Our family is split into two categories: Pessimists and Optimists. And then I guess those who can slide either way. My dad is way over on the Optimistic side of things. He’ll eat the blackened chicken, and claim that it is good. He’ll slap a bandaid on the cut and tell us it’ll be better by the time we get married. He’ll whistle while he works and take his time doing things. Hannah is a lot like him, and even Ruth sometimes.
And then you have my mom’s side. And, unfortunately, my side too. The Pessimists. We don’t like the blackened chicken, and freak out over the minor cuts. We think that every mole is potentially cancerous and every door-to-door salesman most likely murderous. Very rarely do we relax and find comfort in the knowledge that everything is going to be okay.
Case in point: When driving the other day, I got honked at by another car. I mean, okay, I was to blame and probably could have done things differently, but this still freaked me out. I won’t even get started on how much it disturbed my mom. She thinks we almost died. Even Hannah crossed to the dark side and dared to criticize my driving skills. We were all pretty pessimistic.
Our depressed and morbid thoughts led us to talking about how close we come to dying every time we (I!) drive. It was kind of a freaky conversation. But then, the more I thought about it, my perspective began changing. We didn’t almost die! We will die when it is our time, and not a moment sooner. There’s no “almost” about it!
Life is full of those moments that make you freeze, rewind, and walk away wondering how you got through it alive. But you know what? We get through it alive because God wants us to keep living. We freak out and spazz all over the place when, the reality is, everything is okay. We will live as long as God wants us to live, and we will be fine until then. We may come across some close calls, but nothing will happen to us that will catch Him by surprise. I think that’s a pretty good reason to be optimistic!
Oh, and by the way, the events of this blog were totally overdramatized. I can’t believe all of you have such little faith in my driving abilities. Sheesh…
They say that children are a blessing from the Lord. If that’s true, then how much more blessed are those with big families? That’s the case with this lovely family I photographed last week, the Guillorys. Paul and Monika and their six children (and one on the way!) were a joy to be around. Every now and then you come across a family that is a testament of the Lord’s goodness, and this is definitely one of them. All of these children are so sweet and funny, with the nicest smiles. 😉
Sorry if my blog hasn’t been very interesting lately. I was literally sitting here today, thinking to myself: “Write something funny, Rachel. WRITE SOMETHING FUNNY!!!” Then I kind of realized that nothing really funny has happened lately. That kind of led me to a mini-panic attack, since I always think everything is hilarious. And if I can’t even find something to laugh about right now, that must mean my life is in trouble.
Anyway, I think I’m maybe in a stuck in a rut spot right now? I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of writing, and photo editing, and promotion for my book, but I haven’t been doing much living. It’s been hard to find a lot of joy and laughter in going through the mundane rituals of everyday life, especially the things I don’t feel like doing.
Thanksgiving was a wonderful break, though! Needless to say, I wrote a cheesy Thanksgiving post then decided not to post it. To sum up what I wrote, I am thankful for everything God has blessed me with this year and am shocked at the course my life has taken. Last year everything looked so much different. It’s funny to look back now at where this year has taken me. I’m also thankful for everyone who has been showing me so much support. Before this year, I had no idea how many teens were out there just like me–with nothing but a passion to write and a desire to be heard. Hearing all of your stories makes me feel so much more inspired to continue following my dream.
Yep. That’s my Thanksgiving speech. 😉 What did everyone else do to celebrate the holiday?
Also: I’m planning on doing another instalment of my “Writing Q&A.” You can find the first two here and here. I’d like to make this a semi-regular feature, so if anyone has any more questions about writing, the writing process, or the life of a writer–I’d be glad to answer!
Let’s talk about awkward questions. This is my favorite: “So, what are you planning on doing? You know, after school.”
Don’t get me wrong. The speaker means absolutely no offense when he asks this. He is merely enquiring as to what my life plan is past this year. Am I going to college? Am I buying a car? Will I get a job? Or get a husband?
What I love about this awkward question is that the answer is short and sweet. Three words, to be precise: “I. Don’t. Know.”
There are a lot of pressures that come along with being a teenager. I think I once heard someone the teenage years as the welcome mat to the real world. Decisions have to be made. A lot of them. Do I want to go to college? Or get a car/job/husband anytime soon? (Okay, maybe not that last one. I’m only sixteen, sheesh!)
It’s difficult for me to pin down an answer to the question, “What do you want to do with your life?” Because, honestly, I don’t know! I love to write, and take pictures, and play piano–but sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough. Like I need a college degree or an office job to make me feel secure in myself. I start to doubt the path my life is taking, and wonder if I should push myself in another direction.
And so, with much thought and prayer, I have compiled a three point list to serve as my answer to “What do you want to do with your life?” The next time someone asks me that question, I will turn to them and spew off in a robotic voice:
Number One: I want to be a godly woman.
Number Two: I want to have kids. Lots of them.
And Number Three: I want to be happy in whatever I do. No matter what that is.
That’s all I really want out of life. To be a godly woman who walks with the Lord and raises a family full of little blessings. And to love what I do, whether it’s photography or writing or something else entirely. My dad once told me that if I find something I love doing and figure out a way to make a living at it, I’ll never have to work a day in my life. Because I’ll be happy and content, whether I’m breezing through life or slaving away. Life shouldn’t be as complicated as everyone makes it out to be. I never want to pine away for a better paying job or Pulitzer prize achievement or some other “success” in this life. When I grow up, I just want to be happy and content in whatever God has given me.
Meet…. My other family.
Ha ha, just kidding. But seriously, that’s how close these guys are to me. When we first moved here eight years ago, the Thompsons were the first family we met. We were neighbors for years, and grew closer than I ever thought possible. We grew up together, and helped each other through school, and braces, and tragedies, and celebrations. They were the brothers we never had.
Anyway, meet the Thompson family. Clyde and Valerie, and their five sons Michael, Austin, CJ, Landon, and Bryce. The three oldest boys have already grown up and moved out, so we had the hardest time finding a date that we were all able to get together and take pictures. We were just getting ready to give up hope when–lo, and behold–a day opened up that we were all free. I really feel like God blessed our time together and I’m thankful for the opportunity to capture the essence of this wonderful family.
Part Two of yesterday’s “How to be Creative”:
3) Have Intelligent Conversations
Always have an open ear to what other people are saying to you. Don’t think that you know it all, or that there are only two opinions: Yours and the wrong one. (Admittedly, I think this pretty often) But seriously, having conversations deeper than sports or shopping is really beneficial! Some of the best ideas I’ve ever gotten have come from having deep conversations with friends and “older people” (i.e. my mom’s friends). Ask someone else their opinion on something. Listen, and pay attention, and then humbly share yours. Don’t get mad or offended at anything they say, but rather respect their views and think about how it relates to yours.
4) Try Something New…Even if You Don’t Think You Will Like It
Let me be the first to admit to being one of those obsessively habitual people. I like to eat the same thing for breakfast every morning. I go to bed at the same time every day. I am suspicious of my mom’s new recipes, and sometimes form opinions sooner than necessary. That being said, I do love trying new things. Granted, I don’t love every new thing I try, but the idea of discovering something fresh is always exciting to me. So while I may be eyeing that Asian “casserole dish” with a queasy stomach, I will try it anyway just to see if I like it or hate it. I will go somewhere I’ve never been before, just to see what it looks like. I will talk to someone I’ve never met before, even if they intimidate me. That’s the kind of person I am, and I’m grateful for it. Because you never know what inspiring experiences you will miss out on if you never give yourself a chance to have them!
5) Be Boring. Occasionally.
You can’t be bursting with creativity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you did, I don’t think you could technically call it “creativity”, could you? [I will look into this and let you know…] Anyway, there are days that will be dull. There will be times you cannot think of any new ideas, or even want to. But you just have to let those days pass and move on to better things. When life gives you lemons, it’s up to you to go out there and get the sugar and water necessary to make your own lemonade! Push yourself, and be creative.
Well, that’s about all I can think of to inspire you to think and live creatively. But at some point, it’s not about me telling you what to do anymore, it’s about you doing it.
I’m really bad at solving problems. Math and science were never my strong points. My mom talks a lot about how satisfying math can be. About the buzz you get when you figure out the solution, and solve the problem. I don’t get a buzz. I get a headache.
I’ve always just been better at creative subjects, anyway. History and writing and music were always my favorite subjects. I enjoyed putting together visual reports and crafting descriptive reports. Anything that involved using your imagination was a plus.
Anyway, I’ve had some people ask me lately how I manage to stay creative, whether writing or taking photos. How do I think of new ideas and execute them? And how can they do it too?
So, I made a list of five ways to be more creative, no matter what it is you want to do:
1) Be Inspired
Think outside the box. If you’re searching for inspiration for, say, a book, look outside of books. I’m one of those fanatics who is a huge advocate for the arts. Seriously, if you are looking for something to inspire you for creativity, lots of times you don’t have to walk further than your closest museum or library. Expand your horizons. When I was younger, I never thought I enjoyed modern art. I thought it was messy and pointless. But as I got older, I decided to study it and see what I could learn. What I discovered astounded me. Modern art was just brimming with emotion and passion, that inspired me to live my life more fully.
Photography is also very inspiring, I think. I keep folders on my computer of images I come across that boost my creativity and give me ideas for stories, photoshoots, etc. Vintage photos are especially effective, I find. Stumbling across a photo of an old bench under a vibrant tree once inspired an entire scene in one of my books.
Another great way to be inspired is by watching beautiful movies. My friends and I always argue about which version of Pride and Prejudice is better–the BBC or the Keira Knightley version–and I will always side with the new one. Why? Because it is beautiful to watch. It inspires me to think beautifully and make beautiful things. It’s just that simple. Movies can have a profound influence on the way you create. At least in this modern age.
2) Listen to Good Music
I have playlists on my computer that I pull up when I’m writing a specific scene. For example, I have a whole playlist dedicated to the best melancholy music ever, for when I’m writing an especially depressing scene. Eva Cassidy, Evanescence, and Lang Lang are some of the artists on it. Then I have peppy songs to listen to when I’m working on something upbeat. One thing I’m always against is anything “mainstream”. I prefer indie artists and oldschool music from the ‘good old days’. Eclectic music inspires interesting work. Or at least that’s my opinion. Whatever I’m listening to always influences the style of my writing, or photo editing, or thinking.
Check back for Part Two tomorrow!
Boy, I feel like I have been doing nothing but taking and editing photos lately. 🙂 These are some of my favorite of the season, though, because I feel like I finally got that quintessentially “autumnal” look.
Anyway, this is the Hogue family. Doug and Terrah are probably the youngest couple I’ve ever shot, and their two little girls Mikayla and Paisley (named in honor of Terrah’s favorite singer Brad Paisley) are so adorable! Mikayla was the funniest. Every time I pointed the camera at her, all she wanted to say was “Cheeeeese”. So I got her started throwing leaves and before we knew it we had an obsessive, leaf-throwing toddler on our hands. 😉
Fun fact: I already mentioned that Terrah is kind of into Brad Paisley. 😉 So I asked them what their favorite Brad Paisley song is, and they both admitted that “Wrapped Around” was a really special song for them when they were still dating. Look it up–it’s so cute! “I think it’s time to put a ring on that finger I’m wrapped around…”
Today, I found evidence that God listens to our prayers. Here’s the story:
All my life I have been a big journal-er, up until about a year ago. So today, I was looking through some old journals just for fun. My sisters were sprawled out on my bed, listening to me read out loud my thoughts from several years earlier. It was actually quite funny, because even when I was eleven or twelve, my journals read the same way this blog does. Lots of sarcasm and dramatics.
Anyway, I came across an entry from 2009 that made my heart stop. This was written a year before I ever started writing “Interrupted.” A year and a half before I got an agent. And two years before I was signed at Zondervan. Here is what I wrote in my journal on January 9, 2009. I was thirteen.
“It’s the waiting that gets to me. The wondering and longing and hoping that really makes it hard. Hoping for a big break; longing to write the perfect story; wondering if it will ever come; waiting for it to happen…
Sometimes I like to flatter myself and think: ‘By January 9, 2012, there will be a book on my bookshelf with the word ‘Coker’ on the spine.’ Rachel E. Coker. A beautiful, hardback book with a photograph of a lovely girl in a lovely dress gazing wistfully off into the distance on the front. It doesn’t matter what color her hair or skin is, or what period style of clothing she’s wearing, as long as my name is on the cover.
Of course, this is really the only selfish reason I want to be published. The others are more common and decent: I want girls to learn to love reading by reading my books. I want to help people become better Christians. I want to make a contribution to the small list of good books out there.
But I still want to be published. I want to be known by people as ‘the girl who, at such a young age, used her talents to glorify God’. Oh, it’s so selfish of me to think like this, but it’s true! Given, I don’t think it very often, just occasionally, but the thought is still there.
I guess the only thing to do is pray for humility (something I greatly lack) and remember that I am to serve God, not man. Even if I never get published, God already has a plan for my life that I can trust He knows about before I ever wrote my first story.”
Can you see why this journal entry shook me up so much? Look at that date: January 9, 2012. I was off by a month. Other than that, it’s all there. My book is coming out in February, 2012. I described the cover to “Interrupted” perfectly–a year before I even started writing it.
All I wanted on that winter day in 2009 was to be published. To make a difference in the world and be something. But I knew that fame and success weren’t God’s primary plans for my life. And it was hard, but I prayed for God’s will to be made clear anyway. God drew out the big picture for my life before I was even born, and it was to glorify Him. Funny how the number one thing I wanted, turned out to be exactly what He had in mind after all, huh?
So I guess the message in all this is: Number one, I seem to be psychic. (Okay, maybe not…) Number two: God listens to us when we ask Him for things. And sometimes He gives them to us, sometimes He doesn’t. If all you want to do is write, then God already knows that. He may or may not make you successful at it. But if all you want to do is follow His will, then He promises He’ll show you what that is.
So I think the prize to who has the most photogenic house probably has to go to the Betlers. As Mrs. Betler put it, “I look at something and I think, ‘Oh, that’s an eyesore!’ And then I see it in a picture and it looks pretty neat.” I couldn’t agree more. They have a pretty sweet cabin right by their house that I was in heaven to photograph…
I think what makes these photos so cool is how totally realistic they are. The Betlers are just cool people. They hunt, they wear camo, and they drive trucks. They are the definition of All-American country. 😉