It’s great to be back with you all (thanks again to Tina for the invitation). Before I get any further, since we’re so close to the ACFW conference in St. Louis, let me add my congrats to Ruth Logan Herne and Mary Connealy, two Seekerville authors with books that finaled in the upcoming 2011 Carol Awards. Stirs wonderful memories for me from last year’s conference.
I’m back with you again to celebrate the release of my new book, Remembering Christmas (Revell). I’m happy (and relieved) to learn it received a 4.5 Stars/Top Pick rating from RT Book Reviews magazine. I don’t know why, but I always hold my breath until this review comes out (I guess it’s because it’s one of the first big publications to render a verdict).
I want to talk with you today about a fascinating, somewhat ethereal topic that all Christian writers can relate to: The Creativity of God.
A Quick Update
Since being with you back in June, something HUGE has happened. It was brewing then, but I wasn’t free to announce it. I’ve signed a 4-book contract with Revell to co-author a series of novels with bestselling Family and Relationship expert, Dr. Gary Smalley. To say, “Gary doesn’t play in my league” is an understatement.
Gary is the author and co-author of 16 best-selling, award-winning books (6 million in print) along with several popular films and videos. He’s spent over 30 years teaching and counseling, speaking to over 2 million people in live conferences. He’s also appeared on national television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live and The Today Show, as well as numerous national radio programs.
And for some reason, he wants to work with me. How did this happen?
The short version…some of you may know Gary and Karen Kingsbury co-authored a 5-book fiction series years ago that took off in a major way. The Redemption series sold over 1.5 million copies (all 5 books are still in print). Gary said he never dreamed when they began that this series would be among the books most often cited by his fans as having “changed their lives.”
Last Fall, he decided he wanted to do a new series with another author. He read my first two novels and―using his words―“absolutely fell in love with my writing.” After talking it through with my publisher, they contacted me.
Which brings me to my main topic for today…where do we get our ideas for our books? When I first got the call about this new series with Gary, I was elated…and terrified. I’ve never done anything like this before. Whatever would we write about?
Since that call, I’ve already come up with the synopsis for the first book and roughed out a number of ideas for the series. In two weeks, my wife and I will fly to St. Louis for the ACFW conference. But we’ll arrive a few days early and rent a car to drive to Branson to meet with Gary and finalize the plans for Book One, which I’ll start writing as soon as I get home.
Tapping Into the Creativity of God
I had a similar fear after I finished my first novel, The Unfinished Gift. I had spent so much time writing, rewriting and polishing it, and I didn’t expect it to get picked up and published so soon. My agent and editor asked, “What else have you got?”
The honest answer? I had nothing. Nada. So I prayed.
From somewhere, a wonderful love story flowed out from the first book. I pitched The Homecoming to them, and they loved it. Then once again after completing that, I had nothing else. I prayed some more and then one day I was watching the History Channel, and…voila! The Deepest Waters was born.
Since then, I’ve finished writing Remembering Christmas, my fourth, which has just released and my fifth, The Discovery, coming out this spring. None of these stories were alive or even in my head 2 years ago. Besides these and the series with Gary Smalley, Revell has contracted me to write three more novels―based on ideas that came into my brain from somewhere. I’ve already written a synopsis for each one.
One of the questions I’m often asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?”
Let me tell you a little about how Remembering Christmas was born. My wife and I were eating breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, strolling down memory lane. I was asking her to refresh my mind about some of the different jobs she had in the years before our children were born. She began talking about this one job at a little family-owned Christian bookstore called The Book Nook. It brought back some fond memories for both of us.
All of a sudden, a wonderful idea for a Christmas book popped into my head, centered around this store. I shared it with her and she loved it. We stopped in at Barnes-and-Noble for a little while, and it was like I was “In the Zone.” Wonderful ideas started flooding in, including a romance, and an ending that brought tears to my eyes, even as I thought of it.
It’s amazing when you stop and consider this question. Where do things like this come from? Book ideas, song ideas, ideas for paintings and other works of art? James tells us in the Bible: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17 NKJV)
The ability to see and hear and write such things comes from God.
Like A Bridge Over Troubled Waters (sort of)
This past week, my wife and I watched a documentary about Simon and Garfunkel. A large segment was devoted to the now-classic song, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, and how it came about (can you believe it was 40 years ago?).
Paul Simon, its author, described how it just came to him, almost all at once, fully formed. The melody and the lyrics for the first two verses and chorus. He had a sense right away, that it was a little better than what he normally wrote (he actually said something like this). But he had no idea how big it would become.
He also had a strong sense that Art Garfunkel, his partner, should be the one to sing it. To me, no one has surpassed the vocals of Art Garfunkel on that song ever since (musicians in the studio said it gave them goose bumps as they listened to him pour his heart into that song).
The thing was, as I listened to this, I realized Paul Simon was describing something I could relate to (not that I play in his league either, or anywhere near it). That is, Human Beings―mere mortals―receive wonderful gifts of art and music and lyrics and stories, and then share them with other human beings to bless, entertain and inspire.
As I listened to both men share the wonders of how this amazing song was born and the process of creating one of the great moments in recording history, I didn’t hear either of them mention God as the one who gave them this song or their ability to write songs in general.
If there is a difference in what makes our work “Christian,” besides the message, it may lie in the fact that we know where these creative gifts come from, we deliberately seek to be inspired by the “real author,” and intentionally seek ways to use these gifts to glorify God…as we try to bless, entertain and inspire others.
This, by no means, makes us better than anyone. On the contrary, as Jesus said, “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). But it should provoke and encourage us all the more to tap into the wonderful creativity of God, who gives us these small earthly doses of His creativity.
We have no reason to fear that the well will run dry.
The One who helps us is the author of fingerprints and snowflakes, the creator of billions of people (no two who are ever the same) and billions of stars and galaxies, each one unique. He delights to give gifts to His children, especially those who come humbly and live for His glory.
So…talk to me. I’d love to hear some of the moments when you have “Tapped Into the Creativity of God.”
Dan Walsh is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). His first novel, The Unfinished Gift won 2 ACFW Carol Awards for best debut author and best short historical fiction. The sequel, The Homecoming, released last year in June. His third novel, The Deepest Waters, released in April and his fourth, Remembering Christmas, has just come out this September. Reviewers often compare his books to Nicholas Sparks, Richard Paul Evans and Jason Wright. He writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area, where he lives with the love of his life, Cindi, his wife of 35 years. They have two grown children and two grandchildren. As they await more, they enjoy the company of two mini-aussies, Bailey and Darcy.
Today Dan is giving away a copy of Remembering Christmas to one Seekerville visitor. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.