Rejection

Rejection

When I was growing up I was not one of the “cool” kids. Writers usually are not the social butterflies who instinctively enter the center of the group. We are generally just on the outside of the group observing and considering. Our reflective nature is suited to the outskirts. This makes us more sensitive to rejection. Unfortunately, rejection is a key component of writing.

We are required to submit pieces of our souls to publishers in hopes that they may be accepted. It is ruthlessly impersonal and yet to the writer it is the most personal experience. This is what makes it so hard for many of us to hit the send button. For the person on the other end it is simply a business decision based on recent publishing and market demand. Knowing that it is not a rejection of one’s self does not make it much easier. It takes enormous courage to share your writing at all. Submitting it for publication is brutal. The greatest success is to keep showing up and to keep sending. The history of publication is filled with bestseller a that were rejected time after time. We keep repeating to ourselves that rejection is not a reflection of our skill. Keeping the faith is an act of heroic stubbornness.

Endless little roadblocks seem to litter the paths of the writer. Even in blogging the travails never cease. I am entering the third week of repeated loss of my home internet access. The simple or the great difficulties can stop us if we believe it is about ourselves. I would give up and try something more accessible if I believed it was about my words reaching an audience. The reason I am committed this time is that I have come to believe that it is not my words that matter. This is about allowing God to use my words to do His will.

Onward I press because I carry a gift in this humble jar of clay. I have met the “light” and I am obligated to shine His light to the best of my ability. My cracks are tools that He can use to get more light out. Fortunately He is an expert in working miracles. So, I’m a day late, submitting this for your approval, dear reader, I am sitting in a hospital waiting room, so I can use the wifi while my sister does physical therapy. I have no idea why this is so complicated, but the One I love must have a plan. So many little things in life can interfere with our desire to tell others about God and His incredible love for mankind. Things are just a bit upside-down right now, including the pic on the link-up. I guess more cracks in the pot lets more light out. God bless you and your day.

This post is part of a series on Kate Motaung’s site for the Writer’s Discussion Group focusing on the book On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

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Just Write

Just Write

My favorite "weeds" Queen Anne's Lace.
My favorite “weeds” Queen Anne’s Lace.

Writing sounds simple enough, until you try it. In my experience writing is like a weed. When I gardened I read gardening books voraciously. I read many descriptions of weeds. My favorite explanation of weeds was by Celia Thaxter who proclaimed a weed, “A plant with a propensity to get itself into the wrong place.” Writing has an overwhelming tendency to show up at the wrong time and the wrong place.

Celia Thaxter in her Island garden painted by her friend Childe Hassam
Celia Thaxter in her Island garden painted by her friend Childe Hassam

This post is number five On Being a Writer from the Online Discussion Group hosted by Kate Motaung.

 

If I schedule writing time the odds of the words, just pouring out of my brain are not high. I will probably need something to “prime the pump” and get the words flowing. If I am on my way out the door and I will be busy for hours, the words gush out of my mind. Writing seems like a jealous lover, always testing to see if you love him enough to put him first. Despite all the bad analogies, writing can also be cathartic. Learning to live with the free-flow of words and ideas may be challenging, but ultimately worth the effort to negotiate a mutually beneficial treaty of wellbeing.

As so many people have said before, the words seem to come from someplace “other” than the writer’s brain. Writers are not entirely in charge. Prayer is my best help. In everything praying helps, but with writing it helps me to remember that the right words are never going to come from my own ability. Surrender is the difficult route to the most successful writing. Writing can be about letting the words come unbidden. Poetry always comes to me without conscious effort. I only know I have a poem when I have a couple of stanzas in my thoughts. The meter and/or rhyme attracts my attention and I scurry to find a pen before they are gone.

When I make time and allow the words room in my life I am happier and more fulfilled. On a deep level, beyond the words, I know that I am supposed to write. In the end, all I can do is repeat what King David said,” Let the words of my mouth[and keyboard] and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14. Amen.

Prayer
Prayer

 

Surrounded in Beauty

Surrounded in Beauty

This post is part of Kate Motaung’s Writer’s Group session 3. Beauty surrounds each of us daily. I cultivate peace, or quiet with silence or uplifting music. I enjoy a pale blue ceiling so I always have blue skies, even on grey days. Great books, Bibles, legendary classics along with Christian writers of every century line the bookshelves that cradle my thought processes.

I absorb as much beauty as I can. For much too long a time I believed that only the “great” was worthy of creation. I have come to recognize that “good” is all we need to create. In Genesis 1 God called each part of creation good. Mankind God called very good. Every living thing was deemed good but the Creator. 

Failing to appreciate the good, by only seeking the great is tantamount to denying God’s creative spark. There are many parts of creation that I may not particularly enjoy. This fact doesn’t diminish the value of say, termites. I don’t want them in my house but they do serve a purpose. Finding joy in the simple doesn’t decrease the pleasure I find in the great.

Typically I write about faith intersecting with everyday life. I am surrounded with Bible verses and reading scripture and devotional literature. This makes my life and writing walk seamlessly together.

I have begun a novel set in Europe centuries ago. Living in twenty-first century America does seem a stretch. The mitigating factor is that I spent years in college studying this period and my fascination has not ceased. I am surrounded by books and other reference material connected to this era. When I write about this time I listen to music from the period. I do climb into a metaphorical time-machine. I transport myself back in time and space before I attempt to lead the reader there as well.

We do best as writers when we focus deeply on what we are attempting to share. Those who are passionate about something are best able to enchant others with the same joy. No one wants to consume our boredom. Everyone wants to drink deeply of the elixir of true joy.

Time and Space

Time and Space

This post is part of the online discussion group hosted by Kate Motaung On Being a Writer. Organizing space and schedule to facilitate writing is the subject of the day.  The book On Being a Writer:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by  Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig is the starting point for the discussion. Chapter two entitled,”Arrange” is the catalyst. 

  • There are two basic parts to this topic: space and schedule. I have space addressed. I now have a private study in which to write. I write while sitting in a chaise so that I can keep my feet elevated. I have my file box handy, a printer and a writing desk that I cannot really use. If I am able to work sitting with my feet on the floor again the desk will be useful. 
  • My space is adequate. The lighting is good. My problem is that I get bad migraines whenever I use my old pc-based laptop. I do all my writing on my iPad. Alas, it is now four years old and slowing me considerably. I will have to look into an upgrade in the future. This week I need to move my modem and router. Before I had my study I worked on a different floor and they were perfectly placed. My neighbor must have placed a router in the house next-door closer than my own router since their signal is now drowning out my signal. On Monday I had to write and post my piece entirely on my phone as I could not get a signal.  This week I am moving my equipment.
  • My greatest challenges to effective writing time are my health constraints and the fact that I spend a considerable amount of the time that I am able to be active driving my family and myself to a steady stream of doctors. The blessing of mobile devices is that they are portable and I can put waiting room time to good use. Scheduling all that I need to accomplish around P.O.T.S. limitations is constraining.
  • Since the difficulty increases the longer I have been up, morning is my most effective time. I start each day by 7 am, but I am going to try to consistently move that up to 6 am. The possible complication is being able to drive to and from afternoon appointments after I have been up that long. Perhaps I will need to start earlier still to ensure a rest before attempting afternoon appointments. 
  • I am committed to a minimum of 30 minutes of uninterrupted time per day. I have long scheduled writing for after dinner. It fits the schedule, but I am often foggy and unable to see clearly in the early evening. The schedule is a work-in-progress. What time of day do you write? Are you a morning or evening person? How do you get family to give you uninterrupted writing time? As long as I multitask my writing is respected and even admired, but as soon as I ask everyone to leave me alone, I am frequently accursed of being rude. 
A Woman of Words

A Woman of Words

This is a post linked to Kate Motaung’s online writing group surrounding the book, On Being A Writer:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig.

I identify myself as a writer. This has been a tremendous leap forward . I have been a “closet writer” since childhood but only began to reveal some of my words to a few in college. I was encouraged to pursue writing as a career. I was at that time too enamored with the dream of researching and teaching Medieval History. Life has led me on a circuitous path. 

I never stopped writing. In various periods writing took a backseat to teaching and organizing faith education. I wrote in my journals and wrote for work. Eventually I began to blog.

My writing ebbs and flows. I am once again very close to the beginning. At times I wonder if I am being led by the Lord back to where I dropped my writing into a much subservient position in order that I rearrange my life to make more room for the words.

The  defining characteristic of my life is my relationship with Christ. I have a Christian worldview that defines and informs everything else I do. The second defining characteristic of my life has always been my connection to words and stories. Writing is more than what I do. It is who I am. To make sense of life I must write about living. My ideas take shape and substance as they hit the paper or screen. I have ideas in my mind, but I have beliefs once they are written down. 

I love words. New words are a delight to my senses. I cannot adequately explain why I love descriptive words. I love flowers because seeing them makes me happy. I love babies since their presence makes me smile inside and out. I love words in the same visceral way I love babies and flowers. They give me joy on a level that is too deep for the words I long to find to explain the phenomenon.

On Being A Writer:12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts online discussion group

How Fast is Time Flying?

How Fast is Time Flying?

imageWhat make time fly swiftly at some periods of life and crawl at others? This is one of the enigmas of time that we all recognize and ponder on some level. As a young lady I was fascinated by time and eternity. In my twenties I wondered why forty-year-olds didn’t know twice as much as twenty-year-olds. I concluded that it was a matter of constantly learning. I defined it as, “falling into a rut of sameness.” I vowed to keep my spirit hungry for learning and thereby to ensure a life well-lived.

My goal became to always keep growing and learning. I promised to never stay static. I recognized that life challenges us and encourages those who fall into being busy to the point of barely holding-on. Through the last decade I have witnessed an extraordinary push in our culture for people to overschedule themselves to the point of exhaustion. I am not sure if it is really more prevalent in our society or if it is a matter of the demographic that I am part of. Are we actually more stressed and overcommitted or is it generation-x coming into middle age? I suspect that both factors prevail. I know that I have been stretched so thin that I collapse exhausted into bed at the end of the day and rise eight hours later to start the whole run-until-you-drop all over again the next day. What I think may be new is that I consider myself lucky that I actually have the privilege of eight hours in bed. Notice, I did not say that I get eight hours of sleep a night. Like most of my contemporaries I battle insomnia.

We have lost our connection to the natural world. I managed to take my dog to the park three times this spring and summer. I did not go to the park without her. I do not have useable outdoor space at home. Three times I went out into nature! Perhaps this is part of the struggle to sleep. Our activity has nothing to do with the seasons, the sun, the wind, growing things.
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If I am going to be true to my youthful promises to myself I need to consciously re-orient myself to the fact that the possibilities are indeed endless. I love to learn. Learning something new has always been refreshing and restorative for me. This summer I am learning to paint watercolors. It has been something I have wanted for longer than I remember. I never painted. Well, not on paper or canvas and painting a room isn’t nearly as enjoyable. No matter how much I want to paint it takes careful planning to achieve time. Time that we do not view as productive is the rarest commodity in our culture. I cannot help but believe that this is one of the reasons that all community groups and church groups are desperate for volunteers. We have become a culture that views anything that doesn’t produce an income as a time-waster. We all have a bucket-list of activities that we are going to pursue, “when we have time.” The reality that we do not allow ourselves time to continue learning doesn’t dawn upon us until it is too late.

My mother was going to write a couple of books. All my life I knew this fact. Someday. She was healthy until she was in her sixties and then developed cancer and went home to the Lord fast. When she turned sixty-five I asked her if she was going to write. She told me she was too tired. She never wrote her books. We have all lost out on her words. I cannot write her words. God gave them to her alone. It is ever thus for each of us.

What gifts has God given you? What have you always longed to learn? Why are you too busy to become a full person? In my early journal I vowed to never stop growing up. I have learned many things in my life. One of the more important is that God wants us to use our time here well. A life well-lived that makes the most of our God-given talents and dreams and is within reach of each of us. It is assuredly a matter of priority. A half-an-hour here and there really does make a difference.

I had a dear friend who was active well into her nineties. She always introduced me as her “youth leader” and I told everyone I wanted to “grow-up” to be like her. She never lost her love of learning and shared my enthusiasm for technology even though she did not personally have a computer. When I bought a new computer with a touch-screen I took it with me on a visit and she happily played along with me, writing with a stylus, taking and editing digital photos, etc. She entered into other people’s joy and love of learning. Need I say that she was a teacher and wherever she went, people would come up to her and say, ”You were my favorite teacher.” Each one of us is demonstrating what we regard as important everyday with our actions. What do your priorities teach? Is your bank account your value as a person? How important are your relationships? Are you growing or are you withering?

Day 31

Day 31

The best laid plans often go awry. I can’t take credit for such an insight, but I have shared the experience many times. My life has been carefully planned and it has gone awry many times. Today I was going to accomplish many household tasks on my day off including the purchase of paint and supplies, scraping and painting a ceiling.

It has been a grey, wet day with a constant cold breeze. Somehow, I did not want to venture outside and gave in to the barrage of imagined excuses. Rather than follow the schedule I have been curled up in a furry blanket, thinking and reading my old journals. I have not looked into those pages in years. I was actually happier than I remembered…and wiser…and more the…same. On reflection I believed myself to be infinitely more mature and filled with insights now than I was in my youth. The surprise to me is how consistently I have always viewed and processed the world. I know my external surroundings haven’t changed, but I felt that I had become so different with age. On some levels I have not changed at all!

So, here I am again. The past month has not followed the plan so I have improvised…repeatedly. I took on the idea of the 31 Days Challenge on the spur-of-the-moment. This is not a thing I am experienced with, least of all being spontaneous. Well, I was cavalier with my to do list today, but writing a blog series, or committing to write everyday just when life and work were especially hectic, those are not the things I could easily change my mind on. The results prove my overly cautious approach to life sensible. I am too much like Elinor Dashwood to behave that way. I leave spur-of-the-moment plans to the Marianne’s of this world.

Now that I am confessing my shortcoming and owning up to my plodding sensible nature I recognize that writing is how I process life. I have always been this way and I do not think I will ever change. Therefore, I must set up and adhere to a sensible schedule of posting. I do need to make more time to write. I promise to do so. I will post at least weekly. That seems an achievable goal. The idea of a series is attractive, but just at present; I think it best to wait.

I have moved three rooms of my home. That seems strange. It feels exhausting and peculiar. About three-quarters of the items, large furniture included, of three rooms have traded spaces. My study is now in a room of its own! It is upstairs [ (:sad face]. It is less noisy! It is a mess with boxes and piles of “stuff”. The “stuff” consists largely of blanket and comforters, Christmas decorations, etc. My office supplies are also in boxes or tragically filed in bookshelves downstairs. Some of you may recognize this as chaos of unworkable scope, others may find this perfectly normal. Whatever your level of comfort with confusion, I have found the process of getting to this point too time-consuming to allow for writing.

I finally had the time to paint the peeling ceiling (that ought to be a poem) or write about how I feel about the move. Being true to myself, here I am. I am sitting with the wonky walls and other alliterations contemplating the nature of life and its deeper philosophical and theological implications. I am quite a piece of work.

If you have read this far into this post I congratulate and thank you for your patience. I am leaving the Lectionary text schedule for an unknown future date when I can find enough time to do it justice. At this frenetic period I shall resume ramblings on life. An adventure of the spirit is just what I need. This may prove particularly inviting on the rare day off when a cold front has swept through. So from my topsy-turvy world I bid you adieu with todays’ thought from 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” Amen.

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Dancing With the Line

Dancing With the Line

This past week the (in)Courage writing group prompt was based on chapter seven of The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. We were asked what holds us back from taking more risks in our writing. Fear is the simple yet complex answer to that question. Fear restrains me in every arena of life. The doubt that I am good enough stops me in my tracks repeatedly. I advance and then halt. Annie Dillard states that the stunt pilot Rahm told her that he found a rhythm and kept operating with it. I am devoid of a good rhythm because I worry about the mistakes I have made in the past.
I take my focus off Jesus. Peter demonstrated my rhythm when he walked on the water. ” He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’” Matthew 14:29-30. As soon as I look behind I begin to sink. The only noble action I take when writing is to try again. I never entirely stop, but I am forever pausing.
Annie Dillard wrote about a ride with the stunt pilot that, “If he had noticed how he felt, he could not have done the work.” Writing is without a doubt very hard work. Anything deeply worthwhile includes a measure of self-sacrifice. It doesn’t feel good at the time you are engaged in the activity. Sometimes writing is terrifying. If the stunt pilot had dwelt upon the feeling of taking all those g-forces he would not have done those stunts, certainly not as well.
If Jesus had focused His attention on how it would feel to be betrayed by one of His closest friends He might have paused. This betrayal was followed by mockery, injustice, bullying, torture, the denial of one of His very best friends, even brutal death. John 13:21 tells us that Jesus was deeply moved in His spirit. He was distressed, troubled, terrified or disturbed before He shared the Last Supper. Despite knowing how it felt He went though with it all anyway. How it felt was not the focus of His attention. He seems to have kept His focus on saving you and me.
Fear may trip me up, but if I keep reaffirming my focus on the real reason for writing, bringing glory to God, then I too may be able to dance with “the line.” I trip and flip and keep right on dancing to the music that comes from the love of God.

Dancing to the rhythm of God
The song of praise in my heart
Pounding joyous and free
Not hindered with me.
Too much thought for myself
Leads to a halting,
Awkward dance.
Tripping,
Falling,
Downward,
Sinking, then
Bounding up
With Hope and love,
Jumping glorious,
Heart at peace,
Words made free
To twirl and breathe
With God.
Indeed!

Writing Nook

Writing Nook

The dream of a perfect writing nook and my reality at first blush appear a long way apart. On closer inspection, however, there are some crucial similarities.

My dream would be of a tiny garden house, just beyond my home. My dream home that is. My real home is in town and has such a minuscule garden that an outbuilding couldn’t be more than 5 foot square and fit.

I would love french doors looking out onto a lovely garden with a large desk and comfortable chair positioned just to face the landscape. I would position a chaise to face away from the french doors and toward the bookcases beneath the clerestory windows. A small sink and electric kettle for making tea, a quilt for the chaise and a cushion for my dog and cats will make it perfect. I would cover the walls with bead-board painted off white and have roman blinds at the windows in another shade of off white to control the glare. Some good lamps will be required. I would hang some Bible verses in frames on the walls that can easily be changed out as inspiration requires.

That is my dream. The reality is that in the morning I sit in a pink chaise in the center of my main floor. I do have Bible verses near by. My view faces toward the kitchen. I do have a laptop table which offers writing space and a place for my iPad. I have bookcases handy and a small writing table, too small to really be of any use except to hold a few plants. There are plenty of windows, but the room is lodged so tightly between the buildings on either side that it is dark inside all the year through.

No matter where I sit to write my dog and cats come and sit with me. They pile themselves atop me and nap away. Sometimes they paw at my keyboard to try to get my attention. Some times they paw at my iPad. My late, much beloved “cat son” had figured out that if he tapped the screen of the iPad a couple of times in quick succession I would have to turn it off in favor of petting. It is now but a treasured memory. Mellowing Maltese eyes with a soft woof and cat purr are the lovely background music of writing.

In the evening, I retire to sit on my bed and write. Here at least it is a bit quieter. I can shut the doors and reduce the external noise. I have plenty of light here and I can sit down with my iPad, keyboard, fur kids and The Word.

My Bibles, usually my digital versions, handy on my devices, are essential. I need to read The Bible before I begin and pray while I write. I do not rely upon my own power to write anything useful. As St. Paul said, ” For I know that nothing good dwells in me,” Romans 7:18a. The peace of God, prayer and purr song is all that is really necessary.

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Miracles Still Happen

Miracles Still Happen

“Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air.” Annie Dillard wrote in The Writing Life. I was raised to value utility. I felt the need to prove my practicality. I have a degree in history with a specialization in medieval studies. Then to prove that the poet could be sensible I got a degree in business administration with a specialization in accounting. I think accountants are awesome! They amaze me and have my undying appreciation. Why? In part because I always found accounting tedious. I have a degree in a subject that I don’t enjoy. The brief time I worked in accounting I was miserable and wrote poetry filled with angst to try to endue it. I ended up in christian education and that has proven a field that uses my strengths to glorify God. The only one who was being glorified in the whole accounting period was my image as a practical girl. Getting a degree in a field you don’t like is not practical. It reeks of pride.

As life has become fuller, and time is now a precious commodity, writing fell to the background. Generally it has fallen away almost all together. I am so exhausted by the fast pace of my life that I think I need to reconnect in order to save myself. You see, I am on the edge of burnout. By the grace of God I haven’t burned all the way out, but I am often down to a dull flicker.

I have let fear hinder me. I am afraid to push my desk and chair out into midair. I once believed in miracles, ordinary, everyday miracles. Now I dread failure. Fear is self-fulfilling just like pride. Just as I proved how much of a dreamer I was by getting a degree in accounting, now I daily prove that I cannot write, by not writing. There is not time in my busy life to write, because it takes me so long to psych myself up into writing. It came effortlessly most of my life. Now I am in fear that I don’t deserve the miracle of words.

As so many have noted before, when we write it seems as though the hand of God is involved in the process. Now, the voice of self-doubt, asks why God would bother to send me meaningful words. Why would God use me?

As I pondered this question and this writing assignment, I was reminded of Jesus’ first miracle in John 2:1-11. At the wedding in Cana Jesus is asked by his mother to help the bridegroom who has run out of wine before the feasts ends. At first Jesus asks what that has to do with him, for his time has not come. Still his mother urges him to help them. His response is to ask the servants to refill the ritual purification jars with water.

We pause, wondering what good large jars full of water used for washing up will do. The problem is that they need wine, not water. The feast is already underway. They do not need to wash their feet and hands again. It looks a lot like he sent the servants off on busy work which will be useless in addressing the real problem. Ritual washing is practical, but it will not serve the purpose. Except… Jesus is there. This turns into a miracle. He tells the servants to take the full washing jars to the steward and the jars that were full of nothing important are full of wine, excellent wine.

The centurion came to Jesus in Matthew 8:5-13 seeking healing for his sick servant. but in verse eight he uttered the humble words that he was not worthy for Jesus to come under his roof, but, “just say the word and my servant will be healed.” This gives rise to the liturgical passage just before Holy Communion in the Roman Rite where the congregation declares themselves unworthy, but “only say the word and I shall be healed.”

I am not worthy for God to use my words. All the same, I believe that he does use words offered in praise of Him. If my words are actually offered in sacrifice to His glory then He may use them. It does not depend upon my wisdom, strength, power or influence. When I pour my words out for Him then I am healed.

God’s love for people is so extreme that Jesus took the time to provide a wedding banquet with more wine. If glorifying Him is the purpose then He will guide our words even today. Words as common as water can be turned into wine.