Tag Archive | lessons

Lessons Learned While Writing: Relationships Are Important

Writing is an isolated task. Even if an author writes in a busy place like an IHop or a coffee shop, we still ultimately do the work alone. As a Christian I believe God is part of that process so “alone” in terms of human interaction is what I’m referring to.

Getting a book published takes a lot of people—beta readers, critiques, editors, marketing, cover art, and eventually readers and reviewers. Writers need people, even if most of us are introverts.

We need relationships. Prayer. Accountability. We need to be reaching out to help others because that’s where we stay engaged in the human race. We need to live life so our characters can be real on the page.

I have found, after coming out of an abusive relationship, that good friendships are a treasure. I can write and it can be cathartic, but I need to do life with others, enjoy a cup of chai or a meal, do something fun, or sit and cry together. This is important to my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical well-being. I need to keep growing as an individual if I hope to write characters that will also grow through the stories I try to put on the page.

I also need time to play. Whether it’s tug-of-war with my dog, crafting of some kind, a concert, mini-golf with my husband, or a rip-roaring game of Uno. Playing doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. For me playing and decompressing even takes place on my zero-turn lawnmower which my husband has graciously allowed me to do. It’s fun! Sitting and reading a book because I can, not because I need to is a gift as well. Whatever it is, we need to live our own lives fully in this one and only life we have, not just write imaginary stories for others. These experiences give our writing more depth.

It is in one-on-one connection where we grow and are challenged and encouraged. I want my life to count. I pray my words in my stories can encourage and bring hope and maybe even healing to the reader. But if I neglect my husband, kids, and friends, or those I meet at a craft fair, or a writer’s conference, I’m limiting the ways God can use me. Now if I’m unable to go anywhere the writing is great, but it’s still good to have a connection. It keeps me grounded and hopefully helps me avoid some of the sins that can beset creative people.

Lessons Learned while Writing: Omniscience vs Free Will

This might seem like an odd thing to learn about while writing fiction but hang in there with me. My master’s degree is from a seminary. I have taught theology and studied the attributes of God. His omniscience vs out free will is an issue people have been arguing about for centuries.

I don’t really have the answer to that debate although I fully believe in both. God knows everything which should terrify us. EVERYTHING. Every thought and intention of our hearts, our motives, the words we don’t say out loud but think. Our wants and desires. Our deepest fears. Amazingly enough, He wanted His human creation, dependant upon Him for every breath we take and every beat of our hearts, to have the freedom to accept or reject Him.

He didn’t want puppets to worship Him. He wanted people willing to give their all to Him because He called and we chose to respond.

Now we could debate about how could God, who knows everything we will do, give us free will since He already knows we will do it?

I can’t answer that. Some thoughts are far too lofty for this mere mortal.

But I came to a place of peace with this because of my writing. It is not a perfect illustration because again, as a writer, I’m a mortal, not eternal like God is.

When I write my story I have an idea of what the journey for my characters will be like and who they are. (Remember, these people don’t really exist even if they seem to in my mind).  I have a general concept of my ending. Since I write happily-ever-afters it will be a happy ending. There will be love. Maybe a kiss or a wedding, and regardless of where my characters start on their journey, they will have grown emotionally and spiritually. Because I’m human and haven’t written the book yet, I’m not sure of all the details of those journeys to love and greater wholeness.

Whether a writer is a panster (write by the seat of his/her pants) or a plotter, planning out general points of the story’s plot, our characters sometimes surprise us. I can have in-depth interviews with these imaginary people but they sometimes throw me for a loop with a memory, or an issue I wasn’t expecting. Sometimes they make a choice I didn’t anticipate. However, I get them to my desired end for the book.

Once the book is written I am fully aware of their choices and decisions and the precise ending.

God knows my beginning and my end. He has a plan and a purpose for my life but I still make choices. Unlike me as an author, God is never surprised because He’s already read the end of my story. He read it before I was even born. That doesn’t mean He dictated my path.

I’m not even sure if that fully makes sense to you, but it does to me. I can’t understand just how it really works with an all-knowing, sovereign Lord, only that I can listen for His voice and maybe I’ll make mistakes, but He will get me to my desired end and use me to fulfill His purpose here on earth. Maybe I’ll sport some bruises from my failures, but He will never stop loving me on the journey through my story.

And He is also the One who leads me as I write. How else can my characters surprise me if my God-given imagination didn’t let that happen? An imagination designed for me combined with my history and past experiences to create a story out of nothing because I am an image-bearer of the Creator Himself.

Maybe this is too lofty, but I’ve found peace in not understanding how it all happens. It is a holy mystery beyond my ability to grasp but His omniscience doesn’t negate free will and there is wonderful security in that truth.

Lessons Learned from Writing: Divine Fun

Now, why did I start this series of posts with this one? Because initially when I started writing in 2009 and understood nothing much about the craft, I had fun. So much fun! I believed God told me to write that November for National Novel Writing Months (nanowrimo.org). When I started I was fearless because I didn’t know any better. I had a blast finally writing the story I wanted to write: The Virtuous Viscount. I’d started years ago on paper and I think I scared myself. But God called and I obeyed.

I wrote a lot of words in 21 days – more than winning two NaNoWriMos. I was exhilerated and in my ignorance thought I’d written a wonderful tome. I cut my teeth as an author on that novel and still love the story.

So I had fun and thought that was it. I was a stay-at-home mom and lived in the country and served in Women’s Ministry at my church and didn’t have much interaction with those who didn’t share my faith in Jesus. I reached out during that month and connected with another stay-at-home mom in my community. We both crossed the finish line and I reached out again to suggest we get together. I gave her my real name, not the name on NaNo and she responded.

She was a friend from high school I’d been praying for, for over twenty years. Wow. Just wow. We connected in person along with others from back then and I heard many sad stories. Now my own story wasn’t that wonderful as I was in a difficult marriage, but I listened and loved. I was newer to Facebook in those days and invited my friend to connect with me there.

She remembered my strong faith in high school and even though I didn’t usually post spiritual stuff then, I was usually more silly, she told me it was as if God was poking her in the shoulder with every post I made. She understood my life was challenging. She was aware of my ministry work, and never once did I talk to her about Christ. She was well aware of the truth she’d turned her back on years ago. I was just being silly old me.

God led her back to Himself. She said later that she believes the only reason she was to write that November was to reconnect with me so God could get a hold of her. She joined a church, she led worship, she’s taken a theology class that I taught, and she made dramatic life changes. Life has been challenging for her in the process, but she’s stood firm.

I thought I was just having fun—but God had a bigger plan.

Her name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life long before my humble gothic regency ever saw the light of day in print.

So go ahead and have fun. Enjoy life. If God calls you to do something unusual because it might be fun? Do it! You may never know the heart you may touch just by being yourself in those moments.

“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” Saint Francis of Assisi.

What kind of fun might God be calling you to? Don’t dismiss it as frivlolous–He may have a bigger plan than you realize.

Dream Musings and Music

Not all dreams become reality. Sad isn’t it? People come along and kill our dreams. Sometimes real life interferes.

When I grew up I wanted to be a disc jockey. You know. A DJ. I love music. Always have. I enjoy singing. I love to talk, so radio seemed like a great place for me. But my father told me that radio people don’t get paid much and work odd hours. I had a friend in radio at one point and he had to use a different name on the air to protect himself from his fans. Oh, to have such trouble!

I played saxophone through high school but gave it up for choir. I did well there. Won some solo ensembles. I always wanted to play guitar. Twice I’ve taken guitar lessons. When I was in a band they let me play on one song.  Yup. I was that good! *snicker*.  Actually, I’d have been great if I could have been disciplined enough to practice more.

Jonah's VacationI also wanted to be a singer but had a pastor years ago who gave me a reality check. He told me “Susan, you’re good but you don’t work at it. You’re a B-grade singer but could be an A.” Ouch! I did work at it and got good enough to be in a band for a short time.

Jonah’s Vacation was a great experience. Hard work. Amazing musicians. My next book, Feta & Freeways is dedicated to Jim, Rob, Jeff, Erick, Mark and Irene (she joined us months after this photo was taken.). I learned so much from these people (including how to belch although Jim was definitely the master of that and he didn’t have a microphone to help!)

13620018_1411151115567715_4418536725403216346_nI don’t sing for others much anymore. I did for a while. I worked at it. But now I only get an opportunity maybe once a year to do that and play my guitar. I miss the synergy of being in a band. I admire groups that have that “magic” when they play together.

I based my next book on a lead singer of a band (and his friends). Yeah, it’s a romance, but it’s so much more than that. I based it off Burlap to Cashmere. I wish I could play guitar with even a 10% of the skill they have. Can you see the joy they have as they play together? Makes me smile every time I see this photo I took from the last time I saw them live.

Maybe someday I’ll get there. Not everything has to be for the purpose of performing. Maybe playing guitar and growing in that skill will only be for me and God this time around. I can remember the past fondly and rejoice that God gave me those opportunities. And I can write and encourage others who can pursue them.

Maybe words on the page are meant to be my song in this season of my life. Why that makes me cry I don’t know, but dreams are like that. Sometimes it is okay to grieve what you can’t have. Life isn’t fair and God doesn’t always give us what we want for His own reasons. Hard to believe but that’s often a good thing. Sometimes to make room for one dream we have to sacrifice something else we value. We don’t always recognize what those choices will be…time, family, finances…there’s a cost for pursuing dreams. And there will always be those who will try to stop us, defeat us, criticize us for following God’s direction. Dreams God calls us to follow become “callings”. And they are only worth pursuing because He is the one who leads the way.

This is a live video I took from Burlap to Cashmere’s performance in Green Bay in July of this year. Gifted and a called. The “closing jam” as it were… featuring Johnny Philippidis and his amazing guitar skills. Part of the song is the Dialing God Instrumental from their Freedom Souls album. Enjoy. Maybe someday I’ll have that 10% to enjoy for myself.

Spatzle Speaks: Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle (Book Review)

accidental mysteryDale McElhinney’s debut novel, Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle is a mid-grade tale that I’m sure the kids in my house will love. At least mom thinks so.

Summer is fun at camp and Shaun and his friends are looking forward to the rivalry between cabins. What they didn’t expect was a variety of what first appear to be mis-adventures. Swimming, horse-back riding, canoeing, volleyball, capture-the-flag and stories by the campfire are what they expected. But strange things are happening and the boys are determined to discover what. Initially they suspect the dirty dealings of another group of campers but the adventures become deadly and could threaten the future of the camp. The boys learn lessons about faith and friendship as they try to save the camp and solve the mystery. It becomes a wild adventure for them all.

This book is mid-grade fiction. Geared for boys (and yes, girls) it will keep them riveted and prove that reading is fun. Too bad dogs aren’t allowed at camp though. I would have enjoyed being with them all (well, except for the water stuff, I don’t like getting wet). I look forward to more great stories from this author!

BONUS! There’s more activities relating to the book found at this web site: http://www.campsoaringeaglemysteries.com/

5 bones for blog

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

 

 

 

 

I give this book five bones. Because I’m a dog and that’s what I do.