The People Who Write Books

The crazy people write books, that’s who. Trying to write a book after spending two years as a writer of 800 to 1000 word blog posts is like running a marathon after training to be a sprinter.

I’ve been attempting to wake up and write at 5 am. Giving up our usual method of grinding beans and waiting for French press coffee, I pulled out the 12-cup automatic drip coffee maker. The smell of coffee yanks me out of bed, down the stairs and into my chair.

But as a mom to three young children, the time is too short. Just as I begin to swim away from the shore, out of the shallow end into the deeps, and finally start writing something real, it is 6:30 am. The children whine for breakfast, the baby needs to be nursed, it’s time to go out on a short run, or the laundry needs to be transferred from the washing machine to the dryer. I struggle to break out of the writing trance to get back to life as usual.

But on my run today, I thought about the small work that gets us to the end. Every morning that I wake up and pound out my 500 words, is like a notch in the wall, a foothold taking me higher up to the summit. Some weeks I feel depressed. Self-doubt and loathing threaten my resolve. My inner accusers challenge me, critiquing my every word, every sentence, every groggy minute spent away from my family, friends, or hobbies. Why are you wasting your time? they say.

But then God inevitably gives me a sign. Like the sun bursting through the spruce tree branches into the window over my kitchen sink in the morning, he creates a constellation out of the ordinary.

This autumn, Colorado experienced an uncharacteristic three weeks of dreary cloud cover and rain, which eats away at my soul more than other people since I suffer from seasonal affective disorder. It didn’t help that my three children, five and under, seemed bewitched.

So one night last week, I escaped the house at dusk, abandoning my husband to stories about talking animals, tooth-brushing, toileting, singing and prayers. I wandered the streets of our suburb, which was probably very attractive in 1979, gazing into windows and wondering how I got here.

I considered quitting writing.

I passed a yard with a small, green wooden box constructed on top of a pole–one of many little free libraries that have sprung up across the nation that invite the free exchange of magazines, literature, and trashy novels. Rifling through, I found a book. A strange, slim stranger among ordinary friends, it was a book so niche that I wondered if my husband had slipped in it in the box. It was exactly the book I needed for the next notch in the wall I am climbing towards writing this book proposal. I took it as a sign that I am on the right road.

Lately, my three year old daughter has been flapping her arms, running round and round the kitchen island, singing, “I fly through the sky and land on the ground!” over and over and over again. It is the mantra of a writer. Sometimes I feel like I’m flying through the sky, with words and images elevating me almost effortlessly, but most times I just feel like I’m walking with my feet firmly on the ground. I crunch dying leaves, get hit in the face by stray branches, act as referee for my children at the park and wipe oatmeal up off the floor that my daughter has dumped out.

“Look! Look at those geese!” my five year old son said earlier this week, pointing into the grey sky. Turning like he does to mansplain to my three year old daughter, he said, “They spell out words in the sky, like our last name, ‘Verner.'” I imagined all the things the geese would write if they could spell out messages for those of us on the ground to read.

I keep trying to quit, but God keeps sending new North Stars to guide me along my way. I am caught in the river current and swimming back is impossible. Earlier this week, Annie Dillard pushed me along, with these words:

“Why do you never find anything written about that idosynratic thought you advert to, about your fascination with something no one else understands?

Because it is up to you.

There is something you find interesting, for a reason hard to explain. It is hard to explain because you have never read it on any page; there you begin.

You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.” —The Writing Life (p. 68)

So I’m showing up. I’m writing what only I can write. I’m giving voice to my own astonishment every morning at 5 am–even if it means I only end up with one decent paragraph. I’m walking with my feet on the ground, but trusting God to lift me up every once in a while and set my ordinary words to flight. Perhaps my words will speak to someone on the ground.

How Writers Find Their Brave

Madeleine L’Engle should be the patron saint of Christian women writers. Any time I start doubting myself, I pull out Walking on Water and feel like I can stop hyperventilating and breathe again. This morning in Walking on Water I read:

“I believe that each work of art, whether it is a work of great genius or something very small, comes to the artists and says, ‘Here I am. Enflesh me. Give birth to me.’ And the artist either says, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord,’ and willingly becomes the bearer of the work, or refuses; but the obedient response is not necessarily a conscious one, and not everyone has the humble, courageous obedience of Mary.” (p. 18)

“When the artist is truly the servant of the work, the work is better than the artist.” (p. 24)

“When the work takes over, then the artist is enabled to get out of the way, not to interfere. When the work takes over, then the artist listens.” (p. 24)

Serve the Work. Get out of the way. Listen.

Yes.

Annie Dillard says something similar in The Writing Life:

“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it.” (p. 75)

Most days I sit down and write paragraphs of pure junk. It flows so easily. Then I pick back through the rubble like a hurricane victim trying to salvage valuables from the storm. A friend of mine just shared an article with me about how we must first allow the madman to write. That’s what I’m doing these days. Lots of “shitty first drafts” written by my inner madman. (Thank you, Anne Lamott, for empowering us to write what comes first.)

I have a friend who wants to start writing. “How did you get the courage to start?” she asked.

I wrote because not writing was no longer an option. It was more painful not to write than to write. Like plugging a water faucet with your finger, the words were just too pent up. They demanded a release. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rilke says that we should only write if we must.

But I am still learning how to get out of the way and serve the work. It takes a certain faith to believe in the word magic. Elizabeth Gilbert has built her entire career on it, writing Big Magic and producing a podcast called Magic Lessons. It feels like voodoo. But Christian poet Luci Shaw instead names the Holy Spirit as her muse in Breath for the Bones.

Sometimes it helps to over-spiritualize things.

When I meet other writers, they ask me if I want to write a book. “Maybe eventually,” I’ve always said. I still feel like I’m in love with the love of writing, like I’m not ready to commit to this as a profession. It is an affair without the commitment and I don’t want to sacrifice the butterflies for the long-term, daily work of love that includes the non-sexy tasks of emptying the dishwasher and hanging the wet clothes on the line. But the time has come.

The Book is asking me to write it.

I was excited at first. But lately I’ve taken cues from my children and become a fantastic whiner. Just what my husband needs.

I made the mistake of going into Barnes and Noble. Thousands of beautiful books full of billions of words assaulted me. I couldn’t leave quickly enough. They seemed to all be harassing me, screaming, “We don’t need any more of these!”

But hanging on my husband’s neck in the kitchen after the kids had finally quieted down that night, I told him about the abuse I had suffered. I echoed the books’ words: “Why? Why does the world need another book?”

“Think about it like this,” he said. “The world doesn’t need another child, either. There are billions. And yet each one is precious—unique—and a necessary and beautiful contribution to the world. And people just keep birthing them.”

This from a man who consumes over 80 books a year and reads for a living. He has narrated a few horrible books in his lifetime. Surely he would save me from myself if I was way off track.

But he believes I can do it. I don’t think I would have even started writing without him as a coach, editor and cheerleader. God knew I wouldn’t venture out without at least one person in the world telling me I could do this.

So I released my inner madman this morning. He’s running all over the page. I’m listening. I lift my hands in terrified obedience–surrender, even.

Yes. I will serve the work.

Here we go.

 

If you are a writer, how do you find your brave?

 

*Contains Amazon affiliate links

What do Annie Dillard, Madeleine L'Engle, Luci Shaw and Rilke have in common?

Why I Write (because don’t we sometimes need to remember?)

I haven’t written in five weeks. Julia Cameron would call this taking time to “restock the pond” or “refill the well.” But it has been out of necessity more than creative intention.

I painted our entire house. Alabaster White now coats the renovated popcorn ceilings and hides the dark wood trim. Sherwin Williams “Silver Strand” cools most of the walls of the house, lending a faint blue, green or grey tint depending on the lighting of the room. There is still more to do, but now that we are living here, we will have to shift furniture and barricade rooms to get it done in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed.

I also took a break from podcasts, instead painting to playlists collected from illegally downloaded music while I was living in China. But I also painted to childhood favorites like the Big Chill soundtrack including “My Girl” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” as well as my Christian youth group culture beloved albums like “Enter the Worship Circle” and the album I listened to freshman year of college—Chris Rice’s “Deep Enough to Dream.”

Becoming more adept at cutting in with the angled paintbrush, I numbly eased into the music of all the women I have been. Escaping into those old identities was more comforting than obsessing over whether or not I was trading those old selves for the American Dream.

But now I have to shut off the music, put down the paint brush and get back to regular life.

I must get back to writing.

But the amount of time it takes to be a writer (not to mention a mother who writes) and live in that headspace begs the question: Why do I write at all? You may write for different reasons, but this is why I do it.

I write to think. I think best with a pen or pencil in my hand. I told a friend once that I am not a verbal processor, but need a pen to work out my thoughts. “So what is that called?” I asked her. “A writer,” she said.

I write to stay sane. (Seriously.) My journal is my personal counselor. If my husband and I reach an impasse in our communication, I’ll grab my journal and hole myself up to write it all out until I’ve figured out what I am feeling and why. I almost always reach clarity through doing this. I have saved thousands of dollars on therapy simply by journaling.

I write to remember and keep a record of my life. I have purposely not bought a fantastic camera because I want to transcribe my memories with words and not just pictures. I rode the bus in China and would experiment with different ways I could describe my experience to friends and family back home who would never have the opportunity to visit. Pictures seemed a less challenging puzzle.

I write to connect. I used to be a letter writer. I still schlep boxes of letters around with me to each place I’ve lived. Blogging, for me, sometimes feels like a polished letter to a friend. It is the state of my heart right now, in this place. But it can also feel one-sided–like standing in a lit room at night with the shades wide open. Others are seeing me from the outside, but I can’t see them. In this way, writing makes me feel exposed. Yet the days I feel most vulnerable as a writer are inevitably the days I get an email from a reader saying, “Thank you.” And “Me, too.”

I write because I am compelled. When I fell in love with my husband, love was a rapid river current that would have been impossible to escape. Writing feels much the same. Since the word “calling,” makes me squeamish, I hesitate to use that word, and yet it is something like that. I’m committed, but I also can’t imagine not writing. Being trapped without a way of getting my thoughts out seems like the worst kind of punishment. Writing is a need, not a want.

And to spiritualize it all (because sometimes we need to do that, don’t we?), I write my life as an offering. I hope God will take my loaves and fish—the simplicity of my days—and use them to feed more than just myself. Writing demands faith because there is always the fear that I am just wasting my time and adding noise to the world. But God delights in creating banquets out of table scraps, abundance out of scarcity, and cool springs from parched land.

I trust that the God who makes tiny seeds grow from dirt can plant my word offerings in the world and cultivate beauty that wasn’t there before.

And so this week I return to work without pay, fame or fanfare. For all its impossible demands on my time and attention, not writing is a far worse torture.

 

If you are a writer, why do you write?

 

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

Why I Write

Ten Writing Tips from The 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop Podcast

Recently I’ve been binge-listening to the NPR podcast The 10 Minute Writer’s Workshop. In it, the host, Virginia Prescott, interviews famous writers about their writing process. She begins each podcast with the question, “Which is harder to write—the first sentence or the last?” Many of the writers chuckle and answer, “the middle!”

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from the hours I’ve spent listening to these talented writers over the past couple weeks:

1. The best way to become a better writer is to be a prolific reader.

2. The other way to get better at writing is to write. There are no shortcuts to sitting in your chair and doing the work.

3. The worst thing new writers do is give up.

4. You have to find what works for you when it comes to daily rituals (though most wake up very early in the morning to write).

5. Every writer said the final product is usually far different from the first draft. They spend a lot of time editing and revising their work. It’s okay to write a shitty first draft (as Ann Lamott talks about).

6. Don’t just write what you know (like so many people advise).

7. Sometimes saying something simply is the best way to say it.

8. When they are stuck, they mix up the routine:  go for a walk, change locations or switch from a computer to free-writing in a journal.

9. At least five writers mentioned Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life as a book for writers to read. Other books mentioned more than once were The Writing Life by Annie Dillard and On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. (I’ve read them all and agree!)

10. Many writers expressed that the work takes on a mind of its own and that they are simply a conduit for the words to get themselves onto the page and out into the world.

 

If you are a writer, teacher or student of writing, I would highly recommend this podcast for ideas on finding your writing flow. Each time I listen, I walk away encouraged and more motivated to share my words with the world.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received? Which of these tips most resonates with you at this stage of your writing career?

Check out this podcast to hear quick, fascinating interviews with some of these writers: Salman Rushdie, Alexander McCall Smith, Anita Shreve, Patti Smith, James McBride, Joe Hill, Judy Blume, Jodi Picoult, Colson Whitehead, Krista Tippett and many others!

 

**Contains Amazon affiliate links

If you are a writer, teacher or student of writing, I would highly recommend this podcast for ideas on finding your own writing flow.

When Writing Feels Like a Waste of Time {for SheLoves}

On a rough day, my husband will cheer me up with a dozen yellow roses. For some reason, it’s often before we go out of town, so I immediately think how we will receive a sad, wilted welcome when we return from our trip. It feels like a waste of beauty.

How many days and months go into cultivating a single yellow rose? Daily sunlight, water and fertilizer encourage it to grow. At just the right moment, it is snipped, sold and carried from the store by some well-meaning suitor or lover (or more likely, a female who treats herself to this little luxury every once in a while). All for what? To sit on our crumb-laden kitchen tables for a few days, splashing our rooms with color and assaulting our senses with scent only to be thrown in the trash within the week?

Sometimes this is how publishing a piece of writing feels. When I think about the days, months and years that have preceded putting my thoughts into words, then the hours of molding and shaping them, coaxing out the beauty, the grace, the deeper meaning, it reminds me of these roses. I am the gardener and yet I also decide when my words are ready to be cut and offered to the world. When my offering of words is welcomed, I smile. And yet how quickly the glory fades as my article is overlapped by another, then another, then another article until what felt like vibrant, fresh and life-breathing words become faded and forgotten.

So is writing (without monetary compensation) even worth it?

***

Last night I tried out a complicated new recipe. I sipped red wine, dancing between the recipe on my computer screen and turning up the volume of the “evening acoustic” album on Pandora. My husband wrestled with the kids on the rug in the living room while I chopped onions, garlic and peppers to toss into the simmering oil in the pan. He took the kids out for a dusk walk and I relaxed into the smells, sounds and feel of a kitchen in use. When they returned, we washed tiny hands, strapped kids into high chairs and bowed heads to pray in spite of spoons banging and feet kicking.

If you’re a parent, then you know what came after this seemingly magical moment.

“Yuck,” my son said, pushing his dish away. My daughter picked out a few pieces of food, but also declared my meticulously prepared meal “yucky.” My husband and I finished eating in less than 15 minutes and just like that—after nearly an hour of preparation–it was over.

But here’s the thing. Even though the food was underappreciated, consumed quickly and the process will need to be repeated tomorrow and the next day, it was still worth it. Why?

Because the process of preparation fed my soul. The meal gave us a reason to sit down together as a family. And it provided nourishment for the hungry ones at the table.

Just like your writing.

As you write, God is working out what He is working in you...

Continue reading at SheLoves.

Madeleine L’Engle Made Me Do It {for SheLoves}

I shared this last week on SheLoves for the theme “legacy.” When I thought of a woman who has had a huge impact on my life, Madeleine L’Engle immediately came to mind…

 
My husband and I fell in love dodging sparks over a shared affection for travel, coffee and Madeleine L’Engle. I had just finished rereading L’Engle’s treatise on faith and art, Walking on Water, for the umpteenth time, feeling the usual pull to be a writer without the guts to follow the call. My future husband, it turned out, owned every non-fiction book she had written, but had a special affinity for this one because of his own call to be an actor.

Over the years, L’Engle’s words have not only entertained, but also empowered me. For the closet creative with a secret compulsion to write, act, paint, draw, sing, plant or plan a Pinterest party, her words are just the pixie dust you need to fly.

I’ve had a fondness for Madeleine L’Engle since the first time my mom thrust A Wrinkle in Time into my hands in elementary school, making me promise to read it before devouring another Babysitter’s Club book. Years later, after graduating and taking a job teaching seventh grade, A Wrinkle in Time was my first choice of a novel for my students to read for our literature circles.

But it wasn’t until last year that L’Engle’s words changed the trajectory of my life.

Five years after my husband and I fell in love, I reread Walking on Water not in the midst of my single life full of wide-open paths, but sitting on a spit-up stained couch by dim lamplight nursing my second baby. As I read, my secret compulsion unexpectedly grew into courage.

Like a prophecy that awaits its time, the words finally claimed me.

“Feed the lake,” she wrote.

I had so many excuses why I shouldn’t begin writing publically. (The baby on my lap, for one). But there were others…

Continue reading at SheLoves.

A Writer’s Prayer

A Writer's Prayer

My dear Jesus,

As I pull my chair up to the computer to write, I beg that you would not only sit next to me, patting me gently on the back, but actually dip down and draw up words from the well of your Spirit. I pray for your anointing.  I want my words to make you smile.

Lord, I’m sorry for competing, comparing myself, and seeking affirmation from others. Forgive me for the pride of exalting myself instead of pointing to you. I confess my blatant ignorance of the suffering of others and the ways I shield myself from their pain so that I can continue in my comfort.  Wash me, Lord, and purify my motives for writing.

Thank you for raising up writers to speak truth during days when truth seems like a shimmering mirage.  As your daughters and sons, we see through a darkened glass, but it doesn’t mean that Truth is not solid or that it does not exist.  

I pray for the boldness to speak up against injustice when I have the opportunity–even when I don’t have a solution.

I pray that fear would never keep me from doing what you have called me to do.  Please give me faith to keep moving forward.

I pray that you would pour my boiling anger at rash injustice into the funnel of faith, hope and love. Mold it into a useful tool for building and planting instead of a weapon of violence that only kills, destroys and feeds the fury of hate.

I pray for the strength to do what I can, when I can, and to have grace for myself and others for the things that I am not capable of doing right now.

I pray that I would do my part–tend my small square in the larger tapestry–and write for my community and my people without being overwhelmed by how much more there is to do in the name of justice, hope and love.

I pray for the courage to be vulnerable, authentic and transparent if my openness will free others to feel they are not alone, aid in their healing or empower them to do the next thing.  I pray my writing would cost me something.

I pray for the gift of words–dazzling, true, clear, precise words–that will best speak the message you want me to share.

I pray for discipline to write even when I feel tired, uninspired or empty.

I pray for energy to learn, change, grow, admit my weaknesses, beg forgiveness and ask hard questions that may have no obvious answers. 

I pray for wide eyes, hearing ears, open hands and a burning heart that come from spending time in the presence of Jesus himself. 

I pray for wisdom in choosing the path you have marked for me without getting distracted by the daisy-lined trails that may intrigue, but are not the ones you want me to explore.

I pray for miracles.  May your Spirit transform my words–my simple offering of a few loaves and fish–and multiply them to feed the ones (even the one) you intend for them to feed.

I pray for encouragement on the days I want to quit.  Please minister to me when I feel depleted and nourish me with even one small crumb of a reminder that I am still on Your Way.

Jesus, thank you for raising up other writers to add their voices to the collective chorus that is singing out boldly for you in the midst of so much pain, hatred and bitterness in the world. Keep our voices sweet, but strong.

Finally, I pray for love.

For “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 NLT).”

Loveless words are empty words.  Infuse my words with the purifying fire of your love.

Thank you for calling me to write for such a time as this. Thank you for the few magical moments when I’ve felt that you are pouring words into and drawing them back out of me.  I pray that you would keep my voice in tune with yours and fill the earth with even more voices to sing out to you.

I pray that you would give us holy anger, inexplicable wisdom, unshackled hope, compassionate love, endless grace, spirit-fueled power and unpolluted vision as we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard (Acts 4:20)

Thank you that we are never alone, but that we write with you. 

In Jesus’ powerful name.

Amen.

~~~

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Previous Post: A Book for the Budding Minimalist {The More of Less}

Next Post: Overcoming Smartphone Addiction

Related Post: To the Writer Mamas

Check out all the posts in this series here. 


A Writer's Prayer


On (most) Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m not an expert, but hope to seek personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  If you’re new to the series, check out the posts you missed here. Please introduce yourself in the comments–I’d love to meet you and hear your thoughts on writing.

Happy writing!
Leslie
A Writer's Prayer

To the Writer Mamas

Writing while simultaneously being a mother to teeny children is a bit like trying to renovate a house while youre still living in it. House projects–or writing goals–abound, but messy, magical, mundane life cannot stand still for you complete them. But is it possible that every finished project, however inconvenient, will eventually improve your quality of life–and the quality of life of your family? 

Since I began writing more seriously eight months ago, several older people of faith have warned me not to get “too distracted and carried away” by writing, lest it infringe on my duties as a mother. As a result, I’ve been on the hunt for other mamas who are leaning into this tension of the dual callings of art and home and can help me answer the question: Is it possible to be a mother and a writer–and still do each one well?

Madeline L’Engle is a hero for those of us seeking to debunk the myth that being a writer and mama are in conflict. L’Engle inspires us as writer mamas because she managed to have a flourishing writing career while raising three children. I recently listened to a podcast by Ann Kroeker where she spoke of getting the opportunity to ask L’Engle how she was able to be a writer and mother at the same time during those years when her kids were small. After a long pause, L’Engle finally looked at her and answered, “It was hard.”

But in her book, A Circle of Quiet, L’Engle recounts a time when her eldest child noticed that she had been in a bad mood lately and said to her, “Mother, you’ve been getting cross and edgy with us, and you haven’t been doing much writing. We wish you’d get back to the typewriter” (p. 199). In Walking on Water, she refers to this story and says, “I had to learn that I was a better mother and wife when I was working than when I was not” (p. 166).

Like L’Engle, writing has made me a better mother. It sets me on high alert to notice the beauty, meaning or hilarity in the ordinary. Writing plants seeds of gratitude within me as I am more apt to discover the magnalia Dei, the marvels of God, in my daily life. I have the mind of an explorer, always on the quest for new places, people or ideas.   Writing shoves me into the presence of other pilgrims, seekers, and beauty-finders. It gives me the opportunity to “live life twice,” as Natalie Goldberg said, and finally work through my past, present and future with infant eyes. Like thumbing back through my pictures from a trip, writing allows me to slowly reexamine and delight in the minutia I might otherwise have missed as time whizzed by.

Writing also heals. As someone who has always called my journal my “personal counselor,” writing unlocks old, dusty treasure troves of experiences and gives them value as they are polished and given away. Healing comes as I write in league with the Spirit, who illuminates my path and reveals the times when I was not walking alone. Writing enables me to offer a more whole version of myself to all who know me.

Fitting writing into the more than full-time job of being a wife and mother has been a challenge. But L’Engle also admitted that, “For a woman who has chosen family as well as work, there’s never time, and yet somehow time is given to us” (Walking on Water, p. 165). We make time for what is important to us. Its been amazing to find that if I am willing to let my floor be a bit messier, the laundry to linger a little longer and the T.V. screen to sit blank and lonely, that I have time in the margins of my day to write. L’Engle remarked that “A certain amount of stubbornness—pig-headedness—is essential” to the mother who wants to write (Walking on Water, p. 165). For me, that is a 5 AM wake-up, writing during the kids’ nap time, scribbling notes for articles while sautéing vegetables for dinner and spending free evenings thumping on my keyboard.

But I also have to accept my limitations as a writer during this season of being a mother to tiny ones. In the conclusion of her podcast, Ann Kroeker finally got a more satisfactory answer to her question about juggling motherhood and a writing career from the writer Holly Miller. Holly told her, “You still have time to develop your career as a writer, but you only have NOW with your kids. Your kids are so little and they’re little for such a short time. You’ll never regret spending this time with your kids.” But she also encouraged Ann to “Keep your finger in the publishing world. Keep it going on a small scale and your time will come.” Years later, Ann agrees that these small deposits into her writing career did add up.

I will have more time later to write. Now is the season for delighting in the magical world of child’s play: splashing in the sprinkler, sending dandelion seeds flying, lying on the ground to poke ants and rollie pollies, taking very slow walks around the block, tickling again and again, building towers, blowing hundreds of iridescent bubbles that float into the neighbors’ yard, making toy cars talk, endlessly making up answers to the question “why?,” rolling out play dough snakes and zipping baby dolls into tiny clothing

It is talking to my children about this God-man, Jesus, who loves us so, reading stories about talking animals, kissing ouchies, holding up traffic to spot the prairie dogs in the field, finding pine cones in the pots in my cupboards and deliberating over whether picking up the toys again is really worth the effort. It’s wondering if I am still the same person that I was four years ago and deciding that I am not. Parts of me have been lost, but other, more fruitful branches, have grown where the others have been stripped and pruned. Though I may not be writing for five hours a day, this season of slowness is training me in the discipline of noticing.  

Tears streamed down my face as I listened to Ann’s podcast because it validated me as a writer, but also gave me permission to enjoy my children right now. To the other writer mamas wondering if their callings of motherhood and writing are in conflict, please know that they do not need to be. You will be more whole and available to your family if you are using your gift and following your call as a writer. But also know that you do not have to achieve all of your goals right now. 

Life is long, but the time with our kids is short, so keep in step with your kids and allow your writing to have the same pace that they do—even if that is stopping often, moving slowly and developing gradually. Our writing in this season has a similar rhythm and stride. It is slow, but there is progress as you slowly renovate your rooms. Keep celebrating the small advances in your life as a mother and in your career as a writer and know that these two are not mutually exclusive, but inextricably bound as you settle into the home of the mama writer self you were created to be.

~~~

Are you a writer mama?  What has your experience been?

~~~

  Resources for Writer Mamas:

Ann Kroeker (Writing Coach) Podcast mentioned in this post: Here’s to the Writer Moms (just 7 minutes!)

How Alive Do You Want to Be? by Ashley Hales (mother of 4) for The Mudroom 

An Interview with Sarah Bessey on Faith, Art & Motherhood (writer and mother of 4), by Jerusalem Greer 

~~~

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~~~

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Linking up with Grace & Truth

 On (most) Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Subscribe in the upper right corner so that you don’t miss a post.  If you’re new to the series, find all the posts here.  Come meet me in the comments–I’d love to read your thoughts on writing.


Happy writing!

Leslie


Is it possible to be a good mother AND a good writer?


Are You Afraid to Speak Up? {Thursday Thoughts for Writers}

Are You Afraid to Speak Up? {Thursday Thoughts for Writers}

Most times I’m terrified to speak up.  Someone more knowledgeable, experienced and articulate should be the one to take a stand. Who would listen to me anyway? 

And then there’s my tendency to avoid conflict. I duck out of the room when people begin to disagree.  I hate discussing politics, theology and controversial topics.  I would much rather pretend life was like the world of kid cartoons than face the realities of inequality, oppression, and brokenness.  

But lately God seems to be searing my heart with the heat of injustice. It’s uncomfortable, but also feels very human to experience the raw anger and pain. And it’s gotten nearly impossible to sit here motionless under the heat.
 
After visiting the slavery plantations on a school trip in college, a classmate of Austin Channing Brown, the racial activist, proclaimed to her classmates, “Not doing something is no longer an option.[1]As writers, sometimes we have an obligation and responsibility to report what we have seen and heard. 

Are You Afraid to Speak Up? {Thursday Thoughts for Writers}Our platform may be tiny, our words imperfect and our confidence shaky, but that is not our concern. Fear is rarely a valid reason not to act. Instead, we trust the work and especially the Source behind it. We take the next illuminated step on this dark path because that is all we can see at this moment. And we have faith that we are being led. 

Sometimes we report what Jesus is cultivating in us personally.  Other times we are eyewitnesses of His presence and activity in the world. But many times writers are modern day prophets.  And like the prophets of old, our messages may fall on deaf ears.
 

Esther was a nobody-become-queen. She was a Jewish orphan who was chosen to become royalty at a time when her people were living in a foreign land. Aside from being a beauty, she was no one special.  And yet God strategically placed her in a position of influence and gave her the courage to speak up when the time was right [2].

The writer and speaker Sarah Bessey says that sometimes our calling is hiding somewhere in what makes us angry [3]. What enrages you? What brings you to tears? God may be leading you to take and leap and ride that violently thrashing horse–and write about it. Do you trust that He is strong enough to help you stay mounted for the duration of the ride?

We are to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.[4]”  The ESV says to “open your mouth for the mute.”  Who needs you to speak up for them or they will never be heard? Perhaps God has brought us to be writers for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
 
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[1] Podcast: Seminary Dropout, episode 66: Austin Channing Brown

[2] Esther 4:14 (NIV)

[3] Podcast: The Practice: Stories of Resurrection in Religion, Sarah Bessey

[4] Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV) 

Previous Post:  When Life is Less Radical Than You Imagined {Mudroom}

Linking up with Velvet Ashes

Are You Afraid to Speak Up? {Thursday Thoughts for Writers}

On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Subscribe in the upper right corner so that you don’t miss a post.  If you’re new to the series, find all the posts here.  Come meet me in the comments–I’d love to read your thoughts on writing.


Happy writing!

Leslie



Online Resources for Bloggers & Writers {Thursday Thoughts for Writers}

The following are resources I have come across in the past several months that aid writers and bloggers in their craft.

The following are resources I have come across in the past several months that aid writers and bloggers in their craft.  Since my blog is not monetary, this list is mainly geared towards simple blogging and those needing a bit of encouragement as a writer.  I’ll be updating it periodically, so bookmark this page for future reference!

Blogs about Writing:

Jeff Goins
A blog with tons of ideas, tips and inspirational posts about becoming a better, more productive writer.

Writer’s Edit: The Literary Magazine
This site is full of tips and resources for writers.  If you follow them on Twitter, they often post great quotes about writing!

Podcasts for writers and bloggers:

Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach
This link will take you to her blog, podcast and coaching business.  I’ve been binge-listening to the podcast because each one is only 3 to 7 minutes long and she offers some helpful tips on writing.

The Creative Penn 
Joanna Penn offers resources on how to write, publish and edit your book.  Though I’m not writing a book, I still found this podcast to be relevant as a writer.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins
Goins provides inspiring ideas for developing professionally and personally as a writer. 

How They Blog
Although the last episode for this podcast aired in 2014, I am still finding the information to be very useful as a blogger.  I especially enjoyed episode 33 with Anne Bogel (whose podcast, What Should I Read Next is also fantastic) and episode 30 on the fundamentals of becoming a better writer.

Podcasts related to creatives:

The Accidental Creative
I listened to the episode “10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Podcasts” and really enjoyed hearing about what he has learned over the years.

Magic Lessons, with Elizabeth Gilbert
I especially loved the first two episodes of this podcast, so I would definitely start there.  It was very encouraging to me as an intrepid new writer to just get started doing what I knew I needed to do. 

Websites for Images:

Pixabay
I’m not a photographer, so this is where I usually get the images for my blog.  They have over 620,000 stock images that are free and within the copyright laws of Creative Commons.   

Canva
This is my favorite site for creating blog titles and twitter and Pinterest images.  The images are limited, so first download an image from pixabay, upload it to canva and then add your title.

Picmonkey
If I do happen to take my own photo, this is a very user-friendly site for free photo editing and creating collages.


Helpful Articles:

15 Ways to Avoid Blogger Burnout, by Pinch of Yum blog
Though this is from a food blog (with amazing recipes, by the way), this article applies to all bloggers.  It gave me some great ideas on setting boundaries.

Why It’s Kind of Okay If No One Reads Your Blog, by Rebecca K. Reynolds
I mentioned this article in a previous Thursday Thoughts for Writers post as one that liberated me from feeling like I had to share everything with the world for the sake of authenticity.

In Which I am Retiring “In Which” and a Few Other Decisions About Blogging, by Sarah Bessey
Love this:  “Chill out. Write what I want, when I want, and hang the rest of it. I still believe down deep that good content trumps click-bait titles and free graphics.”  This is also a timely post if you feel close to burn out!

Groups:

The Peony Project (Facebook Group)
A space for women who love Jesus, love blogging and love community.  This is a fantastic group of women and I have learned a ton from being a part of this group.

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What other resources can you add to this?  Drop a comment below or send me a personal message and if it’s relevant, I’ll add it to the list!

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On Thursdays this year, I’ll share thoughts, tips and inspiration for writers.  I’m certainly not an expert, but am simply seeking personal encouragement in this art and want to share with anyone who’s also trying to find their way as a writer.  These short posts will come from books, articles, the Bible, my own thoughts, and other people.  Subscribe in the upper right corner so that you don’t miss a post.  If you’re new to the series, find all the posts here.  Come meet me in the comments–I’d love to read your thoughts on writing.


Happy writing!

Leslie

The following are resources I have come across in the past several months that aid writers and bloggers in their craft.