Well, this is it. 2019 is nearing its final page.
Years are funny things. We spend all this time at the beginning of the year planning what we want to do this year, what goals we will meet. We say, “This is the year we’re going to finish our first book, self-publish our first book, or pitch our first book, or land our first contract.”
But most studies show that eight percent of us this year met the goals we wanted to meet.
Maybe it just seemed too hard, so we took a rather permanent time-out from them. Or maybe something else swooped in like a Tasmanian devil and turned all our plans into a tornado. Or maybe something even better than we imagined sailed in—and also turned all our plans into a tornado.
Because of all this, sometimes the end of a year is a confusing time.
Let’s face it. We have no idea what’s going to happen in this next year. Setting goals is great. In fact, it is very helpful. It’s fun to imagine and dream big and try to reach those dreams. But staking your year on them is kind of like having your character jump on a dragon before you remember they have no experience.
Did I mention it was a carnivorous dragon?
In a sense, we are characters in an epic. But the thing about characters is that they are not the writer. They don’t know what will happen in the pages ahead until the pages turn. Maybe things get better. Maybe things get worse. Maybe they wish they had just stayed on the page they were on.
We only know what has happened in the pages before, and the page we stand on.
We may love the pages before. We may never want to leave. After all, why give up something safe and warm and familiar for something unknown?
Or we may hate the pages before. They haunt us whenever so given the chance. We’d rather they’d never made an appearance in our story at all.
But in the end, the characters really are dependent on the author. The Author has this all planned out. It may look bleak, or perfect, or maybe not exciting at all, but the Author knows how all the pieces and twists and turns will fit together.
Maybe that’s why we can have fun setting goals and trying to achieve them. Because even if we fall, we’ll fall right onto the page we’re meant to be on. And from what I hear, this Author has never written an unhappy ending.
“You can’t be the real Prince Charming, because you know what a high school is.”
Our local high school drama department recently put on “Cinderella.” Which might have explained the sudden and unexplained appearance of Cinderella and Prince Charming in the cafeteria of the elementary school where I work.
Cinderella and Prince Charming didn’t seem too confused by the group of first graders doing anything but eating lunch, nor were they too dazed from the time difference between happily ever after and the recently opened Area 52. In fact, they jumped right into the cafeteria circus, handing out little yellow slips of paper inviting the students to the play and giving them a coupon for free popcorn.
I don’t know how Cinderella and Prince Charming felt about being there that day. I don't know if they rethought this idea--it had sounded so good when student council suggested it--now that they were surrounded by less-than-neat first graders all clamoring for attention, for their ranch packet opened, and for the last golden invitation in Cinderella’s hand. I don’t know how they felt about missing their own lunch and recess with their friends. Maybe their costumes itched. Maybe Cinderella’s tiara pinched. And maybe they were just over this play already.
But I do know what I did see.
Even though they were running short on invitations (the fourth graders having decimated them already), neither Cinderella nor Prince Charming refused any boy or girl who raised their hand. They got down on their knees on the smudged cafeteria floor to look these students in the eye and answer their nonsensical questions patiently—including one boy's scrutiny about the prince's high school education. I even saw Cinderella spot a little girl with her hand raised, lean down, listen as she whispered in her ear, and then run across the cafeteria-battlefield to retrieve her a napkin.
Forget the gown. Forget the crown. Forget the high school, student council, and drama department. I saw the real Cinderella and Prince Charming that day.
The real Cinderella wasn’t the one in golden gown and dainty crown, with flawless curls and makeup who stepped across the stage several evenings later. And the real Prince Charming wasn’t the one with the perfect suit, perfect smile, and perfect haircut who marched at her side.
The real Cinderella and Prince Charming were just two average high schoolers who gave up lunch and recess to put on costumes and talk to first graders.
They weren’t the only Cinderella and Prince Charming I saw that week. Cinderella took the time to answer a student’s question for the fifth time, or to find shoes for a student who needed them. Prince Charming swept up smeared napkins, slimy sporks, and radioactive materials after students who never gave him so much as a thank you. Cinderella offered to wipe down tables for a coworker when she got stuck on first and second grade lunch shift alone. Prince Charming walked his teary-eyed classmate to the nurse.
I live with, work around, go to church with, and walk past Cinderella and Prince Charming every day.
But the real question is, am I the real Cinderella or Prince Charming to someone else?
Well, that, and whether Prince Charming went to high school or not. But the jury’s still out on that particular question.
The first time I listen to a song or watch a movie or read a book, I like quiet. I want to be able to listen to the story. To be all there. To catch all the nuances, all the plot twists, all the character quirks of the story. I feel like the story deserves my full attention.
“I am listening to you. And I’m hearing you.”
“You’re doing both of those things? Listening and hearing?”
Originally stolen from the movie Moms’ Night Out, this has become a catchphrase in my house. It makes sense when you really think about it (or listen to it). I can hear someone just fine—but that doesn’t mean I’m listening. That doesn’t mean my brain is actively engaged. That doesn’t mean I’m paying attention for every curve the story road presents.
And I’m finding that listening is a lost art.
I’m not talking about closing a poorly written book, or turning off a movie that really should have never made it to DVD. Sometimes those things truly are a waste of time.
I’m talking about people. And people are never a waste of time.
Every person is a story. Every person has so many nuances, plot twists, and character quirks just waiting for you to grab hold of so they can cheer “YES!” For you to grab hold of so they know someone is rooting for them to finish strong.
And so many of those stories go unread. Unheard. Un-listened. Why do we tune out so easily? Why do we change the channel so fast? Why don’t we give stories—or people the attention they deserve?
It’s not worth it.
If we throw out all the extra scrap paper and silence the noise, that is the truth. When we tune out and stop listening, it’s because we don’t believe it’s worth it.
And you know what, you don’t know that. Neither do I. There’s always something to learn. Another adventure to embark on. Every story—no matter how poorly told, no matter how dull, no matter how long-winded, no matter how just plain obnoxious—has something for you to learn.
And maybe it’s not all about us. Maybe it’s not about the story we think we’re so busy writing. Maybe this is how we will write our story—by listening to someone else’s.
And every story—no matter how it’s told—has an Author. Someone who poured His all into this story. If He poured His all into this story, how much more should we?
You are a story. I am a story. Every person you see this next month is a story.
Do you hear that?
Are we listening?
And speaking of stories . . .
We’re going to start with a little game today. Please raise your hand if you know what a catalog card is. *counts hands*
If you did not raise your hand, a catalog card is a card inside a set of drawers at libraries. (Most libraries now just use computers. *scoffs* Amateurs.) You can look to see if they have a title you want, or an author you want, or what books are in a topic you’re researching, and where to find those books, and . . . yeah, it’s awesome.
This month, I began volunteer work at our church library. Basically, I sneak in there a couple times a week and work through this monstrous stack of books that was donated.
*rubs hands together* They asked for it.
But as I shelved the new books, I noticed there were several books on marriage and family in the singles section. The spine label said 248.84—that meant singles. But when I opened the cover and looked at the classification number printed on the inside, it said 248.844 or 5—for marriage and family. Whoever had processed the books had missed the last number—and that last number was so important!
By the ancient law of libraries, those books could not just sit there on a shelf where they didn’t belong. Something would explode, I was sure of it. So I pulled them out and prepared to fix it, and in so doing, save the world. This meant I had to retype and apply the spine label, correct the author card, correct the title card, correct the card pocket, and correct the sign-out card.
It would have saved me a lot of work had someone just processed them correctly in the first place. And it would have saved people who came to the library looking for that book a lot of frustration had someone just processed them correctly in the first place.
It got me to thinking about writing. (I know. You’re thinking, “Rachel, what doesn’t make you think about writing?” Hey, look, there’s a grass blade, that makes me think about writing.) More specifically, writing habits. What we are doing today is creating habits that we may follow for the rest of our lives. But what numbers are we typing on those habits? Is it the correct ones that God has printed out for us? Or is it our own classification ideas? Are the habits we’ve begun today just going to have to be fixed in the future?
I know I should finish that article by deadline, but I’m going to work on this instead.
I know I should be editing my book, but I’ll email my friends instead.
I know I should get ready for this book proposal, but surely it won’t hurt if I write one more book first. You know, for good measure . . .
I know I should start this newsletter, but . . . you know . . . computers are scary . . .
I know I should start my first novel, but I also want to go skydiving, get a puppy, and break the world record for the longest handstand . . .
In the end, it will save you and others a lot of work and frustration if you just process your habits correctly in the first place. Talk with God about your writing habits. What habits do you want to keep? What habits do you want to change? How will your habits change this month?
“And IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII’m the only one!”
And Tigger bounds off to bowl someone else over with his sheer optimism. Even his optimism about being the only one of his kind.
But if you’ve watched enough of the Winnie the Pooh movies (which, unfortunately, I have—five younger siblings), you know that even Tigger gets tired of being the only one.
Let’s face it. Writing is not called the lonely craft without reason.
One of two things happen. Let’s take a look, shall we?
One: I’m the only one.
How do you know if you are the only one?
Two: I WISH I were the only one.
How can you tell if you WISH you were the only one?
I am in neither of these situations. I have great people who, writers or not, give me the support I need. I hope you do, too. But if you don’t—whether you’re lonely or just tired of people—here’s the bottom line.
You are the only one. There is no other writer in the whole universe who will come up with your story and tell it the way you will. And the same is true of every other writer on the planet. You have a message that no one else can write. Not just any message, but a message God gave you—a message He understands completely. So don’t worry—no one is going to take over your book, because they can’t. And don’t worry—Somebody gets you.
So go ahead and just be you.
Now that we’ve got that covered . . . I have a list to make of people I’d like to bowl over. After all, everybody likes Tigger, and he does it all the time. I think I’ll start with the person who put a typo on that sign . . . :)
March! The month of courage! Birds are singing! Grass is growing! Kids are running around outside! And I’m sneezing.
It’s been a long month. As in influenza, strep, and turning eighteen long.
But as I said. The month of courage. Check out these five words of awesomeness:
“Never regret acts of courage.”
----Hope Ann (in The Stealthmaster’s Shadow)
Writing is one of those things that calls courage out of us. Only we often think we have none to give.
For me, I sent a book off for editing this month that probably slapped my readers from way out of left field. It’s nothing like what I usually write. What if they didn’t like it? But you know what? I’ve actually been getting good feedback.
So what writing (or non-writing) adventure is calling your courage? Just because the month of courage is almost over doesn’t mean our courage has to end with it.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)
“When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.” (Proverbs 4:12)
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
In Luke 4:18, Jesus tells the people of His synagogue what His mission is. Jesus’ mission is our mission, too. As writers, we have been called to:
Preach the Gospel to the poor
Heal the brokenhearted
Preach deliverance to the captives
And the recovering of sight to the blind
Set at liberty them that are bruised.
Is this what our writing is doing? How will that change in the coming month? Let’s accept the mission.
No, this is not an official list. I made it up myself. Just so you are warned.
One: Autocorrect, Spell Check, and all their other cousins. Including White-Out and pencil erasers.
Two: That particular kind of pen that doesn’t skip or smear or . . .
Three: Friends and relatives who don’t roll their eyes when I ask for MORE notebooks for Christmas or when I sit there on Christmas morning thumbing through the clean white
pages . . .
Four: Rainy days so I can curl up inside and write, write, write, write . . .
Five: All those crazy little things I call inspiration.
Seven: Encouraging reviews from friends and family.
Eight: Other writers who dared to write their books so I can enjoy them and learn from them.
Nine: Writing friends to share the journey with. (Like you!)
Ten: God chose to speak to us in a book.
Eleven: The Author of the universe.
Oops, guess that was eleven.
And now for a bit of winter word-loving humor.
As most of you probably know, this newsletter has been a little scary for me. I have had a lot of insecurities and worries about starting something like this up. One day, I was struggling with a lot of this. Was I moving too fast? Should I just dream smaller? I had prayed about it, but what if I had misread God’s answer? Maybe I should just stop.
I do a lot of my thinking during my piano practice. Which is probably why some of my practice pieces are in . . . interesting . . . shape. So, there I was, practicing on the outside, but thinking on the inside.
What song would my teacher have assigned me this week? “Tell me the Stories of Jesus.” To help me keep the melody line of a song straight, I think of the words in my mind, so I turned newsletter off for a second to work on this song.
“Tell me the stories of Jesus, write on my heart every word. Tell me the stories most precious, sweetest that ever was heard. Tell how the angels in chorus, sang as they welcomed His birth, glory to God in the highest, peace and good tidings to earth. Tell me the stories of Jesus, write on my heart every word. Tell me the stories most precious, sweetest that ever was heard.”
And what He said was, “Just tell My story. No more, no less. Just use everything you write to point back to Me, for My glory in the highest, and you’ll be fine. Use your words to spread peace to earth—and you’ll be fine. Just tell My story.”
We don’t have to have everything perfect. We don’t have to be politically correct. We don’t have to be liked by everybody. As the movie God’s Not Dead 2 states, “Someone is always going to be offended. Two thousand years of human history proves that.” And while we’re certainly not out to offend, the truth is, all we really need is to tell His story.
Just tell His story. You’ll be fine.
A couple months ago, I began the discussion of what it would be like if I began a newsletter. A newsletter to encourage readers and writers in the word craft. A newsletter to help other word-lovers.
The only problem is, I had heard about all these different tools to use on newsletters, and things you should do, and things you shouldn’t do, and things you should NEVER do, and I got a little overwhelmed.
But you were supposed to have these tools, or these skills. So I waited. And, I must admit, I was comfortable with that.
A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege to see Priscilla Shirer, one of my favorite authors, live. She spoke about “treasure that you never knew you had,” more specifically, the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus told the disciples to go look and see what they had to give the crowds. They said, “Only five loaves and two fish.” They were negative about what Jesus had given to them as “treasure.” Treasure to fulfill their calling. They just thought there wasn’t enough.
But, Priscilla pointed out, He had already made sure there were five smooth stones for David. And when the five thousand were fed, there were twelve baskets of leftovers—one for each disciple. There was not just enough. There was plenty.
She encouraged us to look at our treasure. To speak and think positively about it. To view it not as it is but as it will be. Because there would be plenty.
And I thought of this newsletter.
So. This may not be perfect. Hopefully, it will get better as I go along. ;) Here are my five loaves and two fish. Buckle up and get ready to enjoy ProseWorthy.
Hi, I'm Rachel! I'm the author of the posts here at ProseWorthy. Thanks for stopping by!