During my first year of blogging, I couldn’t come up with something to put in my newsletter. One of my family members jokingly told me to write about how I didn’t know what to write.
(*in SpongeBob imitation voice* *wait, I haven’t even watched SpongeBob* Three years later . . . )
Here we are.
I’ve been blogging for three years (three years! We made it, everybody!). And usually before I post something, I still sit and stare at a blank screen for half an hour before tapping out the worst couple hundred words I’ve ever written in my life.
(What have I been up to this month? What’s been occupying my headspace? What’s on my mind?)
Sometimes, there’s just nothing. I went back to school at the end of August, and even though I slipped back into old routines fairly easily, sometimes I just find myself sitting there with nothing in my brain because it’s full of other things.
(Does that make any sense? Can anyone relate?)
Sometimes, things immediately spring to mind. I mean, I could write you thousands of words about my recent Marvel Cinematic Universe fascination, the psychology of my favorite book character, or the profound-ish (well, I thought it was anyway) thought that entered my head while I was watching a Disney movie.
(But would that be too weird? I mean, does anybody really need to hear all that, or is it better left in my brain?)
And other times, I reluctantly settle on a ho-hum topic and force out a couple hundred words—only for a stroke of inspiration to hit me halfway through the month when my post is already behind schedule. And of course, I completely abandon that hard-earned hundred words for a mini-rant on the topic of my choice.
(I always come back for those hundred words, though. Most of the time.)
Because even though I’ve been blogging for three years, no matter how explosive the stroke of inspiration or how interesting I find my random topics, a tiny voice in the back of my head never quite shuts up.
"No one wants to read that. Or really needs to, quite frankly."
"That’s just too weird. Choose something normal to write about already, like this blogger over here."
"What’s even the point of this? Remember that really profound blog post you read last week? Shouldn’t you have something like that waltzing around in your head? Look harder."
It’s silly, I know. I have all of you who show up every month to read this randomness and to leave encouraging comments. Maybe, if I’m lucky, it even blesses you a little.
(You all know this is blog is about you, too, right?)
It’s easy to forget what this is all about.
"I’m just not an interesting enough person to run a blog."
"I’m really just annoying everyone and they’re only subscribed because they feel pity for me."
"Am I just standing here going on and on, while the people I’m writing for have completely zoned out and are looking at memes?"
"I’m not important and my voice doesn’t matter."
But this isn’t really about me, is it? I’m not writing this so you all feel bad for me and shower me with love and affection.
I’m writing this because maybe you feel the same.
This is just one of the many channels where I’m hoping God’s grace shines through. And the fact of the matter is that He made me this way with my randomness for a reason.
(Is it still random if I have a reason?)
I and my voice are important, not because of what I have to say, but because of the One Who gave it to me.
So maybe it’s time to loosen up and just be me. Maybe I don’t have to fit that particular idea I’ve got of what I should be.
Some days that may mean writing a post when I feel like my brain is empty. Some days it may mean embracing the randomness. Some days it may just mean clicking post even if it doesn’t feel quite ready yet.
Because someone needs to hear it. Just like someone needs to hear you.
So. What’s on your mind? I'd love to hear it. Share your adventures in the comments below!
I also realized I posted the same meme two months in a row. So I'm giving you two memes this month!
C.S. Lewis once said, “The world does not need more Christian literature. What it needs is more Christians writing good literature.”
I wasn’t sure what I thought of that at first. How could a Christian writing a good story be better than a book that clearly laid out the steps to salvation and what Christianity looks like?
Now that I’ve been writing for seven-ish years, I agree with Lewis.
I recently researched and wrote an article for Kingdom Pen about the bestsellers of the past one hundred years and how they impacted our writing today. I’d slogged from 1920 all the way up to the year 2020 when I found something very interesting. (Read the article here: https://kingdompen.org/best-selling-books-last-100-years/)
One of the top ten bestsellers of 2020 was the book Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. That was a Christian novel written by a Christian author and published by a Christian publishing house.
Christian fiction is finally getting its head in the game. We’re sitting up and realizing that there’s something more out there. That it’s not just about writing a convincing conversion scene—it’s about writing a good story with God.
Don’t get me wrong—conversion scenes are wonderful and even appropriate in some stories. But Christian writers are beginning to widen their focus to the bigger array of nuances, themes, problems, and solutions that the world is looking for.
We’re beginning to value compassion and diversity more than our own personal preferences. We’ll go out of our way to write a different race, a different sexuality, a mental illness, a trauma, a physical or mental disability. And we’re doing one up by not just writing those things, but by showing the hope in, through, or out of them. We have started to truly see people, and we value the people we see more than being comfortable and bolstering our own personal pet peeves.
We’re writing less books that stay in neat tidy cabins on the prairie and more that get out into the messy city squares of life. We’re not expecting an angelic miracle to save our climax, for prayer to fix everything exactly as we want it, and for a conversion scene to be the only way out of the low point. Rather, we use them as they are the most helpful to our story and more importantly, our reader.
We’re writing books where instead of banging you over the head with a Bible, we come and sit next to you on this crazy ride called life. We help you escape the dark for a few hours and give you a few things to think about when the book’s over.
Even if we write stories that never once say God’s name, it’s clear He’s all over every page of our manuscripts.
We’re writing real stuff. But we’re not discounting the truth. We’re doing what Jesus did. We’re getting down where the action is happening and we’re writing there instead, bringing the hope with us.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. We’ve still got a lot to do. But it’s an exciting time to write. And it makes me so proud to be able to call myself a Christian writer alongside so many other people who are trying to do the same thing.
*What are the best Christian books you've ever read? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
*A meme for your troubles.
Yes, I am in my twenties.
Yes, I live twenty minutes from a professional theater.
Yes, I just went to see my first live professional musical earlier this month.
See, when I was younger, I thought I didn’t like musicals. What was the point of interrupting a story with some random songs? Just tell the story all the way through, thank you very much.
However, as I got older and began developing my own unique tastes, a friend encouraged me to try a couple musicals. And shock of all shocks, I really liked them. Turned out musicals were just like everything else—there were ones I absolutely hated and ones that I absolutely adored.
That was how I wound up seeing Cinderella at our local theater this summer.
It was unlike anything I had ever been to before. I’d been to concerts, one of them at this same theater. I’d been to high school plays and musicals. I’d watched filmed musicals.
But this was different.
As soon as I got home, I jotted down some of my noticings, mainly so my brain would quiet down and let me sleep. Why not explore some of those things here?
After all, musicals are a form of art, just like writing.
Just like life.
The musical was different, but better.
I’d listened to the 2013 Broadway Cinderella recording before attending the show and filled in the gaps between the songs with how I thought it might go.
Very little of the show matched what I had imagined—and am I ever glad it didn’t. The story flowed in a way that it couldn’t have had I forced all my ideas and presuppositions on it.
Not only was the story different, but the show itself was different. It differed from other versions of the story, other versions of the show, even other actors’ portrayals.
For instance, I honestly thought the live Topher’s voice was better (but it could just be that the soundtrack version was also the voice of Hans from Frozen . . .). I could understand what Marie was saying in There’s Music in You (vibratto makes it hard sometimes). Each character was nuanced, unique.
The actors and actresses took a show, a story, and made it their own.
Different doesn’t necessarily mean wrong, or bad, or a disaster. In fact, different is often the best something can ever be.
I was included.
Since the theater I attended is circular, the story was literally happening around me. No seat was a bad seat, I could always see what was happening on the stage. Sometimes I had a unique perspective that someone across the stage from me didn’t have, and vice versa. A few rows ahead of us, dancers whirled, and a few seats away from us, actors and actresses entered and exited in the aisles. (The Fairy Godmother walked right past me.)
Even as lovely romantic scenes played out before me, I was so in the story and the mindset of it all that I was scanning the entrances and exits and glancing over my shoulder for Sebastian and Madame lurking about.
It was something beautiful and glorious to fit so perfectly into a story, like it was written with me in mind and wouldn’t have been the same without me.
Even though we know life is the same way, sometimes it gets lonely, and we need the reminder.
Mistakes were the most beautiful thing.
One of my favorite small moments was during Ella’s transformation.
It was seamless. Almost.
Except for a snag in the back of Ella’s dress that hitched the fabric in a weird way. A snag Ella was oblivious to.
The entire audience waited and watched. The fox and raccoon footmen behind Ella debated via facial expressions just how far their duties extended.
And then the Fairy Godmother turned Ella around and smoothed out her dress. The gesture fit her character, the story so well, so seamlessly. It was a simple, yet heartwarming moment.
One we wouldn’t have seen if a mistake hadn’t been made first.
My favorite moments were the villagers’ dance in The Prince is Giving a Ball and the waltz at the ball. When the ensemble gets in on the action, whirling and twirling and turning cartwheels all at once, the choreography, how all the diverse and moving parts work together, amazes me.
But something more, you can feel the energy they’re passing back and forth to each other. And somewhere inside those acts, they pass that energy to you and allow you to join in, even if you’re in a seat and they’re on a stage.
Of course, it also may have helped that I attended with a friend, too. :)
That energy is life, isn’t it? We’re all part of something so big and wonderful, and there come those moments where we’re right where we’re meant to be, playing our part and working alongside others who are doing the same.
The ache in my throat.
At one point in Loneliness of Evening, Ella and Topher’s voices blended so perfectly that against my will, my breath caught. Goosebumps raised on my arm. An ache rose in my throat. And I couldn’t help but look up, raise my chin a little bit.
It’s the only way I can describe it. Such a raw, perfect moment that reminded me of all that was true and all I could be.
The hardest part of attending this musical was waking up the next morning to a world that had clearly not just attended their first musical. The excitement inside me dimmed a bit as I returned to the real world with all the usual things to do.
But why should I let the world dim that? They don’t get to make that call.
In a way, I had my own Cinderella moment. The world may be rough. But there’s real-life magic, too. Sometimes a musical is the best way to remember that.
What about you? What are some of your favorite musicals? Share your adventures in the comments below!
Looking back over my posts, I spotted one common theme weaving through all of them.
And that theme is . . . well, theme.
It’s not just on here, either. Whenever I go to discuss a book, movie, or show with someone, the first thing I’ll bring up is theme and how the characters and plot artfully reflected it.
Which got me wondering. Because I wonder about things a lot.
Why is theme so important to me?
But first off, what is theme?
Theme is simply what a book is saying. It’s what you think about after you close the book. It’s what it makes you feel and think both as you’re reading and when you’re not. It’s what seeps into your life and changes you for the better.
You might be able to sum it up in a one-line question. You might not be able to. That’s the funny thing about themes. They are usually far bigger than you think.
Theme is memorable.
Don’t I mean those long monologues or snappy morals tacked on to a story?
No. In fact, if a story contains either one of those, I will probably throw it out the window and go running in the other direction.
Few humans that I have met yet like to be preached at by a book. The great thing about books is that they can get a point across without ever saying a word.
(Not sold? How many stories are in the Bible?)
Tell me a pithy quote and I might forget it immediately. Tell me a story and I’ll remember it in some shape or form forever.
Why? Because stories show us what things look like in the real world. They weave their way into our lives. When you have to think about something to figure it out, it sticks with you longer. Kind of like when you do the work on something, it means more to you.
Theme makes a difference.
When I close a book and am still thinking about the characters and plot, chances are that it had something to say that got my attention.
For instance, I thought about Shadow by Kara Swanson long after I read it. Not only was I in love with her story world and characters, but what she had to say through that book touched on some really hard things I was going through at the time. It was extremely comforting and I still return to that novel when I’m having a hard time.
What made this theme so beautiful for me was that I got to see it work in my life. I got to see how a book can come alongside someone and make them feel less alone. I love theme because it changes my life and others’ lives.
Theme is something big in a little world.
If you want to crush my soul, then read a book that I’ve read and completely miss the theme.
Seriously. That is a hill I will die on. *laughs*
Some people choose to be so little-minded. We get wrapped up in news headlines and controversies and conspiracy theories and personal differences.
Which makes me incredibly sad. They stay within the tidy lines of what they think is right and what they think is wrong, refusing to step out and try anything that looks suspicious. But they miss out on so many beautiful, messy things.
I mean, like God for one thing. We have no lines on earth that can measure Him. He won’t fall between our lines. Does that make Him bad? No. It makes Him something to be explored, which is an immense privilege.
He gives us the privilege of exploring other things, too.
And what safer way is there to explore things than with a book in the corner of your couch?
The great thing about story is we can try things without ever putting ourselves at risk. I would not advise you become an angry, self-absorbed villain for instance, but through a book, you can see it played out. You see your choices manifested and where they will lead.
Of course, you do have to be careful. Some things really are just right and wrong. Because like I said, theme does make a difference.
But the best thing about theme is it is something truly big in a little world. The best books are the ones where they say something with as few words as possible. Where the theme is so much bigger than even the book itself. Where you have to keep exploring it after you put the book down, because there’s just so much to explore.
The best themes encourage you to keep an open mind, to see the world in a different way, to maybe even change your mind.
Those are just three reasons why I love theme, and why you’ll probably still see a lot of theme-oriented posts on here. What about you? What do you love about books and movies and why?
*Christmas is over? Says who! Welcome to the holiday blog tour. You can enjoy my post on the tour below, then catch the previous stop here: https://wanderinginkwells.wordpress.com/2022/01/27/holiday-blog-tour-top-ten-family-favorite-holiday-movies/!*
If you had asked me only about two years ago which Christmas song I hated the most, I would have said Feliz Navidad.
Many factors contributed to this tragedy.
Factor Number One—my siblings and I had an ill-fated recording of Larry the Cucumber singing Feliz Navidad. Complete with a tuba section and the chicken dance. (If you grew up on VeggieTales, you probably know what I’m talking about. :)) As if that was not traumatizing enough, one year, one of my siblings developed an unhealthy obsession with it and would listen to Larry singing Feliz Navidad on repeat for hours. Which meant all of my family listened to it on repeat.
Opening my inner wounds here, guys.
Factor Number Two—not too many years later, Feliz Navidad became that Christmas song that followed me around for the season. You know, that song that somehow is playing in every store and on every station whenever you turn on the radio?
Therefore, my Grinch-like hatred of Feliz Navidad.
I had a case. I mean, I don’t even speak Spanish, so I don’t know what they’re saying. In my experience, if you don’t know what the lyrics mean, you don’t sing them. Most people who record it don’t even know the words—they just kind of mumble their way through the line until they get to “I WANNA WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS.”
This year, however, I heard Feliz Navidad many times.
But I never felt annoyed.
I started working at an elementary school with many Spanish-speaking students.
Some of these students come into our school having never spoken English before.
I think of one boy who came into our school in the middle of first grade and didn’t even know his alphabet. This year, he read a part in his grade’s reader’s theatre without any help.
I think of one girl who came into kindergarten and cried every day at lunch for the first two weeks. She only spoke to her teacher when asked a question or taking a test. This year, she finally spoke to me at recess.
I think of a new kindergartener this year. While she gives everyone the most beautiful smiles, she still hasn’t spoken even to her teacher.
It’s overwhelming. It’s tear-inducing. These kids work so hard to learn. They want it so badly.
I can’t imagine going to school every day and not understanding anything anyone is saying.
When all your teachers and friends speak another language . . . even the simplest phrases mean a lot.
I’ve seen these students’ faces light up when their EL teacher speaks to them in Spanish. Or when a teacher uses even the simplest Spanish phrase, whether or not they say it right. Or when a para tries to pronounce their name correctly (even if said para—ME—fails every time).
This year, our office staff decorated the right side doors with the words “Merry Christmas.” On the other side, they decorated it with the words “Feliz Navidad.”
Even though those Spanish words don’t mean much to me right now, they do to these kids.
Because Christmas is for everyone.
One thing that’s really struck me this Christmas is how Jesus came for everyone. All nationalities, cultures, and ethnicities. Every personality—the shy to the outgoing. The sweet and the annoying. He even came for the ones that He knew wouldn’t believe in Him.
He cares about each person individually, and He did when he came at Christmas. He speaks the simple phrases that mean the most to each of us.
He came for me. He came for you. He came for your classmates. For your family. For the ones who annoy you most.
For overwhelmed Spanish students at an elementary school.
Feliz Navidad means Christmas to students who might not hear it any other way. And Jesus means Christmas to all of us.
And who knows? Maybe by next year, I’ll have learned Spanish and will actually know what those lyrics mean. If I find out, I’ll tell you.
Catch the next holiday blog post here! https://annakatewrites.wordpress.com/2022/01/29/christmas-the-everlasting-joy/
Catch the previous one here (seriously, you should check it out): https://wanderinginkwells.wordpress.com/2022/01/27/holiday-blog-tour-top-ten-family-favorite-holiday-movies/
I remember watching Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. with my younger siblings for the first time. While it had been a movie I loved when I was younger, I had actually worn out the DVD with how often I watched it, and it just never got replaced.
We had told my younger siblings about this, and they all settled in on the couch or the floor, excited to see what might follow.
Once we sat through the (INCREDIBLY LONG) (but there was a catchy song, so it was okay) opening credits, the screen lit up with a picture of an average child’s bedroom.
Mom said goodnight.
The lights went out.
That’s when the terror began.
A slimy tentacle draped over a chair. Curtains rustling in the wind. And a pair of slanted red eyes glaring from beneath the bed.
By this point—not even five minutes into the movie unless you count those opening credits—one of my elementary-aged brothers, who had struggled with night terrors for years when he was younger, was cowered behind the couch pillows, peeking across to the rest of us, probably trying to figure out what exactly he’d signed on for. (“Watch Monsters, Inc. they said. It will be fun, they said.”)
The enormous monster loomed over the bed. The child screamed.
And, uh, so did the monster.
And before we knew it, said monster was skidding across the floor into a pile of jacks. (Punctuated by said brother’s hysterical cackles in the background.) Then the wall lifted to reveal it was all a simulation.
It’s October. Some great things happen in October. Fall decorations start popping up everywhere. Pumpkin spice dominates each and every restaurant. I went to my first For King and Country concert.
But the majority of the month is dedicated to celebrating fear.
October is a month where storytellers go to great lengths to come up with the darkest and scariest stories they can. (Something I never saw much point in. Who wants to be scared all the time? We get enough of that in real life.)
October’s festivities aside, fear permeates our culture now, especially since the 2020 lockdown. (Should I capitalize lockdown? Is it that serious?) It reminded us that our world—and all the things we thought were untouchable—can change in an instant. And with that reminder came fear.
No need to wait until October. Fear is alive and well all year round.
Fear is power.
In the context of Monsters, Inc., the ones who harness fear’s power are a group of colorful and quirky monsters who really just need kids’ screams so they can start their car in the morning.
In real life, though? There’s nothing quirky or colorful about the one who wants to use our fear to power his empire.
Fear is powerful. It holds us back from the things we love the best. It shuts us down and keeps us in a dark place. It overwhelms us.
But as I watched Monsters, Inc. with a boy who used to refuse to go into any room of the house after dark without a light, who used to never spend the night in his own bed, who used to leave the room over visuals in even G-rated movies—as I watched him laugh his way through the film, I realized something alongside those quirky and colorful monsters.
Joy is more powerful than fear.
Why write stories of fear and despair when we can celebrate joy? When we can point to the pinprick of Light shattering the inky dark? When we can break free of the black prisons that we cower oh-so-comfortably in? When we run outside into the light and discover both new things and old things that truly don’t change when the whole world is flipped upside down?
It’s hard to uncurl from that ball and take a step outside. But maybe this October, we’ll find ourselves celebrating the power of joy—not fear.
(P.S. That boy I mentioned? He hasn’t scurried out of his room at night for years.)
“Women have no place to speak.”
“Your book will find a niche market and stay there.”
"Young people are stupid."
“All fiction writers are liars.”
All of those things have been said to my face.
You could add many, many more, I’m sure. We’ve all had hurtful words tear us down. We’ve all been told we’re not good enough. We’ve all been left speechless, had our voice stolen, been told we do not deserve to be heard.
We all know what it’s like to be speechless.
A Time to Speak
There is a time to speak. You were created with a voice for a reason. God thinks you are worthy of being heard—He wants to hear you. He gave you the words and the story that burn inside you.
If you’re alive and breathing, then you have something to say, something the world needs to hear, something only you can say. Your story has a place in this world. A perfect place for it. It’s not just words filling empty air. It matters. And if you don’t say it, something will be missing from this world.
If anyone ever says otherwise, they’re dead wrong. Don’t ever let a mere person silence you. They don’t get to call the shots on a gift this wonderful. Neither do we for that matter. The only One who does is the One who gave it to you.
A Time to be Silent
There are times, however, when we need to be silent. Not because we aren’t worthy of a voice, but because everyone else is, too. We cannot use our voice to steal someone else’s.
When we’re younger, we’re told, “If you don’t have anything kind to say, then don’t say it.” Why do we forget that as adults?
The hurtful comments I listed above were said to me anywhere from one year ago to four years ago. I’ve never forgotten them, can tell you exactly where I was when they were said to me. Words last forever. And their power never lessens or dies.
The destruction words can have is unimaginable. My preferences aren’t worth tearing someone else down. Even if I’m talking to someone using their words for cruelty, I never want to resort to those tricks. I never want to stoop that low. I don’t want to play their game.
Words also have the unimaginable potential to bring good. To encourage someone. To keep someone going. To brighten someone’s day. To remind them someone cares. To save a life.
For every unkind thing someone has said to me, I have a million kind words to match it.
Words matter. Words last.
There’s a lot of wrong things going on. A lot of people using their words to destroy. Taking the voice and the story that mattered so much and twisting it into something cruel. Those are times when I need to stand up. When I need to speak up. To say it’s not okay. I won’t help anyone by being silent.
But I will by speaking words of life and kindness. By telling the story I was made to tell and ignoring all the voices that tell me I can’t. By saying what God gives me to say.
I refuse to be speechless. What about you?
*What do you think? Share your adventures—and your words—in the comments below!*
And now, maybe a few words that will make you smile. :)
As a paraprofessional at an elementary school, I assist in leading reading groups in many different grade levels. I show up with books to read and listening ear at the scheduled time.
But sometimes the classes just aren't quite ready for me at the scheduled time. In that case, I sit in the back and glance over my lesson plans one last time as I wait a few more minutes.
But on this particular day, I found myself listening along with (most of) the class.
The third graders--my last class of the day--were listening to their teacher read The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. It's not a very long book, filled with simple words and bright illustrations.
The story centers around Jerome, a boy who (you guessed it) collects words. Any interesting word that strikes his fancy, he jots down on a slip of paper and adds it to his scrapbook. Up to today, he'd always kept his words with other words of their types--big words with other big words, little words with other little words, so on and so forth.
One day, however, he dropped his word collection. And as he picked them up, he realized there were wonderful combinations in them being mixed up. He experiments with different combinations of words, but finds that "the simple words were the most powerful."
Jerome wants to share his words with the world. So he loads up all those little squares of paper, pushes them in a wheelbarrow to the top of a hill, and showers them on the valley below.
It sounds like a simple story, but seriously. Take a minute and find a copy of The Word Collector or look up a read aloud video of it.
We are all just like Jerome. No matter who we are or what we do, we collect words from the moment we're born. It's how we learn to use them.
We collect words we hear. Words we read. Words we think.
We collect beautiful words. Happy words. Sad words. Anxious words. Angry words.
We collect words that should never be said. Words that can tear through a person. And words that make our day.
I wish all words were the kind that could brighten a gray day. But even if we were completely perfect and never thought them ourselves, sad and angry words will still find their way into our collections whether we like it or not.
And whether it's through writing or another method, we want to share our words with the world.
So, a few things I'm remembering from Jerome's tale as share my words.
Simple words are the most powerful. Words like "I'm sorry." "I understand." "Thank you." It may not take an eloquent speech to make the world for someone else. So say the words that need to be said.
You don't have to keep sad or angry words in your collection. We cannot control the words others say to us, but we can control the ones we keep and share.
Shake up your words. Maybe you don't like all the words you have. Maybe they seem flat and boring. Toss them into the air and see what patterns emerge. Look at them in a new way. Use them to create amazing words. Even the words we dislike the most can become something that lifts someone else up.
Lastly, words are meant for sharing. So fling them out on the valley below and listen to what happens. Your words are meant for wonderful places.
*Where could your words go? What are some of your favorite children's books? Share your adventures in the comments!*
COVID-19. It came out of nowhere. One day, it was overseas and only as close as a newscast. The next, I was walking out of the elementary school I worked at for an impromptu four-week break, watching students pack up everything from their lockers. The next, those four weeks became five months.
Everything then was COVID, COVID, COVID. And I'd decided my newsletter wasn't going to be one of them. I was going to stay upbeat and positive and be like, "What COVID?"
Well, here it is.
It's impossible for something as earthshaking as a pandemic to leave such a big part of our lives as writing alone. Suddenly, I went from having two solid solitary hours (not counting my work breaks at school) devoted to writing to being constantly surrounded by people (albeit people I love) and chores vying for my attention.
A learning curve, to be sure.
But what did I learn? And what did I change?
When you're only scratching out thirty minutes in a corner with a notebook and headphones, you appreciate those writing sessions more. Things I took for granted--like quiet, headphones, and having time to write at all--became very precious. The help people gave me by taking on chores and other responsibilities so I could have that time became very valuable (more on this later).
As I head back into "business as usual", I hope I'll never forget this time and the gratitude it built in me.
With less time protected for writing, I had to learn to get more done in less time. I quickly discovered what was important and what could wait. This meant some days I didn't check email so I could write.
I made goals and figured out what I needed to do to meet them. I made a schedule of what I needed to work on each day and did all I could to stick to them. The days that I knew what I needed to do were so much more productive than those I didn't. Goals are nothing if I have no plan to get there.
I took the chances that came to me--whether it was short story contests or five free minutes to scribble a paragraph down. Never let yourself feel guilty for taking those chances.
As a result, I hope I've built some good habits that will last me my writing career.
Sometimes it's easy for us writers to forget we need other people in on this journey. People are not stumbling blocks. They want to help us get where we need to go.
I let my family in on my goals. After all, they were at home all the time just like I was. Once they knew what I was working toward, some of them began to help me protect that writing time. It's okay to ask for help! It's okay for that one basket of laundry to wait an hour so you can write! The world will not end because of a few socks that aren't folded yet! (I don't think so, anyway.)
I found a time to connect with other writers--to encourage and to be encouraged. I engaged with the content in my writing lessons and virtual conferences. I asked more questions than I thought I had in me, then figured out how to apply the answers. I learned to value an email to a writer friend just as much as editing thousands of words. But at the same time, I learned to not let those connections distract me when I really needed to be writing.
For the first time in my life, I had to go a day, sometimes more, without writing. Siblings, chores, and a new puppy that demanded attention conspired to keep me from my notebook. It was frustrating. It was stressful. It was MADDENING.
But I learned to still let my imagination work behind the scenes. To take that time to read and imagine. Just because I wasn't in front of a paper, didn't mean I wasn't still creating. To not punish others for a day that I couldn't write by having a poor attitude about it. To still use that wordless day to do good. To trust that those days still had infinite purpose. Writing isn't everything.
COVID-19 was a learning curve. A long one at that. But I hope I've learned things, started habits, and built relationships I'll never regret.
*I would also like to add a huge shout-out thank-you to my family for all they did to help me have time and energy to write during this crazy time! Any writing I didn't get done was not for your lack of effort to get me writing. I so appreciate it!*
*How has your writing been during this crazy thing called a pandemic? Has it been easier or harder? Share your adventures in the comments below!*
In other news, it's been pretty warm here . . .
Yes, you. The one reading this entry.
I know how it feels. When I first started studying writing, I thought I had it pretty well figured out. Come up with a story, slap some words down any which way, boom, you've got a novel.
So many things go into a novel. So each time I read a book, scanned a website, or came home from a conference, it was with a notebook full of things I needed to fix on my manuscript.
Maybe you're in the same spot?
The thing was, though, that even when I was discovering all the things I'd done "wrong," there was always something I'd done right. Maybe my word choice needed help, but I had a strong story concept. Maybe my characters were kind of blah, but the plot was solid. Maybe that whole paragraph--that whole chapter--needed deleted, but there was one sentence in the middle that was gold.
It's called learning. And no matter how many things I learn, I'll still be doing it every single day. And so will you.
It may feel like you're doing everything "wrong" and that you're just dragging yourself to the computer or a notebook for yet another edit. But you're not. There's always something you're doing right--I'm willing to bet several things.
And one day, you'll get to a point where you might be sitting in a conference session or reading a book and you run across a point--but instead of reaching for your notebook, you think, "Huh. I'm doing that already."
It's called learning.
Look for those right things. Celebrate them. And while you're at it, look for those "wrong" things and celebrate them, too. Because the secret is that when it comes to learning, there's no wrong answers. The fact that you've learned you're doing something "wrong" shows it's only a matter of time until it becomes right.
What's something you're learning to do right? Have any thoughts on this entry? Share your own adventures below!
And now, without further ado, the funny writing graphic of the month!
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!