Teresa Funke, Bursts of Brilliance on The Writers Hour - Creative Conversations with Janine Bolon

Teresa Funke – Bursts of Brilliance24 min read

Host: Hello and welcome to the Writers Hour Creative Conversations. I’m Janine Bolon and with me today is Teresa Funke. She believes that everyone is an artist and that there’s an artist that resides in everyone. Her newest book, Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life helps readers ignite their creative spirit and rediscover their passion, their purpose, and their power. This highly reviewed book is based on Teresa’s popular weekly blog, which is run consecutively since 2014. Teresa is the embodiment of the modern artist and entrepreneur. She’s the owner of Teresa Funke & Company Victory House Press, and Bursts of Brilliance. She has authored seven award-winning novels for adults and children set in World War II, including some of my favorites, Dancing and Combat Boots and War on a Sunday morning. Teresa is a Community Catalyst, speaking widely and running programs with support history education, literacy, writing, the arts, and personal development. She is a frequent guest and a popular panelist on topics ranging from creativity, innovation, entrepreneurship, and arts advocacy. Thank you so much for being with us today, Teresa.

Teresa Funke: Thank you, Janine. It’s great to be here.

Host: Well, one of the things we like to do with the Writers Hour is we like to hear the story behind the story. And it seems to me when I first met you and we were talking a little bit, that you were going in one direction, this whole history, and World War II and that all of a sudden you decided to write in a different genre. If you will, it’s still non-fiction, but it’s like this different genre popped up and you started writing in it, talk to us a little bit about that pivoting and that transition. What was that all about? I know there’s a story there.

Teresa: Yeah, I know! It is, it is a big transition. Yeah, for 27 years I wrote and researched and interviewed people about World War II and all of my books are fiction, but they are based on real people that I’ve interviewed and that was a kind of a unique way to be a storyteller. And I was really proud of those books, I still am very proud of those books and very involved in that community. But all along, I was also, at the time, doing a lot of teaching and coaching for writing and everyone was telling me, “Oh, you need a blog, you needed a blog,” and I thought, you know, every writer has a blog, I don’t want to write a blog until I have something new and unusual to say. And then one day I landed on the idea of Bursts of Brilliance and I got really excited about this concept and I knew that I could write a weekly blog, inspirational blog around this concept of Burst of Brilliance and so I started writing the blog and I thought that it was just going to be for writers and artists in and entrepreneurs, that’s what I intended it for. And then I started to find out that people in healthcare were reading it and educators were reading it and business people were reading it and I thought, well, this is really interesting, this is tapping into a wider audience than I expected. And so after about 5 years, I realized that I had quite a few blog posts that were really good and decided to turn them into a book. So the blog to book experience is not that common and so it was a challenge to figure out how to turn a blog into a book, but we did it, and it became Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life, which is also the name of the blog. And yeah, so it was a big departure from World War II and required its own website, its own set of materials, its own marketing because it is very different, but I love them both equally so.

Host: I’d like to share with people that when you run multiple businesses like women like you and I do, it’s like children. It’s not that you’ve loved one better than the other or that one’s more special, it’s just different and it’s something that you have to go after. So this is the essence of creativity, let’s back up a little bit when you were like, “I got really excited by the idea.” So this is something that you and I talked about frequently with our people, which is if you’re excited about it, you’re supposed to do something about that. So do you mind sharing a little bit more about that process that you use and how you helped your people with that creative spark?

Teresa: Absolutely. Well, a lot of times I’ll hear people say, you know, I’ve been thinking about this book for about 5 years now, and I say, will you realize it’s not going away, right? Like, this isn’t a whim, this was a gift. It was a gift that was given to you, this idea. And it’s not going to go away, so you might as well do the work and put it down on paper. Now if you decide, in the end, to publish it or not, that’s totally up to you. But I think when we get excited about something and we feel our passion raise, it means that our souls are telling us something. It means that they’re saying, here’s a direction we want you to take care, something, we want you to learn. Here’s something for yourself because, first and foremost, writing starts out as being for ourselves, and then it becomes, hopefully, for our audiences and for the people that you know, our collaborators, and our fellow writers. Yeah, so I very much believe that if you have an inkling towards something, it’s not a whim, it’s not just a fluke, it’s a gift. And so I love to encourage people to follow that artistic desire, whatever it may be because you kind of got to get it out of you to find out what was its purpose. Was its purpose to get you over a hump, was its purpose to start a new career for you, was its purpose to allow you to have that opportunity to say, I did it my whole life, I wanted to write a book and I did it. I achieved my dream and whatever its purposes, is fine. But yeah, we absolutely need to follow those passions.

Host: Well and I think that’s one of the things that are important, especially to an American audience and I don’t mean to bust on us here in the United States, but we have a tendency to be so pragmatic and so practically based. And I think it’s because we are engineering mindsets or scientific mindsets, whatever your excuse you want to use, but we have a tendency to be so practical that we feel we have to know what is the purpose going to be before I build it, right? It’s almost the reverse of creativity. I would love for you to talk a little bit more about, you know, getting it out there so you can figure out what the purpose is after it’s done. That is a huge thing you bring about in Bursts of Brilliance that I think needs to be dubbed into a little bit more if you don’t mind.

Teresa: Yeah, I think, you know, first foremost, as I said, I think we write first for ourselves and we write because we’ve connected to an idea or a story or maybe it’s something personal that we feel if we share it might help just one other person. And in America, as you said, we do have this attitude towards success of, well, I’m not going to try to put something out there unless I think it could be a best-seller. Unless I think everyone is going to want to read my memoir, what you find to the longer you’re involved in these businesses I have been, is all the amazing, really miraculous, special connections that come not from reaching that huge, broad audience. But from reaching that individual who cries when they read your book, or who says I just lost my mother and your book gave me permission to explore my art and my art got me through my grief. It’s not about success in the old-fashioned terms of, are you going to make a bunch of money? Are you going to land on the bestseller list? Are you going to be a household name? It’s success as inward taking something of ourselves. We’re putting it out there into the world so that it can create a vibration that then attracts the people who need it, and it might be a huge audience, it might be a small audience and it really doesn’t matter because you’re going to experience that connection and understand at that point. Why, why it was important for you to write that book? And in the meantime, you just trusted, you trust that “Hey, this idea is not going away.” That means I’m supposed to write it and I’m going to trust that. There’s a reason why I’m supposed to write it and then it’s really kind of fun to sit back and see all of the different connections that, and to say to yourself, “Oh, that’s why that’s why this book was needed in the world.”

Host: And I see that over and over in a lot of the work that I do where people stop before they start because they can’t see the end and I think that’s one of the beautiful things that artists like yourself bring to the forefront, which is even the artist doesn’t know what it’s going to look like when they start first, start at painting they have an idea in mind they have a vision but sometimes in the painting the palette or the canvas will start to say look you need to stretch this in here and we need a tree there and before you know it what they had originally in their mind has grown into this other thing. And I love the way you chatted about how you started off with a very defined niche that you were going for, that you thought would be best served by the work that you were building. And then next thing you know, it expanded to these other areas that is a surprise and I think sometimes people in their creativity are going so finally into a niche, they don’t give the item or whatever it I they’re creating an opportunity to expand. So talk to us a little bit about how you help people in bursts of breaths to kind of release the reins of control on their creativity. How do you kind of help them relax into it? Do you have some ideas, suggestions?

Teresa: Yeah. Relaxing into it, that is a great way to put it because we put so much pressure on ourselves, and new writers often times they do one of two things they’ll just sit down and they’ll just start trying to write. And a very quickly realize that even though that they were told all through high school that their essays were the best. It’s very different to write a piece of fiction or a memoir or a poem. And we often that then have to back up and say, okay now I need to learn a little bit more about writing in order to to do this or they take the opposite approach and they say I want to write a book so I’m going to read 15 books about writing, I’m going to subscribe to magazines, I’m going to go to this conference, I’m going to join this writers group, I’m going to and I know these writers, they’re there in the writer’s group for 10 years and they’re still working on the same book and they can’t quite get themselves to send it out there and their whole writer’s group is telling them it’s good, it’s good, send it out and there’s still that hesitation. And so I think a big part of it for us is to say yes, relax into the process and trust yourself. We have so many more instincts, so much more intuition than we give ourselves credit for and we didn’t doubt it. You know, when we were children, when we were little kids, everything we did, whether it was a piece of art that we drew or it was a story that we told her, it was a dance we did in the kitchen, we knew it was good. And we knew that the people watching us would laugh and they would smile and they would hang our story on the refrigerator because it was in us, it was intuitive to tap into our art, and then as we get older, we start listening to all of those outer book critics and inner critics who tell us, you know, Yeah, you have to have talent. You have to be born with talent to do this and we doubt ourselves. So I think that relaxation is really important. Just enjoy it. Enjoy the process of writing and learning to write and see how far it takes you.

Host: One of my favorite things to share with people is look, I would just sit and sometimes it would be so frustrating, and I would have so many, internal limiting beliefs whatever you want to call them problems, challenges, whatever that I would just take the keyboard, and I just bang it on my forehead, because I would just be so frustrated by staring at the blank page and my kids will attest to this. They’ve seen it a couple of times, and they were like avoiding mom at that point because the words were in my head, I just couldn’t get him onto the page. So if you don’t mind sharing with us a little bit about how you kind of assist people to that next step. Okay, I’m going to sit down. I’m going to right now. How do you describe to them that look like any craft there is a form of discipline. Now, discipline gets a bad rap. Okay? Because we think of the external controls, but this is about building yourself as an artist that has a discipline. Do you mind talking to us a little bit about that?

Teresa: Sure, yeah. I love that topic because I think a lot of writers will listen to this advice that they hear and they’ll lock it in and without asking, does that sit well with me, does that feel good in my gut? And so when I started writing, there was the advice of a real writer writes every day, including Christmas and Easter, and all the holidays. And, and I was not that person. I, you know, I wasn’t writing every day and I wanted to have my life and I wanted to be out there. And so I thought, well, maybe I’m not a real writer, I’m not feeling called to write every day. Maybe I’m not a real writer. So we listen to these rules and we buy a book that tells us how to write a book in 50 days and we said, I’m going to follow this process and I’m going to make it work and it’s going to happen and we set goals because that’s what we’re told to do. And so we say, I’m going to get up an hour early before work every day in, right? And by the third day, when you just are tired and you hit that snooze alarm, you say to yourself. I blew it this week. I’ll try again next week, right? And we put those hesitations in those stalls in, it’s really more about figuring out who you are without taking into consideration these rigid rules that we set for ourselves. Are you a morning person or a night person? You don’t have to apologize for being somebody who likes write at 11 o’clock at night, right? Are you somebody who wants to write in a really quiet space like me? Well, then create that quiet space. If you’re somebody who prefers a coffee shop, find that perfect coffee shop. And so there’s no one right way to write a book. It’s about understanding how you yourself connect to your art, to your space of creativity and then you figure out how to make that work. And so that’s what I would tell writers, is that when you set those goals, sediment such a way that it feels like it’s going to work for you, not just because you were told to do it a certain way by the class you’re taking

Host: That is something that is advice that I think is starting to finally hit home. I’m starting to see it more and more because with the type of life, for my example, I always tell people is I got up every morning at 4 a.m. I make myself a hot cup of cocoa and I’d sit down at my typewriter until the first kid came downstairs and woke up and tugged on my sleeve and said please fix breakfast. I was writing, but that was because my life, right? That was where I was at, the phase of life I was in. And I like you, it was a this is embarrassing, but full transparency here. It wasn’t until book number 5 that I felt like I was an author because I wasn’t doing it the way that it was proponents of writing, we’re talking about it and I thought, well, I’m not a real writer. I’m just a stay-at-home mom. I’m out. I am just to the this, I’m just of that and so thank you for being one of those that’s out there making a difference. Have this beautiful program Bursts of Brilliance, to help writers and would-be writers get over those self-limiting beliefs. So if you don’t mind, talk to us a little bit about, like, the top 3 limiting the beliefs that you see over and over again and then how you like to address those for people.

Teresa: I think in terms of limiting beliefs, first of all, there is a belief of, oh God, you know, a million books a year get published. Nobody needs one more book, right? I have that. I have that same feeling whenever I start a new book, so that’s definitely a limiting belief because we’re seeing with self-publishing, which I am an indie publisher, and with the traditional Publishers that we are seeing this mass amount of books being published every year and there is a lot of people who will say, it’s not worth it, it’s too hard to publish my book and then have people here about it because there’s so many other books that people are talking about and that goes back to that, trust factor of. If you believe in the book and you want it out there in a certain way, you will find a way to reach the people that you want to reach. And, again, it may be a huge audience and maybe a small audience, but you will find a way once that book is out. So that’s the first limiting belief. The second limiting beliefs come from our, what I call our inner critics, in our outer critics and so you have to be really super careful who you share your ideas with when in the process. And I talked about that a lot in the book, about whose voice do you need in your head right now? Like, do you need that person who’s going to brainstorm with you? The person who’s going to provide some strategy, the person who’s going to kick your butt a little when you’re stalling, but if you take your ideas too early to the wrong people and they kill it, and you’re done right? So it’s about figuring out how to find that the right outer critics that you know at the right time, the people are going to actually help you with their constructive criticism and how to turn down the voice of your inner critics, which are going to come on strong. And I think one of the keys to that is figuring out what is your inner critic sound like, so for a long time, I thought I didn’t have a very active inner critic, because I didn’t hear voices in my head that said, you’re stupid, you’re dumb, you can’t do this and I thought, I’m lucky I don’t have an inner critic. As it turns out, my inner critic starts with. Why can’t? She says why can’t you get more done today? Why can’t you figure out how to sell that book in that particular shop? Why can’t you, you know, make more money off this project, right? It’s a minor critic, starts with. Why can’t and I recognize her now. And for a lot of other people, it starts with you always, or maybe it sounds like a particular person, a parent or a teacher from your childhood. So learning to recognize our inner critics is how we learn how to say, hey, I know, I know who’s talking right now and you need to be quiet. I’m working. So, yeah, those are some of my favorite tips.

Host: Right. Thank you so much because that is so true. My inner critic starts off with. Oh my God, this is crap. Nobody ever is going to read this. Why am I even writing this? And so one of the things that I learned from Stephen King, God, yeah so grateful for this man because Stephen King would talk about he writes that on the page, he just literally whatever is coming into his head because his whole goal is to get three pages filled with whatever detritus is in his brain so that he can continue writing. And so when I heard that I was like, wow, the writer, like, Stephen King, has that going through his head, and I happen to enjoy his writing, then obviously I can use that little trick. And so you’re absolutely right to mention that the top 3 is definitely the inner critic, the outer critic and there are already so many books out there. Well, guess what? Nobody’s written your book because that’s your book to write. So thank you for being the woman that has the banner, that running across the streets reminding people, look, this is your book and you definitely need to write about it. So let’s talk a little bit about art advocacy because that’s something that you are involved in. So I would love to hear your perspective on art in the United States, Society, in our society because art, like when you go to Europe or South America or Canada even is very different than how Americans handle art, and so talk to us a little bit about your perspective on that place.

Teresa: Well, my arts advocacy take several forms. I am real proponent of not just literacy, but book ownership, I think that book ownership is critical for children. Kids who own books in their home or more likely to be reading at grade level to score better on the test and they’re more likely to graduate from high school. And yet I work with and run into kids all the time who don’t own a single book and they never have, there’s no books in their home. So for me, that’s a big part of the programs that I run and you can see those programs on Teresa Funke & Company, which is to try to get books into the hands of kids. So that’s a big part of my advocacy in regards to writing and literacy. Now Arts advocacy as a whole. One of the things that I’m extremely interested in is how the Arts can cross over with different sectors. So you know how to artists work with education, businesses, health care, city government, and nonprofits. All of these ways where artists can say, look, we have a unique set of skills. You have some needs that you have identified or not identified, let’s work together to collaborate, and that way, the artist gets paid and, you know, the other sector benefits from the work of the artist. And so when you mention the difference between America and other countries, a large part of it is that we don’t value art in the sense of, we have that lovely, old, you know, image of the starving artist that we love to hold on to. And if you don’t suffer for your art, you’re not a true artist, this is not a universal belief, this is not necessarily something that’s embraced in other countries. And so I do think that as you know, as Americans, we do downplay the value of Art and the importance of Art. And, you know, you can throw all kinds of Statistics at people that show how much money art brings into a community. How much drives tourism and it doesn’t matter when you know people see the numbers and when it comes time to pay an artist, there’s a hesitation. So that’s a big part of my advocacy, is saying, how do we get those other sectors to say, hey, I just opened my own business. What if I had a local muralist come and do a mural on my building or, you know, I just opened my restaurant. What if I hired a local writer to write the story of our family restaurant into our menu, or our website. Like, I mean, how do we collaborate in such ways that we provide some work for artists as well as, you know, providing benefit to these other sectors. So I work a lot with nonprofits in that way, but I’ve also worked with, you know, other sectors as well, like education and government sectors in that sort of thing.

Host: Well, thank you for the work in that regard, because that’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand. Is that, yes, we have more books being printed, more books being published than ever before in history, and yet there are still folks who do not own a book. And so I love it when I run into people like yourself who are doing that kind of work. Well, say somebody else is interested in getting to know you just a little bit better. So where did they go? Where can they find out more about you that isn’t just social media?

Teresa Funke: Yeah. We do have some really cool social media, especially on the Bursts of Brilliance, very inspirational images, and messages on Bursts of Brilliance. So the Bursts of Brilliance website will take you to the weekly blog and the book and some resources, and then Teresa Funke and Company is my other website and that’s where you’ll find some very specific writing, resources, videos, tools for writers, blueprints for writers, including my self-publishing blueprint, that walks people through the steps to successfully self-publish. And so between those two, you’re going to get a lot of information and hopefully a lot of inspiration, because that’s my goal. My goal is whatever your reason is for writing. Even if it’s just, hey, you know what? I just want to write this story for my grandkids for then, for heaven’s sake, please do it because that is something they will cherish for the rest of their lives. So I don’t care if your goal is a little goal, or if your goal is a huge goal. I want to encourage people to follow their passion and create their art. It’s really important.

Host: Thank you so much, Teresa Funke. For all that you do and for all the organizations that you’re helping employ, we appreciate you.

Teresa: Thank you so much.

Host: And this is Janine Bolon with the Writers Hours Creative Conversations, we broadcast every Friday. If you are interested in anything that can help you when it comes to writing or you know of a writer who could use a little bit of inspiration, we recommend that you give them their podcast and have them chat with Teresa Funk. Have a great day.