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Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Finishing the Hat

Hey, all, Normandie here. I want to introduce you to one of my critique partners, the delightful Jennifer Fromke, whose words of correction and inspiration help hone my stories. When she told me about Seurat and his painted hat, I knew she had to share it with you. So, Jenn, you have the floor:

FINISHING THE HAT, a guest post
by Jennifer Fromke

George Seurat held his paint brush aloft as he worked on a wall-sized painting. When the woman in his life said, “It’s time to go,” his answer sounded something like, “But I just started this hat.” He couldn’t fathom going anywhere, doing anything, until he’d added the dots to construct the hat in his painting. Adrift in the world of his creation, he chose the hat over the woman’s world. . . because he had to. At least that’s how I remember it from Sondheim’s Broadway show, Sunday in the Park with George. The show is about Georges Seurat, as he paints one of his greatest pieces, A Sunday on La Grand Jatte circa 1884.

George Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago
Writing and painting have a lot in common. We writers are artists, too, although I sometimes forget this in the daily grind of creation. Sometimes the work feels like…work. While sitting at a computer, shoulders hunching, eyes squinting, fingers tapping, I often overlook the enormous privilege and playful creativity involved. I forget that I am, indeed, an artist.

Everyday life appears normal, boring. Writers don’t wear a smock, inhabit a garret, or smell turpentine and paint. But we do daydream, and sometimes we zone out as we watch our characters move across the mental stage, the canvas on which we paint. Eventually we’re jerked back to the real world as we trip over shoes in the middle of the living room floor.

One song from the musical beautifully depicts this tension between the artist’s world and the real world. Mandy Patinkin sang “Finishing the Hat” on Broadway, and now Josh Groban has recorded a new version of the song. I’m linking to both so you can listen.

Josh Groban’s version --

Mandy Patinkin onstage in Sunday in the Park with George

If you’re like me, you feel the tug of the story world. You want to finish painting the hat. Or writing the scene. Or fleshing out the character. There’s a crazy passion that drives art, and it’s like a selfish monster, pulling us away to imagine the next scene. We must solve the problem of how we intend to draw the metaphorical hat and where it should appear in the painting that is our current novel.

Do you struggle, as I do, when forced from your story world to the real world and then back again after the phone call, the baby’s cry, the grumbling stomach? As artists, novelists, we live in-between. We are the rope in the tug of war between reality and fantasy, the concrete and abstract. We long to follow our loved ones into extraordinary moments, and other times we have to finish the hat.

But what if we throw in one more element: calling. What if God truly called us to write, but our families still expect us to do laundry? Here, again, is more tension. Would God call us to something that would take us away from our families? The rope is pulled taut, adding pressure and strain. Passion and calling pull us toward the world of our stories. But family and responsibilities pull us back to the real world. What’s an artist to do?

Psalms 37:4(ESV) ”Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” This is not an equation; this is the Creator of the universe asking us to delight in him. Because this delight, this playing with our Creator, will change us. And it will change our dreams. It will make us more like our Creator, who equips us to create the things he’s called us to make. Write. Paint.
The best moment, that perfect confluence of Creator and art and life, is when we are finally able to step back from our work and look at that fabulous hat. And our loves stand beside us and one of them pipes up from just over our right shoulder, “Hey, nice hat!”
So I’m waving to all the artists out there. I hope today’s daydreams solve your story problems. I hope that pot on the stove doesn’t boil over. And I hope you’re blessed with just enough time and passion and creative gumption to finish your hat.

How’s your hat coming along? Do you need to take some extra time with our Creator so that He can help you finish? How do you balance the artist’s world with reality?


Finishing the Hat: Art versus Life, Finding a Balance by Jennifer Fromke (Click to Tweet)

Balancing the need to finish, the need to create, and the need to live in the world.~ Jennifer Fromke (Click to Tweet)

What if God truly called us to write, but our families expect us to do laundry?~ Jennifer Fromke (Click to Tweet)

Jennifer Fromke is feverishly working to finish her fourth novel. Just for fun, she blabs her opinion on all the best books at You’ll find her smuggling peeps into the house before long and wrapping up care packages for her loves far away in college. Her other creative outlet finds its way onto the plates of Husband and Son every night. She is represented by Jessica Kirkland of Kirkland Media Management.

This is Normandie, back again.
Since I was last with you, I've had the privilege of working with narrator Laura Jennings in producing the audiobook of one of my Carolina Coast novels, Heavy Weather. You can take a look at it here:

I even have some free copies available for those who wish to review it. Let me know at

I have other fun news, so check in with me on my website. Lots going on in my publishing world.

Talk to y'all very soon.


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