More than particles

“The world is made of more than particles. It’s made of things you can’t hold in your hand, like fear, love, loss, hope, truth. Or plural, truths, and you can take these by the shoulders and turn them around to face you. Or tilt them so you can see them in the light.

“And maybe truths are like horses on a carousel. You could keep running around, trying to catch one, or you could just stand still and believe, and wait for it to come around to you.” (The Cracks in the Kingdom, Jaclyn Moriarty, 99)

November’s lessons learned

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner

I crossed the NaNoWriMo finish line today, wrapping up my draft (rather hastily) at 52K words. I expected more of a sense of triumph; instead, I just feel a little lost. What am I supposed to do now that I don’t have to wring words out of every second of every day?

Write more words, of course!

Next up on my plate is getting Stone Alliance ready for publication on March 2nd. (Hooray!) But before I move on to that, I wanted to put together a list of things I learned from my first NaNoWriMo experience.

  1. I can produce 2000-4000 words a day. Regularly.
  2. Other things have to be cut out in order to make that happen.
  3. Social media is a great thing to cut out. Signing off of Facebook drastically increased my productivity and improved my general sense of well-being.
  4. I can’t keep up that pace indefinitely, nor do I want to. Devoting myself to churning out a first draft is good while it lasts, but at some point, I do have to get back to marketing and networking and, you know, cleaning the bathrooms.
  5. Word count deadlines are a great way to shut down my inner editor.
  6. I’m not sure I like shutting down my inner editor quite that much. I don’t know, I have to get a little more space between me and this craziness; but right now, I’m even less thrilled with what I produced than I usually am with first drafts.
  7. In the end, setting a goal is the way to go. No matter what the goal is, I’m much more productive when I have a solid, set goal to reach–and all the better when I have writing buddies to hold me to it!

So am I converted? Is NaNoWriMo going to become an annual event in my life? I still don’t know. I’m glad to have a finished draft of this story that has at least five half-written incarnations on my hard drive, but like I said, I’m not terribly pleased with what I’ve written. Then again, that could just be because I’m so ready to put Heather and Dean away and not so much as think their names again for several months, possibly even until next November. We’ll see what happens as time passes.

In the meantime, it’s time to get serious about the final stages of Stone Alliance. Also, keep an eye out for some giveaways coming soon!

How was your NaNo experience?

Thanks for the fleas

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, “for the fleas and for—”

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.” (The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom, 210)

One of my favorite stories of gratitude comes from this beautiful story of a family who suffered the worst horrors of the Holocaust, not because they were Jewish, but because they risked their lives helping the people who were being hunted. They made it through that experience on faith, hope, love, and gratitude–even gratitude for the fleas. And as we learn later in the book, after Corrie and her sister spend weeks with inexplicable freedom to discuss religion in the midst of concentration camp, they find that even the fleas were there for a higher purpose:

“You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” she said. “Well—I’ve found out.”

That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’”

My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for. (220)

This week and always, may we have the perspective to give thanks for the fleas.

Hello, winter

Today, I am grateful for electricity, and for a house that is once again lighted and warm.

Today, I am not grateful for social media.

As such, I have compiled a list of all the things I can do instead of staring at people being obnoxious to each other over the internet:

  • Bake more cookies.
  • Write more words.
  • Read more books.
  • SLEEP. (There has not been enough of this going around the past forty-eight hours.)
  • Ponder. Pray. Meditate. Whatever you call that time when you sort out all the complicated things that are going on in your brain, preferably with divine assistance.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat good food. (Define “good” however you will.)
  • Play with my favorite little two-year-old.
  • Read articles/books that actually cite legitimate sources.
  • Finish all those crafting projects hiding in my closet.
  • Enjoy nature.
  • People-watch.
  • Did I mention writing more words? I can’t believe how productive I’ve been with NaNo pushing me to prioritize.
  • Make music.

I could go on, but more likely than not, no one cares much about my disgruntled disenchantment with Facebook, and the power outage has put me a little behind in my writing, so I’ve got to go catch up. And, you know, there are cookies to be eaten. Tschüß out, bloggy friends.

Mountains of wearisome height

We have a poster hanging in our house of Thomas Cole’s “Journey of Life: Youth,” which shows a young person setting off in a boat, looking toward a beautiful castle in the sky. There’s so much between this youth and the castle–water, forests, plains, mountains–and as I looked at it, I recalled the words of Sam Walter Foss:

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
The road stretches on through the long afternoon
And passes away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
(Foss, “A House by the Side of the Road”)

In this month of gratitude, I am thankful for the many people who rejoice and weep with me through all the meadows of sunshine and wearisome mountains. So often, writing is depicted as a solitary venture, one in which the author holes up for months before emerging with an earth-shaking manuscript; but that’s not how it works. You can’t write in a void. You have to have experiences to draw on, personalities to reflect on, people to lean on.

One of the things I love the most about Foss’s poem is that it’s not about lifelong friends or soul mates. It’s about people passing by, crossing paths with him for a brief moment, travelers and strangers and people both good and bad. And yet he reaches out for them, appreciates the light that they bring to his life, seeks to help them in their journey.

And so today I am grateful for my fellow travelers who have touched my life even for a brief instant, who have paused on the path just long enough to share in the joy of our mutual journey towards our castles in the sky.