04 January 2010

If It Takes a Village...

Hey, Friends! Happy New Year! I hope these past few weeks have been incredible for you.

One of the coolest experiences I was my organization's Christmas party. A good friend was in charge of decorating for it and she asked me to come up and help her out. So I spent the week before Christmas in my future hometown, consumed with the minute details of preparation. It was so cool. My friend is so talented when it comes to this. She knows how to make anything beautiful. The coolest part of all was how she did it. A large portion of our decorations came from people's homes. There were souvenirs from trips overseas, statues, candles, bowls, and platters. I thought it was so cool how "home" was represented in the room. The tools we used to make the centerpieces were borrowed from different people in the organization. And finally, we used what God gave us--pinecones, sand, rocks, branches, etc. My friend even dried orange slices, tied twine through them, and used them as Christmas tree ornaments. This was the final product:

Some of the different branches of the tree:





The finished tree:


One of the tables/centerpieces. I think it's funny that the statue seems to be pointing the way to the food!



Here, the statue seems to be pointing to the window. We used that one for "formal" photographs for couples.



Several of the tables and the tree:


The food table! The other half of the magnificent duo who designed this party used to cater for weddings. The food was incredible!



Pretty cool, huh? The room was beautiful. Why? Because my friend had a vision (and the manpower to carry it out). She saw how ingredients from so many walks of life could come together and make something beautiful. Her eye for detail made the room what it was. People exclaimed all night at how incredible it was. Some remarked on specific reasons why they sat at certain tables--their favorite color, the design of that centerpiece, the view of the incredible tree, how a specific piece reminded them of their time overseas.

If the room existed solely in a vaccuum, it would have been beautiful. But what gave it such a profound impact was the relationship of the pieces she used. Our memories, our love of nature (and candles--after all, we've all had to live without electricity), and our experiences layered beauty and gave it depth.

There's a literary theory that says literature in itself does not exist in a vaccuum. Instead, it is contigent on so many different factors, from the work's physical appearance, its existence on the shelves, the author's mindset as he/she wrote, the reader's mindset upon reading, the reader's experiences, memories, and influences, etc. For a reader, the sum total of the impact of the story depends not only on how well we wrote it but also the reader's needs as well. This is one reason why so much of literature is subjective, why this book on missions can rock me but perhaps move someone else in a different way. I went into the story with memories and experiences that made me better able to understand the story and relate specifically to the plot.

Perhaps the best way to think of it is as a symphony. While the work is the composition as a whole--what the audience hears--what makes it are the ingredients of the work (all the different instruments and the expertise of those playing them), the reaction of the audience, and the emotional connection between the two based on memory, taste, desire, experiences, etc. Someone who spent years trying to master the violin will have a greater appreciation for that portion of the symphony and will listen for it above all the others. Someone who loves the flute will watch the flutists with excitement. Does that make sense?

(By the way, offhand I can't remember the name of this theory. It's been years since my literary criticism class and while it was the greatest class I took in college, the textbook and my folder of papers are buried in the basement. I usually just think of it as the "Contingency Theory").

Anywho... what makes this so important are how relationships influence stories--and our reactions to them. We (both as authors and as readers) approach stories with the full person of who we are. And that what makes stories come alive. That's what creates those magical moments, when we've discovered another author we love, another book we will celebrate, for the rest of our lives. It's why so many of us see writing not only as a calling or something we can't not do, but also as a ministry. We hope that our stories will inspire healing, hope, or a myriad of other things. Why? Because of relationships. It's all connected.

It takes a village to create a Story.

Is this something you've ever thought about before? Or is this theory difficult to understand, ridiculous, etc.? The great thing about theory is that it's supposed to make us think. We don't necessarily have to agree. So, what do you think?

35 comments:

  1. First - WOW! Beautiful pictures. Especially the tree! Second - I'm always a fan of that saying. Never heard it applied to a story before. Interesting brain fodder. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. what a great analogy! When I write...I put me into it but so many pieces have to come together to make it a story that others want to read...something that makes them feel it like I do.
    And those pics are great.. That's talent!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great analogy, Kristen! And I love analogies! I love the picture you painted by using a symphony. So many senses coming together.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What do I think? Well, you've made me think! This is a good thing:) Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Absolutely breathtaking Kristen!

    I agree with this theory. My pastor preached yesterday that we all make up God's body. Paul used the human atamony as an example that no one member of the body could exist on its own.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Gorgeous and creative decorations! I read a book that spoke to your point wonderfully. I forget the author, but it's called Visioneering.

    I pull so much material from those around me, the end up conglomerating (is that a word) into the heart of my novels even when the characters and plot aren't directly connected to loved ones at all.

    Enough of my rambling. Beautiful post.
    ~ Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lovely pictures and great analogy. I especially like the wise men pointing. It's all about the focus, right?

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a gorgeous layout of treasures at that get together!! Very creative and I could've just sat there, absorbing it all! :)

    I apprecaite this post this morning as I have thought this very much over the past few days as God has called my slumbering heart up and out of its cave...that we need each other as shining symbols of His love and His call.

    Many hugs today,
    Bina

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great decorations. I am so inept at that sort of thing.

    Things are subjective and we have to remember that. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  10. First, let me say that you ladies did an awesome job decorating! WOW! I would have loved to see it in person. Come do my place next year!LOL
    And I like that our relationships and personalities are what make our writing ours and a way to minister.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think those pics are beautiful. What an honour to be able celebrate Jesus's birth in such beauty.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a gorgeous Christmas spread! The tree, the centerpieces. Wow! You guys did a wonderful job :)

    I like that theory. I havent' heard it before. I have heard that natura abohors a vaccuum. Hmmm, interesting. We cannot exist or create alone. Everything stems from something else. Life is connected. I love it.

    Love it!
    Jen

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thanks, Katie! I like it too!

    Thanks, Sarah! I'm learning... love taking pictures--especially manually!

    Thanks, Heather! I love analogies too... a lot! There's so much you can do with them!

    Ha! You're welcome, Karen!

    I love the picture of the Church too, Tamika! It's so beautiful!

    Thank you, Wendy! I've never heard that term for it before, but it makes sense. I know... I pull so much from life and it becomes Story. I love it when that happens!

    Thanks, Tess! Definitely! And at parties, the focus is on the food! :0) At least, for me it is!

    Thanks, Bina! I loved reading about your time with Him. Thank you for sharing it!

    Me too, Patti. My friend is an artist. She inspires me!

    Ha! Thanks, Terri! Me too... I love that there's more to it than just a story in a vaccuum.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks, Jen! That was a lot of fun!

    And thank you, Eileen!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Super beautiful pics! Happy and blessed 2010 my friend! I hope all your dreams come true!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow! Where to begin?! This is one incredible post, Kristen, on so many levels.

    I love the photos and the story behind your celebration - the idea of it being so many different pieces of "home". Beautiful and fantastic!

    I also love the symphony analogy applied to writing - the idea that we create together, not alone. I love, love, love everything about this post!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Those decorations were amazing! Beautiful. I haven't heard of that theory but it makes sense. I love how you explained it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Beautiful post, Kristen! The photos and your thoughts on what made the decor so meaningful was a great analogy on literary theory. I think what you said was right on, your "contingency theory". There are so many factors and one that is a very special part of it all for Christian writers is the ministry aspect. Blessings for this thoughtful post.


    Blessings,
    Carla
    http://writingtodistraction.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Kristen -

    Such talent! Thanks for sharing the pics.

    Our life experiences and individual personalities enrich a story idea and make it unique. Someone illustrated this principle once by giving out a writing prompt. The variety of stories from the same beginning point amazed everyone.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Thank you, T.Anne! I wish that for you too!

    Thank you, Shannon! I was really excited about this post. I hoped it would work. I'm so glad it did!

    Thanks, Cindy, Carla and Susan!

    ReplyDelete
  21. That is so beautiful! I loved you post, and the gorgeous decorations! I imagine that will always be such a wonderful memory. Thanks for sharing it and for sharing it after Christmas otherwise I would have felt like such a loser.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great pictures! Love the way she mixed things together. :O)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Love all of the pictures! And I loved your thoughts about what truly makes art come alive. And that is really in the experience of the viewer. The artist or writer sets the stage, but ulitmately the viewer has to jump onto it!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Amazing pics! I'm glad the part was awesome.
    :-)

    I didn't know your thoughts here are an actual theory, but it makes perfect sense to me. Kind of like what we learned in speech class, that there are different things an audience hears based on all sorts of factors, so that while there may be one speech, there are several different interpretations/reactions to that speech. Cool stuff!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Absolutely gorgeous. I think it's incredible to think about the infinite number of outcomes for one specific task. If your friend had given the same decorations to a different set of people, the room would have looked entirely different! The same applies to writing. Really, really cool!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Enjoyed these pics even more the second time!
    I TOTALLY agree with your analogy and JUST MET with one of my soulmate writers yesterday to discuss WIP.

    Yep. Several of them MADE me rewrite Chapter 1. I did it, kicking and screaming and clawing all the way.

    They were...gulp...right.

    It takes a village...or at least a few stubborn writer soulmates!

    GREAT POST AS USUAL!!!

    Patti
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ha! Thank you, JD! I don't think I could ever envision something like that by myself. My friend is a genius!

    Thanks, Diane! Me too!

    Yes they do, Jody! It's the beauty of subjectivity. So great!

    That sounds like it, Jessica. It makes sense too. The great thing about theory is that we can apply it everything. Pretty cool!

    So true, Lisa and Laura! That really is mind boggling.

    So it does, Patti Lacy! It's so hard to be told to rewrite something you love. I fought it for a long time--and then realized it was the best thing I ever did! Oh, the angst! Ha! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Woops---used the wrong account last time!

    Ha! Thank you, JD! I don't think I could ever envision something like that by myself. My friend is a genius!

    Thanks, Diane! Me too!

    Yes they do, Jody! It's the beauty of subjectivity. So great!

    That sounds like it, Jessica. It makes sense too. The great thing about theory is that we can apply it everything. Pretty cool!

    So true, Lisa and Laura! That really is mind boggling.

    So it does, Patti Lacy! It's so hard to be told to rewrite something you love. I fought it for a long time--and then realized it was the best thing I ever did! Oh, the angst! Ha! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  29. How beautiful! I love the orange and cranberry pic. Makes me wistful for Christmas all over again!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I do think this is true, Kristen. We cannot get ideas, learn to write well, and publish a book alone. Besides, who would read it?

    ReplyDelete
  31. I love this analogy - it does take so many influences to create a novel. An author and her novel are always the product of her environment. The pictures are truly amazing and make me wish it were Christmas again! Thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. These pics are so pretty! It makes me miss Christmas already :) One of my most favorite things is reading about what inspired an author to write a book. Sometimes I like the story behind the story better ;)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thanks, Natalie! I agree--I love hearing the story too. Thanks for mentioning that!

    Thanks, Julie! They make me wish for it too! Especially since it's still cold! Ahh!

    So true, Jeannette!

    Thanks, K.M!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Friend...you inspire me. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  35. You're welcome, beautiful Friend! And the feeling is most definitely mutual. :0)

    ReplyDelete