“Writing a Book is Easy” (said no one. ever.)

When I set out from home last week, Sunday to be exact, I’d been crowing to all who would listen, “I’m going away for a week to write the first draft of my book.” As if…..as if that can be done. But God is so good–we just don’t know what we don’t know. Whether it’s, “Hey, let’s paint the living room this weekend,” “Honey, let’s take that hike. It’s totally easy.” “Wow, I think I’ll go back to school/get a job now that my children are older,” and other idealistic statements.

Or maybe that’s just me.

stained glass, GrunewaldThis week away at the lovely Grunewald Guild in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, has been eye-opening, to say the least. (The bridge photo in the header was taken here at Grunewald last Fall).

Here are seven things I’ve learned I’m learning:

  1. Life and Jesus will get in the way (in a good way).
  2. You planned to write a rough draft of your book but you’re the rough draft
  3. Never write in the same room you’re sleeping in. A table along one wall does not a study make
  4. You will have to recalibrate your expectations several times using not GPS, but Jesus PS.
  5. Sometimes being productive means lots of prayers going up rather than print on the page.
  6. Trust the process. Give it time. God’s not in a hurry. The book idea was His anyway—all you have to do is give Him your pen.
  7. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not God.

 

Why Creation is a Messy Process

It all began with my suitcase.

I recently returned from a five day trip to Texas to see family and friends and attend a writer’s conference in the Austin area. I packed way too many clothes and shoes. And books. (One always miscalculates the amount of ‘free time’ to read while on a trip.) In fact, when I checked into our airport in Seattle, my suitcase was three pounds overweight. I had to do some quick reshuffling to manage everything. Sigh. Out with the laptop, out with the pillow (yes, I travel with my pillow). Out with the shoes. Buy new shopping bag to sling over my shoulder. Sigh again.

Besides gleaning some nuggets of truth from the folks I heard at the three- day conference, I also began mentally gleaning my wardrobe. Weird, I know, but God often uses my physical life as an object lesson to illustrate what he’s doing inside me.

One of the gifts of getting older is finding out what you like and don’t like, what you love and what you can live without. Not only with words but in this case, with my wardrobe. I was processing new discoveries about ways of looking at my writing, adding them to the mix of my current mindset, but my mind was over-full. My overflowing suitcase matched my over-stuffed mind.

Some things needed to go to make room for these new ideas.

One of the conference speakers relayed the ideas of looking at our writing through orientation, disorientation and reorientation. I love learning about words and their root meaning. When I got home I looked up the word ‘orient’–from the Latin, ‘oriens’ meaning ‘rising sun’. When we are facing ourselves in the right direction—towards the Son—Jesus—things feel right. But when God is doing something new we feel disoriented.

We often dislike the feeling of being disoriented, so we try to pass over it too quickly to eliminate the uneasy feelings. But God is often there in the mess. In fact, He is always there in the mess. Maybe we need to take time to process and work through what’s there so we can learn from it.

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I returned from my trip on a Saturday evening. The next day I thought about rushing off to church to be with family and friends in worship. But something pulled me towards dealing with my overstuffed suitcase. I needed to get rid of some of my clothes; most of my clothes. My husband kissed me goodbye and left me to my project.20170219_154157

I was determined to go through two closets (two!) and two dressers (seriously?), keep what I knew I loved and would wear again and get rid of all the rest.The process took me most of that day and little of the next. By the time I finished I had two big plastic blue Ikea bags full to the brim.

It’s hard to explain how much lighter I felt. Not only did I have more room in my closets, I could actually see what I had.  Clearly I don’t need anything new to wear, what I have now is the ability to put things together in a new way that feels right to me. I felt reoriented, creative.

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Creation is like that, whether we’re writing a poem, planting a garden or building a piece of furniture. It often begins with the mess of feeling disoriented while things are undone and all over the place. Stuff needs to be moved around, thrown out, cut down, laid all over the floor.

I think we need the disorientation process more than we know. The song ‘Simple Gifts’ has the lines about ‘turning, turning, til we come out right.’ Our lives are a continual turning towards the Son to see what needs changing, throwing away, cutting back. When we embrace the disorientation process we’re better able to see what new and beautiful creations God has to give through us.

What mess is God calling you to make today? What have you gone through that’s led to something new? Please share in the comments.

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Simple Gifts” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett. You can hear Judy Collins singing it here.

* * *  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee for Tell His Story

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How Not to Be Intimidated by this Great Big Year

For someone who considers herself a writer (I do. I am.) it amuses me and surprises others when I announce, if asked, that I’m not interested in writing a book. Well except maybe my memoir–isn’t everyone writing a memoir? 

But writing an actual book? No. I know how much time and effort goes into such an endeavor–why would I opt for that?

Except that well, maybe I am. The book idea literally dropped into my brain the other night after the long ride home from a Christmas visit to my son’s. I had a few Deep Thoughts while traveling in the car, a reflective time of our four days together, but I had no idea my thoughts would turn into anything. When I sat down to download my thoughts on paper I ended up with an outline, chapter sections, an introduction and marketing plan.

I’m sure every author starts in such an inspired fashion. Of course the hard part, the seemingly impossible part, is to finish the job with the perspiration part, to misquote Einstein.

But this post is not about the book idea but the idea of a book. Those are two different things.

For everything we do begins with an idea. And it’s the DOING that sometimes keeps us from even beginning.

Our pastor’s message last Sunday was about Nehemiah’s rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Prodded by a broken heart for the condition of God’s city, Nehemiah asked for permission from the King to return to Judah and assess the situation. He began the task alone under cover of dark, surveying the project and noting what needed to be done.

After Nehemiah gathered the information, he returned to the King and asked to begin the work. Permission was granted; Nehemiah solicited help and commenced building, stone by stone, day by day. And 52 days later they were done.

The point of the message: Start Small. Start Now.

Perhaps the progress you seek will take more than 52 days; it may be more like 52 weeks. Life changing work usually takes little lifetimes. But that shouldn’t frighten you from taking the first step.

What is your small step?

Continue reading “How Not to Be Intimidated by this Great Big Year”

What to Do When You’re Distracted

“I had more freedom now and I had to feel my way into it, see which barriers had fallen and which still were up… I couldn’t be satisfied until I knew the boundaries and where the openings were, if any.”   Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow, c. 2000

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When Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” I think He meant the words more as a protection than anything else. A protection and a promise. (Matthew 7:13,14)

I am very easily distracted, especially by other folks’ words. If there are conversations going on around me while I’m trying to listen to a friend, I have a hard time focusing. And when I have too many words—virtual or on paper, it’s almost as difficult to concentrate or hear. (I recently donated two enormous shopping bags of books to Goodwill because it was too “noisy” in my living room.)

In the wake of the recent Presidential election, I almost let the weight of All the Words crush me. Everyone had an opinion or argument, even fellow believers. Especially fellow believers.

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Besides being easily distracted, I have a knack for people-pleasing and being easily influenced. I began engaging in online conversations just to have my say or prove my point. In the process, I almost forgot who I was and what God has called me to.

Of course, our enemy would like nothing better than for us to engage in conversations that add no fruit to our lives or further God’s kingdom. Distractions can be helpful in accomplishing this. Those verbal pathways don’t have to be evil or dangerous, but if they’re not part of my journey, I don’t need to be going there.  Continue reading “What to Do When You’re Distracted”