months later, I did the same presentation for a group of women at the other end of the spectrum, empty-nesters and retirees. When I asked if they ever doubted their own inherent talents, their replies were heartbreaking to me, ranging from “I don’t have any talent,” to “It’s too late for me now.”
There’s a book in this somewhere, I thought then. Once home, I scrawled down some notes, throwing them in a folder I labeled “Creativity.” The key word being scrawled.
These notes and that 2011 power point presentation were the beginning of what would eventually become a book on creativity. Around the same time, I also began collecting quotes in a journal, quotes that speak to me now as I work on the manuscript.
“It came to me yesterday that our life does not fully flower until it is over. It’s final meaning can’t be known until after we are gone. Written down, this makes it sound as if the worth of a life is weighed by the number of people who remember us. But I mean something more, which is connected to the new life my mother is leading now. Her power has intensified, rather the way a saint’s efficacy is spread,”– Phyllis Theroux, in “The Journal Keeper.”
“I have this little idea that worms its way through my head, that perhaps God is redeeming my father’s writing through my pen. He’s completing my father’s genius in me, but He’s doing it through my own frailty. I’m no genius. I’m a mess half the time. But God’s great work of redemption spans the generations. When I put words to the page, I wonder if my Dad can see me. Does he smile?”– from Mary Demuth in “Thin Places”
I’ve felt my mother near as I work on this book, wonder if she is smiling from Heaven.
Those initial notes became a well-planned proposal for a book with twelve chapters.
Since signing the book contract the chapters have morphed somewhat. I won’t share the updated titles, since they can change again once the editor gets a hold of it, but the changes were a surprise to me.
“My writing knows more than I know. What a writer must do is listen to her book. It might take you where you don’t expect to go. That’s what happens when you write stories. You listen and you say ‘aha’ and you write it down. A lot of it is not planned, not conscious; it happens while you’re doing it. You know more about it after you’re done.” – Madeliene L’Engle
I’ve had some other surprises in the writing process. While I’d assumed some of my mother’s words might appear in the manuscript, and had already fit in some as epigraphs (the quotes at the beginning of a chapter), I hadn’t expected Mom’s actual handwriting to appear.
This creativity book project has turned out to be a labor of love. I can hardly wait to see where that labor takes me.
In closing, a message from my wise mother: