“I Hate Writing. I Love Having Written.”

Quote by Dorothy Parker.

I can relate to this, especially recently. For the past month, I can’t seem to write a single blog entry. I had also hoped to write 50,000 words in October, and I barely surpassed 10,000. I started writing two short stories, but have yet to finish either.

My lack of writing boils down to a combination of lost interest and motivation, and a waning confidence. I don’t know where it comes from except to say that the more time passes with no writing, the more I believe I lost whatever skill I’ve gained, both in my writing ability, and finding interesting subjects to write about.

In short, I suck at this whole writing thing, and to share even a single word is to embarrass myself and waste readers’ time.

What I need to do is shelve my unfinished short stories in favor of finishing the second draft of my latest novel. I entered the first few pages to a contest for which I should hear how it fared within the next two weeks. Although it made it to the finals, I’d like it to win. The prize amounts to little more than bragging rights, but I’m okay with that. If I ever decide to seek publication for it, winning a contest will hopefully pique an agent or publishers interest when they might otherwise pass it by.

It’s not a big deal either way, because an agent once told me, winning a contest is based largely on comparing the quality of the entries. Saying my book is the best out of a lot could mean nothing more than mine was only slightly less mediocre then the other contestants’. It still has to stand on its own merits when read by others, whether my chosen audience or publishers/agents.

In the meantime, I need to submit another complete novel to agents. The question is, since one novel ready for submittal is science fiction, the other is fantasy that could work for either the mainstream or Christian markets. Not all agents take both mainstream science fiction and Christian fantasy. I may have to decide which audience is more important to me.

You’d think as a Christian, the choice would be obvious.

But it’s not. Does God want me to write books for Christians alone where Jesus sits front and center, or reach out into the world? Not to preach, though, because my mainstream novels contain little by way of Christian faith. At least overtly. Several of my characters believe in God, but they don’t preach or try to convert. They simply believe in a Creator, a power beyond their understanding, but worthy of worship anyway, however quietly.

Writing is hard, because it’s a skill in need of constant practice, just like any other artist or musician. “Use it or lose it,” as they say. It also requires constant thoughtfulness, to ever ask the question: is this interesting, and not only to myself? Aside from well-written, is it informative, or entertaining? Both? Neither?

Because we writers pour so much of ourselves into our writing, there’s the constant fear of rejection, of not being good enough. With every word we succeed in writing, we feel like we’re taking one more step closer to an abyss. We think that by not writing, we can avoid falling into that abyss with no bottom, no light, and no way out. That abyss is obscurity, of failure. Of learning beyond all doubt we wasted our time trying to develop a skill, but in the end will never be successful at it. It’s the fear of finding out we will never be good enough. Better to dream in blissful ignorance.

And yet, whenever I do push through those fears and insecurities, and finish a blog entry, short story or novel, I realize I didn’t careen into an abyss after all. While the story may not be publishable at first, it’s at least finished. That alone is an accomplishment.

Yet knowing I can succeed, because I have succeeded many times, why is it still so hard to finish?

Maybe it’s what Dorothy Parker said. Oftentimes we prefer the destination to the journey. To skip the lengthy step of bloody, heart-wrenching work.

After all, how many of us who have traveled long distances look forward to the many hours on the road, on the water, or in the air verses arriving at our chosen destination?

Unfortunately for the uncertain writer, the journey matters most to the reader, not the destination. If it didn’t, all stories would contain the first page and the last with nothing in between.

It’s the in between parts that invites people to read, and keep reading.

It’s also the part writers hate the most.

A New Word

I’m adding a new word to my personal dictionary. It can’t be found (as yet) in any other dictionary, because it’s not an official word. I’ve only seen it once, but it’s such a perfect word, I think everyone needs to add it to their own personal dictionary.

A few days ago, a friend posted an article on Facebook: http://charlesmartinbooks.com/blog/entry/what_i_think…about_the_movie

It’s written by Charles Martin, author of “The Mountain Between Us”. The entry is about his feelings both toward the movie and the changes made to it, and the criticism he has received because of those changes (namely a sex scene that wasn’t in the book).

I won’t give much away, because regardless of your feelings about the author’s religious beliefs, it’s well written and has a few lessons I know I need, and perhaps others as well.

One quote in particular grabbed me: “So, let’s become unoffendable and pray these folks into the Kingdom of Heaven where every knee will bow and every tongue confess. “

Did you spot the word I want to add to my dictionary?

You guessed it. “Unoffendable.”

I commented on my friend’s Facebook post thusly (in part): “I especially like the first [part of that] sentence about ‘becoming unoffendable.’ That right there would solve a lot of problems we see today.”

Think of it. What would social media and our world today (especially in the US) look like if everyone decided they would no longer be offended by everything? How many of us would finally see the joys in life when we no longer focus so much on the ick? How many of us would retain relationships we quit on because we found offense with someone’s postings, or friends/family quit on us because they found offense over what we post(ed)?

As for me, I resolve to be unoffendable, no matter how many times my computer tells me it’s not a word.

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.

To Men

I thank you.

To the man who changed my tire in the Target parking lot, and refused to take money for doing it.

To the many tall men who happily take items from the top shelves this short woman can’t reach.

To the many men who open the door for me, and do it with a smile.

To the young photography teacher who gave me a helping hand as I struggled to crawl up a river bank, and carried my camera and tripod at the same time.

To all men who adopt their wife’s children, and love, provide and protect them as their own.

To all men who teach their sons and daughters how to be just as strong, wise, and protective of others as they are.

To the many men who have saved strangers from being abducted or otherwise harmed from criminals, and never considered the danger they put themselves in for doing so.

To all men who put their lives on the line for their fellow citizens such as the military, law enforcement, and other first responders.

*Disclaimer: I do not intend to minimize or ignore the women who do all of the above. Not at all, because they also deserve our thanks. With all the nasty accusations against all men based on the bad behavior of a few, however, I believe men deserve their own moment, and to show just how much many, many of us love and appreciate men for what they do, and who they are.

So once again, Men, I thank you.

I know I missed many other wonderful things men do, whether asked for or not. So by all means add them here, or post them elsewhere.

Going Dark

But only for a little while. I’m participating in a group called “October Write Fest” on Facebook where the participants are writing every day for a month. Kind of like Nanowrimo, except in October. For many of us, November isn’t the best month to attempt to write 50,000 words with major family holidays to interfere (such as Thanksgiving in the US).

It’s not as structured as Nanowrimo. Some are attempting to write the 50,000 word novel (such as moi), while others are writing a blog entry every day and others are doing a complete rewrite of an existing work in progress.

If you’re interested in participating, you are certainly welcome to join. Just do a search of “October Write Fest” on Facebook and request an invitation.

My Beautiful Crutch

I’m attending an interesting Bible study on Wednesdays at my church.

Atheism came up in the conversation last night, and someone said how an atheist friend once told him, “People use religion as a crutch.”

I’ve heard that before, too. Then it occurred to me. Yes, religion — faith — is a crutch.

And that’s a good thing.

Would we tell someone with a broken leg to not use crutches to get around, or a paraplegic to not use his/her wheelchair? That would not only be idiotic, but insulting. Perhaps even cruel.

Just as anyone injured or handicapped can’t move around and be independent without their physical aids, people of faith can’t function at their best — be independent — without depending on God.

It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? How does one live independently while depending on God?

Part of faith in God is admitting we’re weak. We don’t have all the answers, we can’t control everything, sometimes not even ourselves. That’s a tough one to admit, because especially here in the States, we are taught that we can control our destiny. We have so many choices whether it’s who we marry, who we associate with, schools, colleges, and career choices to name but a few.

Yet we can’t control when we get a cold, if we’ll contract a fatal disease, if someone decides to commit a crime against us, runs a red light and injures us, nature’s wrath, when our loved ones pass, when a friend breaks a trust, the list is near infinite.

Faith teaches us that control is an illusion. It teaches us that control is not what brings us hope, joy or courage. It’s God, and the decision to depend on him and his wisdom instead of our own flawed, human understanding of the world around us and beyond.

For instance, without my faith, I wouldn’t have had the courage to broach a difficult subject which resulted in the birth of our son (long story, that. I’ll tell it another time).

Without depending on God, I wouldn’t have the courage to write this entry, let alone seek an agent for my full-length novels.

So, yes, God is my crutch, and I shout it proudly.

He’s my unfailing, beautiful crutch.

Is There An Echo in Here?

The easiest temptation on social media is to follow people, blogs, websites, etc. who reinforce what we already believe.

More difficult is to follow those who have near the opposite point of view. The exceptions of when we do, it’s usually to laugh, scoff, or get offended by. We don’t do it to learn, and listen but to argue, sometimes in the hopes of convincing the opposition the rightness of our cause.

Too often, though, the opposition has no more desire to listen and learn than we do. In the end we give up, and return to our little echo chambers filled with people of like mind.

I don’t often read so-called news sites such as Vox, Slate or Salon. I find their news rife with too much bias for my taste.

Sometimes, however, I run into a headline that so intrigues me (and not in a good way), that I have to read it.

This is one such headline:

When I debate or discuss, I make sure I have truth and facts to back me up, otherwise, not only will I fail to convince, but I waste my time and that of my opposition. I don’t argue with emotions, because emotions are not rational or logical. Too often they are baseless, and fleeting. Too often they are based on misunderstanding of a smattering of facts, and can do more harm than good when trying to debate a specific point.

As Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

You can understand then, why I found this headline befuddling to say the least. Why would anyone give up facts in favor of emotion to win people to their side? It’s idiocy. And temporary.

Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to read the piece. Too many news websites love to write provocative headlines in order to get people to read it (such as me). Click-bait as it’s called. Often, however, the headlines can also be misleading to the point that the article ends up making the exact opposite point.

As a writer, I found a lot of the opinion piece objectionable such as using emotions as a weapon. It implies that the author doesn’t want to convince, but to manipulate. It read less like a professional article and more like a personal journal entry (kind of like this lovely blog entry). The author isn’t trying to make a specific point so much, but exploring his/her thoughts in order to discover that point.

Still, after weeding through the verbosity, I surmised the author’s overall point was not to give up on facts, per se, but to appeal to a person’s emotions with facts instead of presenting facts alone. It’s a valid point, because in this day and age, regardless of what side people take on an issue, they are so emotionally entrenched in their point of view, facts proving their contentions false won’t deter them.

The entire article can be found here.

It’s worth thinking about, and for me will be one heck of a challenge. I don’t argue emotionally. Only facts matter to me, because they’re immutable. Still, I have to see the other person’s emotional point of view, and try to understand it before I can debate a specific issue.

I have to learn how to speak their emotional language, otherwise communication will be near impossible.

If I hadn’t stepped out of my own self-imposed echo chamber, I wouldn’t have discovered, let alone considered the idea.