Making Your Soul Grow

Tomorrow is the start date for the contract I have with a professional cover designer. When “Pushing Back,” originally intended as a stand-alone novel, grew to become a series of three books (with a possible fourth beginning to appear in my head) I thought I should do something to tie the book covers together thematically. As a visual artist I am incompetent to the point of being laughable, so over the last several months I’ve been looking around for someone to take on the job.

There is no shortage of designer’s pages on the net, so I had a lot to choose from; there are pre-made covers and custom designs, designers whose genre speciality is obvious as soon as you see one or two of their creations, and prices ranging from less than $50 to over $3,000 per cover. A couple of years ago I needed an illustrator for one of my children’s books and found her through, so when I came across I immediately signed on. Reedsy is a clearinghouse for vetted editors, formatters, and cover designers, and works by having the prospective client choosing five candidates, describing the project, and receiving bids. That’s how I ended up with Nick, and we begin our collaboration tomorrow.

I’ve known for a while now that one of the things I need is a creative outlet of some kind. It’s one of the reasons I write books and play music, and beginning this new project is reminding me of how important it is for me to have this in my life. Kurt Vonnegut said that “practicing an art, no matter how well or how badly, is a way to make your soul grow,” and I know that’s true for me. Comparing myself to a Vonnegut or Bradbury or Burke, or for that matter a McCutcheon or Messick or Hall, is not only useless, but antithetical to the whole point Mr. Vonnegut was making. And that’s a liberating insight; when I read a paragraph of James Lee Burke’s, his ability to evoke image and mood is a pleasure to experience, not a reason to disparage my own ability as a writer. 

We are creators, all of us, and the people in my life who claim they “don’t have a creative bone in their body” are working with a definition of creativity that is a little narrow, in my opinion. From a well-built garden shed to a delicious meal, from a class of school children with that light of curiosity still in their eyes to a butterfly garden in the middle of the city, and on and on, we bring order and beauty to our world. The number of people who know about what you have created is not a useful measure of its worth. The real question is, does it make your soul grow? 

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A career working with teenagers on the fringes of society has made me both sensitive to and appreciative of the complexities of character and the struggles, inner and outer, that we all wrestle with in one form or another. My writing emphasizes character development over action, and, as a lifelong Southerner, the rhythms and cadence of the Southeastern United States influence both my spoken and written voice.

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