Category Archives: Writing

I Want to Be Like Me When I Grow Up

I don’t recall someone ever saying that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve strung those ten words in that particular order. I’ve always used someone else in place of “me,” whether it’s one of my parents, a famous person, or someone who chose to do something I consider extraordinary or worthy of respect — perhaps even awe.

“I want to be as successful as that person someday.”

“I want to be as kind and generous as that person someday.”

“I want to write like that person someday.”

The list is endless, and we’ve all said something similar. To the point it’s cliche.

I’ll bet the people we admire, and who we believe have reached the pinnacle of what we deem as the perfect life, have likely said the same thing at some point in their lives. Mentors have their own mentors, and heroes have their own heroes.

Don’t get me wrong. We need heroes, mentors and leaders, because they more often than not inspire us to reach further toward our own dreams and desires. The downside of that, however, is inspiration can twist into envy and jealousy. We can pay so much attention to those we admire, we soon reach the realization that we can never be who they are. In that, we will fail, because we are not them, and never will be.

I am me the same way you are you. No one can be me anymore than I can be you. We can have similar dreams and aspirations, but the similarity ends there. How I reach my goal will be far different from how you reach yours. Our sucesses and failures will be as unique as our DNA.

What brought this thought about was reading an entry by an author I admire. His words seemed to flow off the page (screen), and I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? To have his wisdom, and eloquence?”

Then I remembered something I had written decades ago: Selling Me Short

Adding to that:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

Psalms 139:13-18

God made me the way he did for many reasons, not just one. His gifts to me are for specific purposes that no one can steal, copy, or take over.

The reverse is also true. I can’t steal, copy or take over anyone else’s gifts or life goals. Or their successes. I must always be cognizant of what inspires me, and avoid the too-easy twist into envy, because doing so ignores and can possibly destroy the dreams God has made for me. In the end, I fail at being me — the way God meant for me to be.

The same is true for you, so go out there and strive to be you when you grow up.

Finger Painting with Words

When I first started to write, I approached it much like a child with eight different colors of finger paint, and an unending supply of paper (and a patient parent standing by to clean up the inevitable mess).

Only words were my colors. I didn’t write stories at first, but poems. Most of them were free-form, because I knew nothing about poetic meter and rhyming. I loved to experiment with words, to see how they fit together to make unique, and often odd and discordant, pictures.

One of my other blogs is called “My Writing Sandbox”. Although I don’t write poetry much anymore, I still see letters and words as my toys, my building blocks if you will, and my blogs are my sandbox where I get to create. Sometimes I write for the fun of it, and often to keep me sane, but always to better understand people, the world, and myself.

I took a writing class in high school where we studied all forms of poetry including iambic pentameter (http://iambicpentameter.net). The poem I wrote for the class (well over 30 years ago) I still remember:

Yellow, yellow through the rainbow.

Color, color in a tight row.

Blue and red and orange yellow.

Makes this rainbow not too mellow.

Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment. — Carl Sandburg

Making Excuses

“Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted.” — Jules Renard

I’ve already described — for some of you, incessantly — how much writing is an outlet that keeps me sane.

As the quote above also notes, writing gives me an opportunity to hash out my strange and almost incomprehensible thoughts to make them less strange and more comprehensible, with plenty of time to figure it out before I decide to share it.

As I started this entry, my first thought was how this would end up a repeat of other entries, and I don’t like to repeat myself.

So how do I look at the quote a little differently?

Human beings, for the most part, like comfort, and the familiar. We seek them out, sometimes at great expense, whether it be spending less time with family, or risking our physical and mental health. Seems kind of silly when looking at it that way. Isn’t comfort supposed to allow us to relax, to not have to worry about things? Yet we worry and fret over not being comfortable enough.

I’m not a risk-taker. Like I wrote in my previous entry, it’s due to learning early on in life to weigh all potential consequences of my actions before I make them. I suppose in some ways, I’ve stifled myself from experiencing more.

Then a question popped in my head: Do I use my natural inability to express myself except through writing as an excuse not work harder to express myself in other ways? Am I, figuratively-speaking, hiding in a closet out of fear of making a fool out of myself, or hurting someone with my spoken words?

Aside: My husband and I decided to change our diet: Less processed foods and more meat, fruits and vegetables. Without all that refined sugar and bread, my body is screaming at me for torturing it so. So it turns around and tortures me with cravings for the very things my body doesn’t need. Supper, when will you be ready?

I feel like Audrey II from the movie “Little Shop of Horrors” when it yells, “Feed me!” In song form. Except I’m not singing . . .

Okay, back on track. Where was I? Oh, yeah. Hiding in figurative closets.

I need to start exercising my voice, so I can create neural pathways between my mouth and brain. Like building any muscle, that can only be accomplished through practice. Lots of it.

If I am to see my books published, and sold successfully, I need to go out in the world to market them. That will inevitably require rubbing elbows with people face-to-face such as at book signings. It’s a scary prospect, but a necessary one.

Who knows, by practicing now when it won’t cost me anything I may become — if not expert — certainly competent with talking out loud without fear of stumbling all over myself and being misunderstood.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” — 2 Timothy 1:7

Define Freedom

Today’s writing devotional asks what freedom means to me.

I didn’t want to tackle this question. Still don’t really, but to write is to explore. That includes exploring the darker, scarier places, whether they be in the mind or our surroundings, and to explore what makes us uncomfortable.

I don’t want to discuss what freedom means to me, and to me alone, because then it’s a matter of opinion only. I prefer facts to opinion, unless that opinion is informed with facts. That includes my own.

Yet I don’t want to cut and paste the Webster’s definition of freedom and call it a day. Your time is worth more than that.

I look to every controversy and question today’s society asks through two specific lenses: The importance of the individual and my Christian faith.

To define freedom I look to those two perspectives.

I didn’t get into trouble (much) growing up. I did far less than what my mom expected of both my sister and me. My mom said it was due to both of us having a strong sense of self-interest. Not selfishness, but in taking care that whatever we did wouldn’t have an adverse affect on our health and safety. We made mistakes, certainly, but nothing serious or permanent.

I boiled it down to something my mom told me when I was an early teen: “You can do whatever you want, but you will accept the consequences for them.”

Because my mom gave me the freedom to choose my actions, it put the fear of God into me (to use a phrase both literally and figuratively). Her words made me stop to consider what possible consequences I could face before, and not after I acted. It also meant my parents would not protect me from those consequences. They were my sole responsibility.

That’s what freedom truly is — not only the ability to decide our actions, but the necessity of accepting the consequences and responsibility for those actions.

My faith works the same way. God will not always stop me from making both good and bad choices, but he does expect me to take responsibility for them. He saved my soul, certainly, but he won’t always save me from the workings of this world. My actions are still my own, the consequences mine to accept, and I am to blame no one for them except me.

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:4-5

Search Words

When I first created my website, I made sure to include keywords for search engines so people looking for content like mine will find me easier.

I understood that, and I included the most relevant ones. Still, I didn’t expect a lot of traffic. I read somewhere there are over 125 million blogs available for people to read. Who am I in that sea of writers?

In 2005 I signed up to writing.com, a website dedicated to writers to encourage them to write, but also to read, to review and be reviewed. In fact, as of a week ago, I celebrated my 12th year. While it took me over six months to post my first item for people to read/review, I now have over 100.

About a year later, my church asked me to write what the youth pastor titled, “Bible Monologues,” for the Easter service. He and I both wrote short monologues from the perspective of little-known people of the Bible during the time of Jesus.

Three I wrote for the Easter service, but since I liked the premise so much I wrote two others.

About six months later, a church representative found one of them to use for one of their own programs. I was surprised and even honored that one of my little stories that took so little time and effort on my part made such an impression.

Fast forward eleven years.

I received this email today:

I am contacting you in inquiry of a monologue you’ve written. I would love to use it for my class, and a student to perform during our fundraiser. I was wondering, if we credited correctly, if it would be possible to use “My forever stained hands” for our class? If you could email me back as soon as possible, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Of course I let her use it, and even sent her the link to the all the ones I wrote.

I asked how she even found my monologues, because as vast as the Internet is, for her to find one of my little stories seems near impossible, especially since it was something she was hoping to find. She said she had gone to writing.com and searched “Biblical monologues.” Because I used both of those words as keywords for my stories, they popped up.

I need to go through all my other items, and my website in general (perhaps even this blog), and see what keywords I need to adjust and/or add. Who knows how much interest I will gain. It certainly couldn’t hurt, because there’s a lot of competition out there vying for people’s attention.

For History’s Sake, Write Your Life

We’ve all heard the refrain that history is written by the victors, and as such, the entire story can never be told.

In a society where the loudest people get all the attention, and biases in news agencies grow more obvious and prevalent, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those not in the literal midst of important events to know what’s true and what’s false.

I don’t recommend we ignore important events, but I do recommend we do our research, and see if we can find people who were there to get their perspective of what happened. And not only one person, but more than one, and from all sides. The truth will eventually be found.

Discernment is key. And honesty.

Yesterday’s devotional focused on Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) who “wrote books that shed a true light on what was happening behind the Iron Curtain.”

Without him and others like him who wrote and spoke fearlessly and honestly about what happened in their country, it’s likely the truth of that time would never have been revealed.

We must do the same.

With all the furor over so-called offensive statues with regard to the Civil War, and calls to rename everything because some people find it offensive is not only silly, but dangerous. As ugly as our history is at times (and no country can claim otherwise), destroying it is equally as ugly. If we’re not honest and open about our history, we can never learn and grow from it.

And where does it end? Will we now destroy the writings of people who lived during that time, because what they wrote offends some people?

Who ultimately gets to decide what’s offensive anyway?

Plenty of people find our founding documents offensive, including the Constitution, simply because it was written by people who did what many consider terrible things. Who wrote them is unimportant compared to the document itself. Should we ignore the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. because he cheated on his wife?

But I get off topic.

We live in interesting times, sometimes dangerous times. If we don’t chronicle them, and do so with complete honesty, our children will never know what we accomplished — both good and bad — and they will in effect never learn from either. History will then be guaranteed to repeat itself.

It might anyway, but that’s another entry.

I believe that world literature has it in its power to help mankind, in these its troubled hours, to see itself as it really is, notwithstanding the indoctrinations of prejudiced people, and parties.

— Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Words of War

As a writer, I’m supposed to love words. Every single one of them, even if they’re offensive. In fact, offensive words require more protection than those that don’t. If we erase offensive words (which are in constant flux anyway. What wasn’t offensive yesterday can be offensive today), we erase what makes us human, both the icky and the beautiful. After all, if we don’t acknowledge that which makes us evil, we can never change and bring about good.

Yet I am as human as the next person. While I can’t think of a word I hate, there are many phrases I do hate. Some of them are due to overuse, clichés if you will. I am guilty of using them as much as the next guy, but I find we use them because it’s more of a habit which requires little to no critical thought. A verbal knee-jerk reaction – to use a cliché.

One particular cliché raises my hackles every time: I’m entitled to my opinion.

I have and never will tell anyone they are not entitled to their opinion, let alone try to take away their ability to express it. Admittedly, some of my statements can be inferred that way, but is that my fault, or the reader’s? Maybe both, but this entry is to explain why, just because someone infers that I don’t want them to speak out, in my case it’s never implied. I will always welcome opposing views, because whatever the subject matter, at least it’s an opportunity to learn something new – and I could very well be wrong in my suppositions. Like I’ve said before, better to be wrong for a moment than be wrong for a lifetime.

I also think people use that statement as a way of shutting the door on a conversation or debate. It’s understandable, granted. Sometimes we don’t want to engage in debate. We simply want to express our view and walk away.

However, when we do it on a public forum, we have to expect others want to – and will – respond. That’s why it’s called social media.

Freedom of expression is a swinging doorway. It means that while people have the right to express themselves, other people with differing views also have the right to respond.

When someone says, “I’m entitled to my opinion,” for me, it’s attempting to shut that door and lock it, or make it swing only one way, so people on the other side can’t get in. Now if they want to say, “We’ll have to agree to disagree,” or, “I understand your opinion, but I don’t share it,” or some other variation thereof, that’s different. While both effectively end debate, it’s not telling the other person to shut up, as if their opinion has lesser value because it’s different.

It’s my love of words that makes me so sensitive with how they’re structured and used. Words can be weapons that hurt and destroy as easily as they heal, inspire, and encourage. Like a loaded firearm, we need to be eternally aware and vigilant on how we wield them.