Category Archives: Writing

Day 31: Surprise (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsWell, I survived.

I must confess, when I started this 31 days writing challenge, I didn’t entirely expect to finish it. I definitely expected to miss some days.

It’s nice to surprise yourself. It’s nice to rediscover a level of grit and perseverance you’d forgotten about.

Maybe there is space in this crazy, uncertain life of mine for a little more creativity and a lot more dreaming. Maybe there’s space in yours too.

What have you given up on? It might be time to start surprising yourself.

1 Comment

Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Creativity, Writing

Day 29: Powering Through (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Can I tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit this 31 days of writing challenge? Well, actually I couldn’t tell because I’ve lost count.

Some days I had something I really wanted to say, but other days involved a lot of staring at the blank screen before any words would form. Some days I was fine with writing for me whether anyone read it or not, but other days my brain was saying, “For the love, is anyone out there? Why am I doing this just for me? Don’t we have journals for that?”

31daysOfSimpleTruthsBut this was really important for me, largely because I’ve allowed all the writing I do at work to overshadow the writing I do for me. I haven’t been investing in my own words, and my creative soul pays dearly for that neglect. It even negatively impacts my work because I end up resentful of the time I need to focus there.

More importantly though, I am trying to unravel myself from the sticky trap of perfectionism. I always feel the need to have all my ducks in a row before really tackling any project. Which means I’ve been accomplishing a whole lot of nothing when it comes to many of my personal goals and ambitions, especially the creative ones.

Next month is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, for those unfamiliar); it’s an attempt at utter insanity, I mean, an attempt to write 50,000 words in a single month. There’s no time for overanalyzing yourself or making everything perfect. It’s about getting the words out. And I have a book idea (a few actually), but I’ve allowed everything else under the sun to block me from making it happen. But I need to get it out, if for no other reason than to prove to myself that I can.

A feat like that requires consistently writing in big chunks, but it also requires consistently writing in smaller chunks—adding something every single day. I have no excuses now, because I have spent all of October stripping them away. No excuses, because now I know, tired or not, blank screen or not, burst of brilliant ideas or not, I can find the words, even if it’s only 200 of them at a time. I can write something, regardless of what else the day throws at me.

So if for no other reason, it was worth powering through October and reaching for the truth in each day. And now, I think I’ll try to write that book.

Leave a comment

Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Creativity, Perfectionism, Writing

Day 15: The Joy of Books (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Growing up, I was the kid who would rather be reading a book than doing pretty much anything else, with the exception of playing music. Books were magic. Characters were friends.

I was the rare kid in high school who read every single book that was assigned, plus a few extra. I remember we always had to report on so many pages of additional reading, and while most of my classmates moaned and groaned about this, I didn’t even think twice about it. I knew I’d be able to complete the “assignment” without trying.

In college, I was lucky enough to have a roommate who also loved books, a lot of the same ones I loved and a few new loves she introduced me too.

But then, somehow, into adulthood, the passion began to fade. Maybe it was the demands of teaching and all the time it required. Maybe it was having babies and all the sleeplessness that ensued. I know there was a spiritual leader I admired who made me feel like fiction was a waste of my time and possibly a poison to my spirituality. But then all the non-fiction Christian books started sounding the same. I just couldn’t do it. I stopped reading. And then, without even realizing the connection, I stopped writing too. No more journaling, no more poetry, no more songwriting.

So when I reconnected with a childhood friend and joined her writing group, I found myself so frustrated because I felt like I was choking the words out. They were stiff. They were lifeless. This was not a problem I’d ever had before in my whole life. Writing had always been like breathing, but not anymore.

I was a little slow getting the hint, but it dawned on me one day—words my teachers had said to me, words I had said to my students: If you want to be a good writer, you need to be a good reader.

Last year, I set a goal for myself to read 25 books before the end of the year. It felt embarrassing alongside the lists from friends who were reading 100 books. But it was what I thought I could manage. I made a list and chipped away at it, plus a few extras, and ended the year with 29 books in my brain and a torrent of new words in my heart.

This year, I upped my goal to 50, and I’m well on track to pass that again. And my creativity continues to come alive. Books are my obsession again. If I can’t manage any other creative pursuit because of life’s craziness, I can’t give up reading. It keeps the fire burning until I’m able to write or sing or art journal again. And no one will ever be able to convince me again that fiction is a waste of time.

Stories matter. Far beyond the craft of writing, stories have unlocked empathy and compassion on me. They have given me insight into people and situations. They have given me an outlet when I couldn’t find a way to express what needed to be said. They call me into rest when I would be tempted to push myself too hard. They offer points of connection and relationship. And yes, I’m pretty sure they make me smarter, and I won’t object to that.

So when my six-year old daughter comes to me and says, “Daddy told me you read almost every night before you go to bed. Do you think I could do that too?,” you’d better believe I said, “Yes.” And smiled inside because I’ve been waiting for this day.

Read, people. For the love of all that is wonderful in this world, just read. And tell me in the comments what some of your favorites are; it’s time to start planning my list for next year.

Also, my friend Suzanne is doing a super fun 31 days series on “shelfies”! Check it out and add some books to your list.

31daysOfSimpleTruths

2 Comments

Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Creativity, Writing

Day 12: Words (31 Days of Simple Truths)

20151012_220919I love words. I always have. I don’t even have to know what they mean to enjoy saying them and pondering them.

They’re powerful. The right combination at the right moment can quite literally change the world.

Yet words can be really frustrating too. Trying to find the right ones, and the right moment to communicate them, for starters. But more—whatever their dictionary definition may be, words tend to take on a life of their own. They become “buzz words.” They develop volumes of connotations and suggestions depending on the context of who says them or what other subjects they were linked to. The speaker intends them one way; the listener hears them in a completely different way.

There are always those stubborn few who don’t care if the words have taken on another meaning or not; they’re going to say what they want to say, and that’s that. But for the rest of the wordsmiths, we wrestle with this. We are careful with this. Because if we’re not, we end up isolating the very people we were hoping to reach.

It’s a fine line. There’s always going to be someone who misunderstands or misconstrues; if you worry too much about them, you’ll tie yourself up in knots and compromise your voice. Still, it is ultimately on the writer, the speaker, the vision caster to carefully weight the words they want to say, to consider if they are only using those words because they are comfortable and familiar, or because they are truly the best words to reach the hearts of the listeners, truly the words we most wanted to say.

It’s a huge responsibility to carry, one we cannot take lightly.

31daysOfSimpleTruths

Leave a comment

Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Writing

My Wild Soul

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

My wild soul.

The night sky beckons – vast, dark, sprinkled with diamonds. She cannot resist its seductive song. In the car, windows down, driving a touch too fast, she relishes the whipping wind, craves oneness with this unseen force. You cannot cage wind, cannot tame it if it does not wish to be tamed. She does not wish to be tamed.

 

*Writing on the theme “The Wild Ones” on the Story Sessions blog today. Join us?

Leave a comment

Filed under Beauty, Writing

An Invitation to Creative Community

IMG1151For a little over a year now, I have been on a journey. Surprising. Complex. Challenging.

It started with an invitation. My friend Elora Nicole had developed a course called Story 101 and while I wasn’t even entirely sure what it entailed, I was immediately intrigued. (It didn’t hurt that Elora is a kindred spirit, a friend I’ve known since I was 6, and an amazing writer.) When the opportunity opened for me to take the course, I jumped at the chance.

I expected to become a better writer. I expected to be challenged and stretched. I expected to rekindle a fire for creativity that had long been dwindling down to a few tiny sparks. But there was one thing I never saw coming.

Community.

To find community in the context of creativity was a wholly foreign concept for me. As an artistic soul, I have also frequently been alone. The girl who took ballet when everyone else was playing sports. The girl who listened to classical music while everyone else listened to whatever pop culture was pumping out on the radio. The girl who preferred curling up on the couch to watch musicals over seeing the newest blockbuster at the theater. The girl who cried almost every night during her first year of high school because she loved band and no one else was interested. The girl who loved her English class poetry project and read Shakespeare for fun.

And eventually I spent less and less time with the words and sounds and images that made my heart come alive. Art in all its forms begs to be shared, but I had no one to share it with. Then I was a college graduate and a high school teacher, and time to nurture my own creativity seemed lost for good. Until marriage and motherhood came along, and then I knew for certain it was lost for good.

Until it wasn’t. Story 101 was more than a class or an e-course; it was a lifeline for my passions. It was a re-birth for the seeds that had been waiting, dormant but not dead. I was surrounded by a community who understood me, a community committed to the excavation of every individual’s voice and dreams and stories. We wrote our hard things together. We pushed ourselves to try new genres together. We spoke aloud the stories we’d only held in our hearts before. It was powerful and transforming. I am not alone in my creative journey anymore.

Story 101 is about to offered live for the last time. And you should be part of it. If any part of you has ever considered investing in your love of words, you should do it. For ten weeks, make space to dig around in your own heart and find your voice, find your message, find your story. Who knows what will awaken in you? And to sweeten the deal, since it is the last run, the course is being offered at the discounted price of $127

Don’t miss out. You have a voice, and it needs to be heard. So this is it – come join the story.

Image from Gayl Sanders Wright

Image from Gayl Sanders Wright

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Writing

The Discomfort of Blooming (Five Minute Friday)

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This spring, my children asked for their own plants to take care of and watch grow. We bought several, potted them, watered them and found good spots for them on the patio.

The next day, both children were looking for flowers and tomatoes. The idea that this would take time had not fully absorbed in their little minds. So impatiently, day after day, they would inspect their plants, then walk away with sad little faces when there was nothing new to report. At one point, my son quit checking on his plant altogether.

And so it happened that I was the one to discover the first buds and the first tiny tomatoes. Their excitement bubbled over . . . until the buds did not open overnight and the tomatoes did not ripen right away.

Through this experience I have been reminded of the process, the patience involved in blooming and in bearing fruit. And I have been reminded that while blooms are beautiful, it first requires a breaking open, a pushing against barriers. It takes time and strength and will. It takes not giving up when it seems nothing is happening.

So we water our plants every day, pull away the dead leaves, look closely for growth. But mostly we wait. And we don’t give up. And I let truth whisper its reminders to my weary heart.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday. Come take a look.

1 Comment

Filed under Beauty, Change, Writing

Five Minute Friday: Belong

Photo by Jennifer Upton

Photo by Jennifer Upton


Restless heart,
you belong.

Perhaps not in the small spaces,
the comfy cozy places
sought by so many.

But you belong.

Gypsy heart,
I see you.

Your roots do not run merely deep,
but also wide,
far wide,
arms flung open
to embrace all the color,
wonder,
humanity
that is this great wide world.

Photo by Jennifer Upton

Photo by Jennifer Upton

You are not alone.
No one is alone
who has looked deep into souls
all over the world,
who can go back to anywhere
and find themselves coming home
because here they connected to hearts.

We belong –
you and I –
with our vagabond hearts
and feet itching to find new trails.
We belong to the adventure.
Our home is in the song of the wild
beckoning us to come and see.

IMG_4487-X3

Perhaps others shake their heads,
push us aside
because we brush up against their longing
for security,
for one place.
They are not wrong,
we are not better.
Our hearts just beat with
a different rhythm.

If you find yourself longing
to ride off on the wind,
craving new spaces,
ready to go –
it is not because you are lost.

It is because we belong.
We belong to the whole vast universe.

*Today I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday. Come join us.

9 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Writing

I’m Writing a Children’s Story

My little adventurers

My little adventurers

I participated in a virtual retreat with Story Sessions last week – an opportunity to intensively fuel creativity for a few days.  In our final writing session, we were asked to journal through this question: what is one thing holding you back from the story you must tell?

My mind was ready to fire off the usual excuse – time.  Of course that had to be the answer, the one thing.  Because marriage, kids, job, etc.  All the stuff.  But my heart gave a twinge and raised her voice before I could shush her.  And I knew in an instant the real thing that holds me back from the story I’m working on right now:

I fear not being taken seriously as a writer because I have chosen to write a children’s story.  I fear other writers will view it as “less than”.

But just as quickly as my heart admitted her fear, I knew in my bones what a lie this was.  More importantly, I knew that even if it turns out to be true, even if other writers do look down on this endeavor, I will do it anyway.

Because it is for my children, especially my daughter, but for both of them.  Which is reason enough all by itself.  I am writing the princess story I want them to read – brave, beautiful, fierce, strong and soft all at once.  And I believe in this story.  I believe in the message I am carefully weaving through the characters and actions.  I believe there are big hearts inside little bodies who need the words I am laboring over. (And even crazier – a few big hearts in grown up bodies who might need them too.)

I push back against the fear over what others may think.  I remember what good company I am in – Madeline L’Engle, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Kate DiCamillo, E.B. White – just a few great writers who invested their words on a younger audience, and yes, please, don’t mind if I do aspire to join them. (With a healthy dose of reality, of course, because Narnia and Middle Earth are rare pinnacles of perfection.)

And just in case I needed any additional convincing to fortify my sometimes quivery heart, I found this nugget of wisdom from Madeline L’Engle – her response when she was asked why she wrote for children:

I don’t.  If it’s not good enough for adults, it’s not good enough for children.  If a book that is going to be marketed for children does not interest me, a grown up, then I am dishonoring the children for whom the book is intended, and I am dishonoring books.  And words.  Sometimes I answer that if I have something to say that is too difficult to swallow, then I will write it in a book for children.  This is usually good for a startled laugh, but it’s perfectly true.  Children still haven’t closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution or the scramble for security.  They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth.

So there you have it.  I write this story, not only for my children, but for me.  Because I love a good princess story and a good adventure.  And I will pour my best into it so as not to dishonor children or books or words.  No doubt, the process will be painful because that is how it goes when birthing something, but in the end, I expect it all to be quite fun and – dare I say it? – significant.  After all, stories are powerful.  Who knows what could happen?

Leave a comment

Filed under Creativity, Fiction, Writing

Finding My Writing Process

Today I’m the next stop on a “blog tour” from Vanessa Johnson’s God’s Beautiful Mess.  Next week the blog tour will head to Caris Adel.

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Source: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What am I working on?

Well, I do have a novel and a few smaller projects on the drawing board right now.  My overarching focus though is on Story 201, an e-course with Elora Nicole, that really focuses on developing a manuscript and fine-tuning your creative process.  As I’m learning and working through the course, it’s serving as a springboard for developing my ideas, getting them out of my head and into actual words.

The novel I’m working on deals with the themes of human trafficking and illegal immigration.  It follows the story of a young Mexican teenager who ends up the victim of traffickers when her father decides to sneak his family into the U.S. and her unlikely but life-saving friendship with an American runaway also in captivity.  It is all at once heart-wrenching and hopeful.

Why do I write what I do?

Human trafficking is in many ways the “trendy” human rights issue of our day, but for millions it is the bitter reality of their every day.  I have worked on several awareness initiatives, including one that involved in-depth research on the issue specifically between the US and Mexico.  The stories were real and heartbreaking and desperate to be heard.  There are also many heroes laying their lives down every single day, and their stories need to be heard too.  I am weaving as many real life accounts into the novel as I can in hopes of giving voice to as many of the voiceless as I can.

With my other projects, I am really passionate about helping people move from the concept of intimacy with God into the reality of it.  We can know Him deeply, but it doesn’t always happen through the religious formulas we’ve been taught.  There’s more, so much more.  He really is concerned with practical, seemingly mundane details of our lives because His sacred mystery is so often revealed in those unlikely places.

How does your writing process work?

I almost want to laugh at this question.  Developing a writing process is one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do.  I have two small children, a part-time job that demands a lot emotionally and spiritually, and my husband has started a new job that is requiring a complete overhaul of our schedule.  Which before the new job was total insanity, but we had learned to cope.  So a lot of my “process” right now is making sure I am getting words out on a consistent basis, at least 4-5 times a week.  I am also learning the importance of daily fueling my creativity – reading new fiction, immersing myself in music (my first love), doing lots of artsy and creative things with my kids, etc.  If I weave these things into my regular daily routine, then when I do finally have time to sit down and write, I don’t have to fight as much writer’s block; my creativity is already brimming and it’s just a matter of channeling it in the right direction.

And however silly it may sound, when I do get to sit and write, pouring a cup of tea or a glass of wine and lighting a candle really help me clear away the chaos and focus.

I want to say specifically to other moms struggling to find space for creativity and feeling like they’re losing themselves in the process of raising kids sometimes – I absolutely do not have all the answers and I struggle with this too, but something has been happening over the last three months that has surprised and delighted me.  The more I focus on developing and feeding my children’s creativity, the more it fuels my own.  I am NOT suggesting neglecting yourself or not feeding your own creative soul; it’s the complete opposite.  Watching them embrace and run with creativity actually inspires me to do what I need to fuel myself.  It’s been the most breathtaking cycle – I invite them to be creative, they blossom, which makes me want to be more creative, which empowers them to be more creative  and on and on.  A lot of days we create together – they paint, I write.  We art journal.  Instead of seeing them as an inhibition to my process, I am making them partners in my process.  It’s amazing.

How’s my work different from others of its genre?

Truthfully, I’m not sure what genre my novel falls into yet.  But I do think one thing that could set it apart is that I am not merely going to tell a story or bring awareness to an issue through the story; I am also weaving into the story the tools ordinary people like you and me can use to make a difference.

And spiritually, my relationship with God has been anything but ordinary or stereotypical.  I think I’ve had some very unique experience both within the church and outside it that help me understand and speak to a wide range of perspectives.

I mentioned having several ideas on the drawing board.  These include a YA coming of age type novel, some children’s books (both picture books and chapter books), Christian non-fiction and a fantasy-type story.  So I really don’t know what genre I belong in!

Next week – the blog tour stops at Caris Adel‘s space.  Caris sees the image of God in people where others might miss it.  It’s a beautiful gift she has.  Definitely be on the look out for what she has to say!

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Creativity, Writing