Wild

Wild

I live in the thunder and ride the lightning
My sound is grand and big and bom bom bom
I taste like ash and gleam like fireflies in rhythm
I burst at the seams in my excesses
Gumming up the greasy wheels with my dust
I climb up up up the ladder to knock you over
And laugh at the mess
The dew of the dawn brings me serenity
And the rain of the twilight brings me death
I hiss at the world and fling my arms wide to the stars
Incense and grass and mud and fir trees are my palace
The river runs like a jagged gash through me
Ecstasy takes me, and I am
The Wilderness

This is a short poem I wrote after seeing an image of an untamed and chaotic woodland. The poem is not so much about the wilderness as it is about the torrents within humanity’s soul and its relation to Nature

Sundered

Sundered

What lands do separate –
Nay, what words, indeed!
For I know not that which
Can bridge the distance ‘tween.

Stumbling tongues and souls
Twined round a similar reluctance
Shadowed smiles and twinned sadness
Reminiscence is a familiar friend

Nostalgia trips along the lanes of soul
Shaking loose long-cherished joys
And oft-mourned loss – I miss you!
Must suffered silence be our cost?

Hand clutch on guilty heart
When fellowship is sundered
And I’m the one to blame
Fond farewells assuage nothing

Success in Writing and Progress Report – August 2017

Success in Writing and Progress Report – August 2017

Near the end of 2011, I sat down and sketched out my first rough idea for an urban fantasy novel. And as I enthusiastically brainstormed and developed ideas, a bitter voice in my head told me to stop, to give up, to throw the towel in and relinquish the dream of being a writer. “Better to give up than be known as a bad writer,” it told me.

That small voice has been present from that day until the day I wrote the final word in my first novel. Three days ago, at 11 pm, I closed my google document and sat back in my office chair in complete disbelief. I’d done it. I’d finally finished my very first complete novel. And I told that small voice to suck it.

In another post, I will describe the six-year-long path I walked to reach the last page. But in this post, I want to focus on the present.

 

 

I began and abandoned dozens of stories over the fifteen years since I began writing. These stories range in genre from historical fiction, to urban fantasy, to romance, and even to fan fiction. After handfuls of chapters, or even just paragraphs, I’d hit a wall and quit, or lose interest and begin another story. I gave up on project after project. And for a very long time, I felt like a failure. I still do, on bad days. The question that runs through my head after every failed short story or work is perhaps a question every writer has after an uncompleted project:

  “How can I call myself a writer if I can’t even finish anything?”

Success can take on many different meanings to a writer. This is especially true if you’re a writer of fiction. For many, the ultimate goal in its simplest form is to finish the project, and then publish it. And if you don’t finish a project, it’s very tempting to call yourself a failure. And even if you do finish something, even if it’s as short as a haiku or as long as an epic fantasy, the inability to publish it can haunt you and create a hell of a lot of self-doubt.

Success for me meant never giving up. Even when depression or circumstances told me that I would never finish, that my novel was too broken, too cliche, too boring, or whatever lies the voice in my head decided to tell me any given day. Success meant that I sat down to write when I didn’t feel like it, and that was a lot of the time.

Success looked like marathon sprints over the course of a few hours, and it looked like one sentence in a month. It also looked like no words at all for months at a time.

I think the true success doesn’t look like the end result, or the achievement of publishing. Through this process of writing and sticking with this novel, through all the structure changes and plot refurbishment, all the character development, all the technology failures and loss of whole chapters, all the rewrites and editing, I learned that the true success is just showing up to the process again and again.

Let the creativity carry you. Let the frustration buoy you instead of lie to you. Sit down again and again and again. Type a word, delete it, come back another day. Just don’t quit.

You don’t have to write every day. You just have to write. That’s real. That’s truth. That’s success.

 

Next Steps:

 

Now that my Second Draft is more or less in working order, my next step is to go through a rough edit of the entire thing. I’ve never really figured out my large editing process, so this will be a fun period to get to know that part of myself. I enjoy editing, on a chapter-by-chapter scale, so editing the whole monster should be just that, but bigger, right? Right?!

Once I’ve gone through and made sure everything follows my plot structure the way I want it to, and I’ve managed not to obsess too much over little details, I’ll be searching for an agent. I’d like to see if I can find a professional editor, but that particular detail is kind of scary. And kind of expensive. So I’ll see if I can find an agent, and if by some miracle I do find one, we’ll see if they point me to an editor. This is going to be a long process, and I will share every step with you. I hope you’ll all come with me!

 

 

 

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

This is a guest post I made for The Stay at Home Something, a blog written and curated by my good friend Brooke Gale Louvier. In it, I detail the struggle of being both a mom and writer. Often, it’s a dark and difficult path. But sometimes, once in a while, there are days when my soul sings.

Image credits go to Brooke.

 

Finding a Way to Make Your Soul Sing

When you’re young, it seems that the whole world is full of adventure and promise. If you’re a writer or an artist, you seek to capture that wonder and possess it for yourself. Perhaps as an escape from the darkness in the world, or just for the ability to experience and share something beautiful every day. You’re a person who creates because that’s what makes your soul sing.

But what do you do when the singing stops and you’re left with silence?

I am a dreamer. Since I was a child I had a vision for my life that I held as the ideal.

When I was four, I wanted to be a paleontologist and discover Jurassic Park for myself. When I was ten, I wanted to be Indiana Jones and travel the world. I wanted to read every novel and story ever written. When I was twelve, I discovered writing. I wanted to create and live the same adventure novels I devoured like they were food and water and my very breath.

Then I grew up a little and wanted to be a missionary. For a girl who grew up in a charismatic church culture, this was the ultimate adventure. Serve God and have adventures? I could be a writer and a missionary! What an awesome idea!

My whole life seemed to be planned out perfectly. Though there were many vague details, I generally knew what I wanted to do. I never struggled with trying to figure out what path I should take in life.

Three years ago, my husband and I went bankrupt while in ministry in England, and had to move to a different country to start all over again. I also suffered a miscarriage. We weren’t planning to have kids for many years, so it was a double shock to us. This was the beginning of my worldview crashing around my ears. Right after the miscarriage and bankruptcy, I had to leave my husband for months to go back to the States to sort out my visa. Soon after I got back to my husband, we got pregnant.

Since I was a young teenager, I have struggled with cycles of situational depression and anxiety. After a year that felt like I was taking hits right and left, followed by an emergency C-Section and postpartum depression, I fell into a dark hole further and deeper than I thought possible. I lost the desire to create, to live, to even get out of bed most days.

My husband and I live in a country where we don’t speak the language, and can’t afford to put our son in a daycare. So I am a full-time stay-at-home-mom. I never expected this to be my life.

How do you find the way to make your soul sing when nothing makes sense?

I would be lying if I said I loved being a mother that first year and a bit. This sounds harsh, but I never believed a writer should conceal their true feelings. I can’t hold that rule for others and not myself. There were so many days when all I wanted to do was leave my son with someone else just so I could sleep or be alone. I felt better with time, though there are still challenging days. I am learning to find the joy in every day.

If every day is a gift, then every moment is meant for discovering the joy of living.

If you’re struggling with depression, with exhaustion, with lack of inspiration, or just plain old lack of motivation, listen. I hear you. I know what it feels like. I know the guilt can eat you alive. I know there are days when all you want to do is crawl back in bed and sleep the day away. I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time.

But isn’t that the grandest adventure of them all?

What if the best adventures are not the ones you imagined as a child, but are the ones you live every day?

I encourage you to find a routine that works for you. It takes monumental amounts of courage, but take it one day at a time, one moment of joy at a time. If all you want to do is write one word that inspires you, do it! Who cares if it’s not a whole sentence or a whole page or a whole novel? Give yourself the grace to live. Create your own adventure. Allow your soul to sing again. When you find a way to let a few notes out, over time they build to a symphony.

Letting Loose Your Inner Child

Letting Loose Your Inner Child

We have all heard the little nuggets of wisdom and read all the articles on how to be a good writer. We’re taught grammar and punctuation in school. We are even taught that good writing looks a certain way, such as Steinbeck, J.K. Rowling, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Steven King, Shakespeare, or all the other great story tellers of grandeur. We are also somehow led to believe that bad writing takes the waif-like, substance-less forms of works like self-published ebooks of the dinosaur porn variety, or even mediocre fanfiction.

I contend that if you write down anything at all, even if it’s one stanza of poetry, or a line of dialogue, or even just a single word of passion written down in haste simply because it stirs something inside you – You are a good writer.

Hear me out before you tell me how terrible your writing is, or how much you want to improve. We’ve all been there. We all want to get better.

“I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged. – Erica Jong

Isn’t this what we’re all afraid of? We’re all so scared of someone else – another writer, perhaps – judging our work and therefore judging us as not good enough.

Of all the writing advice I’ve ever encountered, there is one “rule” that sticks in my mind.

We all have two voices in our heads while we write. The Child and the Critic. They both are useful, if you let them do their job cooperatively.

The Child is the one with all the ideas, the joy, the sheer eagerness to pour your heart and veins onto the page.

The Critic is the one who tells you how to improve and how to edit and how to make it shine.

My Achilles’ Heel is the Critic. My brain is mostly attuned to the editing portion of the writing process, so I am always looking to improve it. But, like so many of us do, I take it too far. Like the Erica Jong quote above, I’ve never finished a work longer than a short story for school because I always got stuck a few chapters in, or right at the beginning of the “good stuff,” or conflict. I found myself hating everything I wrote and thinking it was too juvenile, too unstructured, not clear enough….you get the idea. I still struggle with these thoughts every time I sit down to a blank page.

Let me give you a bit of background:

The earliest I remember wanting to be an author was 7th grade. I was in a very small private school in the inner city. To improve the tiny arts program we had, the school introduced a creative writing teacher. He held all of two classes. I don’t remember much about what he taught before he left, but I do know that it made an impression to my barely-thirteen year old self.

A few weeks later, the school introduced a journalist. I knew him previously, he was a member of my church. I wrote a short story based on a dream that I had for an assignment and showed it to him. He showed me where I could improve and told me to bring it back to him when I’d rewritten it.

These two teachers encouraged me to see writing as something realistic, something I could do, something I had a talent for.

 I still have that story, in an old composition notebook. Later, I realized that my dream was based off a book I’d already read, so I’m glad I never showed that to anyone else. God forbid that a young girl plagiarize another author’s work!

As a teenager, I wrote Lord of the Rings fanfiction and dark poetry. My life was a turbulent wreck at that point, so these things were my escape. As I got older, my heart warmed up to the idea that this was my calling; this is what I was meant to do. although my mind continually pointed me in other directions.

So, back to my point. I took a Writing Class in East Texas in early 2010. I wrote more in that three-month period than I ever had up to that point. Every week, I was turning out work that I hated. Consistently. There was maybe one story that I didn’t want to rip up and burn. After that class, I was so burnt out that I didn’t put a pen to paper or finger to keyboard for a year. Aside from school assignments, the writer in me just didn’t think she “had it” anymore.

Everything I wrote seemed terrible, overthought, contrived, and immature.

But then I took a few classes in community college and I got a small measure of confidence back. I had a teacher who thought I had talent and asked me to be an editor for the campus magazine. While that didn’t pan out, it did renew in me the sense that this is something I could do for a career, or at least as a serious hobby.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”  – Louis L’Amour

The Child portion of my writing does not like to come out and play too often. She is cautious, wanting to stay within the boundaries, always looking to the Critic to police her actions. And the Critic, too often, steps in to make sure everything is “as it should be.”

The last three years, I have worked on an urban fantasy novel. I am always embarrassed to tell people the genre because it’s “too nerdy,” and not serious enough. But I am proud to say I haven’t stopped working on it yet. Sure, I’ve gone months without touching it, but then I’ll come back to it and write ten pages before I get stuck for another three months. The first 10 chapters are absolute crap, but I won’t edit them until the whole damn thing is finished. When that will be, I have no idea. Sometimes it’s better to just tell the whole story, and then go back and fix it.

This is the primary function of the Child and the Critic. Let the Child out to play, unhindered. Children need to explore everything, need to see how things work, need to see what is in every nook and cranny.

Write your story, your poem, your essay, your memoir. Let it go where it wants to go. Just get everything out.

And then let the Critic out to polish it up. But always remember to let both of them respect the other.

However, you need to find the process that works for you. If you find you write better when you edit as you go, then do that! But if you find that you hate everything you write, and want to constantly change it, maybe it’s time to reexamine your process and let the Child have fun.

You are a good writer simply because you have the guts to open your veins to the page and bleed out words. Let yourself play. And then, once you have had your fun, let yourself make it shine, without worrying about someone else’s opinion.