Sunday, July 27, 2014

so much few words

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Maberry at a writing conference.

Early one morning as I shuffled through the hotel lobby in search of coffee I spotted him in a corner, already hard at work, his fingers flying across the keyboard. I overheard him tell someone he had a Monday morning deadline to make, and he had to get forty thousand words written by the end of the addition to giving the keynote address, teaching a workshop, and mentoring eager wannabes at the conference. He'd been up most of the night.

I have to confess--I almost never stay up all night writing. Oh, all right, I never stay up to write through the night. The last time I was up all night I was in labor and it wasn't because the deadline had passed.

But, really--forty thousand words in three days? All Jonathan is an exceptionally energetic and prolific writer. Me? Not so much.

I don't know how a person (me) can work so long and so hard on a manuscript, and after six months, have so little to show for it--fewer than 30,000 words. I tell myself that it's okay because the topic is difficult, and some of what I have written is painful, but the fact remains that I am a slow writer.

Therefore, I sometimes need to be reminded that:

Okay, I feel better now. You?
"You cannot force ideas.
Successful ideas are the result of
slow growth."
~~Alexander Graham Bell~~
I'm off to the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference this week. Pray for me...haha!

Monday, July 21, 2014

questions without answers

Whatever it was I planned to write about this week, forget it. It wasn't important.

What is important is the senseless loss of life that is getting to be a commonplace occurrence these days, the fact that we are helpless to anticipate it or prevent it, and the painful fact that there is nothing any of us can do to help the victims, their families and friends. I'm referring, of course, to the tragedy that took down Malasia Airlines Flight #17.
I didn't know anyone who was on that flight but I do know people just like them. We all do. They're people who have to fly in order to do their jobs, people who need to get away for a little vacation, or who just want to get home. They may be traveling with their children. They put aside their nagging doubts, yield to the annoying discomforts and inconveniences that plague even the easiest flights, and dismiss the unspoken fear that their flight could be the one that goes down. They climb on board, settle into their seats, and relax.

We all do. Which is why I feel connected to the victims of this disaster. I know that, but for the grace if God, I could have been on that plane, or one just like it--a flight that disappears off the radar.

Whether it is the sheer magnitude, the stark horror, or the near proximity of a tragedy like this that gets our attention, the questions we ask are universal. We want to know why God allows this kind of thing to happen. Why the innocent have to suffer. Where God goes when we need Him the most. After all, we've been taught to believe in a merciful and all-powerful deity. It makes you wonder. Where is God when we need Him? How do broken hearts keep beating? How are we to make sense of suffering?
My WIP, Beyond Belief, explores these issues on a personal level. In it you'll meet people who have endured some of life's darkest moments and emerged with an even stronger faith in God. None of them abandoned their faith because of it. None of them succumbed to bitterness or anger or paralyzing grief. They didn't blame God for what had happened. Instead, they went on to forge an unshakable bond of faith in His grace, the one thing that they agree got them through.
What can the rest of us learn from them at times like this?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

are you in over your head?

This couldn't have crossed my desk at a better time. I so'o'o needed to hear this. It's from "The Mindful Writer" by Dinty Moore:

"If you don't feel that you are possibly on
the edge of humiliating yourself,
of losing control of the whole thing,
then probably what you're doing isn't very vital.
If you don't feel like you are writing
somewhat over your head, why do it?

If you don't have some doubt of your
authority to tell this story,
then you are not trying to tell enough."
                 ~~John Irving~~

John Irving

Moore goes on to say:
"The true work of the writer is the true work of all artists: to take risks, to lean far out over the edge
of the accepted truth, to see what can only be seen from that vantage point.
Ask yourself every once in a while: Am I in over my head? Am I posing questions in my work to which there can never be satisfying answers? Am I trying to tackle a project here that is well beyond my capacity as a writer? Am I just a little afraid of the direction that all of this is going?
If the answer to each of these questions is yes, then you are heading in the right direction."
Dinty Moore
 Whew! That's really good news. For a while there I was worried.
What worries you about your WIP?


Monday, July 7, 2014

four simple truths for the writer

Allow me to introduce you to my new favorite book on writing:

The Mindful Writer

If you want to be a writer but, instead of  putting words on the page every day, you pay homage to every distraction, uncertainty, and temptation that threatens to separate you from your work, you may like this book, too.
If you give in to the voices of discouragement, insecurity, and uncertainty that clamor for attention inside your own head, or you open the door every time the enemy knocks, this book may be for you.
On days when you're tired of writing or afraid to start, or unsure how to proceed, this little book can help. 
It is based on four simple truths:
  1. The writing life is difficult.
  2. Much of our dissatisfaction with it arises out of our desire to control not only the process of writing, but whether the world accepts or rejects what we have written.
  3. There are ways to lessen the disappointment of rejection and to live a more authentic writing life.
  4. The way to do this is to make the process of writing less about our own success and fulfillment, and instead to be mindful of our motives and our attachment to desired outcomes.
Yes, the author writes largely from a Buddhist perspective. Each short chapter is a reflection on a quote about writing. Here are a couple of my favorites:
  • "Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."~~Barbara Kingsolver
  • "I write to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see, and what it means."~~Joan Didion
  • Everyone thinks writers must know more about the inside of the human head, but that is wrong. They know less. That's why they write, trying to find out what everyone else takes for granted."~~Margaret Atwood
  • "Every morning between 9 and 12, I go to my room and sit before a piece of paper. Many times I just sit for three hours with no ideas coming to me. But I know one thing: If an idea does come between 9 and 12, I am there ready for it."~~Flannery O'Connor
  • "Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write."~~Rainer Maria Rilke
Baobab tree

If you sometimes feel unbalanced--thrown off course by all that is happening to you and around you--remember that mindfulness can help you reconnect with your own truth. Reflect on who you are as a writer, where you are in life and what it means, how you feel about it, and what about it needs to be written--or drawn, or photographed, or choreographed, or sculpted, or put to music. Reflect on the Noble Truths of the Writing Life.
"As a writer you are free.
You are about the freest person that ever was.
Your freedom is what you have bought
with your solitude, your loneliness."
~~Ursula K. Le Guin~~