Thursday, June 30, 2011

You're Telling me My Calling Didn't Come with a Cleaning Service?

So many things get in the way.

I want to write. I need to clean. I want to edit. I need to cook. I want to study the craft. I need to fold the clothes.

Sometimes all these distractions—these obligations—frustrate me because while I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, I am sure I’m supposed to be writing.

My frustration reveals a hard truth.

I’ve bought in to a lie.

I know better. But it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that when God calls you to do something, there will be clear skies ahead.

Um. Sorry. No.

There is nothing Biblical about that notion. In fact, a glance at the lives of many heroes of the faith reveals the opposite.

Instead of smooth sailing—shipwreck.

Instead of easy success—years of anonymous toil.

Instead of accolades and praise—imprisonment and martyrdom.

Take Paul. Not only did he manage to get himself beaten and imprisoned just about everywhere he went, but he had to keep making tents to put food on the table. Talk about not quitting your day job.

And Noah. It took him years to build the ark. We assume he was ridiculed the entire time—”Rain? What’s rain? A flood? Sure, Noah, whatever.”

So if the Bible doesn’t indicate it, where do we get the erroneous concept that fulfilling a calling will be obstacle free?

Satan is called the father of lies for a reason. When it comes to deception, he’s the best in the business.

He can’t reclaim us. But he can derail us.

And the longer he can keep us off track, the less impact we can have for the Kingdom.

If I’m waiting for my life to get easier before I begin to fulfill my calling, I’m living in a fantasy land. But here’s the truth. No fairies are coming to clean my toilets.

My calling didn’t come with a cleaning service. It came with a promise.

Romans 8:28 ~ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

All things. Could that include vacuuming?

All things. Is it possible that laundry isn’t a hindrance to my call—but a part of it?

Don’t get me wrong. If the opportunity presents itself, I’ll hire a cleaning service in a heartbeat.

But until then, as Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”

I’ve got my marching orders.

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

How do I find the time to write? I hide!

I'm hiding from my children.

I have a cup of coffee and a laptop. If I can just have thirty minutes to myself, no one gets hurt.

Yeah. Right.

The only way I get thirty minutes to myself is if I leave the house completely. Nothing is sacred. My kids follow me everywhere. Yes. I said everywhere. It's either leave the bathroom door unlocked and be prepared for visitors, or listen to wailing that could put professional mourners to shame.

Which is why I frequently go several days without doing any writing at all. It's not because I don't want to. It's because I have to stage an all-out covert operation, complete with diversionary tactics, to get enough quiet to be able to hear the voices in my head and release them onto the page. (Side note: I'm not crazy. All writers hear voices in their heads. Honest.)

I think this is why my fiction writing ground to a halt post-baby. Until a few days ago, I hadn't written a single word of fiction since February. But, I haven't been too stressed about it. I started writing my first novel when my now 2-year old was 6-months old. I knew the muse would return and that her return would probably coincide with a schedule that includes sleeping all night long.

There has, however, been one nagging problem. The last time I had a newborn in the house, I wasn't a writer. I am one now. And writers write. If they don't, they aren't writers. They're wanna-be-writers. And while I've been writing--blog posts, devotions, an article on (feel free to get a chuckle out of this) writing software--there's been no consistency. Even as I mentally acknowledge that it takes time to adjust to life with three children, the hit-or-miss writing schedule has started to irk me.

In the midst of this, I was challenged a couple of days ago to commit to writing for ten minutes a day. Every day.

Sounds easy enough.

Yeah. Right.

It took me over an hour and three tries to get that ten minutes in yesterday.

Today went a little better. My initial attempt lasted a whopping 54.7 seconds.

I know this because being the Type-A, over-achiever, eager-beaver that I am, I set the stopwatch on my iTouch. When I say 54.7 seconds, I mean 54.7 seconds. Less than a minute of writing time before the baby started crying and the two year old bounced into the room asking for more apples.

But on my second attempt, I squeezed out an additional 15 minutes of writing before the baby decided that my Twitter feed needed to change from #amwriting to #amnursing.

My total writing time for the past few days comes in under thirty minutes, but in that time, I’ve churned out approximately 700 words on my novel.

I’m committed to writing ten minutes a day through the month of July. I’m going to keep track of what I write in those ten minutes and we’ll see just how much of a difference it will make. I’m sure some days I’ll get more than ten minutes. And some days I'll be lucky to get my ten minutes in by midnight.

At ten minutes a day, it could take another year for me to finish my second novel.

And that's OK.

My kids found me a little while ago. During the “interruption” to this blog post, I’ve sat with my 8-year old and listened to her read. I’ve snuggled with my baby boy and watched as my almost 4-month old discovers his feet.

I’m so glad they found me!
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Monday, June 13, 2011

Nooks and Kindles and E-readers - Oh my!

Bibliophile - a person who collects or has a great love of books.

If you’ve been following me for any length of time, then you know that I love to read. What you may not know is how much I love books. I love the weight of a book in my hand, the crisp feel of a new hardback and the musty smell of a hundred year old classic.

I have friends who love to read, but have no attachment to their books. They read them, then sell or donate them.

I don’t get that.

I don’t hold it against them, but secretly (until now), I think it’s weird.

Because I can’t bear to part with my books. I moved recently and now have twenty-one boxes of books waiting for the bookshelf that will become their home. A bookshelf I intend to be large enough to hold many more books as the years go by.

All of this should explain why I’ve been reluctant to jump on the Kindle/Nook bandwagon.

Until recently, my general take on e-readers was that they were fabulous for some people but please, just hand me a book.

I haven’t entirely given up on that notion.

But never one to pass up a good deal, I downloaded the free Kindle/Nook apps to my iTouch and started downloading all the free books that looked interesting.

To my surprise, I’ve grown rather fond of the convenience of reading on my tiny little iTouch. It slides into my purse or diaper bag with ease. It even fits in my pocket.

Of course, I’ve been reading free books. So it’s felt more like a digital trip to the library.

And then Saturday, I crossed over.

I paid $9.99 for a book.

I’m still not exactly sure how it happened. I have plenty of free books to read. But they weren’t what I wanted to read. And it was late. The library was closed. I could have gone to the bookstore, but that would have meant a thirty minute round trip, plus several dollars in gas.

I thought about it off and on for a good hour. What was I thinking? Spending $9.99 on digital media with no book to sit on my shelf?

But…I pay $10 to get into a two-hour movie. Not often, but I’m obviously willing to spend that much for a brief amount of entertainment. It will take me at least twenty hours to read this book.

That’s only fifty cents an hour!

Before I knew it, I had downloaded the book and in the process, I think I figured out how the e-reader fits in my book-loving hand.

My love of books has not diminished. My first choice will always be a book. My second choice will be to download the freebies.

But every now and then, I’ll pay $9.99 for twenty hours of entertainment.

And if the book is good enough, I’ll pay even more later on for it to sit on my shelf.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Book Review: On Writing

I don’t like horror.

I don’t read it. I don’t watch it. I try very hard not to think about it.

So it will come as no surprise that I have never read a Stephen King novel.

What may come as a surprise, especially if you also avoid Stephen King’s novels—preferring to sleep without nightmares or a baseball bat in your hand—is that Stephen King is a respected author. His writing—according to people who are much braver than I and who have read his work—is excellent, his storytelling skills exemplary and his technique worthy of emulation.

This poses a problem for me. Because while I’m interested in reading and learning from masters of the craft, I’m not going to read his horror novels.

Fortunately for me—and you, should you happen to share my belief that it is actually possible to be scared to death—I don’t have to. Several years ago, King compiled his thoughts On Writing. No horror. No gore. Just practical writing tips from an author who knows what he’s talking about.

The book is divided into three sections—C.V., On Writing, and On Living: A Postscript.

In the C.V., King gives a brief autobiography and it’s an engaging read. I enjoyed his style and voice so much, I flirted with the idea of reading one of his novels. (I came to my senses when a popping sound made me jump and I realized it was just the A/C kicking on).

The middle section, On Writing, is a tight package of writing tips. After establishing the “Great Commandment”—read a lot, write a lot—King details what should be in your writer’s toolbox, gives suggestions for setting up your writing space and then dispenses advice on dialogue, theme, symbolism, description, characterization and the revision process.

The final section, On Living: A Postscript, is a brief account of the accident that almost claimed his life in the summer of 1999, as he was writing this book.

He concludes by providing a brief sample from a short story. We see the first draft, followed by his revisions and a note explaining why he chose to make the changes he did.

Thankfully, while this passage hints that there is some creepy stuff going on, it’s tame enough for a wimp like me to be able to see the flaws in the first draft and appreciate the revision process without hyperventilating or slamming the book closed, too afraid to read to the end.

In fact, this is a book I will open again and again. My guess is that you will, too.

Disclaimer: This book, while an excellent treatise on the craft of writing, is written in a conversational style, including very raw language.