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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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