Split Personality?

As a teenager I labeled nonfiction books Boring. Especially the self-help category.They would not, could not hold my attention for more than a few minutes. Dry as dust. Self-important. Dictatorial. BORING. I read fiction night and day — devoured mysteries, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, westerns….

Can I make a small, very tiny confession?

I have an idea for a nonfiction book.

For two, actually.

Okay, I admit it — I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction lately. And liking it. I can’t make the font small enough to match my chagrin.

I LOVE writing fiction. Stories are my favorite! But I’m also excited about sharing what I’m learning as a parent and what I’ve discovered between the lines in the Bible.

So, readers, have you tried writing several books at once? How do you manage to split your time between two totally different genres? What drawbacks did you encounter?

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A Small Tale

A few weeks ago I went to the library for some quiet writing time. I got comfortable in my crazy geometric chair and waited while my laptop whirred to life. I turned my head and just let my eyes drift unfocused over the shelves behind me.

You know that technique in film-making in which the camera zooms in and dollies out? And it looks like the world is suddenly rushing past the stunned character while he or she is still?  Well, that’s what that moment felt like. I saw each book as I see my own when I hold it — all the revolutions of rough drafts, the tears of frustration and grumbling over formatting, the many iterations of the cover image, the years of research I poured into it.

Each book has been cried over, laughed over, loved and hated, reworked, edited within an inch of its life, tossed in the trash and pulled out again, clothed in cover after cover until the perfect look is found. How many years of work are represented in these millions, billions of books? The ranks of silent words suddenly yelled at me of all the effort that has gone into making them appear on a library shelf for anybody to casually pick up, thumb through, or reject.

It left me breathless.

And my book is among them.

I felt honored. And now when I go to the library to write, I feel I am in good company.

Simple Arithmetic

It has been a very long time since my last post. Life has been bulging at the seams, and my husband and I have been trying to cut out the fat — all the extraneous activities and commitments that bog us down in busyness. So far we’ve been getting up earlier, sending the older boys to public school instead of homeschooling them, setting aside time for ourselves as a couple, and pulling (gracefully) out of various groups that devour our time and energy and give little back.
Good.
So why haven’t I been writing more? Correction: Why haven’t I been writing at all?
It’s all a question of simple arithmetic; marriage plus five children ranging from about eight years old down to four months plus housework plus a few church-related activities equals still every minute of every day spoken for. No time for me to be me and do the things I enjoy doing. Want to see that in an equation?
Marriage + 5 kids + housework + church activities = no leftover time.
It’s a common tale, isn’t it? We are all fighting the clock and losing. Years zip by in which all we do is take care of our families and count it a successful day if everyone is alive and reasonable healthy and happy at the end of it. Right. The problem is we are not meant to live like that. Correction: That is not living at all; that is existing. To treat our days and ourselves in such a fashion is to retreat into the barest semblance of humanity. At best, it is a faint shadow of the vibrant life we could have.
Well, I refuse to give up doing all the things I love merely so my house can be squeaky-freaky clean and my children attended to the second they discover a need. I refuse to become a robot. But that’s where I’ve been the last few months.
Do you know what I love to do? Write!
(Of course you knew that. I know you knew that. Bear with me a minute….)
Do you know what I’m like when I haven’t written anything in a while? Grouchy, subdued, apathetic, discouraged, bland.
Do you know what I’m like after I’ve had a chunk of time to scribble? Impish, witty, spontaneous, optimistic, almost energetic! It’s a morale thing. I can better handle what my five munchkins can dish out, a sleepless night, a frustrated and discouraged husband, anything with this lovely shot of adrenaline for my heart.
Why, why, why would I sacrifice that? I am a much better, more joyful, vibrant person, and isn’t that good for everyone around me?
So I must write. It is a requirement for me to live. Now how do I change that awful equation? I’ve decided to ignore everything that clamors for my attention for a few hours every week and just write. I claim this time as my own. May it bring life to myself and others.
You might have had all this figured out long ago, and now you are nodding your head in amused agreement. Well, thank you for sticking with me through this. I am glad there are people light years ahead of me in living a vibrant life — you are lighting the way for the rest of us.

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I am officially published.

The Inferior has made it through the self-publishing gauntlet, and its face is posted on Amazon for everyone to see.

Check it out here!

Don’t think it’s hit me yet — this project is done. Like Anne Bradstreet, I’ve dressed and prepared my baby as best I can, and now it’s time to let it go out into the world.

Wow.

Sorry, folks, I’m pretty much speechless!

Coincidence and Circumstance

Several months ago I discovered that I’m pregnant with my fifth child. The news came in the middle of the flu and viruses and colds, the last grinding months of homeschooling and preschool, and trying to make ourselves at home in a new church. I had felt like my circumstances were closing in around me like four blank walls, but I was determined to break through them. This tiny creature tipped the scales. All my dreams of spending more time writing, my dreams of using my gifts and awakening dormant talents, came crashing down. All my convictions and stubbornness and whatever else was keeping me going simply melted away. Those walls closed in firmly around me, and I was rendered powerless.
For months my heart was mute. Not even capable of crying out silently to God, let alone crying out for help from my friends and family. I felt like I had stepped out of a jungle into a desert, a harsh sunbaked place where silence reigned. God’s silence. My silence.
“Have I done something wrong?” I asked out of exasperation.
No, he answered.
That was all. Just no.
Then I realized I was angry — just plain fighting mad, and I was fighting everyone around me in an effort to break out of this place. My husband called me out for my bad attitude and negativity. Darn right, but I couldn’t seem to do anything about it.
A book called “Soul Craving” by Joel Warne gently drew my anger out of me. One chapter focused on Paul and his imprisonment — very tight circumstances. Literal four walls plus handcuffs. In that place Paul penned his letter to the Philippians, filled with reminders of joy. In that place, he had guards who were forced to listen to him preach the gospel. Paul’s message spread through that place, and so many accepted Jesus that he reported it a huge success in his letter.
Wow.
The question Warne asked so gently is this: Are we available for God’s purposes, whatever they are and wherever they lead us?
Paul eagerly followed wherever the will of God led him, even into captivity. Simply because it was the will of the one he loved more than anything.
I have a purpose in life. God made me with different skills, abilities, talents, and he gave me wonderful gifts to use for him. I have been wanting so badly for him to continue using me and my gifts in the same ways he did last year. He’s not. Instead he led me into circumstances where he seems little inclined to use me at all. And I’ve been angry and frustrated.

But there is more to me than what I can do. There is an even higher purpose to my life than the calling that God has given me: Jesus. He lived and died for me so that the two of us could have that close relationship that was lost in Eden. He calls me “daughter,” “beloved,” a member in the body of Christ, and one day I will be so close to him there are no human words that can express our beautiful relationship!

I have lost my focus. There is nothing this bumbling woman can do now but Be. And maybe that is partly what this “confinement” is all about.

And is it any coincidence that I am now pregnant while writing about a pregnant woman? That once again my main character is dealing with the same issues I am?

I don’t believe in coincidences anymore. I think she and I will find our way through this together.

An Intermingled Reality

I have ADHD, no hyperactivity. My symptoms displayed themselves so quietly, my parents didn’t notice until I was in high school. Then my disorganization, inability to focus, constantly spinning thoughts, and communication issues wreaked havoc on my senior year. I went into college getting to know myself and struggling to manage these disabling parts of me.
Writing was the one thing I did well. As letters formed on the paper, the thoughts in my head untangled and separated into a smooth new order. It didn’t matter whether it was a persuasive essay or a short story, I was able to communicate my ideas and be understood.
Then my church’s college group began a class in journalling, which is simply this: Focus on God, let him know you are listening, then write down what he says. Well, I’d felt twinges and leaps in my heart before — I thought that was how God spoke to me. Period. I was frustrated right off the bat. The man in the video made it all sound so simple. Everyone can journal. Everyone can hear God’s voice. You simply have to focus. Yeah, buddy, that’s never going to happen for me!
But I tried anyway. In my mind I went to the loveliest, loneliest place I could think of — a dock jutting out into a Massachusetts bay, little waves murmuring as they nudged the posts, a big moon shining like a spotlight on a tiny island bristling with dark evergreens. There in my mind Jesus sat next to me, legs dangling over the edge of the dock, and he turned his head and looked at me. When I asked him a question, he answered. I wrote it down, and the words kept coming — a soft whisper in my mind. Loving, chiding, amused.
I’ve been learning to listen for that voice throughout the day. Sometimes it’s in a song, a movie, a book, the words of total strangers, a “coincidence,” my Bible. He speaks to me, and I am always astounded by what he says!
My new project is a book about a young pregnant woman whose town experiences a somewhat lengthy power outage due to a major storm. Her husband is gone on a business trip. She doesn’t have any pets. Her world is suddenly silent. She begins to hear voices in her head, some that confuse and frighten her, some that are gentle and kind. Interesting things happen when she listens to the gentle voice, and horrible things happen when she listens to the confusing voice. So far it’s been fun to write, drawing a lot from my own experience and friends’ stories.
Up until now.
My physical, material situation hasn’t changed much, but something has shifted inside me. It feels tight, constricted, lonely, silent. God isn’t speaking to me in the same ways, and certainly not as often. Small words reach me like drips of water. The rest is static. White noise.
Now, it may be my fault that I’m not hearing him. Maybe my heart and mind are off, distracted, busy, iced over. But he did say a desolate time was coming. Winter. A winter of the soul.
How interesting. Right at the time of a new novel about hearing God’s voice.
Are my reality and my fiction so intermingled, so importantly tied together, that I must first live what I write about? Do I have to experience that silence my main character lives with before voices burst in on her world? Do I need to relearn what it is to hear God’s voice?
Maybe I’ve become arrogant. Maybe I’ve gotten used to him speaking to me all the time. Maybe he’s taken a step away to see what I’ll do without him so near me. Maybe it’s time I learned to simply stand when static buffets me. And trust he will speak to me again.

A Story is Born….

Thirteen years ago I climbed into my family’s big Suburban and locked the doors. Locked out my noisy siblings, the exuberant talk of adults on vacation, speedboat and dune buggy engines. I dragged in a breath of solid heat and stared at the Silver Lake dunes through a frame of pine branches.  A notebook and pencil lay motionless in my lap. Thick silence filled my ears like cotton balls. Then a story was born in my head. I began to write.

A lifetime has passed since then — college in a nearby city, marriage to a man I’d secretly loved for years, four children in quick succession. We forged new friendships and watched other friendships dwindle. We limped through times when money seemed as rare and precious as water in a desert. We have been battered by life’s sucker punches — a good job lost for the sake of another’s career, manipulation and false accusations of “friends,” the lightning strike of a rare type of cancer on my otherwise healthy sister, and the slow rot of our church home. And we have had moments where time gave way for the sweetness of life. My husband’s sleepy whispers of love. My baby chuckling in his sleep. The perfect back and forth of a conversation with an old friend. The power and playfulness of God in a series of Lake Michigan waves.

I have been writing the same story for twelve years. All my fears, the lies I believed, the oppression that ruled me, my insecurity and hopelessness are embedded in those pages. And so is my victory — the triumph of God’s voice and love and power over every other influence in my life. It is my story, but much more so than I ever meant it to be.

Now that we’re on the brink of publishing The Inferior, I look back and wonder how I dared begin such a project. It meant peering into the cobwebbed closets of my heart and bringing my brokenness into the light. It meant delving into the crooked mind of Adolf Hitler and staring at the grotesque underbelly of history. It meant immersing myself in a world without hope and finding that hope breaks in anyway.

I hope this story resonates with others who are on the same journey. May it be an encouragement to those who fight daily with fear and lies. May it be “a candle to see by.”