As a newbie novelist, I’m going out a limb here by sharing some thoughts about “writing rules”. Without a doubt, I have a lot to learn about the writing craft, but for my current work-in-progress, I’m throwing the rules out the window and replacing them with two simple ideas.
So far in my writing journey, I feel I have been pretty good at the first "rule" but maybe not-so-great at the second. Now that I'm about ten percent into this manuscript, I'm determined to make these rules my focus, and to quit obsessing about the others.
It reminds me of the Bible. In the Old Testament, we are given The Ten Commandments, but in the New Testament, Jesus condenses those ten into two. His "new" rules are summarized as love God and love your neighbor. The old rules are still valid and valuable, but now they are all wrapped up in a more concise formula. While my two new writing rules don't encompass all the valuable dos and don'ts amassed from brilliant writers throughout the ages, I sincerely hope that simplifying the rules for myself will improve my writing and help me push through on this third manuscript.
Now, there's a definite possibility that I will look back at this post one day and cringe with embarrassment at how naïve I was. But, it's all part of the journey. If you were to simplify the rules, what would they be? I'd love to hear them. Maybe you can help revise mine. Thanks, and happy writing!
Last night I found myself sitting in a hammock at dusk with my two youngest children. We cuddled and watched lightning bugs while one of our dogs laid on the ground on top of my feet. Practically perfect, except for mosquitoes, I decided to write about it. Those lines are found in the video below, set to an instrumental of a beautiful song by Nichole Nordemon called "Every Season". I hope you enjoy!
Why does the writer write? Because they must. Letters form words, and words form sentences that can't be contained. They burst from the brain and end up as black and white art on a page, because there's a story that must be told.
Why does the painter paint? Because they must. They see lines and shapes and colors that the rest of us cannot see and are duty-bound to share, that others may know the beauty too.
Why does the singer sing? Because they must. Music is like air and the silence suffocating. Song breaks out as life to the owner of the voice and the hearers.
Why do we create? Because when the Maker spoke and made all things good and us like Him, He taught us how. Like seeds in dirt, He planted in flesh the power to craft, the skill to bloom with beauty. We create because He planted the seeds. We create because we must.
I'm confident that anyone who has access to this blog post has heard about "Yanny or Laurel". (If somehow you've missed it, just Google it.) At first, I refused to listen to the recording, concerned it was a conspiracy to indoctrinate a large group of people with a subliminal message. But alas, I turned off mute on those Facebook videos that automatically play when you scroll past them and was accidentally indoctrinated...I mean, I heard it by accident.
There are some lessons we can learn from the whole "Yanny or Laurel" craze, though, and I want to point out a few of them.
1.) We, as a society, are easily amused.
A phenomenon involving how different people's brains interpret different pitches of sound was covered by every major news outlet in the country and blew up every social media platform. Not that it isn't interesting, but is it really as newsworthy as it was made out to be? I bet if Twitter was around in 1969, we'd have seen more hashtags for #YannyorLaurel than #NeilArmstrong.
2.) We enjoy a shared experience.
The old adage "the more the merrier" rings true. Something is more fun, more entertaining, when it is common to the majority of a population. "Yanny or Laurel" was fun because everybody was doing it! Another case in point, the Superbowl. My husband and I watch only one football game out of the entire season. Why? Not for the sport, not for the commercials, but for the feeling of comradery with the rest of the country (and maybe for an excuse to eat chicken wings).
3.) Perception is reality.
And here's where the real lesson is learned. It's hard to argue the "other side" is "wrong" when the split of Yanny to Laurel is 47%/53%. There are countless factors that shape someone's experience and therefore their perception. We can argue until we are blue in the face, but we can rarely change someone's perception about a subject with words alone. We need to listen and understand that other people have valid opinions and viewpoints, even when they don't make sense to us. We should "choose our battles", and only fight for the things that are important, based on our own reality. And even then, we trust that God will change hearts as He sees fit.
2 Timothy 2:23-26: "But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will."
What did you learn from "Yanny" and "Laurel"? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
We've all heard the term "First World problems", right? The relatively minor things we complain about that compared to the problems of people in developing countries are laughable?
"I didn't get any sauce at the drive-thru."
"My cell phone battery loses charge too soon."
"The elevator is out, so I had to take the stairs."
Well, what if we turn the concept of First World problems on its head?
I've been thinking about inconsequential experiences, simple things that make me happy and are only enjoyed in the developed world. Not profound things, like the sound of children's laughter, the magic of a perfect sunset, or even modern conveniences in general, but the smallest of things that make life simpler and more enjoyable. Here's a short list I came up with. The first one gave me the idea for this article!
First World Joys
We are blessed with so many good things, big and small! Of course, "good" is subjective, but since these are all good to me, I think even this simple list falls under the truth of James 1:17! (Go look it up and tell me when you read it.)
The list could go on and on, but now I'd like to hear some of your ideas. What do you consider First World joys? Comment on this post or share with the hashtag #firstworldjoys!
It's fitting that my first writer's conference was on top of a mountain, because that's how being there felt. Spending time in worship, meeting heroes of the industry, and feeding my passion for the written word was a lofty experience, an emotional high, and the peak of excitement. I bubbled over with the hope of a God-appointed meeting that would define His plan for the stories and messages burning in my heart, and the physical elevation at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer's Conference added to the elation.
The only problem with a mountaintop experience is that you have to come down sometime. My stay at BRMCWC was short- only Sunday and Monday, about twenty-eight hours total. As my minivan descended via I-40 East after dinner Monday night, my mood descended with it. I was headed back to the real world, where the writer in me would have to take a backseat to all the other roles in my life.
Thankfully, I had the sweet hugs and kisses of my husband and my children to make the transition easier. Now, on Tuesday morning, my mood has leveled off like the ground of my Piedmont home, gentle rolling hills of emotion instead of a steep plunge.
Only the people who've been there can understand how a short stay at the conference could have impacted me so much. I thank God for the experience, for what I learned and the amazing people I met. I look forward to next year, and I pray for all those who are still there right now. I hope their transition from the mountaintop will be gentle and full of happy reflection on the wonderful things God allowed to happen at the conference.
Thank you, God, and thank you, BRMCWC, for the mountaintop experience.
My elbow meets the roughness of the commercial-grade carpet as my arm falls away from the relative comfort of the sleeping bag. The first shades of morning light wash through the frosted glass panes of the Sunday School room windows. A fluorescent beam comes through the cracked door, from the men’s bathroom across the hall.
Six little girls are camped out around me, ranging in age from seven to eleven. Two of the girls with the endcap ages belong to me, but in a way they all do.
In the room next to us, six older girls who giggled until well past midnight, are spread around, tucked under tables and cozied up to walls, all quiet. Nearby, two teenage girls who were ready to sleep sooner than the others, camp in a room by themselves.
Down the hall, my husband’s sleeping bag guards the door of a room, the same as mine. I proudly watched him shine the love of Christ last night, ministering to the youth as their pastor, a role he’s had less than two months now. Like a puzzle piece being snapped into place, I see him fit the space where he is shaped to be.
He shares the room with six people—future men and some who are already there. The youngest of them is five—he belongs to us. The boys impressed me with how easily most of them went to bed, much sooner and more agreeably than the girls.
As I maneuver in the sleeping bag, having slept off and on, I wonder how they’ve all slept—these twenty people entrusted to us overnight. Many in this budding Youth Group we’ve known for a long time and know well. The stories of others, we’ve yet to learn. We hear hints, random statements thrown out to test us, to find out if we care enough to listen. Lord, help us to listen.
I wonder how this night on a Sunday School room floor felt to them. Did it feel safer than what they know at home? Was there more comfort found on a hard floor than in their own rooms? Did they make a happy memory just because it was a new experience to break up the mundane? Was the best part just being so close to people who cared for them, friends they love?
We taught the Bible last night and sang songs to Jesus, but I wonder if the biggest lesson was found in the blankets, sleeping bags, and pillows. I pray that our church…this group…my husband and I, will be a place of comfort and safety, to break up the notion of life-as-normal, and to dispel loneliness. Because that’s what Jesus is! That’s what Jesus does! And whether He’s the reason they came or not, I hope they understand now that He’s the reason we’re all here.
This blog post started out with great promise. I was going to tell y'all how to prioritize your entire life and basically be successful at everything, but I realized I'm not there yet myself, so I can't help you with that. I do have some encouragement, though, to help you accomplish meaningful tasks that will make a positive difference in your life and the lives of those around you- so hang with me! While this is primarily geared toward busy moms, I believe this is a good strategy for any busy person.
Let's talk about making good use of our downtime. "What downtime?" you ask. I get it. Life is busy! It seems impossible to squeeze one more task, appointment, call, text, or email into your day. From the time you wake up, until you fall into bed exhausted way later than you should, you are booked solid. But what if there are little spaces of time throughout the day, where we miss opportunities to do small, yet meaningful things, because we haven't planned for them? Waiting for a file to load, on hold with the cable company (they are the worst!), sitting in car line to pick up the kids- what can we do with that "downtime"?
This isn't about guilting you into adding more to your already overwhelming "to do" list, or about guilting you out of playing Angry Birds at the stoplight (if that's a stress-reliever for you or brings you joy, that has value!) It's about living intentionally and adding value to all the areas of our lives. That's what I mean by "purpose"- things that you don't "have" to do but should, that add value. We have to meet work deadlines, we have to take the dog to the vet, we have to renew our driver's license (and just writing this reminded me that mine expired four days ago). We don't have to call a friend we haven't spoken to in a while or play a game of tic-tac-toe with our child, but those little things can have great impacts. So why not purposefully plan them into our week?
Right now, my "to do" list includes: finish the proposal for my manuscript to pitch at my first-ever writers conference in a little over a week; get the house ready for our foster care licensing visit on Monday; and, help my husband plan for the youth retreat at church next weekend. And those are on top of the "normal" day-to-day responsibilities of having three kids and working a full-time "day job". Because I am so busy, I need to be purposeful about not neglecting the "little things". So, I've brainstormed some categories- areas in my life to which I can devote special attention, even when I have just a few moments to spare. Not all of these are necessarily in order of importance. Some of them are, while others are subjective. Here are my categories and some thoughts on what being purposeful in each of them looks like. Remember, these are not your everyday "required" tasks.
Take care of the minutes, and the hours will take care of themselves.
I've created a file to help you plan out some purposeful tasks to accomplish in those rare free moments. One is a Word file, so you can customize the categories to fit your life, and/or save your "to do" list electronically. Or, you can download and print it as a PDF.
I'd love to hear if these ideas helped you in some way! And I'd love to hear your ideas for more purposeful, intentional living and using our time well.
Download the "Filling the Downtime with Purpose" Chart as a Word file or PDF. Links below.
About the Blog
Welcome to "Every Season Blog", a place where I talk about life, family, fun, and all things "writing". Please visit the Devotions & Study blog page for insights to help you grow in your walk with God. If you want to know some stuff about me, click the "About Me" link in the menu. Thanks for stopping in!