What Inspires me

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Byrne’s Mississippi Battery, Shiloh National Battlefield Military Park. copyright Jennifer Bryant 2011

What inspires me? Many things have in the past.

Julia Cameron inspired me to keep going and to recognize that the editor and critic are dark parts of myself that need to be controlled, just as the creative part of myself needs to be freed from control. I control it with a heavy hand but give free reign to the editor. Somehow that is natural to the point of being creatively blocked. We learn it from the criticism of parents and our friends and it has to be unlearned through painful practice, like the muscles learn to run each extra foot further than they have strength for. Her gospel frees the creative soul from the pit of creative darkness. It has mentored me through the days where I would have given up on completing They Met at Shiloh. I believe she is a universalist when it comes to faith, believing that there is a God but perhaps not the God that I know and Christ who allows me to know him, but she has nailed it as far as truth, that we are best when we are under faith and not works, that there is a spirit who whispers to us the stories we tell. I do not quibble with questions of her christianity or not, she isn’t speaking a gospel of what saves us but what saves our creative souls and that I can follow as it points me back to the owner of that creativity, even Christ.

Many things are inspiring me now.

My wife inspires me to press on, encouraged me to quit the national guard after 15 years and pick up the old book again. She isn’t just a fan, she’s a partner with me as we both try to adopt and adapt to what it means to be self employed (a hobby as Dave Ramsey would call anything that doesn’t make money yet) but has not just dutifully followed me but joined me by my side, taking care of what I am an avowed idiot with; money.

I would not soon trust myself with our finances because I am too single minded of purpose. I see something and decide that I want it. If we have money in the bank, cost is no object! Thankfully, she has taken it on herself to manage our household in this regard and I have to say is now encumbering herself with yet one more thing that has to be managed, a growing book selling business. She has withstood much from me over the years and still does, I can be irascible and moody when something is puzzling me or when I am getting impatient for an outcome. I can only thank God that she still loves me when I am on a terror.

The Official Records of the Rebellion inspires me. I have found more than just a few incidents recorded on these dusty (now digitized pages) to lead to scenes and fancies for my characters to behold. I write about individuals who are part of organizations, regiments and brigades. I’m interested in the soldier’s experience as they react and interact with one another and with the specter of wounds and death each time they put on their traps and take a line of march. When I am researching a unit and what it did, going back a month or so before a battle I look up that unit or its leader in the official records and find little tidbits of daily activities to include in my narrative and often if I’m stuck, I go to these pages to just get an official glimpse of what it was like to have marched along with these soldiers. These are bereft of emotions, being communique’s and battle reports, telegrams and such, but they often fill in some of the gaps.

@sarahwitenhafer has been an inspiration for me. We write in the same genre and I’ve known her since 1989. I’ve been following her own progress as she was further ahead than I have been in both publication and marketing. I’m still floundering around at the moment, but keeping tabs on her progress has kept me going. She has a manner that is winning and has found a way to inspire others and a grow a fan base.

Another is @jakonrath who has experienced a renaissance of sorts in e-publishing and is inspiring hundreds if not thousands to follow his lead and shake off the shackles of the traditional publishing world for the freedom of self publishing. The success seen by those two, and a host of others, thanks to Amazon and Kindle, have opened the doors for the revolution to happen in the publishing world. Good or bad, it is happening and making unknown authors a living as the consumer chooses who to keep buying books from, not the publishers. You can say whatever about the lack of gate keeping going on and why or why not that is a bad thing, but in my experience, gate keeping is a defensive strategy by those inside the gate. It assumes a zero sum game for a limited pool of resources. E-publishing has changed all of this in a big way thanks to Amazon.

Inspiration, like exercise, takes training as we relearn to react to the world as we did when we were children and not encumbered by cares, worries, economies, and family. We were fed and clothed and sheltered so that aside from chores to do and rules to obey we were freed from the things that distract us.

We played and usually with whatever we had on hand. I used to use a music stand, one of those foldable wire stands for a machine gun. It could be an MP40, the German sub-machine gun or it could be a British Bren Gun.

We had our toy figures from Star Wars or GI Joe and the hallway would become our battle ground. Cardboard boxes became whatever the imagination would allow for. We didn’t care that it really didn’t look like a tank, or a house, or whatever because our imaginations filled in the gaps.

Creativity is as natural for a child as becoming blocked by the cares of this world come to adults. Christ told his disciples that the Kingdom of God was made for such as these, children that surrounded him one day. One can imagine what that scene might have looked like, the adults trying to control the situation and the children trying to chaos it.

He said if one did not approach the throne of the most high God as a child, one would never enter into the gates. Why is that? Exactly why it takes a child to be creative, because the child has to trust the authority over it, be protected by it, be drawn to its love, and aside from the rebellion that is born in us, all we as children laid our cares down at His feet. As we create or struggle to be creative again as adults, we approach the throne as children again no longer as independent beings but as dependent.