Friday, December 17, 2010
It's probably the first thing I've sat down and written in over a month (blogs, unfortunately, do not count). I didn't mean to take another writing break, but with all the Christmas stuff going on, I just haven't really had a good amount of time for it. And when I do have time, I haven't had the energy. What with the Christmas musicals to attend (and perform in) and the Christmas cookies to bake (and burn, forcing me to rebake), and the Christmas parties and the Christmas shopping, and the Christmas cards, and the Christmas present wrapping, and getting a little sick and sleeping extra so I won't get sicker, my creativity has been stifled.
Don't get me wrong, Christmas is my favorite time of the year. I LOVE the Christmas chaos. It's just that the other day I was sitting and thinking about how I just haven't been writing lately. It made me sad.
It snowed here yesterday. It was only a few inches, but the roads were a little icy. It's North Carolina, so they cancelled school, and consequently I wasn't needed at any of my jobs. So I stayed inside and read a book--something I don't get to do as often as I'd like. Usually, if I'm not working (or participating in Christmas chaos), I'm writing my fingers off. Getting to actually read a book was a rare treat.
The book itself was all right. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't something I'd consider truly remarkable. However, as I am fond of saying, creativity breeds creativity. The book wasn't incredible, but it still managed to spark my imagination. It sparked my desire to create something.
And I was able to sit down and write an original fairy tale today. I didn't even really know what it was about or how it would end. I just started out with a couple of characters and just wrote. In the span of less than an hour, I was able to craft what I consider to be a rough draft of an enjoyable 5 page (handwritten) fairy tale.
I can't adequately describe the feeling. It was like something inside me woke up. As I wrote the last few words of that story, I felt like me again. I haven't been too out of sorts lately, but suddenly I just felt more like myself than I had in weeks. I don't think I knew how unlike myself I was until I suddenly felt like myself again. Does that make sense? Oh well...
The fairy tale was an answer to a prayer. I am hoping to compile a collection of fairy tales to be published sooner than later (untraditionally), and I need a few more. I hope to do some pretty cool stuff with this collection, but more on that is to come...I still have plenty of writing/editing to do before it's ready. My latest story, however, I think is pretty good.
...when I read over it again, it might stink, but for now, I am feeling like a writer again. I'm feeling like myself.
Monday, December 13, 2010
I knew when I reread the book that I was setting myself up for some disappointment. I mean, I knew they were going to change stuff. They ALWAYS change stuff. I just happen to find it interesting to see how people translate books onto the big screen. Sometimes they do an excellent job (think Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and sometimes they really screw it up and I get angry and want to start petitioning filmmakers for a do-over (think Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
Don't read any more if you haven't seen VotDT, because there will be some spoilers.
I was very impressed with the special effects (even in 3-D, which was, as I suspected, completely unnecessary). The Dragon and the sea serpent were UH-MAY-ZING. The music was also excellent, as was the majority of the acting. I'm a big fan of Skandar (is that NOT the coolest name ever?) and Georgie--and the guy who played Eustace was hilarious (I'm sure I'll learn that kid's name by the time Silver Chair comes to theaters). Now that the technical stuff is out of the way, on to the story...
I'm really glad they got in all the major plot points. They were ordered differently than they were in the book and some were handled differently, but they were all there. I'm also glad they included the most important line from the book--Aslan telling Lucy and Edmund that he had brought them to Narnia so that they would know who he was in their world and learn to know him by his name there (coughJESUScough). Most important part. I got really nervous when I thought the filmmakers had left that out, but they came through. Liam Neeson is pretty much the most amazing Aslan voice ever, btw.
Speaking of, there wasn't enough Aslan to suit me, but IMO there can NEVER be enough Aslan.
I was also disappointed that the Dufflepuds scene was so short, but then one can never have too many Dufflepuds. Well, okay, I suppose "DUFFLEPUDS: THE MOTION PICTURE" would be a little bit ridiculous.
Now, some people confuse me for one of those people who gets angry over every minor detail that was changed in movies that were adapted from books. Not so. What I think is important is that the movie version adequately captures the spirit and essence of the book in a way that is clearly communicated. The problem I had with Prisoner of Azkaban is that there were themes that were heavily emphasized in the movie that were not really in the book (time), and I was left with the impression that if someone had not read the book, they wouldn't know what was happening. That's crappy filmmaking, IMO.
The biggest problem I have with the film version of VotDT is that the filmmakers seemed to completely miss the point of the story. They added in a new element that basically drove the plot because apparently they seemed to think the story needed something that C. S. Lewis didn't provide. FAIL. If you haven't read the book, you might be surprised to learn that the seven swords were not in the book at all, nor was there this underlying evil that Lucy and Edmund had been summoned to go concur. They had been called to Narnia to have an adventure. That was the plot of the book. That was the story line. That was all that was needed.
And personally, I think that the story would have worked quite well on screen without their additions. The filmmakers seemed to think that they needed to add some kind of element that would make things more exciting or give purpose to the story. No. The purpose of the story was that there was something worth seeking beyond the known seas around Narnia. Yes, there were the seven lords that Caspian wanted to find, but he was not seeking them for any reason other to be seeking them. Caspian and Reepicheep and several of the others were ultimately seeking adventure, the End of the World, perhaps even Aslan's country--that was the point of the story--not some "green mist of evil" that had to be destroyed. I think the filmmakers really missed the point, and that makes me sad.
It makes me sad to think that filmmakers assume people don't want to see movies that are just about adventure and excitement and the mystery of the unknown. It makes me sad to think that they might actually be right.
But quite honestly, the whole "green mist of evil" thing was just stupid. It took me awhile to realize what it reminded me of, but once I realized it, I was amused. The "green mist of evil" was ripped off from another movie. Do you want to know which movie it was? Anastasia. Yep, the kid's cartoon from the late 1990s. I half expected Rasputin to come out with Bartok and burst out into an evil song and dance number.
No, instead you have the "green mist of evil" which (at least to Edmund) took the form of the "White Witch." Personally, I was really put off by this. For one thing, I was never really happy with Tilda Swinton's portrayal of the White Witch (I can't get past the fact that the lady has NO FREAKIN' EYELASHES), and I really hate seeing her have a cameo in all the movies she's not a part of. She died--let her stay dead. On a more serious note, I also want her to stay dead. Aslan killed her. It was finished. All that she represented was defeated. I didn't like that the filmmakers keep bringing her back as if Aslan isn't strong enough to have defeated her once and for all.
But I was fortunate enough to be watching this film with a friend who had not read the book. She saw this part differently and gave me her perspective, which I had already been thinking about myself, and kinda sorta agree with to an extent. Edmund--at least in the films--keeps meeting the White Witch again. In the film of VotDT, he was still struggling with temptation regarding her. Okay, I can get that. I can relate to that. Even if sin has been conquered once and for all, I still struggle with temptation and sin. I'm going to struggle with temptation and sin until I die or this world ends. So I can kinda understand where they might have been going with that.
Now, Lucy's little temptation scenes bothered me a little more. It was good theology, but it was simple theology. I can totally get that we are all valuable--we aren't meant to be like anyone else (except Christ), and God didn't create us to be like anyone else. He made one me. He made one you. So yeah, there was nothing untruthful about what Aslan said to Lucy in the mirror (aside from the fact that this scene was NOT in the book). He wanted her to value herself. Okay. Sure. It's just that right now there's this theme I see in Christian circles about feeling good about yourself and feeling beautiful, blah blah blah. Johnny Diaz theology is awesome for awkward teenage girls. It's just a little milky for me. And Lucy in the book wanted to be beautiful and get attention like Susan (she didn't want to BE Susan, fyi), but she didn't sit and dwell on it for very long. Aslan drove that vanity from her head with one roar and she was tempted by something else. Anyway, I would have preferred Aslan's lines to be closer to what was in the book, but as I already said, they got the most important line.
I'm just really annoyed they left out another important group of lines:
Aslan: "Do not look so sad. We shall meet soon again."
Lucy: "Please, Aslan, what do you call soon?"
Aslan: "I call all times soon."
Now, I was pleased with the way they made Eustace the Dragon look/act/etc. That was awesome. I was a little confused with what they did with him because it was VERY different from the book. With that being said, given all the rest of the changes they made to the story, I actually LIKE what they did with the Dragon. I liked that they kept him in the film longer as a Dragon and I liked that they had Eustace be the one to put the sword on the table and save everyone (though the glowing blue swords seemed to be a ripoff from the Hobbit...oh well, Tolkien and Lewis will probably have a good laugh about that if there are Inklings meetings in heaven--and I'm kinda hoping there will be and that I'll get to sit in on them). I liked that the epic battle with the sea serpent took place on the dark island (even though it took place much earlier in the book). Given all the other changes they had made to the story, the rest of it just made sense. I would have preferred they had left the story alone as much as possible, but given the changes they'd made, they actually managed to create a decent storyline with Eustace as a Dragon who gained redemption by placing the final sword. Also, I'm VERY happy they worked hard to foster an onscreen friendship between Eustace and Reepicheep. Reepicheep is awesome.
What does kind of bother me is how they handled Eustace's transformation from Dragon back into a human. Now, I do like that Aslan just scratched the sand and those scratches were what cut into Eustace. BUT, here's what bothered me. How he just burst into light and fire during his transformation reminded me of another film...another kid's movie...another cartoon from the 90's. Beauty and the Beast. Tale as old as time, baby.
All in all, I'm displeased that the filmmakers seemed to miss the point of the story, but they did some interesting things with the changes that I did like. I will want to see this movie again, mainly because I'm not sure how much I liked it--but I think I did. I shed some tears (oh, Reepicheep). It left me wanting a sequel (I WANT PUDDLEGLUM!!!). I am a little afraid with what they'll do with "Silver Chair," but we'll see.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I also decided that I need to polish up a synopsis just in case an agent is intrigued enough by my query that they want to read a synopsis. So right now I'm just trying to line up all my hypothetical ducks to make sure they're in a hypothetical row. This is the part I really hate about being a writer who wants to get published. It's a time where I have to hurry up and wait--where I have to find the right balance and the proper timing. I've never been good at those things, but I'm excited to be doing something. I'm excited to see what will happen in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, I wrote a poem. I do write poetry, but I don't typically share my poetry. The reason for this is that I am a lousy poet.
Today, however, I thought it would only be right for me to share my latest poem. It snowed today in the beautiful state of North Carolina. I hate snow, but I have to admit that it was very pretty as it fell down and messed up the roads and got my car all snowified. Since it was such a wintry wonderland here where I live today, I thought I'd share a poem that I wrote a few weeks ago when everything was autumnal and snow free.
The autumn wind is expectant.
Its chill is vibrant and alive
Like it knows a happy secret
That it is trying not to hide.
All the trees are ablaze, now,
Like the bush that Moses could see
When he heard the Voice of "I AM"
Tell him to set His people free.
But the fire upon the trees here
Is just the color of the leaves.
I know the flames cannot consume
A single fiery autumn tree.
But the wind is still expectant.
I hear "I AM's" Voice in the sound
Of the breeze setting free each leaf
As they fall upon Holy Ground.
Monday, November 29, 2010
I didn't do as much research as I might have done. This occupied a lot of my time tonight...
May I present the Christmas Beam (I haven't figured out how to tilt the pic upright, just turn your head sideways) :
My apartment was originally the offices for an old cotton mill store. It's over 100 years old and there's this magnificent beam right here in my living room. The first time I saw it (it was summertime) I thought, "We can decorate that for Christmas!"
So now, we don't put up a tree. My roommate and I decorate our Christmas Beam.
O Christmas Beam, O Christmas Beam, how ghetto are your electrical tape ornament holders!
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I knew this scene was going to be important. I was looking forward to it. If you haven't read the book, stop reading this now. If you have read the book or have already seen the movie or both, keep reading. There are a few minor spoilers. If you haven't seen the movie but have already read the book, then no worries. I won't give anything away you don't already know just from reading...at least nothing important. :-P
One of the climactic scenes in the book/movie was when Harry followed the doe patronus out into the forest and found Godric Gryffindor's sword in the pond. He was an idiot and went into the water with the horcrux locket around his neck; the locket proceeded to try to kill him. Ron, who had previously deserted Harry and Hermione, was there to rescue Harry and use Gryffindor's sword to stab the You-Know-Who out of that horcrux.
But before Ron's triumphant moment, he had to face some demons. It was one of Ron's finest moments. I loved this scene in the book, but seeing it on screen was just amazing. It took it to a whole other level for me, emotionally. I connected to Ron in a way I never have before.
When Harry opened the locket, the voice of the horcrux tortured Ron. Ron who had always felt like he was competing with his brothers, who always felt unwanted compared to his sister, who always felt like he was in Harry's shadow, was being tortured by all his insecurities. And the part that really really got me was when the fake Hermione looked down at Ron and said, "You're nothing. Nothing."
I started crying there in the theater. I got it. I got who Ron really was, and how important it was for Ron to defeat that horcrux. He had to prove to it and to himself that he was NOT nothing. Even in the midst of a totally inappropriate scene (why did fake Hermione and fake Harry have to be naked while they were kissing??--sorry if I gave something away there, but I think it's better you know beforehand), I was weeping.
And then Ron stabbed that horcrux, and I wanted to stand up and cheer. I didn't, because I was already feeling awkward for crying over a scene that probably wouldn't make most people cry. Then Ron said something funny to lighten the mood, and my tears melted into laughter.
But wow. I just have to hand it to J. K. Rowling that she's a fantastic writer. She handles plot so well, but she's even better at characterization. I just reread that scene from the book, and the movie was almost word-for-word what was Rowling had written. It was just so powerful to actually see her words portrayed. I'm pretty sure I was affected so deeply by Ron's defining moment because I'm a writer.
In a way, Ron really reminds me of one of the characters I wrote for my first series. He's an underdog. Things don't go right for him. He is always facing insecurities. This particular character is more like myself than any other character I've written. Because I'm insecure. There are times when I feel unloved. To actually write that into a character and make him/her believable is an incredible experience.
I don't know if I'm as good at it as Rowling. Probably not.
One thing I'm fairly sure about is that J.K. Rowling probably knows how it feels to be Ron. That's how she was able to write him so well. And I'm glad he got to stab that horcrux. I'm glad he got to prove to himself that he was NOT nothing. It's those incredible moments that us writers live for--the moment when our characters become something more than what they were.
And as always, good writing spawns good writing. Creativity spawns creativity.
I'm back in the game.
...oh, and Weasley is our king!
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
I am supposed to be working on a collection of short stories. I'm supposed to be researching agents to query (or actually querying them). I'm just too busy right now to think about it. The idea of finding a nice old guy to be my sugar daddy so I can quit my jobs and write is becoming more and more appealing all the time.
Seriously. I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving just so I can NOT WORK for a day. I've got a friend coming over for Thanksgiving, but before she made those plans, I was planning on just having Thanksgiving by myself. I don't mind my friend coming over, and I'm glad she'll be there to share my turkey that's big enough to feed 13 people, but if she couldn't come, I would have been FINE. I want a nice, quiet Thanksgiving. That's all I want.
But as I'm typing this, I'm realizing that even though I'm not doing any writing right now, that doesn't necessarily mean that there's nothing happening with my writing. I sent my 1st book to some teenagers/older children to read. It hit me one day not to long ago that I have had a lot of grown-ups read my book, but I'm actually going to be marketing it to young adults--teenagers. I need some teenagers' opinions. So far, one 14 yr. old boy has read it. His assessment as he was reading it: "It's suprisingly good." My internal reaction: "Why surprisingly?" :-D His assessment after he finished reading it: "It's really good!" While I have to wait till Friday to get any in depth feedback, it's encouraging to hear that. It makes me want to write more--sigh. When I have time...
The publication process is SO long. Sometimes I feel like I should be doing more to get to that goal. I know that if I ever do get it into an agent's hands, it's going to be a long time before it gets into a publisher's hands. If I ever get it into a publisher's hands, it's going to be a long time before I see it in print. Right now it's still in MY hands. I feel like I should be doing something, but there's just not enough time for me at this particular moment. I don't see the holidays being any less time-consuming. Maybe this is a New Year's Resolution sort of thing.
But right now I know two families who are overseas working through the adoption process, trying to get their children and get them back to America. They have a lot of waiting, too. And I'm over here praying for them, trying to share in what God's doing in some small way. The fact is, God is doing something. Just as He's preparing the way for these families to come home with their beautiful children, He's preparing the way for my work to get published. I don't mean to downplay adoption, because I know my books are not as important in comparison. The work that God is doing with these children and these families is amazing. I just am in awe watching God work.
It's just that I also see His hand guiding me and my writing. I don't like these times when I'm too busy to write. I don't like these times when I have to do what is right before me and don't have any time to plan for the future. I don't like these times when I just have to wait and trust and wait.
But God is doing something, even when it seems that I'm not. And I am really excited to get to talk to this kid about what he thought about my book!
Monday, November 15, 2010
1. Pick a humorous situation (or a potentially humorous situation) that happened to you at some point during the day. It could be something cute that a friend or child said. It could be an embarassing situation that happened to you while grocery shopping (those don't just happen to me, right??). It could be a humorous behavior you observed in a total stranger. Heck, it could be a combination of all of these things, or something completely different. Just be observant. Keep your eyes out for humorous situations. Alternatively, you can find a situation in the news or something that you've been thinking about that you can either 1) make fun of or 2) add a humorous twist to. Just be creative. Life is funny.
2. Exaggerate. A lot. There is a very fine line between a liar and a writer. Liars lie; writers make up stuff in an attempt to reveal some greater truth. Liars lie; writers exaggerate. Sometimes things that are funny or interesting can be made to sound even funnier or more interesting if they're exaggerated to extremes. Also, don't be afraid to change tiny details about a situation to make them sound funnier than they really were. When writing, this is not lying. It's improving. For instance, if I were to talk about an old lady getting mugged who was rescued by a police officer, that would not be that funny. However, if I were to talk about an old lady getting mugged who suddenly bust out her mad ninja skills and beat the crap out of her assailants with her walker, that would be HILARIOUS.
3. Don't be afraid to make fun of other people--BUT be careful. Just as there is a fine line between being a liar and being a writer, there is a fine line between poking fun at someone and being a complete jerk. I find it best to make fun of strangers, including celebrities...but even then I don't want to be mean about it. While sometimes idiots need to be pointed out as idiots, we have to remember that everyone is a human being. I find it best to poke fun at people for being human beings, failed, hilarious creatures that we are.
4. Don't be afraid to make fun of yourself. Seriously, if you take yourself too seriously, then you're gonna be seriously boring. Seriously.
5. Repeat words like "seriously" at seemingly (or actually) random moments.
6. What? Number six? I can't think of six ways to be funny. I don't even know how to be funny. Why am I writing a blog about this? I don't know.
7. Confuse people. Including yourself. It makes people laugh...even if that laughter is awkward.
8. Make your story relatable. This could probably be said of serious blogging and writing, too. People who can relate to your funny story will find it easier to laugh along with you--or at you.
9. Ramble. I find that a good tangent (AKA rabbit trail) can increase a blog's funniness by 382.3%. Also, make up statistics.
10. Pretend you're funny. Sometimes when I pretend to be funny, I end up being actually funny. I'm not sure how that works, but it often does. Also, I tend to be funnier when I imagine myself typing with a British accent.
Now, go out there and write a funny blog! Or just keep reading mine. Seriously...keep reading mine.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Would any of my readers be interested in a collection of retellings and/or parodies of classic fairy tales AND original fairy tales by A. R. Campbell/Couth Ramble?
Leave a comment here, on facebook, or twitter.
Friday, November 12, 2010
I've wanted to be a writer.
And I spent the better part of my teenage years staring up at the ceiling waiting for a "holy lightning bolt from God" to tell me what I was supposed to do with my life.
It never came.
So it took me several years to realize I should just do what I have a passion to do. I should write because it's what I love to do. It's what God has given me to do--no lightning bolts--just the desire and ability to do it.
And in the past week, I've been trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do with my writing. I didn't get a "holy lightning bolt from God," and I didn't expect one. I've learned that life just usually doesn't work that way.
Because sometimes there are things like ethics and morals that guide our decisions, and sometimes there's nothing there but options and opinions. I've prayed for wisdom and direction and guidance over this past week, but most of all, I've prayed for trust. I prayed for God to increase my faith--He's been faithful to do just that.
Because sometimes we're just not going to have a clear cut path in front of us. Sometimes we just have a crossroads and we have to figure out which one to take and just start walking.
A week ago, I was very strongly leaning towards going through a small publishing company. There are a lot of reasons why this would be a good idea. I would have more control over my story--as in, I wouldn't have a lot of people who don't know me and don't know my characters messing with my writing and making a lot of changes (I don't even care if that was a run-on sentence). I would have it published sooner than later and finally be able to call myself a published author. I would be able to help out a friend who's trying to get started in the publishing world.
But I would also have to market it myself. I would not have a lot of perks that an agent can provide. I might even prevent myself from getting an agent for future projects.
There are risks involved in whatever I do. I've prayed. I've asked for prayer from others. I've sought wisdom and direction and guidance.
But there have been no "holy lightning bolts from God," nor do I think any are going to come. So it's time to make a decision, choose a path, and just start walking.
Next week, I plan researching more agents and sending out more queries. I am putting book 4 on the back burner so I can start editing another completed project (aka book 2 aka Star). I want to try to sell it, too.
I am learning more all the time, and realistically, I know that even if I get an agent, I'm probably not going to be wildly famous or rich or anything. But I've got goals for my writing, and I'm not going to take the easy way out.
I'll see how it goes. This isn't the final say. If for whatever reason, this doesn't work out--if I just keep getting rejected and run out of options--yes, I will go small publishing. It's not that I see it as a "last resort." On the contrary, I am learning that small publishing is a worthy endeavor. I just would rather go traditionally because that's what I've always wanted. If that's not for me, then it won't work out, and I'll be THRILLED to be published under my friend's company--if he'll still have me. :-D
There are so many things that could happen. I don't know what they are. I'm just going to step out in faith right now and see. This is my decision. This is what I'm doing. I've just gotta trust that the Lord is going to direct my steps, though I can't see what's ahead.
Being decisive feels good.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
It came up in three of my friends' facebook posts. Then it came up again in worship at my preschool. It came up again in my MOPPETS lesson (I wasn't even planning on teaching that lesson--it was the one provided when I got there that morning). Then it came up again in a scripture passage I was reading. It came up AGAIN in this movie I was watching. Over and over again, God's kind of thrown "BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS" in my face. And I kinda sorta figured there was probably a reason for that.
And I think it's time to take a risk. I've had an opportunity to get published through a small publishing company for a few months now. I've talked to the guy who owns it, and he would be thrilled to help me out. The thing is, he also said stuff like, "But your work deserves to be handled by a bigger publishing company." (What a nice thing to say!)
I don't know how good my work is. I mean, I love it, but I'm just a little bit biased. I've had these characters and these stories in my head for almost a decade. I think I'd love to have my stuff represented by an agent and sold to a major publishing company. I think I'd love to be as well-known as J. K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. I think I'd love to have my books made into a wildly popular movie series (with John Williams writing the main theme). But these are just things I *think* I'd love. The truth is, I really don't know what being a famous writer would look like. I am not sure I'm ready for all of it. I'm incredibly ignorant to the publishing process, and I am very sure that will be evident to any agent or editor--or pretty much anyone else.
I have only queried a few agents. I know there are others I could query. Given enough time, I might be able to snag an agent. But even that is no guarantee that I'll get published. I don't want to be impatient. I don't want to do anything because I am looking for an easy way out.
But the way I'm starting to see it is, I really don't have anything to lose. Christopher Paolini self-published Eragon, and it was later picked up by a bigger publishing company. It's very well-known now. They've even made a movie out of it (even if it WAS horrible and left no room to include the sequels). If I do get it published under the small company that's just starting out, that's not necessarily the end of my project. Who knows what might happen to it and to me if I just take this risk?
I know it will mean a lot of work in marketing (thank God for Twitter and Facebook!). I don't know exactly how hard that's going to be, but this is all part of the learning process. I'm learning more and more every time I step out in faith.
I have not made any decisions yet. This week, I'm just trying to pray through this decision and see what the Lord would have me to do. If you want to pray for me, too, that would be awesome(but I'm not looking for advice at this time, thanks!). I could use all the prayer I could get (can't we all?). If I still think this is where the Lord is leading me by the end of the week (or a little longer--we'll see what happens), then I'm just going to talk to the guy who owns the small company. There's a lot of things to consider before deciding anything.
What I find hilarious and wonderful is that the Lord has really been stretching me this week. It's only Tuesday, and already I've had to take my car to the shop b/c it decided it was tired of being a Ford Taurus and decided to be a recalled Toyota instead (it was accelerating by itself for no good reason--thank God for good brakes and a fantastic mechanic who only charged me $80), I lost my cell phone (hopefully it's in my friend's car), and I got home from a hectic day at work (who knew that 1 yr. olds and firetrucks don't really mix that well??) to find out that termites have been snacking on the 100+ year old hard wood flooring in my 100+ year old apartment. Jerks. Go eat new wood.
It's already been a CRAZY week and it's only TUESDAY. I'm wondering what else is going to happen. But I just look at all the stuff that's going on and I have to say, "Lord, thanks for all these opportunities to trust You."
My car was in the shop and I was expecting my mechanic to tell me a) Your car has the plague and is going to die--time to get a new car; or b) Sure I can fix it. That'll be $700 or your firstborn child. But instead, it was a minor thing that cost less than $100 to fix. I had amazing friends who drove me to work and to the mechanic. My car didn't kill me or anyone else (always a good thing, right?) when I drove it, riding the brake all the way, to the mechanic. I had no idea how it was going to turn out, but I knew it would turn out. And it did.
I don't know if my cell phone is in my friend's car or not. If it's not, then it's lost. And if it's lost, then that will stink, but it's not the end of the world. I'll be okay. I need a good excuse to get off my parent's phone plan anyway...
There's a guy here currently using some sort of machine that sounds like it's tearing up my living room floor (probably because it is some sort of machine that's tearing up my living room floor). But I'm not going to die to death because of termites or weird guys/noises in my living room.
It's all going to be all right. There's all sorts of reasons to "be strong and courageous." As I told my MOPPETS kids about a gazbillion times on Friday morning, "When we're scared, we can remember all the things that God did in the Bible and all the things God does in our lives, and we can remember that He is powerful. We don't have to be afraid." I don't know exactly why God's giving me all this stuff right now in the midst of this decision I'm trying to make, but I'm pretty sure He knows what He's doing.
So thanks for your prayers. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with what I've been given at this point, but I am confident that I'm going to get published one day. Whether it's sooner or later, God is still God and God is still good.
EDIT: MY PHONE WAS IN MY FRIEND'S CAR!!! WOOOOOOOOOT!
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I've never participated in NaNoWriMo, and I'm only fairly certain I won't be participating in it in the future. I joke around a lot about how I'm anti-NaNoWriMo, but I'm not really. I do think it's silly, but there's nothing wrong with being silly. I often enjoy being silly. NaNoWriMo is just not my kind of silliness. If it's your kind of silliness, then have fun with that.
The goal of NaNoWriMo is to start and complete a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I think it's an achievable goal, but I don't think that there are a lot of people that can produce quality work under such conditions. I know that no one is going to be able to produce a near-perfect work in that amount of time (that's what editing is for), but I do think that someone who dares to call him/herself a writer should be able to produce something worth reading. As someone who DOES dare to call herself a writer, it does kind of irritate me that there are people who call themselves "novelists" because they once produced a plotless 50,000 words of drivel during NaNoWriMo.
But all in all, I have nothing against NaNo. It's just something fun that some writers like to do, and I know there are some authors who have written great books during NaNo. If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll know I wrote a 75,000 word book in less than two weeks (I love to gloat about this to NaNo-ers), and I think it might be one of the best things I've ever written. Good writing CAN and DOES come out of insanity.
The thing is, I WAS pretty much insane for those two weeks, just as I was when I tried to duplicate the insanity over the past three weeks when I was trying to complete another 75,000 word book (in open rebellion against NaNo). I didn't make this goal because I tried to force it. My current book was not like the book I completed in 2 weeks. That book wanted to be written; the main character wanted me to tell her story. It was an amazing, wonderful, completely insane experience. But I have discovered that I can't force it. That writing experience came and passed. I might have a similar experience in the future, but if I do, it won't be of my own volition.
I'm also just not really into this whole, "Let's all write a book in a month at the same time" sort of thing. I get it that other writers want to form NaNo support groups and all be insane together. I guess I'm more of a crazy loner than a crazy socialite. I don't do things just because it's cool to do them, nor do I really get a huge kick out of doing something that a lot of people are a part of. I'd rather do my own thing, and NaNoWriMo is not it.
Also, I have three jobs and so far November has been insane-crazy-busy. Is it only Nov. 3? Seriously? Yeah. So far in this month, I might have written a whole paragraph on my current project.
So, if you're participating in NaNo, more power to you. I hope you write fast AND well. I hope that you produce interesting characters AND a discernable plot. I hope that you find all the support you need AND find time to be alone to write write write. But as for me, I'm going to sit off in my own jokingly anti-NaNo corner and throw paperwads at you.
Friday, October 29, 2010
There were a lot of times in the past three weeks when I chose to do other activities instead of writing. I went to visit friends. I went to the NC State Fair. I carved a pumpkin (this takes longer than one might think). I had fun and tried to actually EXPERIENCE the autumn a little bit. It's hard to do that when you're cooped up inside a "cave" attached to a computer.
Don't get me wrong. I did put in a lot of writing hours. I worked hard. It's just that inspiration didn't come as easily as I'd hoped. It still came.
Even though I probably won't meet my goal of having a rough draft completed by Sunday, I still have a LOT of it done. There are parts I know I'm going to have to rewrite. In fact, I'm toying with the idea of just pausing in the writing of this book to go back and fix things. Generally, I'm one to just say "Get the rough draft done, and then go back and edit." But I'm learning that writing is a process that can never be duplicated exactly.
In May, I wrote a 75K word book in less than 2 weeks. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do that again. It was just something that happened (because I lost my mind for two weeks and was possessed by a fictional character--it was awesome). I can't duplicate the process.
And as I go back and look at the three books (2 of which are still rough drafts) I've completed, I realize that I've written all three of them very differently. The first one took me about seven years to finally complete (and two more years to edit to my satisfaction). It went through many changes in those seven years as I went through changes in my life (college, heartache, life, work, etc.). It is a true first book, one that grew up with me. The second book took me about 2-3 years to complete from conception to completion, but I forced myself to finish that one by making it into a serial novel for my friends to read. I'm glad I went that route, even though now I'm left with a 32 chapter monstrosity that needs major editing, and I have no idea when I'm going to get to that. My third book just flowed out of me (I really need to write more in first person!).
With this book, number four, well, I don't know. I tried to force it, but it won't be forced. It's kind of like a stubborn child that wants to be developed in its own way and in its own time. I think that it's going to need some coddling. I think I'm going to have to go back and coax the storyline and characters along before continuing to the end.
And it's okay. I'm not really that upset about not making my goal. I'm still going to strive for it, but not to the point of driving myself crazy. In other words, the computer gets turned off when I'm too tired to keep typing. If I'm not done at that point, then I'm not done.
My one regret in all of this is that the other night I turned down a friend who offered to take me to see dead bodies. My excuse was that I needed to write. I didn't write well that night, AND I missed out on seeing dead bodies. I mean, right now I'm not working on any stories involving knowledge of modern dead body facilities, but you NEVER know when that kind of knowledge might come in handy.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
I'm learning a lot, though. Since I haven't worked on a brand new book-length project in several months, I'm really relearning how much I enjoy writing. It's truly what I enjoy doing most; it's what I was meant to do. When you find that one thing, it's just...wow! No words to describe it. It's like the planets aligning or something. It's like in the movie "Chariots of Fire" when the main character is talking about how when he runs, he feels God's pleasure. I know what he means. When I write, it's like I can feel God's good pleasure just coursing through me. It's not something I'm necessarily intentionally writing or doing at the moment to glorify God. There's nothing anyone can necessarily look at and say, "Yes, I can see how you're spreading the love and truth of Christ here in this writing" (although I hope that I am). It's just that process, that moment when something beautiful is being created, that I believe makes the angels stop and say, "Whoa...." It's just glorifying to God because it's something He's doing in me...wow, in me...and that something is good. Mmm.
And I'm relating to my characters and feeling their emotions and hurting with them in their pain. And that's just something awesome to me. Again, writers just have a glimpse of what it must be like to be God. We know what's happening to our characters. We feel their pain, we care, but still make them go through it. We know that they have to go through the pain to get to the resolution, and what's on the other side of that resolution is better than what they had before. If our characters were alive and aware that their lives were being written, they would probably have some trouble trusting the author.
And I have trouble trusting the Author.
I've been reading a lot of posts on Twitter and some other places about books. Plus, I've been reading a lot. The book I'm working on and its prequel are both what I'd classify as YA Fantasies. What's trending in YA right now is what I consider to be a lot of fluff. And I'm not a fluffy writer. I like for my writing to have purpose and integrity. While I do try to make what I write fun (I DO like kissing books), I just don't like to be overgratuitous. The story and the characters are what I focus on the most, not the fluff.
And my fear is that my books just aren't going to do well because they aren't fluffy.
But I need to put that fear aside and do what I know I'm meant to do. This story I've been writing, this non-fluffy story, has been a source of pleasure. I believe it to be good pleasure. I believe it to be God's pleasure. And if God's good pleasure is the only thing that comes out of the writing of this story, then that is sufficient. I just have to trust Him with the rest of it.
After all, He's a much better Author than I am.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
So then I got to thinking how remarkable it was that I had a WHOLE HALF DAY off to do absolutely anything I wanted to with, even though I'd filled it with various activities (that nap was strenuous, I'm telling you). I mean, this HALF DAY off meant that I wouldn't have ANY right to complain about how busy I am. Those days when I'm working my ten-twelve hours, sometimes at THREE different jobs in one day, only to come home and try to write for an hour or two before falling asleep drooling on the keyboard--pssh! I can't complain about THOSE days anymore, because I had a WHOLE HALF DAY OFF on some random Friday on some random week in October of 2010.
Yes, so the point I'm trying to convey is that I'm pretty dang busy. I'm not a parent, so I'm not as busy as some, but still. I mean, what? Two jobs? No, no. Please. I'm not stressed out enough. Please give me a third job. And let me attempt to write and edit books while working those three jobs, because please, I don't have enough to do.
Unfortunately for me, I am insane.
Last night the children's director at my church (and also one of my bosses) left a message asking me if I'd sub for preschool Sunday School for this morning. My roommate looked at me and said, "You've been way too busy lately. You've got something tonight and won't get home till late. You're not going to want teach 3 year olds tomorrow. Just tell her no." I said, "You're right. I'm calling her now. I'm going to tell her no."
Here's how the conversation went:
"Hello, A. This is Ruth. I got your message about needing a sub for Sunday School?"
"Hello, Ruth! Can you help us out?"
"SURE, A.! I'd LOVE to help out. I can sub during the early service, no problem."
At this time, my roommate turns to look at me with the LOOK OF DEATH.
I say goodbye to A. and hang up. I ask my roommate to stop giving me the LOOK OF DEATH.
She says, "My look isn't going to be what kills you, you're going to kill yourself with all this stuff you keep doing."
Maybe. Killed by insanity? I'm sure there are worse ways to go. Dying of boredom, for example. But I digress...
My busyness and insanity aren't really the point of this blog entry. I'm rather, writing to inform my readers (you know, all three of them) that I am probably not going to be blogging much for the remainder of October.
I had a goal, and it was a worthy goal, of having a rough draft my fourth book (which is the sequel to my first book, which is completely unrelated to my 2nd and 3rd books, excepting that all of them are about Dragons, if you can follow any of that) completed by the end of 2010. The thing is, I'm a procrastinator. You give me a deadline, and I'll stretch it out for all it's worth. And the result is, I haven't really been working on that book at all.
Now that I've completed the edit (Oh, dear Lord, let it PLEASE be the last edit) of my first book, it's fresh in my mind. I can write that sequel.
And I've decided to move up my deadline. Why? BECAUSE I AM INSANE. THAT'S WHY. I am going to attempt to write this book (of which I've only completed one solid chapter) in what remains of October. You know, I figure I didn't have enough to do, so I thought I'd just attempt to write the VAST MAJORITY a 75,000ish word novel in three weeks. It's kind of my way of saying "HA HA I'M BETTER THAN YOU--IN YOUR FACE" to most of those silly NaNoWriMo fools who think they're awesome because they can write 50,000 words of plotless drivel in a month. BTW, I can say this with so much confidence because about 5 months ago I was posessed by a fictional character and consequently wrote a rough draft of a 75,000 word novel in less than 2 weeks. And it is an awesome book, if I do say so myself. Let's just hope insanity, I mean, brilliance can strike again! If I don't meet my goal, it's no big deal. I am just going to attempt it because I happen to be a crazy person.
Yes, so I'm going to be a little busier than usual for the remainder of this month. I may find some time to blog, but don't count on them--I mean, it's not like any of my readers (all three of them) are sitting on the edge of their seats begging for more blogs or anything, but you know, now you know.
Happy 10-10-10. I will forever remember this day as the day I declared my insanity! Happy Insanidence Day! They should make a movie with Bill Pullman and Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and Randy Quaid and Brent Spiner about it...only with Dragons instead of aliens.
OH MY GOSH that would be epic.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Here are 5 questions that I, as a writer, hate:
Question 1: What kind of books do you write?
This one might not bother a lot of writers, but it bothers me. I think the reason it might not bother a lot of writers is because there are a lot of writers who stick to one or two genres in their writing. Now, at the moment, I've only written three books, and I'm trying to begin actively working on a fourth soon. Of these four books, two could be categorized as YA fantasy, and two could be categorized as science fiction. One might assume from the given information that the kind of books I write are fantasy and science fiction. The problem with this is, I feel like I've only begun to write! I don't want to limit myself to just one or two genres. I want to write a variety of things.
My two favorite writers, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle, didn't just write in one or two different styles or genres. Lewis wrote fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, allegory...he was a writer. What kind of books did C.S. Lewis write? The answer is yes. The same can be said for L'Engle. Most of what she wrote was YA, but she also wrote some adult fiction and nonfiction. She wrote fantasy and scifi, but she also had some VERY down to earth books. She even wrote some children's books. She didn't limit herself to one genre or style because she was a writer--she just wrote whatever came to her.
I'd like to think I'm that kind of a writer, too. Only time will tell. I hope to one day be able to answer the question "What kind of books do you write?" with "YES."
Question 2: What is your book about?
I hate this question for a couple of reasons. One, it puts me on the spot. How would you like it if someone came up to you and said, "So, tell me about your entire life?" You have to think of where to begin, add in all the important details, and then find a good place to conclude without giving too much information. The second reason I really hate this question is because most people don't really understand what they're asking. Do you really want me to stand here and tell you what my book is about in 20 words or less? Because if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you'd better be prepared for more than 20 words. I doubt anyone is going to really want to listen to me give them a good summary of my book. I mean, if you REALLY want to know what my book is about, then you might as well just read the book--when it's published (this will lead me to another hated question momentarily).
I have a standard answer I give for when people ask me this question. "What's your book about?" "Oh, it's a YA fantasy about Dragons and stuff." The only people who get more detailed answers are people who seem GENUINELY interested and people I'm trying to sell my book to--because, hey, they really need to know.
Question 3: Can I read your book before it's published?
*FACEPALM* People don't think before they ask this question. I mean, seriously, what better way to tell your writer friend, "I want to read your book because I don't have enough faith in your work that you'll ever manage to get it published...or at the very least, I'm not willing to wait that long."
I know, I know. This is NOT what people are trying to communicate. They're trying to communicate that they have an interest in my work and are really eager to read it. But it comes across completely differently. If someone is interested in my work, I'd much prefer they wait until it's ready to be seen by the world instead of hoping to catch a glimpse of it in it's raw stages.
With that being said, it is CRUCIAL for a writer to find friends/fellow writers/people they trust to read their work. It's just not at all wise to let EVERYBODY read it. It's not a bad thing for someone to offer their help in editing, but I think it's better to let a writer approach you if they're interested in letting you read it. I've been blessed with several good friends who have given me awesome feedback on my first book. It would not be the book it is today without their help. But at the same time, I chose these people b/c I trusted them and knew they would help me more than harm me. It's not a good idea to let too many people see my work before it's ready. So yeah...don't ask me to let you read it before it's ready to be read. When it's published, that's a pretty good indication that it's ready.
Question 4: Why haven't you found a literary agent/publisher/editor yet?
This question arises out of ignorance. I realize this. For some reason, there are people who assume that finding someone to represent my writing is a very simple task. I have had people ask me after only one week of trying to find an agent why I hadn't managed to find one yet. I'm like, "Are you serious?" The sad thing was, they WERE serious.
I don't like the implication that the reason I'm not published is because I'm not working towards that. Sometimes, I could work harder than I am, but most of the time, I'm just waiting. I'm impatient in this process, but not as much as other people seem to be. It's discouraging sometimes.
Some very good writers have had to wait a long time before becoming very good published writers. I hope that's the case with me.
Question 5: Do you really think writing is a useful endeavor?
Oh, if I could only explain to practical people how creative God is. I guess practical people are as much of an enigma to me as I am to them. I can see the logic in the idea that you "can't eat a work of art," but is that the only measure of something's worth--practicality?
A very close friend of mine once said, "The Bible is the only book we really need." I guess that's true, but I didn't like the implication that we shouldn't HAVE any other books. I like something that a Christian musician, Mitch McVicker, said at one of his concerts I attended: (VERY paraphrased) The world doesn't need more Christian music or Christian musicians. But the world will always need truth, and I'm trying to be faithful to what He's given me to do.
God gave me the ability to write. God gave me the desire to write. God has given me dreams and visions and stories to write.
Why do I write? I don't like that question unless I'm answering someone to whom I'm trying to sell my writing.
A much better question is, "Why wouldn't I write?" I love it. I'm GOOD at it. It's what God has given me to do, so I write. I don't even know all that He has planned for it and through it, but you know, that doesn't matter. I'm just trying to be faithful. He'll fill in the rest of the details.
Maybe it's just that God wants to use this impractical person to shame the practical. I'm cool with that.
I may have more "questions I as a writer hate" later, but for now, I'm going to go find some giraffes I hate and ask them some questions, like, "Why are your spots so brown, dumb giraffe? Why is your neck so ridiculously long? Why doesn't anyone know what sound a giraffe makes, you freakish freak of nature?"
*I don't really hate giraffes. Okay, just some of them.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
We were there a week. It was one of the worst weeks of my life. In a really odd sort of way, it was also one of the best. I look back on it knowing that I could have handled a lot of things differently, but as an insecure fifteen year old, I wasn't mature enough to know how to handle them. I look back on it and also know that the leaders of the trip could have handled things differently. They weren't mature enough to know how to handle them. I don't know if they should have been or not, but what I do know is that NONE of them were insecure fifteen year old girls.
Actually, a big part of the problem was the leadership at this youth trip (My youth minister was an exception--he was awesome. Some of the other leaders were great, too, but the majority of them bothered me in a way I couldn't understand at the time.) There was something wrong going on Spiritually. I could tell, though I didn't understand it, and therefore alienated myself from them and a lot of the other people there. The problem was, I didn't really know what was going on inside myself. I wasn't at all aware of what God was doing. It took me another five or six years or so to figure out that I've got the Spiritual gift of discernment. I can tell when people are fake, when people are lying to themselves and to others, especially about spiritual matters. I can tell when someone's hurting or hiding something. It's an annoying gift to have sometimes (because it annoys others), and well, that week was one of the first manifestations of that gift in my life.
Another strike against me (ha! I just used a sports metaphor)! At this place with these people, I was expected to play sports. Yeah. That lasted ONE game where I was handed a baseball glove and told to "protect myself with it" in case a ball came my way. I wasn't comfortable playing baseball and burst into tears. It's not a logical reaction, but what's logical about a socially awkard fifteen year old girl who happens to hate sports and be exceptionally bad at them? After that, I decided I wasn't going to play sports and that no one could make me. I went to the rec field with all the good little athletically inclined people and sat by myself while they played games.
Something really amazing happened in those times. I had a lot of time to do nothing (since I wasn't actually WATCHING the games they were playing), and so I did a lot of thinking...which led to a lot of praying. It was during this time that God made Himself and His will very clear to me. The Spirit was moving in my life in ways it never had before, and I was listening. Satan did everything He could to prevent this. Satan used the leadership.
During worship one night, one of the main leadership guys got up in front of everyone and said something to the effect of, "The recreation time is for everyone. Healthy competition is good for everyone, and you're expected to participate. I want everyone to participate in the sporting events." I was the only one sitting out--could he not have said this to me personally instead of making an announcement out of it? Probably. He was human and flawed, but that statement was devastating to my fifteen year old ego.
So what did I do? I rebelled, of course. I continued NOT to participate in the games because they made me an emotional wreck. But there was another reason I continued to sit out. I could tell that God was doing something with me while I was sitting by myself. I made a point of going to sit by myself at other times--not just during recreation time. And fortunately I brought along a notebook on the trip. I wrote that week. I wrote a lot. Now before this time, I'd dabbled in some writing. I enjoyed it. But this week was different. I could sense God breathing in me as I wrote. I knew that this was something He purposed in me. It was a calling.
I have strayed from that calling somewhat over the past fifteen years (oh my gosh, was Pickett State Park REALLY half a lifetime ago??--yes. wow.), mainly because I'm a realistic person--and writing isn't realistic. But God hasn't let me forget all the ways He's called me, and all the ways He's still calling me.
But Pickett State Park. Oh. I look back on it sadly because I know that so much could have happened that week. I wonder the way the course of my life might have gone if I had people to support me in what I was doing. If I had been more vocal about what was going on, maybe that would have helped. ...but I doubt it.
I remember two of the leaders coming up to me and asking me why I sat by myself, and if I needed prayer. One of them actually called me "backwards" to my face. It's okay now, because, let's face it--I AM backwards. And I like it. But to an insecure fifteen year old girl, that was pretty insulting. So I looked at the lady kindly and asked her to please go away.
They tattled on me to my youth minister. Seriously. They TATTLED on me like children. But my youth minister took my side. He came and talked to me and made me feel a lot better. He told me that he had been sensing something wrong in the leadership, too. He told me he was glad I had come on the trip because He knew God was working in me. I wished the others had been like that.
At the end of the week, I remember we were at a bonfire sharing what God had done with us that week. Many people went up and gave testimony of God's work. And the main leader guy (the same one who berated me publically for daring to skip out on rec time) prayed for every person who went forward. I felt I needed to go forward too. I shared with the people there that God had shown me what He wanted me to do with my life that week. It was a pretty big deal to me as a fifteen year old girl. The leader guy looked at me and rudely said, "Is that all? Are you finished?" I nodded mutely and went to sit down.
It was discouraging, to say the least. I sometimes wonder if I might have followed my passion for writing earlier if Satan hadn't used that leader and some of the other leaders to discourage me.
But I do remember one of the other leaders who at least TRIED to be kind to me. He wasn't perfect, but I appreciated his efforts. He came up to me after all of that and saw me in the midst of the few friends I'd somehow managed to make that week. He said to me, "Now isn't this nicer than sitting all alone."
I wish I had said what was on the tip of my tongue, but I was too shy, too awkward. I thought it, though. I thought it because it was true.
I wasn't alone.
God had been with me, speaking with me, communing with me the whole time.
There are times in our lives that are just bittersweet and special. This was one of those times for me. For a long time I was very bitter about what happened that week, but in the fifteen years since it's happened (oh my gosh---really! it was fifteen years ago!!!) I've been able to see how God has molded me from that awkward insecure fifteen year old to a woman who is pretty confident. I'm not confident in myself--I mean, really? I'm still awkward. I'm confident that the One who has begun a good work in me will bring it to completion.
He began it before Pickett State Park ever happened, but that week was the beginning of something. I've still got a lot to do if I'm ever going to be a published writer, but fifteen years ago, God showed me that He wanted me to write for Him.
So that's what I'm doing. Satan still throws things at me to keep me from my goal. And sometimes I get discouraged that it's taking SO long (in my perspective) to meet the goals I set for myself.
But life is not a straight path. I've matured as a writer much more slowly than I've wanted to, but maybe there's purpose in that. All the side roads I've taken that have deterred me from my goal of being a published writer might be things God intended for me, too. And maybe there will be more side roads, more things Satan intends for evil that God uses for good.
If it takes another fifteen years for me to be published, if God is glorified, it will be worth it.
But Lord, I'd appreciate it if I didn't have to wait till I was forty-five to get published. :-D
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I often experience something seemingly trivial and obsess over it. Usually this obsession comes out in writing. If something moves me--even something seemingly trivial--I HAVE to write about it.
Today, whilst hanging out (Really, am I allowed to write the phrase "whilst hanging out? No? Too bad! I just did!) with an amazing family from my church (and some other friends), I spent some time with their 4.5 year old son "J." I happen to think "J" is one of the coolest kids ever (and the feeling is mutual--he thinks I'm one of the coolest kids ever, too, although I'm a bit taller than most of his little friends). I picked him up and pretended he was an accordion (including all the "WAH-WOO-WAH-WOO" sounds a real pretend accordion might make), which for some STRANGE reason he thought was absolutely hilarious. Then he ran off and did something else for a few minutes because he's a kid and kids do that. While he was gone, I got involved in a grown up conversation (it's been known to happen from time to time), when suddenly "J" just came up beside me and impoloringly said, "Miss Ruth, I need help building my world."
A normal person would probably chuckle at the cuteness and innocence of such a statement, if they even understood why it was funny. OF COURSE he was talking about building a "world" AKA "city" AKA "house" AKA "randomly shaped indiscernable object of some sort" out of his legos, and he wanted me to come play with him. A normal person would get that and go play with him (or a mean normal person might say, "Not now kid. I'm too busy talking about grown up things. Blah blah blah grownup talk blah." No one at the gathering this afternoon would have EVER been mean like that to precious "J"--but I've seen grown ups in other places who are that mean. They make me sad.) My first reaction was to laugh at the cuteness of the statement and especially the cuteness of "J." My next reaction was to think "Wow, 'J,' I need help building MY world, too," and then I thought, "Oh, I am SO blogging about this later." I'm not a normal person. I'm more than okay with that.
I played legos. I helped "J" build his world. For a while, I was slightly concerned that I wouldn't build according to his specifications--because honestly, some of these 4.5 year old boys are SERIOUS about their lego worlds. But after a while, I began to realize that he didn't really care about HOW I played with the legos. He just wanted me to play legos WITH HIM. And I began to realize as I played legos with "J," in a very small yet important way, I WAS building his world. And he was building mine.
When you look at the task of building the WHOLE WORLD (one that's NOT just made out of legos), it's so easy to get discouraged. There are countless needs out there. It's impossible to even begin to imagine them. It's so easy to get discouraged when you think of it like that.
But we aren't called to build the whole world. We're called to build what has been placed right in front of us. Sometimes that's as simple as spending a little bit of time with an awesome 4.5 year old boy who for some unknown reason thinks I'm awesome, too.
Sometimes it's a little harder than that. Sometimes what we're given to do isn't something we're comfortable with. It's easy to get discouraged or frightened that we can't do it the way we're expected to do it--we're afraid of failing--but there's more than just ourselves guiding where we place each block. See, I, like "J," need help building my world. I can't do it alone.
But today I got one of those rare glimpses of what it must be like to be God. When "J" asked me for help, I didn't roll my eyes and act like he was wasting my time. I think sometimes we treat God like that. We have some silly "Why would God care about me?" attitude. But when "J" asked for my help, I was delighted just to get to spend some time with him. And I know God is delighted when we spend time with Him. He wants us to seek His help; He wants us to seek Him.
Block by block by block God is helping me build my world. He's putting others alongside me so we can help one another build, and He Himself is guiding the building. I got all of that from one simple, beautiful statement from a child. "Miss Ruth, I need help building my world."
Thank God I'm not normal.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In my Bible study class on Sunday morning, we were reading from Ephesians 2:1-10. This is one of my favorite passages, but I'm weird. A lot of Christians I know read this passage and really set their focus on the verses that deal with grace and being alive in Christ. I get that. I really do. This whole passage is so amazing. All the verses are so important and tie together well. God inspired Paul to write them and they're incredible words of truth. But I'm weird, as I mentioned before. The verses that stand out to me are not the same ones that seem to stand out to everyone else.
My favorite verse from this passage is verse 10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." In verse 3 of this passage, Paul refers to his readers (the Ephesians, as well as all Christians) as formerly being "by nature OBJECTS of wrath." I like the contrast this plays with verse 10. We go from being objects of wrath to God's workmanships--other translations state we are "God's masterpieces." That's through God's grace. I love the way some translations word this whole passage. In the first few verses, Paul talks about how we were once dead in our sin and gratifying our own sinful desires--we were objects of wrath. Then in verse four comes the turning point: BUT GOD made us alive in Christ. I love those words. "BUT GOD." Those words are full of such hope and promise. Mmm. I get cold chills thinking about it. It really is only by His grace that we can be or do anything.
That brings me to my point. Maybe. I tend to ramble, haven't you noticed? I'll bet you have. AHEM.
In verse 9, Paul reemphasizes that it's only by grace that we are saved, alive, etc. He points out that it is NOT BY OUR WORKS so that we can't boast about it.
And then in the very next verse, verse 10 (see above), Paul states that God gave us work to do. Hold up. Didn't he JUST say in the previous verse that our works are basically meaningless in regards to our salvation? It's not a contradiction. It's a clarification.
Works don't save us. I could write brilliant novels and lovingly take care of children and mow lawns for the elderly and make gourmet meals for the homeless or do any number of things that would qualify as work. They wouldn't do a thing for me. The thing is, though, that God did make work. According to Eph. 2:10, he prepared work for us to do.
Work doesn't save us, but it glorifies Him. I don't *think* that I'm counting on all the work I do to save me, but I think every Christian from time to time finds him/herself in that trap of wanting to "do things for God." God doesn't need us to do things for Him. God doesn't need anything.
God desires us. He chooses us. He uses us because He is good, not because there's anything good in us. The work He's given you and me doesn't have anything to do with saving us. It's what He's given us to do to glorify Him and further His Kingdom.
As I said in the previous post, my failing is that I am lazy. I want to do the things that honor me and build my kingdom(like sit around and wait for people to post on my facebook wall) instead of the work that honors God and builds His Kingdom. Nothing we have belongs to us, and when we really start to understand that, I think that's when we really start honoring God with our time, talents, and money.
Thank you, Lord, for making me--for making me Your masterpiece. I thank you for reminding me that I have no right to boast--all I have is from You. I ask that You keep breathing your creativity into me that I can spread the breath of You into the work that I do. Thank you for grace. I'm ever always in need of it.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how God gave Adam and Eve work to do, how that was part of the perfect world before The Fall of humanity. After Adam and Eve sinned, work became toilsome. I wonder what it was like before; I can only assume it was a pleasant thing. It was something God intended.
I love working with kids. I love my coworkers. I love my jobs. Please don't get me wrong there. It's just that sometimes when that alarm clock goes off in the morning, I don't like the idea of work. Sometimes when that child is throwing a tantrum (or throwing something else--AT MY HEAD!!!) I don't like the idea of work. Sometimes when I want to go do something fun with my friends and I can't do it because I'm a slave to someone else's schedule, I don't like the idea of work.
But work was never meant to be something we dreaded. Work was something God gave us. Right now, my problem isn't with my paying jobs. I'm LOVING all of them at the moment--even if I don't always want to do them. I'm blessed with amazing coworkers and precious children and wonderful parents--some of whom I think love me as much as I love them. I'm still adjusting to the stress of having three jobs pull at my time, but all in all, I'm very blessed in this wretched economy to have three jobs.
I wish things were going as well with my writing. I just started writing and editing again after a month or so of taking a break. It's been a lot harder to get back into it than I imagined. I'm not sure exactly what the problem is. I think that a part of it is just that I'm so busy working at paying jobs that I have little time to write. But that doesn't exactly excuse me. I get home from work and what's the first thing I do? I get online. I check my email. I check facebook. I check my blogs. I check twitter. I check facebook again. I check twitter again. I write a blog (or two). I check facebook again. I take a short break for dinner. I check facebook again. I check twitter again. I check my blogs again. I go back to facebook. It's amazing how I can waste 2-3 hours online and not even realize it.
The thing is, there is nothing wrong with social networking or blogging, just as there is nothing wrong with watching an occasional tv show. Nothing at all. The problem with it for me is that I spend too much time doing it when I could be doing more important things. Honestly, I've come to the realization that the reason I spend too much time online is because I'm very much interested in seeing what other people have to say to me or about me. I'm building MY kingdom.
...and all the while there's my writing. I believe God has given me my writing. I believe He's called me to it. It doesn't pay anything now, but it's important. It's something that God has given me to do, and I have faith that He will use it to build HIS Kingdom. Wasting time on the internet (furthering MY kingdom) is stealing time that could be used doing something that God's given me to do (furthering HIS Kingdom). How I work has a lot to do with how I worship.
This has been on my mind for some time. God has an interesting way of sending the same message to His children over and over and over until He gets it through our heads. I'm finally listening.
I ask you to pray for me as I learn how to balance my time. I ask you to pray that I make a concious effort to serve God with my time and talents. I ask that you pray that God will convict me when I try to further my kingdom instead of His.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Today with the kids was good therapy for me. Yesterday was not such a good day. I ended my "writing break" yesterday by literally breaking one of my Dragon Muses...again. (If you're confused, click HERE --and please follow Pneuman! He's getting depressed at the lack of followers!) I fixed him up all right, but yesterday was discouraging for other reasons. I started out with such high hopes yesterday. They crumbled when I started reading over my previous writing. For some reason, it just looked utterly dreadful to me yesterday. Now, today when I read over it, it wasn't as bad as it seemed yesterday. But yesterday I went from being on top of the world to the depths of despair in about 20 seconds.
That's probably one of the occupational hazards of being a writer.
I gave myself a lot of pep talks last night. I prayed through it this morning. I know it's a trust issue. I was trusting in myself again instead of trusting in God. Of COURSE things are going to look hopeless if I'm depending on me. That's because things ARE hopeless if I'm depending on me. Even with this knowledge, Satan still attacked. I remember driving to work this morning wondering, "Lord, why do You even want me to keep writing? It's not like I have anything to give You."
Then I went and hung out with those precious little children whom God made. And one of the little girls brought this picture book about Jesus to me. I don't get to share Jesus with the kids at one of my other jobs, so it's such an exciting thing when I'm actually encouraged to share Jesus with the kids. And I know these kids are so young that there's not much they can understand, but I think kids this age understand love better than a lot of adults I know.
So I was looking at the pictures of Jesus in the book and talking to the little girl about how much Jesus loved her. I turned to one of the pages. It was a picture of a little brown-eyed girl holding out three flowers to Jesus as he hugged her. The little girl I held also had brown eyes, and I was in the process of telling her how she looked like that little girl bringing flowers to Jesus. I was in the process of telling her how she could give things to Jesus, too. I was in the process of telling her how Jesus would love anything she brought Him because He loved her. I was in the process--but I had to stop because my eyes were starting to tear up.
That drawing of the little girl in that picture book all of the sudden became something deeply Spiritual to me. The little girl didn't make those flowers; God did. And when she was taking those flowers to Jesus, she was giving to Jesus something that essentially He had made--something that was already His. Yet it was evident from the smile on Jesus' face in the picture, it was evident from the way he embraced that little girl that He was immensely pleased with her gift. Perhaps the little girl was too innocent to understand that she was giving back to Jesus something that was already His. It doesn't matter whether she knew or not. Jesus was still pleased with the gift. More than that, He was pleased with His child.
This morning I read in Matthew 11: 25-26 "At that time Jesus said, 'I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.'"
It's so hard for me to understand the good pleasure of God. The things that make sense to us don't make sense to Him. His folly is wiser than any of man's wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20-31). And I'm fond of saying that I'm nothing more than a weak fool. I have nothing to give.
Yet God still gives me breath, and I still have to exhale. All I have is flowers to give to Jesus. It's nothing I made. But it still gives Him good pleasure when I offer it to Him. And those flowers become something much more precious in His hands than they ever were in mine.
The first line of a song I wrote a while back goes like this: "Countless watercolor paintings line Your refridgerator door for in Your eyes our worthless praises, they become something more."
Our offerings are as worthless as we are because we didn't make them anymore than we made ourselves. If anything, we've spent most of our lives unmaking what God originally made to be good. But our offerings have worth because He values them. He values them because He values us.
We're His kids.
Father, help me keep bringing my flowers to You, and may their fragrance be sweet because of Your good pleasure.
Friday, September 10, 2010
The really interesting thing is that on Tuesday, I start a new job. I'm going to be working with my church's preschool three days a week. That will mean I'll be working THREE jobs in the childcare field. I'm going to be doing this while also trying to balance writing/editing/querying into the mix. In other words, you might want to stick around and watch me over the next few months. I have a feeling my brain will soon explode and cause a fairly impressive display of some kind.
Yay! Fireworks! Ooh. Pretty.
The thing is, I'm not really sure if I've learned much from this writing break that I can put into words. I was able to read a few books and get some different perspective. I was able to really think about whether I wanted to just try to self-publish or continue to try to find a literary agent. But really, regarding querying, I still have little clue of what I need to do or how I need to do it.
I don't think taking a break was a bad idea. I needed to reevaluate some things. The thing is, though, writing is just like everything else. There isn't a step-by-step process of how to do it. It took me thirty years to realize that people who achieve what they want didn't start out knowing how to achieve it. Maybe the way to succeed when I don't know what I'm doing is to research as much as possible, then just do something and see what happens. If I make mistakes, I learn. If I do something right, I learn. The way someone else did it isn't necessarily the way it's going to work for me.
I decided to go through several of my old disorganized notebooks the other night. These notebooks contained some forgotten short stories and some truly wretched poetry...and also many, many prayers. I write down my prayers because I communicate and focus better when I'm writing. When I write, I think I might be more myself than when I'm not writing. It only makes sense that my most intimate communication with God should be written. Anyway, I came across some of my prayers from a couple of years ago--back when I'd just gotten done with my first draft of my first book. I prayed then that the Lord would do with my writing what He wanted to do with it IN HIS TIMING and IN HIS WAY. That book has gone through SEVERAL revisions. It's much shorter and much better than it was originally. It's changed and I've changed. God hasn't changed. I believe He's still working in these stories and working in me. I believe that IN HIS TIMING and IN HIS WAY He will honor my efforts to reveal my writing to the world.
It will most likely not be how I expect.
It will most likely be in a way I can't imagine.
It will most definitely only be possible with His help.
I'm not sure what the next few months will bring. I really hope the next few months do not involve my head exploding or bursting into stress-induced flames. I don't know if I'll find an agent or just learn a lot by trying.
But Monday is coming, and even though I'm not sure I'm ready, I'm going to face it head on. I don't know what will happen, but I know something will happen. I can be a passive writer no longer. The break is almost over.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Anyway, I can easily help "The Princess" with all of her homework, since most if it is still on my level. Right now, she's just coming out of kindergarten (and a long summer break in which I did not make her practice her writing/reading enough), so she's practicing writing simple words like "a," "at," "the," "me," etc.
The past two days I've asked "The Princess" to do her homework. You'd think I was torturing the child. She comes home from school and starts complaining about how long it will take her to do her homework. She eats a snack. She stalls. She sits at the table. She stalls. She cries. She stalls. She pounds the table with her head--literally. I try to reason with her, but she doesn't seem to grasp the simple concept that if she'd just go ahead and START her homework, she would be done with it sooner. Homework that would take her about 10 minutes becomes an hour long ordeal.
The other day, I was trying to help her start her homework. I suggested she write some of her words down. It was a list of 10 words, all four letters long or less. She looked at me helplessly and dramatically exclaimed, "THAT'S TOO MANY WORDS!"
At this point, I really made her mad by busting out laughing. She demanded to know why I was laughing. I said to her as kindly as possible, "Sweetheart, I have written three grown-up chapter books. Don't tell me that this is too many words."
Anyway, I've been taking a break from writing for a while. I have about a week left of it, and then I'm going to have to start trying to get my first book published again. I'm going to have to send out query letters. I'm dreading this.
I have the temptation to look up at God helplessly and exclaim, "THIS IS TOO HARD FOR ME!" Only I'm not too mad when He laughs kindly and says, "But, sweetheart, nothing is too hard for me."
I know that I'm going to sit down to start sending my queries. I'll want to cry. I'll want to pound my fists on the table. I'll want to complain about how long it'll take me to find an agent. I'll want to make up excuses not to try. I'll want to go through every possible reason why I'll most likely not get published. "I'm an unknown writer! No agent will want me!" "My writing is unusual and probably sucks." "I don't know what I'm doing! Why did I think I could do this?" "What if aliens invade the planet and erase every copy of my book, and then steal my brain so I can't write it all over again!?"
The thing is, if I would just sit down and trust God and GET IT DONE, it wouldn't be such an ordeal for me. So I still ask for prayer. The reading break I've taken has been immensely helpful and refreshing. Now it's time to work again. There aren't too many words; I just have to be dilligent to do what needs to be done.
Lord, let not my hands be idle, nor my heart be unstirred.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
Last night was one of these times. I only wrote a few paragraphs, but something interesting happened. It's a strange thing that has happened before, but it always takes me by surprise. It always serves to both strengthen me and humble me.
Let me back up a bit before I continue. Let me just go ahead and back up about a decade, give or take a couple years.
When I was about nineteen, I had a crisis of faith. I'd been a Christian for about ten-twelve years; I'm one of those people who isn't sure exactly when I was saved--but I think it was somewhere around the age of seven, even though I wasn't baptized until I was nine. But at nineteen, I wasn't sure what I believed about God anymore. I wasn't sure what I believed about anything anymore. There finally came a point when I shut myself up in my little brother's treehouse (seriously, the only place I could find privacy) and left notes for my family to leave me alone until I was ready to come out. I took with me my Bible, a notebook, a pen, and all my doubts and questions and fears. Then, I did business with God.
I was very honest with God about everything I struggled with. Even with all the blessings in my life, for some reason, I just couldn't find a reason to keep believing in what I had always known to be true. So then I told God, "I don't think I can believe in You anymore."
I was an atheist...
...for about ten minutes.
I sat alone in that treehouse trying to contemplate what this new life of disbelief would mean for me. I discovered it was kind of boring.
So I picked up my notebook and started flipping through it. I'm not even sure why--probably just because it was there and I wanted something to do. My eyes fell upon a poem I had written probably about a week or two prior. I read the words and had the unusual realization that I had not written that poem.
It was in my handwriting. I remembered the occasion when it had been written. I remembered sitting out and watching the sunset and taking the pen into my hand. I remember moving the pen across the paper. But the words of that poem were foreign to me; the words of that poem were beautiful. It was a poem of praise and wonder and simple, pure love.
And I didn't write it.
So I got down on my knees and shed tears of joy for the knowledge that I had a reason to believe. God had not abandoned me as it seemed. Rather, He was trying to teach me something through a dark period of my life by seeming distant. He wasn't really distant. I believed, and my faith became stronger than it had ever been before. God wrote through me.
He still writes through me today.
Let's come back to the present now.
Last night, I only wrote a few paragraphs on a short story. When I looked back over the words that had come out of my pen, I read such truth in them. I knew that I had not written them.
Now, I have been told that writing cannot be a Spiritual Gift because it's not listed as a Spiritual Gift anywhere in Scripture. I'm not sure where I stand on that. I don't know if the Spiritual Gifts listed in Scripture are the only ones that a person can have. I don't want to speculate too much on that, because honestly, I don't think it really matters.
For whether or not my writing is a Spiritual Gift or not, I know for certain that there are times when I'm not the one in control of my writing. It's both humbling and inspiring to know that I'm not the one in control. It means that I can't take credit for it, but it also means that I don't have to worry. If God is in control instead of me, then that takes a huge burden off of me. I can't do anything without Him, but nothing is impossible for Him.
And just as I'm confident that He is writing through me, I'm confident that in His timing, He will bring my writing to completion. He is using me; He is using my writing. He will use me; He will use my writing. I don't know if that means I'll get a literary agent and a huge book contract and have a huge following. I don't know if that means I'll go to a lowscale publisher and just have a few faithful readers.
If one person comes to the knowledge of Christ through my writing, if one person comes to a stronger realization of who Jesus is, if one person gains strength or encouragement or a greater understanding of the truth through what the Lord has written through me...
...it will all be worth it.
Soli Deo Gloria.