Posts

Hurry Up and Wait

I sent my novel to an agent on Friday. She’d requested the full manuscript, and I’d worked all through the holiday season to get it ready because I told her I would. I ended up making my goal just after the New Year and was ready to ship it. Before hitting send, I re-read the first few pages, just to, you know, tweak it a thing or two.

Then something happened. I kept tweaking, page after page after page. Before I knew it, the first of the year had turned into the middle of January. Then the third week (heaven help me).

I started freaking out. I was going past the “deadline” I’d given myself and the agent. But the more I edited, the more I thought, “I’m so glad I’m doing this. I didn’t notice that plot hole the second time around. How could I not have seen that??” Also, I thought, “This will never end. I’m in writer purgatory.”

photo of person pressing the button of pedestrian box
Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

Anyway, I got through those edits and, this time, I ran spell check and hit send before I could go crazy again.

Now my novel sits in the ether, and I sit on my bed with no pressing deadlines and, therefore, no raison d’etre (kidding, kind-of). It’s true I don’t know what to do with myself now that I have nothing to do but wait.

This is how it is in so much of life–work and then wait. Work and then wait some more. Knowing this is completely normal helps me get through. I’m telling myself as long as the waiting doesn’t involve tons of Twitter, I might just be okay.

Saying Yes to We

I’m something of a loner–not a complete hermit, mind you (though I eat in my bedroom, sometimes)–but someone who, shall we say, enjoys her solitude. That’s not likely to change any time soon. And yet I’ve been thinking about the trap of spending too much time in one’s own mind. Is it possible I could get lost in my head?

My sisters had an idea of collaborating on a blog where we share ongoing, three-way conversations about life. Committing to it would, of course, mean sharing creative control. It would mean responding to something other than my own whimsy. It might be complicated. But could it keep me grounded?

fullsizeoutput_2309

And then I watched this documentary about two people who wanted to “explore” their own minds (in, admittedly, controversial ways). One of them ended up making a train wreck out of his family life. The other managed to stay engaged in the physical world even after wacky forays into his own mental “universe.”

The whole thing felt like a giant parable: If you stay in your mind you will fail the people you love. If you never press in further than your to-do list, however, you will not truly live.

Back to my bedroom: I can only spend so much time here. I can only spend so many hours musing, writing, letting my eyes blur. I need time to think and pray, of course. But too much time in this isolated space is dangerous–not just for me but for the ones I love.

So I said yes to the collaborative blog. I don’t know what we’ll end up saying, exactly. But, at the very least, it’ll be a conversation, not a monologue. And that’s a good place to start.

The Misery of Writing For Others

I was the last person in America to have never seen the movie version of Stephen King’s Misery. Last week, my sister recommended it to me because, she said, it’s hilarious.

Remembering It and Cujo, I was a little skeptical, but I trust this girl’s judgement implicitly.

“It will not remotely push you over the edge,” she said. “There’s a little gore at the end, but it’s cheesy.”

MV5BMTQwMzg0MzI2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMTcyODI1NA@@._V1_

Good, because you know I can’t do lifelike horror, I said.

I rented the movie, and she was right. It was darkly hilarious. Also, it was a warning to writers everywhere: Write for yourself or die.

The age-old argument remains alive on the internet, though. You should

  • Write what you want. Anything else is selling out.
  • Write what THEY want and sell books for $$ (but maybe not like it).
  • Write what YOU want but don’t expect anyone to read your endless dream sequences.

Stephen King has managed to write what people like and what he likes, I guess. Above all, though, he seems to be saying, go with your gut when it comes to writing or the whole business may end up killing you (or at least breaking your ankles).

Noted, Stephen. Noted.

 

If You Can’t Write Anything Useful, Don’t Write Anything at All

It’s popular, in some circles, to deny the existence of writer’s block.

Butt in chair! Don’t wait for the muse! Treat writing like a job! they say.

They’re mostly right. Writers can usually conquer the blank screen by typing words in succession, asking ourselves what if? and then what happened? We can work ourselves out of a jam. That is, if we’re writing fiction.

activity adventure blur business
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

You know when this “just do it” stuff doesn’t work–at least for me? When it comes to blogging.

I think the reason for this is that the blogging world has become so crowded that, if you do have a blog  and you want people to read what you write, you feel an enormous pressure to say something useful. Give readers a takeaway, an actionable step.

Right now.

I see a lot of bloggers copying other bloggers’ “useful ideas,” almost verbatim, because they’ve bought into this idea that the appearance of added value is more important than any sort of originality or creativity. The way to get readers, they’ve been told, is to do how-to posts.

  • Short ‘n’ sweet
  • Bullet points.
  • Two picture minimum.
black and white clear cool dew
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I, for one, cannot force myself to say something useful. Sometimes I do, but it’s often by accident. So I stare at the blank screen. I can’t think of a single thing to say that someone hasn’t already said.

This is not useful. There is nothing to take away.

But it’s true.

My Own Cheerleader

I hope all of you had a restful holiday season. For Christians, it’s the time when we reflect on the lengths God was willing to go to in order to begin undoing the horror of this world. For others, it’s simply a time to hang with family and friends and eat a lot. In any case, it’s a time many of us want to enjoy but are secretly glad when it’s over. Because routines.

I mentioned before that I made the foolish choice to work on novel edits all through the month of December because I’d promised an agent I’d send her a full manuscript after the first of the year. It was a stressful and hard thing to do, and sometimes I had to set the work aside in order to really be with the people I love (without that glazed look in my eye).

Stuff happened in December, too, that threatened to derail my editing–things that had nothing to do with Christmas. For one, my beloved Frodo hurt his eye pretty bad and we had to rush to the vet on Christmas Eve. He sustained permanent damage. I cried. My novel languished.

PSX_20160907_095857

But I finished the draft today. I saved the last chapter on the computer, swallowed the lump in my throat and tucked it away. I need to savor this moment because no one cares about it but me. Also, I need to celebrate this accomplishment because I could send it to the aforementioned agent and she might very well say, “That’s nice. Not for me.”

The joy could evaporate with a single email, and then I will have to regroup. When the sting wears away.

So I’m not rushing. I’m sitting with this quiet joy for as long as it lasts.

P.S. Happy New Year.

 

 

The Gift of Good

You probably have as much time to read as I do to write, so I’ll make this brief.

We all know the Internet can be an endless tunnel of trivia and despair. But, like a lot of things we love to hate or hate to love, it can also be a source of inspiration.

macro shot photography of tea candles
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

If you need a little hit of happy, check out this list of 18 beautiful moments in 2018. It’s written from a Christian perspective, but you don’t have to be one to appreciate many of the movie, music, and book recommendations (or the clips of uplifting television moments).

Enjoy!

 

A Book Lover’s Guide to Minimalism

I’m a bit of a minimalist. (I say ‘a bit’ because some minimalists don’t believe in owning a second pair of pants. I’m not that kind). I donate huge bags of stuff I cull from the house at least twice a year. My teenagers know the drill.

animal big standing fur
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

Me: It’s time.

Teens: We’ve already gone through our drawers.

Me: What about your shelves?

Teens: You brought these things back from Africa.

Me: Okay, not those. Do you have anything you haven’t used in a year?

Teens: No.

Me: Six months?

Teens: No.

Me: Two weeks? One day?

Teens: Can we talk to Dad?

But you know what I wish I had more of–always, no matter what?

Books. Not ebooks, physical books. I like giving them as gifts, and I love receiving them.

Ebooks aren’t going anywhere, I realize. They’re convenient to purchase. They don’t take up space. They’re dirt cheap, and I have a billion of them on my eReader at the moment.

But real books are different. They’re permanent. They don’t glow. They take on the shape you give them as you work your way through their pages. They feel and smell like memories (or promises, if they’re brand new). They can be shared, hand-to-hand. They can be stared at as you let your mind drift. They help you read better.

woman reading harry potter book
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

If you’re a minimalist like me, and the thought of extra items around the house makes you itch, consider this: shoes, old kitchen appliances, sports gear, electronics, sweaters, picture frames, toys, and pants take up more space than a 300 page book. If you must (and I, for one, must), purge your house of all those items. But, please, make room for some books this Christmas.

Authors everywhere will thank you.

 

 

The Forgotten Art of Longform Reading

Sometimes you stumble across an article that smacks you in the face because it articulates something you knew was true but hadn’t allowed yourself to think about.

That was this article for me. (Merry Christmas, Anne Bogel, for hurting me with the truth).

The author of the article says people aren’t reading deeply and patiently anymore. But he knows that isn’t news. Researchers have been noting it for a while. What surprises him (and me) is that this isn’t just true for digital natives, but for those of us who mostly grew up without the internet.

It gets real when he admits that he can’t read a chapter of a good novel anymore without fighting the urge to check his phone after two paragraphs. Even when he tells himself he will not check his phone, the internet, or his email, he is thinking about those things, not the sentences on the page. He wants to cry or rip up a phonebook (remember those?) because, as a writer, words are his life. And lots of them strung together don’t hold his attention anymore.

woman using smartphone and laptop near black table
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

If he can’t read, we are all in big trouble.

He says we are. Some of us won’t admit our boredom and distractibility because of pride, of course, but we’re all forgetting how to read well.

I, for one, am admitting it. I find it increasingly difficult to sustain the discipline of longform reading, and I’m worried. As a Christian, I need to be able to read Scripture deeply. I need to be able to sit patiently in prayer. I need to ruminate.

On the less existential side, I need to read well to write well.

And it’s getting harder.

Don’t even get me started on my digital native kids. We’ve always homeschooled, and I swear they’ve read more books in their short lives than I ever did at their age. But even they admit it’s starting to feel more like a chore to read for pleasure now that they have phones, take online classes, and play Fortnite with friends.

Thousands of words over 300 pages aren’t looking so good these days.

Someone come up with a 5-step plan to fix this, stat, because I don’t want my brain to change in this way. I would go off Twitter (after having been on for approximately 45 seconds) if I thought that would help.

But somehow I doubt it will.

 

I Will Survive (NaNoEdMo)

I’m supposed to edit 33 chapters of my novel to send to an agent by the first of the year. Yes, during the holiday season. I told myself there’s never a good or bad time to work on edits. I hope I’m right.

man in santa claus costume
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

To cope with holiday merriment, work, teens, and crippling deadlines I’m sleeping–a lot. This is because, for me, the only alternative stress response is to sleep too little. And I’m too old to sleep too little.

I was going to try to NaNoEdMo myself during the month of December (which means butt in chair every day, no exceptions), but I soon realized I’ll only make it out alive if I take off one day per week.

No editing on Sundays.

Not gonna lie, it’s exhilarating to see the number of remaining chapters shrink. I need a good probiotic, of course, but it feels mostly good to be in my manuscript so relentlessly.

Still, other things have to give in order for me to make this deadline. Not family stuff, but some of my ideals. For instance, I bought all my Christmas gifts online from big box stores in a two-hour period on Cyber Monday, and it’s likely I’ve already forgotten what I purchased.

It wasn’t cozy. I didn’t feel like Christmas.

But, listen, we can do anything for a month, right?

**You should forget NaNoEdMo and try NaNoWriMo sometime**