Tag Archives: Writing

Punching my gremlins in the face

WritingThere’s something I haven’t told you because I’ve been fearful. I thought I was being humble. But this past weekend I attended the 2015 Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference, which turned into two-day therapy-retreat where I cried a lot and got really depressed before I became inspired. I was hindered to inspiration because I was blocked by truth.

I sat in a guided writing experience with Micah J. Murray,  where we called out our snippy inner-gremlins and fought against them by writing a fan letter to ourselves. I wasn’t going to read mine out loud because my gremlins told me that everyone else’s letter was way better, that I would be self-centered if I volunteered, and that everyone would think mine was stupid. I punched my gremlins in the face by volunteering to read mine.

I read my letter and I was okay; people liked it.  Micah asked me to read it again. The second time I read it, I wasn’t okay. I began to cry and could barely get through the dang thing without snotting all over it. I got mad(ish) at Micah, “Why did you make me read this again? Look at what you made me do!”  He had called me to a place of public vulnerability–then asked if the group could pray for me. He asked the sweet girl next to me, Michelle, to lay a hand on me and pray. And pray she did, so beautifully and tearfully. This was a powerful moment that I didn’t understand in the moment.

In this same class, a gentleman, Sovann Penn (@SovannPenn), read his letter. He said to himself, “You have been mistaking fear for humility far too long… you have friends who are awesome and believe in you.” This stuck with me the rest of the day the same way a rock gets stuck inside your shoe.

That night in the main session, author Emily Freeman said: “I want to write like a hostess. A hostess doesn’t leave her guests to go call all the people who RSVP’ed “no” to find out why the didn’t come and why they don’t like her. That’s crazy. I want to write like a hostess, not a crazy person.” This put another rock in my shoe, and I went home feeling depressed, annoyed, and uncertain if I would be back the next day. I snuggled up to my husband and blubbered all over him with no words to express what was wrong with me.

I woke up the next morning with the very clear voice of the Holy Spirit:

“You’ve been mistaking fear for humility; you’re missing out on the full experience of the gift you’ve been given and the ministry in which you have been invited to participate. You are scared of people rejecting you, mocking you, and being angry with you, yet in all the things I’ve given you to write never once have you experienced what you fear. Not even in your most public confessions of sin. You are a lovely hostess with many guests I’ve brought to you because they can hear you; your translation from the Kingdom to the guests is good! But you leave them so you can wait by the phone for the “no” RSVP’s to call. They aren’t calling… and you’re missing the party! You have faithful friends, family, and even strangers who believe in you, but most importantly I believe in you. I have work for you if you’re willing; the fruit will be good and beautiful if you will trust Me.”

Here’s what I want to tell you:

I’ve spent the last 14 years pouring into and editing the stories of others, defining myself as an editor and merely dabbling in my craft as a “wet-noodle” writer. I confess that while I adore, honor, and value other people’s stories, I’ve been using editing as a way to avoid the true work God has for me–writing. I have been fearful of stepping into the public arena of vulnerability, giving power to voices of the gremlins and cloaking my fear in humility so as to justify my place behind the scenes (which, incidentally, is where an editor works. How convenient.)

Yes, some of my recent writings have been more confessional and vulnerable (evidence of God’s effort in coaxing me out into the arena), but I can tell you they were published in trembling obedience and reluctant submission.

I surrender with humble declaration that I am writer. I write creative non-fiction about real-life, my story, and God’s unwavering persistence to be the anchor for both. I translate through written words what I hear, see, and feel from God so I can better understand the purpose he has for me, how I can live that purpose for His glory, and how I can invite others to discover the same for their lives. My prayer always, dear reader, is that through my experiences, you find yourself encouraged, inspired, and invited into a Kingdom that is safe and welcoming, and promises purposeful life no matter how broken you are. You are loved unconditionally. And so am I.

God gave me my first assignment in January– a children’s book called The Hungry Garden. It’s an alphabet book the Hungry Gardenthat explores the ordinary to extraordinary food that gardens grow and why these foods are so exciting. It comes with a 26-recipe “snack book” that parents and children can use in their kitchen to be creative with food. I have completed the first draft of the main manuscript, and I am currently developing and testing the recipes.

I never wanted to write a book, let alone a children’s book . . . let alone a children’s book about food.  I didn’t feel qualified. But as I have been following His lead on this project, it’s becoming more clear that as a recovering anorexic patient, I understand the fear of food intimately. I know what it feels like to see food in front of me that looks scary, smells weird, and would certainly be the worst thing ever if I ate it. As a child of God living with an eating disorder, I can relate to children in a way others cannot. Only God can orchestrate such a unique connection.

I look forward to sharing with you the nutty things that have happened since beginning this process, along with the mysteries and surprises I encounter as I journey forward. I promise not to hold back anymore! I am joining the party and will step into the arena as my name is called.

And those grumpy gremlins? Well, they aren’t invited.

 

When faith and culture don't line up

I think every writer should have a place where they can be divinely inspired in their craft by other writers. For me that place is the Faith and Culture Writers Conference here in Portland. Here’s a bit of my writer’s story (guest blogged on the Faith and Culture blog) and how my life changed when I met Wm. Paul Young, author of The Shack. Enjoy!

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If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “So when are you going to write a book?” I would be a kazillionaire.

My response is: “As soon as God gives me a book to write.”  Usually my remark elicits a reply of, “Oh” or simply a blank stare. Somehow the qualification for being a writer has come to mean either one has written or is writing a book and/or is also published or seeking to be published. Well, if this is the case then I guess I am not a writer because not only haven’t I written a book, but I don’t want to.

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Peggy Piper's Lucky Day (blog hop story)

Mandatory words: ostrich, binder, spoon, schedule, bottle

Mandatory words: ostrich, binder, spoon, schedule, bottle

Above is the blog hop writer’s prompt given last week; below is my story that goes with it. Enjoy!

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Little Peggy Piper put a penny in her shoe because she’d heard that’s what all the lucky people do.

“I wonder what kind of luck a penny brings. Maybe a pair of skates or a dog that sings?”

A dog that sings would be such a delight, she thought, as she tucked down the penny and laced her sneaker tight.

Strolling through the park her luck began, when before her eyes appeared an ostrich with feathers of grey and tan.  It was enormous and awkward in front of Peggy Piper, who’d never seen such a bird let alone one that was so hyper!

It fluttered its plumage in obvious distress, “Pardon me, little Miss,” it said, “Can you please help me find this address?” It rose up its foot holding a scrap of paper with instructions to arrive on the corner of 4th and Caper.

Peggy was in awe yet knew she shouldn’t speak to strangers, but could this talking ostrich really be a danger?

“Sure, I’ll help you,” she said, “I have a map in my binder.”

“Oh! Thank you!” exclaimed the ostrich, “I bet you are a good address finder!”

Pulling off her backpack and kneeling to the ground, Peggy dug out the map when the ostrich let out a gasping sound.

“Oh my! I don’t mean to pry, but what is that bottle inside your bag?”

Peggy peeked inside and discovered a bottle of Dr. Fizzy Jag.

“That’s my favorite soda pop! How’d that get in there? There is so much luck in the air!”

The ostrich replied, “You are very lucky, indeed. That’s the soda we magic animals need.”

“Where did you come from anyway?” asked Peggy Piper. “Meeting a talking bird has made my day!”

“I must get to this address, so I’ll tell you on the way,” promised the ostrich, “but first, please, I need a drink of your soda, would that be okay?”

Peggy Piper tipped up the bottle to her feathered friend, and couldn’t believe this wasn’t pretend!

“We must be on our way,” said the ostrich, “for I am behind schedule. Climb on my back and we’ll get there on the double!”

The ostrich explained magic animals come at the third full moon, but humans rarely see them because their senses are not in tune. The soda is used for magic’s fuel, for it is the most essential time-travel tool. It’s best to fill up on a soda-sundae with sprinkles and a spoon, but straight from the bottle works fine too.

“It’s time for us to go home and traveling together is so much safer, which is why I must get to the corner 4th and Caper.”

“We’re almost there,” said Peggy Piper, “I wish you could stay.”

“Me too, dear child, but I’ll be back again another day.”

They arrived at the corner and the ostrich was soon on his way.

Peggy Piper thought as she watched him leave, “Wow! A talking ostrich is no dog that sings, but what luck my penny did bring!”

 

 

 

Coming back from where I've been

I miss writing–the tappita-tap rhythm of the letters under my fingers forming the words I see appearing on my page. I love the feeling of discovery as I unpack my heart, hear it in my mind, and see it all materialize before me in prose.

July was a rough month. I’ve been trying to stay positive and keep things in perspective because millions of people experience much harsher circumstances and situations and illnesses than I do. Every time I had even a spare slit of time to write, I couldn’t bring myself to do it  because what was living inside me was dark–as evidenced by the post I wrote on July 10. But man–I finally just had to acknowledge that what I am going through was and is really hard for me.

So, I’m writing about it because I am a writer–that is who and what God made me to be.

I was sick in July. The whole month. In addition to managing my day-to-day normalcies like, raising my children, loving my husband, managing my household, and editing manuscripts, I was battling my diseases. Celiac disease and anorexia.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder wherein my body literally attacks itself (specifically the small intestine) when it encounters gluten. The attack permanently damages the villi lining the intestine. These little hair-like “thingys” are what allow my body to absorb nutrients from food. No villi, no nutrients–no easy way to thrive.

Celiac disease is not part of the gluten-free fad our country is experiencing. It falls under the umbrella of “gluten intolerance,” but it is a damaging, life-long (incurable) disease that can be serious if not managed well. Fortunately, it’s a disease that can be managed through a gluten-free diet–which isn’t as easy as it sounds (at least not at first) especially because my diagnoses also comes with “leaky gut.” In addition to gluten free, I’ve had to go dairy-free, corn-free, and soy-free. I’ve had to be extremely careful with even the naked-est and natural-est of foods.

I also battle anorexia, so living with a restricted diet isn’t new to me. In a jacked up kind of way, celiac disease actually soothes my anorexic mind while wreaking havoc on my physical body. However, this last month, in my effort actually live well and find a state of peaceful health, the two diseases clashed.  While trying to feed my body–safe nourishing, whole foods my mind didn’t fear–my body was literally rejecting most everything I ate, and I was in constant pain. Not surprisingly, I dropped a little weight.

The last two weeks I have been slowly getting better. With the help of my health coach, I adjusted my supplements and my diet and it has helped my body get back on track to feeling well again. Feeling ill while trying to engage normal life is hard. Simple as that.

As I reflect back on the the harshness of July, though, I cannot help but notice some really cool things that happened in the midst of my dis-ease.

~July 5, I fell ill. In the midst of horrid stomach pain and severe nausea, I had an entire date-day with God. He bought me flowers (more on this soon).

~ July 6th, I bought my first guitar and have been teaching myself to play every Learning Guitar
single day. I’ve learned five chords so far! I love guitar because the sound is so moving and pleasant to my soul. My dad was instrumental (pun intended) in helping me pick the perfect guitar for me and I will treasure the experience forever (more on this soon).

~July 9, I joined a women’s Bible study at my church called Saying Yes to God. All I can say right now is God is calling me out (I think) and has asked me to do something big and uncomfortable. I am gathering the courage to say “yes.”

~July 12 (two days after posting my confessional piece), my best friend came over unexpectedly with flowers and a moving profession of her sister-love for me. She loved and cared about me so much that she had inquired with a crisis center to learn how she could reach out and help me. It was a tough conversation but so reaffirming of our 15-year friendship. My husband and I followed through on her concern, and I had an over-the-phone assessment of my state of  mind and health. I was deemed okay to continue my current mental health treatment without inpatient care.

~July 14, I finished editing the memoir of a woman whose husband was miraculously healed of his terminal illness only to tragically lose her precious little daughter, who was conceived with the intent to be a living testimony of God’s healing. The stories of her husband and daughter are interwoven to reveal a moving message about God’s divine healing and gift of grief. I won’t ever look at death the same again.

~July 19, my son turned 8. I celebrated my 8-year mama-versary. There is no greater gift than God entrusting us as parents and caregivers with his youngest treasures.  I love being a mother!

~July 23, I finished editing a 250,000 word sci-fi novel (797 pages of story). It Theendtook me 12 weeks. Biggest and most challenging project I’ve ever edited.

~July 27, I finished editing a memoir of a woman who tells her story of the bright sides of battling breast cancer. I still don’t want cancer, but I am inspired to fight a good fight if I ever become diagnosed.

~July 28, I finally (after searching for over a year) met a doctor I trust who is willing to take me seriously. She’s collecting all the information from all my specialists, learning my case, and investing in me. I feel secure and hopeful.

Today, August 1, I feel like I am coming out of a fog. My stomach feels good, my energy is returning, and I feel like I can breathe again. I am tired, yet I am filled to the brim with introspection. I’ve simply given you an outline of what happened in July, but I carry within me a book’s-worth of  stories, insight, and learning. I am itching to write it all down and discover what it all means. 🙂

 

Itch Relief: My Writing Process

When my friend and fellow blogger, Tony Roberts, invited me to participate in a community blog roll wherein we reveal our writing processes, I felt honored to be included yet completely stumped. My process is as automatic as getting dressed in the morning. I don’t think about it, I just do it. This was a good challenge–taking the time to think about how I write and consciously engaging the process as I wrote about it.

It starts with an itch… like the wiggly kind you can’t quite reach. The only way for me to relieve the itch is to scratch words down on paper, yet I can’t always quite reach the words–wiggling to distinguish what I want to write versus what I need to write.

I often don’t have the creative relief to write what I want until I’ve explored and written what I need to first. Although sometimes, if I’m lucky, they are one in the same!

The process goes one of two ways.

DoingwhatIdo1)  I simply sit down and start free-writing about what I want to say. If the words flow onto the page as quickly as my thoughts speak, then I enjoy the ride. I tend to self-edit as I write, lecturing myself not to—encouraging my brain to “just get the words down.” But I never listen.

Once I have a solid draft, I go back and edit, tweaking and deleting, adding and moving, discovering and learning—trusting my instincts and letting the message crystallize as it needs to.

Then I go back and read it out loud. Sometimes I cheat and just mouth the words. (I curse my laziness later when my husband finds an error.) The final round of editing goes through my husband. He gets the honor and spousal duty of making sure I don’t embarrass myself ( I am a professional editor, but I’m also human) and soothing my insecurity that perhaps the piece is worthless—dumb, irrelevant and unlikely to be read by anyone. He usually finds my work valuable, intelligent, completely relevant and most definitely a crowd-pleaser.

I consider myself lucky when a piece is born this way. Otherwise, I usually find myself laboring and wiggling down path number two.

2)  I try to sit down and write what I want, but I experience creative constipation—I feel the need to write but the words won’t come. The words I want to write aren’t ready yet, which means something else needs to be written first.

I go through a period of rumination, which can last from hours to weeks. I think,Ponderingwindow I read, I pray, I listen to music, I stare out the window. I lean into life to hear what it has to say. I take notes–writing down words, phrases, sentences into my journal or type them in a Word document. I wrestle with my thoughts out loud, engaging in deeper conversations with close friends, my mom, and my husband. I add to my written notes the feelings, thoughts, and expressions I feel in response to my conversations.

I begin to arrange my notes like pieces of a puzzle. I start handwriting a first draft, usually attempting the first line multiple times before reminding myself that Anne Lamott is an advocate for the “shitty first draft.” I trust her. So I push myself to just. Get. The. Words. Down.

And then, as random as a snowstorm in August, the discovery of what I needed to learn pushes through, unclogging the literary blockage and allowing me the creative relief I need to write freely. What I need to write becomes what I want to write.

I start all over again, this time with my message clear and passionate and unrelenting in prosical itch—and thus I engage in process number one.

Regardless of which journey I take, I birth writing that isn’t always necessarily what I set out to write in the first place because something beautifully unbeknownst to me reveals itself in the process. That is why I write—to discover and learn and share… and to relieve the itch to understand my world and how I feel about it.

I’d like to introduce to you two more bloggers who I admire in the writing craft. Tena Carr who inspires persistence in practice and Debb Stanton who offers an effervescence in both voice and consistency. Enjoy!


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Tena Carr: While hesitant to call herself a “writer,” Tena enjoys  spinning stories within her own mind  and blogging a bit of this and that as ideas pop into her mind.   She is both a wife and a mother dealing with the joys of an up and coming teenager.  Her biggest interest lies in that of the Fire/EMS Service and her thoughts are never far from there and those who work (paid or volunteer) in said field.
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DebbStantonHeadshot

Debb Stanton: I wear the hats of dental claims clerk, writer, blogger, wife, cat mom, cancer survivor, cancer advocate, and Mrs. Sunshine.  🙂  I recently ordered business cards that add to the list:  speaker to groups about any of the above subjects.