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Archive for the tag “writing”

a love note

What are you wildly passionate about? What is the beautiful, driving thing you believe you’re born to do? What makes you feel on fire? There was a rather scary period of time when I didn’t have any passions. But it’s amazing what passion I uncovered after that dark, ugly thing—depression—that hounded me for years, almost killed me, was vanquished. I rediscovered a love of writing but there was something even greater, a passion for truth [italicized to distinguish the kind of truth I’m referring to] because it saved my life. Now, I can’t stop writing about truth.

Smothered under depression I used to believe that truth was hard, unyielding, cruel in it’s pristine perfection. It was utter condemnation—I saw the truth of me and it was nothing good. There was no grace in this truth and I needed more grace than I could afford. So I avoided truth.

His truth first came to me under the guise of grace. God isn’t pharisaical. That’s impossible for him because he is LOVE. Full, complete, perfect love. The kind of love that flies in the face of logic but is the only substance on earth that can save us all.

And yet, the hard, inescapable truth is that he is the final judge and can’t tolerate a spec of sin. In this most peculiar mixture of love and justice he ruled all lives with any sin must pay with death but then he stepped down from the bench, handcuffed himself, and paid the price—his death for mine, for all of us who choose to accept it.

The truth he offers says I can be redeemed, that I have worth, that fear has no place, that he has a plan for my life, that he can vanquish the darkness plaguing me. His truth is an invitation to a new way of life that has immortal, life-giving repercussions. His truth does not shy away from my sins [I must ask for forgiveness] but in the space of a breath, he offers me forgiveness, a way out, and takes away my shame.

I guess my passion for truth is a love note to Him. And it’s a message I feel compared to share for the rest of us who need unaffordable grace and a new way to live.

Question time: I’m wondering, how do you feel about this truth and what are you passionate about? I know, seems like two separate questions but I’m wondering, is what you’re passionate about linked at all to whether you believe in this truth or not?

white-knuckled grip

heatherI started threading God into my life with serious intentionality several years ago.  His voice in my life flipped me upside down in the best way possible.  And I’m trying to live my life, ever since, in a way that thanks him for his life-saving intervention.  But lately I’ve found that the thread binding him and me together is messing with my greatest self-preservation tool: my independence.

I use my independence to hide my weaknesses, fears, pain, ect.  I’ve got a white-knuckled grip on independence.  It’s my safety.  I think God has a sense of humor.  I think it’s a touch on the dark side, because lately, he’s allowed life to poke me in my weak spots. And by sheer, terrified faith I have been loosing my white-knuckled grip on independence one finger at a time.  I’ve got about four and a half fingers left to go but it’s progress.

My writing is something I love, something I’m very passionate about, but I have an immense amount of fear, pain, and weakness associated with writing. (I’ve got so many hang ups I literally ran from writing for five years.)  But God has called me to write fulltime.

I’m weak.  I’m scared.  I’m under qualified and I know it.  But He is strength, he is peace, he knows what I need to learn, and he knows what I need to write.

So before I start a full day of writing, here’s what I will say to myself when I feel afraid:  God has not left me alone with a task.  He is beside me and thrilled to help if and when I ask.

What do you do when you feel fear?

Will They Like Me?

SamI want people to like me. Correction: I crave for people to like me. I’ve had this intense need to please for as long as I can remember, and I have to tell you, it’s officially outstayed its welcome. See, I’m working on a new story, and I’m trying to release the characters to breathe and be. To mess up and fall flat on their faces and doubt and wrestle and the many, many experiences that I too have faced.

But I’m so concerned about whether or not people will like my characters. I find myself censoring my heroine’s behavior and dialogue. I think, well, I can’t have her say that. No one will want to keep reading! Or, I couldn’t possibly let her do that, what will everyone think of her? But, of course, the real question is… what will everyone think of me?

This mental paralysis is killing my creative spirit. I avoid sitting down with my manuscript, for fear of writing safe, but even more so, for fear of writing courageously. Donald Mass says this about writing 21st century fiction (book), “It’s an approach to novel writing that eschews both snobby pretense and genre dogma. It is personal, impassioned, and even downright quirky, yet through its rebellious refusal to please, it paradoxically achieves universal appeal. It panders to no one. It speaks to everyone.”

Who wouldn’t want to create that type of story? I’m so exhausted of trying to please through my writing, and I think my poor characters are weary of my tight grip on them. But what if I took my fist from around their tired throats and let them speak? Really speak. What if I let them struggle and doubt and scream until what they really needed to say burst forth like lava into the blue, blue sky?

I have found that the only escape from people pleasing is a greater realization of how completely loved, accepted, and “in” I am with my Creator God. So hear is my prayer. God, I want to exhale as an artist. Teach me, won’t you? Teach me how to lower my fearful hands and surrender the likeability of my characters, of me. Let me be content with your love. Fill me up high, so high, that I don’t need to get more from my writing. Let my writing be a gift. Oh yes! Let me give instead of get. Let me write a story that “panders to no one” and “speaks to everyone.”

That’s my prayer. What would yours be? How do you create without the constrains of pleasing others?

The Cloud and the Glory

SamI haven’t read much of the Old Testament. I’m familiar with the classics–Jonah and the whale, Daniel and lion’s den, the stories I learned in a florescent lit classroom on Sunday mornings. But I decided to make a change this year. I want to read the whole Bible.

Thus began my journey through the ancient books, which is what I want to talk about today–mainly, the book of Exodus and how this has affected my view of art. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 35, “He has filled them with the skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver–those who do every work and those who design artistic work.”

Naturally, I freaked out at the mention of artists. Artists! In Exodus! I was officially intrigued. And God used these artists to work on his holy tabernacle and its furnishings. But this is what really struck me; it’s found in chapter 40. “Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

The artists did their very best. They engraved and designed and wove with skillful fingers. They created works of beauty for their God. But, when all their work was completed, when they had spent themselves empty, their beautiful creations had still not encountered the divine. God chose to do that.

I don’t want to forget that as I scribble my way through another manuscript. It doesn’t feel particularly spiritual to me right now, but, you know, I remember feeling that way with Penumbra for a long time. And then God met me on the page.

So what do you think about all of this? Is it weird for you to consider God touching your work as an artist? How do you feel about the whole idea?

 

Outside

SamHere is a free write of mine. Which basically means writing without forethought and without crafting. It’s sort of a rant/spill type of journaling. So here are my spills.

When I go outside, I melt away and I’m alone with the page, the blank page in front of me. And it is light and color, hot red color and cool blue color, and I feel and I see and I move, and I’m unafraid. I’m unafraid outside. With my words and my mind spinning, and scenes unrolling before me. I’m at sea, on a sailboat, and the waves are blue and salty. I’m at sea. On voyage. When I’m outside writing.

Writing for you, and writing for me. I give, and I get when I go to my porch, beneath that hot sun, hot on my skin, leaving its mark. Remember me, it says. And I know that’s why I write. Remember me, I say. Remember me and remember my God, won’t you.

Outside, I’m sitting and taking in the blue of the sky and the black words flying across the screen. Periods and sentences. I love them all, all in front of me, holding me, as I hold them. And I think that maybe they keep me safe, these words that I love to spill. That I can’t seem to contain. They leak from me, leak through to me. And I am in them, in the words, and they in me. But I think that maybe I don’t know. Not really. Maybe I don’t know what it’s like to really be free. Maybe I don’t know the sweet taste of that. Maybe I’ve only had glimmers, but those glimmers, my weren’t they lovely. Like little slivers of cake, still delightful, leaving me wanting more. But God has the cake. I know he does. I know he has the whole cake behind his shelf. He doesn’t give slivers. That’s just not the kind of baker he is. He is big and generous. I know that. And I want it. Oh yes!

Outside, there is cake and picnics and ants, marching in their sweet lines. I think there is magic here, magic underneath this impossibly beautiful sky, so gorgeous it reminds me that there is more, much more than the ordinary beauty around me. There is supernatural beauty here too. I can’t see it all that well, hardly at all. But this is the kind of beauty I want to write about it. A mother nursing her child. A friend taking the hand of their mate when the playground seems big and scary. A friend dying for me. He did. And I want to write to him, for him. Oh God, I fail at this. I do. I wind this way and that, and I wonder if I’m really writing for you, the way I want to. I wonder if you are shining through, or if I am turning your gold into brass. Oh God, help me. Help me not cheapen or lessen or weaken the story of you.

I cannot write it all. Cannot write all of you. You are too much. Help me write a sliver. Help me find the sliver I can write and write it well. Won’t you help me? Won’t you come and guide these fearful hands . Show me how to write unafraid. Show me how to write you. Show me. I am outside, out here with you, and I am ready.

REACH

heatherI feel it first in the hollow of my throat.  My airway grows thick.  My skin feels too tight. My body turns heavy like someone twisted the dial up on gravity. I can no longer reason through a simple thought.  With choking despair I acknowledge the appearance of panic.  Like a wounded animal I do best to run away from the hunter.  I force myself to stand up, to haul a fresh load of laundry into the machine, to find some television to drown myself in.  I just need to stop the panic and hide the fear somewhere where I can’t find it.

In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her.

They’re old demons hunting me.  It’s fear of failure, fear that I am worthless.  The fear makes me sick and my peace, my focus, my reason, hemorrhages out in steady flow.  I watch my calling [my writing] lay untouched, wasted, shriveled into insignificance.

She slipped in from behind and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe. At that very moment her hemorrhaging stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?”

I’d reached for God many times before.  The only difference this time, I was honest.  Not clean, just honest.  I spoke out my fear, my anger, my worry, my sadness, my confusion, and God met me.  And I was changed.

When no one stepped forward, Peter said, “But Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you.”  Jesus insisted, “Someone touched me. I felt power discharging from me.”

This time, the fear only lasted for seven hours.  But not to far in my distant past, I’d lose whole months.

When the woman realized that she couldn’t remain hidden, she knelt trembling before him. In front of all the people, she blurted out her story—why she touched him and how at that same moment she was healed.

Often, when I pursue my calling, which for me is writing, I find the old hellhounds of my past rush in.  When I write, I am most vulnerable.  But every time I forget my pride and I open myself up to God, he turns me towards my fear and we face it together.  I am no longer the same broken women from the past.  And while the past wishes to pull me back, I find the present and the future a much better alternative.  And my calling has finally begun to take on a life of its own, just as it always should have.

Jesus said, “Daughter, you took a risk trusting me, and now you’re healed and whole.  Live well, live blessed!”  [All text in italics is from Luke 8:43-47 The Message]

So many times I linger around God, but never break the barrier of my pride, fear, anger, ect. and actually try to touch him.  Have you broken through to touch God?  How has your calling changed as a result?  Is there something holding you back?  Speak it out!

“rebellious refusal to please”

 

heather“[Literary/commercial fiction] is personal, impassioned, and even downright quirky, yet through its rebellious refusal to please, it paradoxically achieves universal appeal. It panders to no one. It speaks to everyone.”

Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling

Donald Maas

 

No more pleasing the people because I’m afraid of [        ].  No more writing for ratings.

I will write TO God, FOR God.

I will write with excellence.

I will write with dignity.

I will use God-given talent.

I will follow God-given instincts.

I will write what I know.

I will write because there is HOPE.

“That’s the kind of fiction I dream of writing. And you?”     [Patti Hill, Novel Matters]

Hopefully this will be a bit of a New year inspiration to you.  If you aren’t specifically a writer, insert whatever your calling is.  I’d love to hear what you’d like to add to this list!  Post it on a comment below…

Shine

SamI’m re-reading a memoir called Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner. A counselor gave me this book several years ago, and I remember enjoying it. But it didn’t really sing for me. And then, very recently, I couldn’t stop thinking about this little story. I knew that I needed to read it again.

So that’s where I’m at. And honestly, it feels as though I’m reading this memoir with new eyes. I’m not so stuck in denial this time around. I see my own brokenness, and the brokenness of those around me. I see the bondage, the prison bars–whether real or simply felt–and all of these new sights allow this memoir to really glimmer and shine.

Here is a part that I pretty much adore:  “This is the self we are born with, and then of course the world does its work… we try to make ourselves into something that we hope the world will like better than it apparently did the selves we originally were. That is the story of all our lives, needless to say, and in the process of living out that story, the original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.”

Can I just say how exhausting this “putting on and taking off” truly is? I’ve lived most of my life like this. Pleasing people. Putting forth the smiles and good humor that was expected of me. Presenting the happy-go-lucky side of me, while doing my best to hide the sensitive, feeling parts.

And here’s what I love about art.

Art reconnects those broken synapses. It’s like a jolt of electricity, a bridge from the presented self to the true self. It truly is a gift from God. And here’s what I love about our Creator: He doesn’t just do something for the good of one; it’s for the good of many. So when you, dear artist, create from those deep places that stir your true self, you invite others to bridge their own gaps. To brazenly peel back the layers long concealed until “the original, shimmer self” gets a glimpse of sunlight after so many dark years.

Ernest Hemingway said, “Writing is easy. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” But our bleeding isn’t in vain. It’s the blood that heals, of course.

So what about you? Is it hard to create from your true self? How do you bridge the divide?

 

perspective

As an artist I need to see the big picture.  What is all this for?  What is most important?  And at the moment those questions have led me to one single question.  Who am I?

The daughter of Harold and Patricia

Wife of Josh

Writer-straining-to-become

Photographer

Nature lover

None of these answers correctly answer the question.  Me is not where I come from or what I do.  Me, I am a child of God, cosmically and lovingly sown together by His all-encompassing hands.  My soul, my spirit, my essence is a singing work of art – stars, maple trees, blue of the ocean, breathlessness of the mountains strung together.  I am a beautifully unique being.

At my arrival on earth, much of the singing part of me was buried in the rubble of our world.  Because we are, all of us, born into a war.  It is unfair.  War breaks us before we even know what unbroken is.  This war is aimed at destroying humanity.  Aimed at destroying the very essence that makes us, the very tie that connects us to our God.

So the big picture.  In this war-torn world, I am born to remind humankind of Him.  Him who saves.  Him who redeems the unredeemable.  Him who loves us every-single-moment.  The war has made us forget many things like true love and the One who created true love to begin with.  And the war stops us, me, from doing the work of remembering.  It takes perspective and intentionality to borough out of the rubble and become a rememberer.

The question of who am I lends me great perspective.  It is the beginning point on the map.  It is the northern star pointing me to God.  And it is a compass reminding me to stay on track, to do the work I was called to do and not become obsessively driven by the everyday stresses and ‘responsibilities’.

What is standing in the way of me and my calling?  I’m embarrassed to list them.  Everything from simple grocery lists to deadly lies that eat out my core.  God help me, I want to live life in a way that challenges our worldly perspective.  I want to be a bright, clear, burning reminder of the Great Love.  I’m called to do this in many ways, but specifically through writing.

What is standing between you and your calling?  If you were to plan one day of living life the way you believe God was calling you to do, what would it look like?  I have a feeling that if I lived one day the way I believe God was asking me too it would be one of the most responsible, productive happy days of my life.  I’m going to be experimenting with this idea.  I’ll report back as I gather results.

The Gem of It

I love talking about writing. It is easily one of my favorite conversation topics of all time. So I was talking to a friend this morning who feels a pull towards writing, but who doesn’t consider herself a “writer.” In her mind, a writer is someone who can manage pacing, plot, all that. Since she doesn’t do that right now, she doesn’t think of herself as a true writer.

Here’s the thing: this girl journals regularly. She pours herself out on the page. All of her pains, her fears, her prayers and hopes of the future. She is gut-level honest and easily one of the most self-aware women I know. She writes out the hard stuff.

This, my friends, is writing. This is the work, the blood and sweat, of swinging a pickaxe into the rocky places within and striking gems.

I’m learning to expand my definition of art. I’m a singer and a dancer even though these particular art forms are super private at the moment. 🙂 That’s okay. I’m still creating. I can still find joy there and share it.

What about you, fabulous readers? If you widen the definition, do you see traces of art in your life?

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