A Negligent Blogger

I don’t even know where to begin. That’s the thing about neglecting a blog for so long–when you come back, there’s so much to recap…too much.

To say that life has been hectic would be pretty close to the truth . . . but not quite there. I cannot believe that February is fading so quickly. I’m not ready for March yet!

School is hectic as usual. No surprise there. I’m trying to finish strong in my last high school math course and the last year of our three-year World Views course. Violin is also crazy. We just started working on Dvorak’s New World Symphony in EYSO. Also, I participated in the Concerto Competition last Saturday (more on that later), spending much of last week cramming long hours of practice into my schedule.

With so many events this spring (wedding, graduations, etc.), there are seemingly endless to-do lists and wonderful, fun events.

Writing has been slowly plodding along. I’m somewhere around 7,000 words in my rough draft and in the truly discouraging parts of drafting. Its so hard to fit writing into my daily schedule. But all of writing isn’t easy.  Sometimes its grueling, uphill work. And that’s how life feels sometimes too.

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I promise I’m back from my unannounced hiatus. I know my (boring) update was probably a little scattered. But such is my brain at the moment. I hope to be back to my usual blogging self soon.

 

A Sweet Gift

A sweet friend (my stand partner in EYSO) and gave these flowers to me at her Birthday dinner last night. When I walked into the kitchen this morning there was light flooding through the window, beaming down on these precious flowers and giving them an ethereal glow.

A New Beginning is Born

I open a new word doc and automatically change the font to Courier New, font size twelve. It’s what I always do when I open a new doc–its the habits of writing ingrained upon my soul. I sit, almost bouncing with excitement. At the top of the page, I center my text and type Chapter 1.

The first words. A new story is about to be born. It’s been bouncing around in my mind for six months. Some of the original inspiration has been fermenting in the depths of my writer’s brain for several years now. Now these ideas are about to be transformed into words. I will take these images, these ideals, these magical places and breathe them into being, give them shape and form.

Suddenly I am afraid. Afraid that I won’t know what to say. Afraid of typing the wrong message, giving life to the wrong ideas.

By now, after completing three novels, I’m used to the feelings. I’m used to the voices in my head (yes, we writers get used to them) feeding me constant criticism. But even now they still make me pause, too scared to type the first words.

My first three novels were great learning experiences. Each of them taught me indispensable truths about writing and about myself. But they have all fallen short of my hopes. And in the back of my mind, I’m secretly wondering, “Will this story be the one? The first one to take me to that next level?”

It’s only after staring at a blank screen for a few minutes do I realize that such worries and aspirations will not help me now. I open a new document and begin to type, not a story, but a message to myself (and my inner editor, who I named Tori).

“I’m scared. Scared that this novel will be bad. That I won’t be able to find the right words.

But so what? Big deal.  The first draft is going to be bad any which way you do it. Any way you start, you’re going to revise it. So just start.

No one will ever see this. No eyes save my own will see these first words. Write something absolutely ridiculous. Just for lovely Tori. Make her so ticked off that she’ll go away. Tori, dear, I love you. But this draft is going to stink and there’s nothing you can do about that!

Confidence, dear self. Have it. Own it.

Forget the rules. Forget structure. Just GET THIS STORY OUT OF MY HEAD. Create emotion. That’s all the matters in the end.

NO one will see this draft. EVER. You can write is as terribly as you want. Because by August you won’t recognize it.

The point of this novel is to grow. To grow one step closer to a readable novel. To learn one more thing about writing. But it won’t be the last step. It won’t be perfect.”

 

Suddenly I feel better, as if Tori is smiling at me with understanding.

This draft, I promise myself, will be simply that–a draft. I will try to quit my horrible habit of editing as I write. I will embrace the mistakes, the quirks, the plot holes. Just enjoy the flow of words, the images, the emotion.

And so, I type the first words.

 

Near the End of a Goal

Today I finished writing a nine page summary of my current Fantasy novel. I  have worked through each chapter, outlining the major value changes and turning points, and setting the major plot twists. At this point I’ve planned for sixteen chapters. I had hoped to be completely done with outlining by the end of January, but somehow studying for the SAT took over a lot of outlining time. Plus, I’ve been working through Writing the Short Story by Jack M. Bickham and using some of my writing time to focus on some shorter fiction. I also need to work on getting at least a working title…I’m getting tired of calling it “Kyrie’s story”.

But hopefully this week I’ll be able to sort through the remaining setting, geographical, plot intricacies, and character issues to the point where I can start drafting by next week. I’m so ready to sit down and see how Kyrie’s voice comes on to page, what tone the setting will set, what the magic of this new world will feel like.

{I’m hoping to start posting some excerpts this spring as I’m working through the drafting process.}

Refreshing

I sat at my desk trying to concentrate on Trig homework, alternatively sketching trigonometric function graphs and looking out the window at the fog-covered world outside. I resisted the urge for as long as I could. After all, I had hours of homework and outlining to do before class.

But before long, I gave in. I grabbed my long-neglected camera, slipped on some flip-flops, and slipped outside.

There was something so refreshing about fog and wet grass, sun beams and camera shutters this morning.

By the time I came in, my leggings and sweat pants were soaked from kneeling and sitting on wet grass and my toes were icy cold. But I was so glad I had abandoned my books for the woods.

 

Moving Forward

What do you do when you’re tired? When you have a whole new week in front of you and no energy with which to face it? When your goals are taking so much longer to reach than you had hoped?

It’s Sunday night–the night when I usually feel motivated to plunge into another week. But right now, I just feel tired. I didn’t get as much done as I had wanted to this last week. My novel outline is taking much longer than I had hoped, stretching longer, getting complicated. The SAT is looming me in the face and I haven’t studied as much as I need to. I’m getting tired of late nights and early mornings. Of the endless piles of homework and music to learn.

Sometimes the hardest things are the simplest. Making yourself schedule out one more week. Setting your alarm for one more early morning. Just taking the next step.But thankfully, that’s all we have to do–take the next step.

And we are promised that we don’t have to walk alone. God will always give His children strength . He gives us the energy, the hope, the encouragement to move forward, one day at a time. He opens our eyes, in the middle of hectic days and weeks, to the blessing He has given us, the beauty all around us. And that brings peace.

 

“Now may the fragrance of His peace
Soar through your heart like the dove released
Hide in His wings oh, weary distant soul
He’ll guide your spirit home”
-Keith and Kristyn Getty

A Choice in the Dentist Chair

Ah, how I have missed my blog this last week and a half. There have been so many times that I have gotten on the internet for a brief thirty minutes here and there and hovered my mouse over the link to my blog, torn between taking the time to post or continuing the never-ending work on school.

There was no gradual easing into the hecticity of the semester. With studying for the SAT that I’m taking the 28th, trying to get through the first weeks of learning Concertmaster solos for EYSO, and the first week of mind-boggling Trigonometry, and frantically trying to finish my novel outline by February, I feel more overwhelmed and hectic than I did last fall. I’m just holding tight until the end of January, when I hope some of my pressures (at least the stress of the SAT) will lighten up.

Speaking of holding tight, I came across a C.S. Lewis quote tonight that really made me stop and think.

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.” 

Now, obviously, I don’t think the dentist element is the point. When translated into everyday life, its a powerful message. Life is loud, busy, and painful at times (like the dentist’s drill). But there’s nothing you can do to stop life. You can cower behind a facade of gloominess and a moody spirit, but life will still trudge on. You can kick and scream and make the experience worse for yourself and those around you.

OR.

You can relax. You can take a quiet moment to rejoice, to thank God for a gift He has given you. You can be quiet in your soul and quietly endure the painful drilling of life.

We all have the ability and the responsibility to chose one of these two possibilities. Will we resist something that we can’t change, let stress and worry wear us down into grouchy, miserable people? Or will we take a deep breath and let go of something that we can’t change?

Our choice will dictate how we live our lives and the people that we will be.

 

Schedules and Trust

This afternoon I sat down with my google calendar, weekly planner, and daily schedules. Before classes and activities start back up, I want to be ready. So that when the whirlwind comes, I won’t be in a dazed panic, without a plan or handy lists.

My January is going to be one of the craziest months of school in a while. I’m taking the SAT at the end of the month and I’m trying to get through a whole Math prep book by then–a whole lesson everyday school day (a couple hours right there) plus practice tests.

I’m also aiming to be done with my outline for my current book by the end of January since I dreadfully need to get to drafting. But that dictates 2-3 hours of time locked in my room.

Add in school, hours of learning Shostakovitch for EYSO, toss in a good healthy pinch of devotions, workouts, and salt, and stir. The plot thickens to the consistency of pancake batter. Needless to say, I’m doing anything in my human power to make room for everything in my schedule.

{Disclaimer: I hate to-do lists and schedules and being organized as much as any one else. I am not a phenomenon of productivity that enjoys micro-managing my time. I just have to.}

I have tried to limit the amount of time I spend wasting on lesser priorities (Sadly, Pinterest was one of them…I’m self-banned for the month) and I’m praying that God will help me be as productive as possible, doing everything in my crazy schedule to His glory. I hope that I will be able to master my first month of trigonometry without too much pain and that my hours of World Views homework won’t be as brutal as they sometimes are. I still need to take time each day for God’s Word and to reflect on the beauty of His world.

So in the midst of this crazy month, I’m rejoicing that God has given me so many opportunities to glorify Him. Soli Deo Gloria.

 

It All Starts to Make Sense…

For the longest time, short stories were the bane of my existence.

Ok, so that may be an exaggeration. But really. Every time a new story idea struck me, it was an idea built for the length of a novel. And when I tried to sit down and write short stories, the writerly part of my brain seemed to freeze.

I’ve always wanted to write short stories. Novels are amazing and I love the intimacy with which you get to know your book over the course of a year or more. But novels take time. A lot of time. And for someone like me, who is still trying to master the art of simply forming and structuring a story, novels don’t provide a lot of practice with putting one story together after another. Short stories allow you to take a story all the way from idea to finished product in a shorter amount of time, providing what any writer needs–repetitive practice. Also, short stories are a great way to break into publishing.

So for months, I’ve known that I needed to work on my short story abilities. Ergo, about a month ago, I purchased Writing the Short Story: A Hands-On Writing Program by Jack Bickham and have been slowly working through the first four chapters. This is not a quick book on writing which I could zip through in a week of late night reading in bed. What I love about this book is its a combination of explanation, instruction, and a workbook. Each chapter requires you spend a couple of hours with index cards and your imagination, going through the process of creating a short story step by step. Its not a high and lofty book of the theoretical. It gits into the nitty gritty, grimmy business of crafting a story.

Today, after working through this book for weeks, everything started to make sense. What Mr. Bickham was saying started to click. I began drawing connections between his methods and what I’ve been taught in my writing program, OYAN. After hearing everything that I already knew, but in a slightly different way, the concepts started to make sense.

Plus, the work of having to write down short plot ideas for thirty different stories is really helping me with my idea paralysis.

All in all, I’m super excited about my progress in writing more short stories. If wanted, I might even post some excerpts on my blog after they’re in existence.

{I wasn’t originally going to post today…my crazy day started at 5:30 and continued through teaching, first class back with school, outlining, watching Gone with the Wind for World Views, and SAT prep, but my best friend vetoed and told me I should anyway. When asked what I should blog about, she responded, “Who cares. I just want to see you and hear about you!… I love hearing about whats going on in that mind.” So here I am, blogging. But only because there’s someone out there that wants to here.} 

{Too bad “my everyday crazy life” didn’t win the poll a couple days ago. If it had I might have been convinced to share Beth Anne’s account of my sleep walking and talking last night…its a pretty funny story.}

Why I’m a Writer

Any writer knows that writing isn’t all fun. There are times when writing is pure adrenaline, pure joy. For me its the feel I get when I go for a run in the cold–refreshing air rushing at my face. But there are the other times too. Times of doubt, of discouragement.

My frustration in my writing came to a climax last night. I took off a good part of December from outlining for my book. To have a second draft completed by June, I need to be drafting by February. And now that leaves January to finish my outline–a huge and daunting task. Plus, I’m in the first rut in this book. The hype of beginning has passed and left me with the usual doubts and loads of hard work.

On top of that, I got the strong sense that my writing wasn’t really growing. My writing curriculum is awesome and I have learned a huge amount in the last year and a half. But there comes a point when I’m still making the same mistakes over and over again. Even though I do have a writing community through the oyan forum, I don’t have a teacher to hand my work into each week. I don’t have anyone to tell me, “Ok, that’s good. But it would work better if you did this instead.” Thus, there are many times when I feel like I’m proceeding blindly, learning only by trial and error. And that’s frustrating. I wish that I could see exactly where my last book went astray so that by the time next year’s contest came, I would have a competitive novel.

This wasn’t my first night of doubt and despair. However, I was still thinking, “Why am I even trying? Is the end result even worth it?”

And even though this was simply a plea from a discouraged heart, the question bears answering. Why do I write? Why do I lock myself in my room with tea and a space heater for hours at a time to structure and draft a story? Why? 

There didn’t seem to be an answer to these questions last night. But deep down, I knew the answer.

Why do I write?

I write because God gave me a gift. It might not be an amazing or astonishing gift and its definitely not fully developed. But He still gave it to me. I love to remember the parable of the talents in Matthew chapter 25. It reminds me that it would be wrong not to use a gift that He has given me. I don’t know how He will use my writing, but I am confident that He will. That’s why I can’t give up.

I write because God has given me something to say to the world, through my writing. I’m not sure what it is yet. But I will not give up before I discover what that is.

I don’t write for the recognition or the notoriety. At least that shouldn’t be my motivation.

write because I love it. Its just that simple.

So sometimes I guess discouragement is a good thing. Last night it made me ask important questions, questions that, once answered, would kindle a new flame and help me dig in my heels for the crazy ride of outlining this month. And for that, I’m thankful.