Tag Archive | writing

Silence is Golden

My blog-life has been quiet for several weeks.

My real life, on the other hand, has not.

School started up again at the end of August and with it came new schedules, new routines, new meetings, new appointments. Around those responsibilities and those of the household, I also had a self-imposed deadline to finish the second draft of my Christmas novel by mid-October. Early on I realized I couldn’t work on both my novel and my blog at the same time if I wanted to make the deadline. Which I really wanted to do. So I took a break from the blog…and I pulled back from Twitter, FB, and Pinterest, as well, because let’s face it: all that social media can lead down rabbit trails and detract us from using our time wisely and productively. 

I’m happy to say I completed my second draft on schedule [insert happy dance here], and now…well, now I get to take a little break from writing to work on all the projects I’ve ignored since August.

Like the sideboard in the master bedroom I want to revamp. The “quilted” AWANA bag I should finish for my daughter. The fireplace I want to make for my dolls before Christmas. The Pookies I want to knit for some relatives. A couple of Shutterfly albums I need/want to put together before Christmas (Mom, pretend you didn’t read that last part). And another half dozen random projects I’d like to complete around the house/for the family. And all done by Christmas, of course.

Hahaha!   

Yeah. Impossible when one factors in all the daily-living stuff I need to accomplish, as well as preparations for the birthdays and holidays that fall in between now and December 25th for my family. So…I’ll just plug away at them and we’ll see how far I get come Christmas. 🙂

Pookies

Pookies!

I’ve already knit two Pookies out of four (see the pattern here on Ravelry.com), although neither is 100% complete (one still needs his hat and ears, and they both need embroidered noses) and I did relinquish some writing time a few weeks back to finish an iPad case/carrier for my daughter. I love the sense of being able to check things off my mental to-do list, and now that I can ease up a little on writing, hopefully I’ll be checking things off much faster than I did before!

felted iPad case

Felted iPad case with a pocket on the backside and a braided leather strap.

How about you? Am I the only one who piles on projects between the start of school and Christmastime, or can you relate to my unrealistic endeavors? 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Letting Go Is Not The Same As Giving Up

Seeing as how we are officially halfway through the year, I thought I’d bring you up to date on my New Year’s resolution, which was to send out query letters to dozens of agents and/or publishers.

To be honest, I’m discouraged at how few agents and publishers I have been able to find that are willing to represent inspirational romance. I will be lucky if I can send out enough queries to warrant an impressive rejection pile on future projects. As of right now, however, I have stopped my efforts to find an agent for Her Knight in Rusted Armor after only six queries. Sounds kinda pathetic at first, doesn’t it? But I didn’t stop because my ego couldn’t take the rejections (I had psyched myself up for a couple dozen at least!). And I didn’t stop because I had already run out of options. I didn’t even stop because of the amount of time required to research each agent and tweak each query letter accordingly. I stopped because I realized I was wasting not only the agents’ time in reading my queries, but mine, as well, in working on them.

Writing can be such a conundrum!

Writing can be such a conundrum!

For how can I convince someone to invest in my work when I am no longer passionate about it, myself?

Oh, I’m still passionate about writing, but not about this particular story. I had hoped that in shelving Her Knight in Rusted Armor for a while (it sat untouched for over a year) I would be able to return to it with renewed fervor and a drive to see it published. Such was not the case.

And I’m okay with that.

Last year, I would not have been okay with that. This story represents hundreds of hours of work and tears and agony and joy. To just let it sit in my laptop and in my memory key seems like such a waste, for I will now have nothing to show for my years plugging away at this plot line and breathing life into these characters.

But over the past few months, God has slowly shown me not to look at the time as a waste, but rather to appreciate how much I have grown from this process. Grown as a writer, grown as a Christian, grown as a wife and mother, expanded my knowledge and experiences. I learned the nuts and bolts of fiction writing while plowing through the first version of Her Knight… fifteen years ago; I continued to gain knowledge and understanding about the writing craft through the several revisions of this story over the ensuing years; and I advanced in my writing abilities as I tried to apply that knowledge to the individual chapters, paragraphs, sentences, words.

Today, Her Knight in Rusted Armor and I have taken each other as far as we can go. For the story, this means it will not see the light of day on a bookstore shelf. For me, this means I get to draw on what I’ve learned from crafting Her Knight… and apply it (in the first draft rather than the tenth) to something new, fresh, and completely unrelated.

In some ways, when I focus on my writing career (or lack thereof) from the perspective of a driven American living in a society where success is defined by tangible results, setting aside a manuscript can be frustrating. There are writers out there younger than me–with kids!–publishing their second, third, tenth, twentieth book! Sometimes I find myself asking what’s wrong with me, that I’m turning away from the only story I have that is 100% complete. This means I’m now putting off my quest for publication for who-knows-how-much-longer!

But then the Holy Spirit steps in and gently turns my focus back to the Lord. He has me on my own path and I need to look to Him to guide my footsteps, not try to emulate other people’s paths to their successes. Oddly enough, I find that I’m not even sure what I hope my “success” will look like anymore. All the more reason, I suppose, to seek the Lord one day at a time, rather than chase after desires that have been known to change depending on the time of month or the pressures of outside circumstances. 😉

Anne Graham Lotz has said, “Let go and let God,” and I try to apply that to my writing endeavors. It’s not always easy. And I’m not always happy. But in the end, so long as I’ve pursued God in the midst of it all, I will find fulfillment in ways I never could have imagined.

Trust in God II

 

 

Oh, the conflict!

Ellowyne Wilde is mad at me.

I have done so much writing and reading and researching over the last month or so that she’s feeling a little under-appreciated. With spring officially arriving tomorrow, Ellowyne has PLANS. But before she can implement her plans, I have to find time to drive two hours to Missoula just so I can visit a Michael’s Craft store…because the capital of Montana has no Michaels, no Hobby Lobby, and our Joann’s was downgraded a couple of years ago so it now only offers things that have to do with sewing or scrapbooking or jewelry-making or knitting/crocheting (though not felting). So, the store sells hardly any flowers, no baskets, and no seasonal décor. Meaning, you could walk in there the week before Christmas or the week before the Fourth of July and the store would look pretty much the same. No joke.

No, no, I’m not bitter. Do I sound bitter? I just live in the capital of the state, that’s all. One would think…never mind. The point is, Ello is just going to have to stew a little longer.

Talk

Talk

To

To

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The

The

Hand.

Hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My world has been so focused on writing-orientated things, in fact, that I figured I’d have to skip my post for this week. Until I stumbled across a link in my Twitter feed this morning and decided to follow it. I discovered Angie Arndt’s post, Would You Write Anyway?, and my thoughts haven’t stopped churning since.

Someone had asked her this question: “If you were never published, would you write anyway?” It’s a question I’ve asked myself so many times. I thought I knew the answer—of course!—but now I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to answer that.

Think about something you enjoy doing. You’re good at it. You continue to learn the “tricks of the trade” and hone your skills as the years go on. You invest time, money, energy, tears into this passion. A decade passes. Maybe two. Over that span of time, you sacrifice other things here and there—lesser hobbies that couldn’t be fully developed, closer friendships, moments with your kids and significant other—to plug away at this one passion that drives you. If it’s knitting, you’ll leave a trail of gifts in your wake: clothes, handbags, accessories, stuffed animals, etc. If it’s wood-working, you’ll have bowls and vases and cutting boards and furniture and shelves… Painting? You’ll have scores of wall art or decorated furniture or snazzy interior walls for viewing… Pick a hobby/passion/job and follow it out for a few decades; you would hope to find something to show for your efforts, right?

But what if no one ever saw what you created? 

That’s how I feel about writing. Unless I get published, no one outside of my immediate family and those sweet friends who do me the honor of reading my WIPs (works-in-progress) will ever see what I have done with the time and talents God has given me. Is that enough? I guess that’s between God and the individual. For me, sitting here in 2015, taking it day by day with the future still an unknown, I’d say, yes, I’d still write. Because I’ve tried not writing before and by the end of the third week, I was about to explode from the pressure inside me that needed to write.

But if I come to the end of my life and I have nothing to show for my gift other than a bunch of works lingering in my laptop in different stages of completion…I’d be devastated! Each page of writing represents all of those things I listed earlier that I cannot get back: time, energy, sacrifice, tears, experiences, agony (am I doing the right thing?), etc, etc. Most of my almost-complete manuscripts consist of over 350 pages. If I never get published…that’s an enormous chunk of all facets of my life that I could have invested somewhere else, doing something more fruitful! Right?

Maybe.

I don’t know.

I don’t know!

Deep…breath.

Here’s what I do know: right now, I’m where God wants me, because I’m trying hard to keep my heart open to His leading and I’m okay—sitting here in 2015—with wherever He decides to take me. I’ve learned a lot in the last year and I’m excited about what He has to teach me in the future. And if I come to the end of my life and have no published works to show for it, then I’m trusting that at some point God will have told me, “This is as far as I want you to go with writing, Laurie. You are now free to turn your attentions and talents to those things that have been waiting in the background.”

Every one of us has a purpose, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. If we continue to press into Him and seek Him first, I believe He will direct us one day at a time in the way He wants us to go, so that by the end of our life on this earth, we’ll be able to look back and say, “I get it! I understand now why You did things that way. You are so awesome!”

So, will I still write even if I never get published?

Yes. Until God tells me to stop.

Two Steps Forward…

Can I tell you a secret? I’m so excited this week—and God stands smack dab in the middle of it.

Back in November of 2013, our church decided to fast and pray over a period of three weeks for God to work breakthroughs in both the congregation as a whole and in our individual lives. Now, before you start biting your fingernails, I’m not going to get into all the nitty-gritty about fasting and the how’s and why’s and all that. That’s not what this post is about. Suffice it to say, you can fast from anything for any length of time—though preferably in an area of your life in which giving something up is going to sting a little; where you might need to lean on God’s strength to get you through moments of weakness. (Imagine that!)

So when our lead pastor urged us to begin thinking about what we might fast from, I naturally considered all the areas in my life that made the idea of a twenty-one day sacrifice uncomfortable. Um…all areas except food, that is. Long ago I had concluded that fasting from food was a ridiculous notion for someone as thin as me—and who tended to get the shakes when accidentally missing a meal (you know: on days when I don’t want to “waste time” preparing lunch because I have to pick up the kids from school in less than three hours and I have oh-so-many-things to accomplish before then!). And since I get the shakes, I shouldn’t skip meals on purpose, right? Right!

(Right?)

For years, I lived in complete harmony with my rationale; after all, one doesn’t need to fast from food in order to have a healthy relationship with God.

Unless, of course, God asks you to fast from food.

I might not have visibly slunk lower in my seat that day during the church service, but my stomach curled up in a fetal position and cried.

Seriously, Lord? You want me to fast from breakfast? But that’s my favorite meal of the day!let me play you a sad song on the world's smallest violin.  -Mr Krabs by batjas88

Whine.

But my mom says I’m already underweight! I can’t afford to lose any more ounces by skipping a meal.

Whine.

But, hang on, Lord. I run in the mornings. How am I supposed to run on an empty stomach and then wait until noon before replenishing my dwindling supply of nourishment?

Whine.

And wait!—there’s my women’s Bible study on Friday mornings, followed by my weekly stop at Wal Mart…and any other wayward errand I have to run. You know I get hungry watching Beth Moore…and sometimes I don’t return home to eat lunch until after one-thirty on those days!

Whine whine whine whine whine.

(Is anyone else playing the world’s saddest song on the world’s smallest violin?)

It might have continued in this manner had God not spoken through my thoughts: “Am I not the God of impossibilities?”

Well, yeah, Lord, of course You are.

“Don’t you think I could sustain you during the hours you’re fasting for Me? Even during a run? Even during Beth Moore and your errands?”

I…guess so. But—

“Then I think it’s time you stopped making excuses and trusted Me to provide for you. Besides, your faith could use a little more growth…”

You know what I did, right?

Yeah. I fasted from breakfast for three weeks. Nothing like making one more aware of God’s presence than when you’re relying on Him to give you strength and energy before, during, and after a 3-mile run.

But since I yearned for breakthrough in certain areas of my life, I wanted my fasting to reflect my earnestness. And I did need to exercise my trust and faith that God would carry me through the morning hours no matter what my schedule looked like on any given day. Three weeks later—not once did I have the shakes; and I don’t think I lost any weight (happy, Mom? 😉 ); and amazingly enough, most days I didn’t crave food, even come noon.

That God revealed Himself to me in awesome ways during those weeks would have been enough—but He didn’t stop there. Two days ago it suddenly hit me He’s been steadily blessing me with breakthrough throughout this last year in at least one of the major areas for which I cried out!

Because not only has He continued to sprinkle me with ideas for this blog which I stepped out in faith to start in 2014, but it was two days ago that I finished the first draft of a Christmas novel I had begun to write during the late spring of 2013. 97,000 words in twenty-one months. For those who have chugged out 50,000 words in one month for NaNoWriMo, twenty-one months might seem like an eternity. For me, it’s a record. A breakthrough.breaking-free It represents a bit of freedom from my perfectionist tendencies—a breaking free from suffocating demands and impractical expectations.

Most of all, this represents God at work in me. His answers to my heartfelt prayers remind me He listens. He cares. He loves. He’s pleased to bring me pleasure.

The Creator-God blessing His creation through creativity. May that which I fashion always bear His thumbprint.

To Failure!

This is usually the time when people make New Year’s resolutions in the hopes they can keep them. Yet, as statistics show, many fail before the month of January is over.

I haven’t made a resolution in years, possibly because I know I’m a work-in-progress—a creature of habit that needs constant nudges to keep me on track throughout the year, not just on January 1st.

But if I’m honest, it’s also because I’m afraid to fail. If I write down a resolution or goal for the upcoming year and it doesn’t get met…then I’ve failed, right? And since I already feel like I fail on a daily basis in just being a mother (whether in minor or major ways), do I really need to add more failures to the growing pile?

For 2015, however, there’s one area in which I hope I bomb—because it will actually reflect progress and a slice of success: after making a final polish of a completed manuscript I’ve let linger in the bowels of my laptop for two years, I plan to send off a bunch of query letters to publishers and agents. If you’re a writer or understand the process of becoming a published author, you know why I need to psych myself up…to fail.

Because I expect to receive a lot of rejection letters in return.

This is not pessimism, per se. This is reality for many writers and it’s a big part of why I have put off querying all this time. For who in their right mind would willingly expose to the public something into which they’ve poured immeasurable amounts of time, tears, angst, joy, and pieces of their heart if they knew it would meet with rejection? Yet that is what writers do all over the world every day. And so I have decided ahead of time I will try to have some fun with the likelihood of rejections so that when they come, they won’t be able to define who I am or beat me down with their whispers of seeming failure. I don’t know what that fun is going to look like yet, but I’ll keep you posted. 😉

“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is in the way you use them.” ~Tom Sims, 1922

 

And really, as a child of God, is it failure to receive rejection? The world measures success by how many books a writer publishes or how many paintings an artist sells or how big the profit margin looks for a given company, but God measures success in completely different ways. Though writing is a gift He’s given me, that doesn’t necessarily mean I will ever see publication. Even as I reach for it, I’m to pray for His guidance, trust Him with my hopes and dreams, and continue to step forward as He lights my path one day at a time. And if I succeed in doing that, then whether or not I have a book to my name, I haven’t truly failed, have I?

So here’s to the failures that come our way in 2015.

May we turn them on their heads and use them as stepping stones to further our progress up whatever mountain God has us climbing!

 

Praise and thanksgiving…

Before too much time passes (and we all know how quickly that happens!), I want to post a brief update on the Write on the Sound conference, in Edmonds, Washington. Praise the Lord, first of all, for safe travels, encouraging girl-bonding time, and beautiful weather. When I think of Seattle and its surrounding towns (Edmonds is about thirty minutes to the north), I typically have in mind cloudy skies and lots of moisture. Not the case during the first week of October this year! We enjoyed temps in the 70’s, a pleasant breeze, and mostly sunny skies. We even ate dinner outside one evening! Typical for Edmonds in October? I don’t know but it was definitely an added bonus.

Second of all, praise the Lord that all the negative drama stayed home and didn’t tap me on the shoulder in the middle of a session to say, “Surprise! We thought you could use some self-degradation right about now.” I found it very easy—this time around—to simply focus on the knowledge and advice the instructors had to impart to the attendees and not once was I plagued by comparative-itis. A huge feat for me. That’s not to say all future conferences will go as smoothly (mentally and emotionally), but for now, I’m rejoicing in the progress I’ve made.

Finally, praise the Lord that not only did I leave behind my inner critic, self-doubt and inadequacy, but I haven’t caught a glimpse of them since I’ve returned. It wouldn’t faze me if they popped in for a spontaneous (and hopefully short) visit, but at the moment, I’m taking advantage of their absence and over-heating my laptop with all the writing I’m pounding out. It helps that this corner of the year (September through mid-January) is my most inspired time to write, so I’m soaking up the positive vibes and running with it.

You know, if we were computers, then the conference weekend was all about downloading information onto our hard drives. Now that my girlfriends and I are back in our real lives, it’s time to run that software and apply it to our current WIPs (works in progress).

If we could just put life on pause for a few days while we went through the installation process…

A Writer’s Prayer

dishes-197_1920Two writer buddies and I are driving to Edmonds, WA for a writer’s conference this weekend. We leave Friday morning and won’t be back until Monday evening. I don’t know what I’m looking forward to more: the conference, the four days exempt from making dinners and washing dishes, or the nineteen hours (give or take) of uninterrupted adult conversation while we travel to and from WA. For this mom, the opportunity to step away from the grindstone will be a blessing; the conference is a bonus. 😉

Despite my passion for (and struggles with) the craft of writing over the last fifteen years, I’ve only been to two writer’s conferences, the second of which I attended about seven years ago when we still lived in Nebraska. My very first conference was a five-day affair at the Gordon Seminary campus in Massachusetts when my now ten-and-a-half year old was only 18 months. While I might have been dealing with a lingering case of post partum depression, it was the writing insecurities and comparative-itis that plagued me to the point of tears. There I was, in my late twenties, crying in the bathroom like I was a hormonal teenager—and mind you, when I cry, my face shows its blotchy remnants for at least an hour afterward.

“Are you missing your little girl?” one well-meaning attendee asked as we passed each other on the campus grounds.

I gave her a polite smile through my blurry vision and continued on. Little did she know her innocent comment brought on a fresh tidal wave of tears—this time tears of guilt! For I did not miss my daughter…but maybe I was supposed to? Yet here’s the thing: not only did I know said daughter had both sets of grandparents doting on her, but I also knew I’d see her again at the end of five days. And when you’re a stay-at-home-mom, on call 24-7, you don’t sweat five days (at least, this mom didn’t!).

No. I was crying for more selfish, self-pitying reasons. I felt frustrated with my writing abilities (and incapabilities), my writer’s block (some will argue it doesn’t exist), and the high expectations I had put on myself to perform (expectations I couldn’t attain).

Plus, I had compared myself to the other writers in my group and come up short. Very short.

Comparative-itis. I think it plagues more of us than we know.

leaves-79990_1920

That’s me on the left…next to every-other-writer-in-the-world on the right.

I still wrestle with that disease sometimes, along with the one that says, “I’m not good enough,” and the equally debilitating, “I’m not creative enough.” But God has been at work in me over the last ten months—molding me here, tugging me there—and I trust I’ll experience freedom from these deadweights eventually. (If my mind could just stay out of the way much of the time, I’d experience it a lot sooner!)

Baby steps, right? That’s what this faith journey is all about. Taking a step of faith, finding God is already there to meet you, taking another step, finding He has yet again provided…

I stepped out in faith earlier this year when I felt He was asking me to start this blog. And I stepped out once more in August when He nudged me to sign up for this upcoming conference. Yes, it takes faith for me to willingly surround myself with other, more accomplished, writers, and it requires me to rely on God’s strength to stand fast against the insecurities and feelings of inadequacy that threaten to block my creativity.

My prayer is that I would apply what He has been teaching me and rest in confident assurance that I’m exactly where He wants me at this stage in my life. Any future success I might have in my writing career has more to do with God’s timing than on my own talent as a writer. And the prominence and abilities of other writers don’t factor into my future at all. So no comparing, Laurie!

This weekend I’m leaving my Inner-Critic at home to hang with Self-Doubt and Inadequacy. They can play their little mind games over a wallow of pity without me.

This weekend, I pray it’s just me and God (and two treasured writer buddies) out for a time of fun, rejuvenation, and inspiration.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses… For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 New International Version (NIV)

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Love means no condemnation…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Several years ago, writing and I fell into a love-hate relationship. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than turning a blank document on Microsoft Word into a colorful, angst-ridden world that gives life and breath and movement to the characters inside my head (note: I did say characters, not voices). Over the course of four hundred pages’ worth of troubles and triumphs, these characters serve to reflect the nuances of my relationship with God—the whining and agonized prayers, the comfort and grace-filled epiphanies, the stubbornness that eventually gives way to surrender.

On a fantastic writing day...

On a fantastic writing day…

On the flip-side, there is nothing more devastating to my sense of purpose than living with the insatiable urge to write and having the time to write…yet the words

…won’t

…come!

Those are the days Perfectionism barrels in, uninvited, to perch on my shoulder with its unforgiving claws. Seconds later it’s joined by the Inner Critic, who, knowing I’m prone to pessimism and self-condemnation, takes great delight in badgering me, beating me with ugly, vicious labels and lies that, in my frustrated state, I believe.

On a horrible writing day...

On a horrible writing day…

It’s in this state that I shake my fist at God and cry out, “If You gave me the passion and talent to write, why didn’t You give me the creativity to make something of it?”

For I used to believe God was behind my inability to craft a plausible story. Correction: a story that met my ridiculously high standards.

And then a few weeks ago, I had lunch with a friend who is aware of my struggles. After listening to me vent about my latest writing woes and lament over the myriad responsibilities infringing on my allotted writing time, Linda stated matter-of-factly, “It sounds like the devil doesn’t want you to write.”

Thunk.

Bull’s eye.

(Sometimes it’s hard to hear God’s voice. Other times, it ricochets off the rafters. That day, it came through the simple words of a friend.)

Why hadn’t it hit me sooner?

God is Love. Would Love offer me a gift only to dangle it out of reach and tease me with it to the point I’m a paralyzed heap of living matter sobbing on the kitchen floor (yes, I’ve been there)? Love would not…but the devil would. It fills him with twisted glee to see God’s children immobilized by despair and insecurities; that makes them ineffective and ineffective means a job isn’t getting done for the Kingdom.

Too bad for him God is also Truth, the knowledge of which happens to set His children free. And when His Truth poured from the words of my friend, the devil’s chains disintegrated; his hold over me is gone.

Now, I’m not saying all my writing hours since then have been happy-happy-joy-joy, but I don’t approach my stories with the feeling God’s against me anymore—and that’s empowering.

Something else I’ve learned: writing is not only one of my strengths, but it’s also one of my weaknesses. I understand now that God has purposely left some gaps in my abilities in order to leave room for Him. These gaps force me to rely on His strength and His guidance…and they allow me to experience His presence and His pleasure.

As the apostle Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” [italics mine]. It’s time we all rise from the kitchen floor and tell that devil where to go.