Over the past few years, I have tried to vary my reading so I could get maximum exposure to all the different kinds of writing genres and styles that were out there. I’ve read such things as military science fiction, romance, mysteries, fantasy, young adult fiction, middle grade fiction, books about the craft of writing, and Christian books. These all have given me a wide exposure and a boost to my creativity which has helped my own writing.
I had never thought though of the different kinds of language used in writing before this past weekend. Now, I’m not talking about different languages. I’m talking about the ways people talk in the same language in different books. Let me explain. During the past several weeks I have been having, I guess what you would call angst, about my future when my younger son graduates from high school in May. What kind of opportunities would I have to write or to do whatever as a woman in her early 50’s. It’s big stuff–this thing called having an empty nest. I’ve poured myself into my kids for over twenty years and especially for the last twelve as I have homeschooled them. So, I have a lot to think about and consider.
What does that have to do with different kinds of language? I saw a quote by Virginia Woolf last week which resonated with me. This led to the books she had written. Here’s the quote. “I am made and remade continually. Different people draw different words from me.” As far as I’m concerned, there is so much truth in that statement. Anyway, I went to her list of books and found a description of one of them. A Room of One’s Own. An essay based upon two papers read in October of 1928. Wow! This was something I needed to read. Something that might answer my questions.
I found it at the library on Sunday and began reading it. I’m not done yet. but one of the first things I noticed was how different the language was. This was written by a woman in the 1920’s so, of course, you would expect it to be different. But, I didn’t know how different it would be. I have been alternating between reading this book and a military science fiction book, and the differences are stark. In the first, Woolf discusses how women have not had opportunities to do things that are amazing because they have been weighted down by the desires of men–between children and cooking and mending and everything else that goes on in a household. Men have been the ones to write about women, to act in plays about women, and to discuss the affairs of the day without considering the opinion of women. While in the military science fiction book, which a woman wrote, the main female characters have had every opportunity–to gain medical knowledge, weapons knowledge, and knowledge about all of the sciences. A cornucopia of opportunity. In this book, women are respected for their knowledge; they are respected for what they can do; and they are valued members of the group they are associated with.
Two different comparisons–one fiction and one not, but both representative of the times in which they were written. It was interesting to me how well both books have been able to state their premise with the language used. The book by Woolf has more formal language–language used in the late 1920’s as well as in her country of origin–while the other book’s vernacular is more present-day. Despite the different kinds of language used, it was nice to see that the people of each era dreamed about and wanted the same things–for men and women to be seen as equal human beings. Though a lot has changed between 1928 and 2018, we still have a long way to go. May we as writers lead the way using words to paint pictures of how we would like the world to be!
When I read the latest entry in my writing inspiration book, I almost shook my head and kept going. I’ve never been one of those to get into positive thinking books. They represented things to me like believing you’ll get a million dollars if you say it often enough to yourself or believing that your sick family member will get well. And we all know that people die, and there is poverty so how is this kind of thinking supposed to work? Some proponents of positive thinking would say that your faith wasn’t good enough or that you didn’t believe hard enough if your thoughts didn’t come true. I know that is not true so how does positive thinking or motivation work with writing or with anything else for that matter?
The entry I read had some thoughts for me which I want to expand upon for you all today. Six years ago, I didn’t have a blog. I wrote my stories down in notebooks that were for me alone. I played around with words, descriptions, settings, characters, and did my best to put them into a somewhat interesting story. I knew how to copy-edit, but editing as a whole to make the story better was something that was beyond me. I loved writing my stories, but something was missing, something important. I wasn’t motivated to finish anything that was original to me. Yes, I finished a few small projects, but the big ones…they languished in perpetual obscurity on my computer.
Things changed when I went to a small genre/writing convention in my hometown that spring. I met writers and sat in on their talks. I learned so much about this thing I was trying to do. I started this blog when I came home, and even more notably, I started calling myself a writer. It was a change in mindset, and one that I am only beginning to understand six years later.
Because, you see, the article I read earlier talked about how positive thinking works because there is a strong connection between the mind and body. From pg. 18 of The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters, “Neurologists describe it as ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’ In other words, you have the capacity, by affirming your goals, to effectively rewire your brain.” It made sense to me. That’s what I’ve done over the last six years. I’ve rewired my brain and now have a body of work to show for it–in my blogs and in my journals. (The journal I’m writing in now is my twentieth journal.) I’ve gone through seasons where I haven’t written as much as I’ve written in other seasons, but I have written, and I have shared. I’ve shared pieces of me I haven’t shared anywhere else. The most important thing I have gained during these years is the ability to say I am a writer and the desire to work on my craft.
Going back to the power of positive thinking though, is there a reason I haven’t been published yet? Is there a reason that all of the positive thoughts I’ve had haven’t come to fruition? Am I not thinking positively enough? I’ll have to go back and read one of those positive thinking books again, but my first thought after writing these words is that positive thinking has to do with the things you can control. You can’t control whether someone wants to publish your book. You can’t control whether someone wants to give you money. You can’t even control whether someone lives or dies. But, you can control what you think and believe, and you can do the work to become better at your craft. So, on this day, January 10, 2018, I proclaim that I am a writer to all who read this blog post!
Have a great day, everyone!
I was thinking of the reasons why I write earlier. There are many of them–cheap therapy, defining my relationship with God, getting a story out of my head and onto paper or the screen, describing the world around me, using words to paint a picture, making a record of my life. But, there is a quote I found which explains my reasons for writing perfectly, and I want to elaborate on it today.
First, the quote. Anais Nin had this to say about writing. “The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say but what we are unable to say.” Unable to say. There are many things I am unable to say. There have been many things in history people haven’t been able to say or haven’t been listened to when they said them.
But, when they’ve been written down, it’s another story. Nations and people’s lives have been changed by the written world. I think of characters from The Color Purple or Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin which inspired a country to change. I also think of such books as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, 1984 by George Orwell, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Each of these books, in its own way, changed the lives of its generation and the generations that followed making them the classics they are today. They illustrated thoughts and feelings that made people see issues in a different light which made talking about them easier. So, writing about the things we cannot say has changed the world.
It has changed my own world also. I have written things about my faith and about my own thoughts and feelings that I would never dare say out loud. Things about doubt and lack of trust. Things that have made me wonder if I have any faith at all. I have written things about people who seem so put together whereas I know that I’m falling apart. Why would these people want to be my friends when they have everything together, and I don’t? I don’t want to say it out loud though. My fear of losing friends is too much if I said it out loud.
But, writing it, writing it I can do. I can write my words about doubt and lack of trust and understand them better. I can write my words about how messed-up I am and imagine that someone else is taking solace in them. I can write my words about jealousy and envy and pray that the Holy Spirit would fill me so full that I wouldn’t have room for the feelings God doesn’t want me to have. I can write my words about having courage to meet that put-together person, and that maybe, maybe, we might have something in common. I can write the words I am unable to say.
Writing has changed my life in ways that couldn’t possible be imagined. It has given me the courage to live amidst the doubts, the ability to sort out my thoughts and feelings, and the knowledge that I am who I am no matter how much the world would like me to be different. What I have to say is important whether it is said out loud or written down. For if we did not write down the forbidden things, we would never have the chance to change our world or understand it better. I, for one, have decided it is too great of a risk so I will continue to write down the forbidden things, to write down what I cannot say so I can be understood.
Cross-posted from my Thriving in Grace blog:
I looked at the date when I was on Facebook earlier. Not only is today the birthday of a very good friend, it is also the week before Halloween. This started me thinking about the holidays and what they have usually meant for me. I almost sighed audibly. Although my kids aren’t small anymore, I seem to do the same amount of running around in search of the perfect holiday. It is tiring, and there have been years when I’ve been exhausted at the end of December wondering where the time had gone. So naturally, I decided to turn this into a blog post. 🙂 These are the first sentences I wrote in my journal earlier. “Am I really looking forward to this year’s holiday season. I’m not sure at this point. For the last couple of years, I’ve felt like I’ve been slogging through the holidays. Not enough money, not enough time, running around to make sure everything gets done. I don’t want to be like that this year.”
Since I had some time to think about it, these are the thoughts I came up with. During the holidays, I want to be more intentional about my gratitude, about my serving, and about my reflection. It’s not just running around from place to place. It’s treating the whole time as an experience, one I might never have again. And if it’s something I might never have again, shouldn’t I live more in the moment? More in the gratitude. More in the serving. More in the reflection. More in the saying. More in the…playing. Yes, I said it–playing. I’ve heard it said many times that experiencing the holidays through the eyes of a child is the best way to get adults to slow down. I don’t have small children, but I am acquainted with several. In fact, I share a birthday with one of them which is also during this season. I’m looking forward to making memories with them during the next couple of months.
Another way I’m going to be more intentional about the holidays is through my writing. For those of you who don’t know, November is a month where many writers begin and hope to finish at least 50,000 words of a novel. It’s called National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short. It’s been several years since I’ve participated, but this year, this year I need to write the words down, to get this idea out of my head and onto the screen. Writing is how I figure out my world, and the times when I sit down and write are the times I experience the most clarity about the world around me. So, writing during the first part of this holiday will be my second way of being intentional. Now, would I like to get to 50,000 words and finish? Sure, I would. But this year, I want the journey to be about the words and about the story. In other words, to live in the experience while it is happening.
Finally, and most importantly, I will focus on the words of my Lord and Savior as I slow down and really think about what this time of year means to me. It’s not the gifts. It’s not the parties. It’s not even the Christmas tree. I’ve had holiday seasons where there has been plenty of money, and seasons where money has been scarce. The seasons that have been the best though are the seasons I have focused on God–having gratitude for what He has given me and serving where He calls me to serve. Psalm 100 brings all this to mind and more. I leave you with this psalm as you seek your own ways to be more intentional during this holiday season.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Have a great day!
Words are a vital part of what we, as writers, do, so I thought I’d write about all the things they could do today. They are the smallest part of our craft. Words create sentences which create paragraphs which create pages which create chapters which create books. But they can also make us feel things. They can make us feel happy, sad, angry, disappointed, strange, bored, interested, encouraged, discouraged; the list of emotions goes on and on. They help us sharpen our imaginations by forming pictures inside our minds. If I read a book where the author has written a good description of his setting, I can imagine myself there and feel like I’ve traveled to a place I might not ever get to go in my lifetime. They are also a method of escape for me when I read as I can escape from whatever real life is throwing at me to enjoy the imaginary world of a book. In other words, words are the basic building blocks of everything we do in a society.
Written words are not the only words that are important though. Spoken words might be more important than written words because a lot of our communicating is done face to face. They can bring joy in one instance and then turn right around and bring sadness. From when we can first understand the spoken word, they help us form our concept of self. If the first words we hear are words that affirm us, we start on the path to becoming a productive person in society. But, if we hear words that demean us, that tell us we’re not any good, it doesn’t take much time for those words to take root in our inner being and become what we believe about ourselves.
So, words have power, power that I don’t think we realize sometimes. We realize when we are physically hurt whether we are ill with some kind of sickness or whether we’ve had some kind of accident like a broken arm or leg. Those hurts are visible and can be seen by whoever we come in contact with. But, words have the power to hurt us inside where the hurt is not as visible to the rest of us. We’ve all been hurt by words whether unintentionally or by bullying, and we’ve all been careless with our words and caused hurt. Words can form scars, but words can also heal. When I think of how I want to be with the words I speak or the words I write, I think of a verse of Scripture from my Christian faith.
Psalm 19:14 states, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
Hope everyone has a great day!
This is my first attempt at completing one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction writing challenges although this week does not involve fiction strangely enough. It’s been a topic I’ve been thinking about recently so when I saw the prompt, I thought I would take a stab at it. First, the prompt.
WHY I WRITE.
That’s it. I wanna know why you write. What it is that makes you want to tell stories and write them down. What drives you? Something biographical? Something internal? Dig deep. Be thoughtful. Write it out like the bad-ass that you know you are.
My writing journey began as a teenager, and it began with writing fanfiction before I even knew the term existed. I would fill notebooks with further adventures of my favorite television characters. These were characters I had been inspired by in one way or another. Usually, they would be people who would try to do the right thing, and I would write about the journey they would take to get there. I used their journey to help me with my own journey as I grew into a young woman.
Along with writing fanfiction, I also kept a journal. I would use this place to write down many of my deepest secrets, things I didn’t want anyone else to know about. I asked the questions that no one else could answer and told the stories no one else could tell. It was my way of making sense of my world.
This theme would continue in subsequent years. I received my bachelors in psychology and my master of arts in teaching, but I kept going back to writing, my way of making sense of the world. I could never figure out how to make money from just my writing though so I began teaching and gradually stopped writing because I was busy being an adult or adulting (as one of my friends likes to say). I got married, gave birth to my boys, and eventually quit teaching to stay at home with them.
In subsequent years, we moved several times, and my boys grew. And, as those of you who are parents know, as they grew older, they were able to do more for themselves, and I was able to do more that didn’t involve directly caring for them. I piddled with writing a little bit, but it was not anything serious, and it was like I had forgotten everything that used to mean so much to me.
All of that changed in the year 2009, six and a half years ago. We began the year having discussions on whether to move back to our home state to help care for my mother-in-law who had not been doing well. We decided to do so in February, and looking back it was almost as if God had given us the promptings to move. Because, two months later, she passed away suddenly. I was heartbroken. We were all heartbroken. In the midst of settling her affairs, I pulled out a notebook and started writing. That writing grew into a crescendo as the calendar made its way through the summer and into the fall. It wasn’t long before the rest of my family became used to seeing me take a notebook wherever we went.
The following year I heard of something called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. It happens every November, and many words are written all over the world. The goal is to write a 50000 word novel during the thirty days of that month. I decided to participate. It turned out that my husband needed surgery so, on the very first day of that month, I was feverishly writing while sitting in the hospital waiting room. I didn’t know it at the time, but my family was about to go through more change. I finished my first 50000 word novel that month while my husband was recovering. He ended up losing his job through that set of circumstances and started looking for another one. 2010 flowed into 2011, and I continued to write as I coped with all the change. He couldn’t find work where we were so we ended up moving to Birmingham, Alabama. Moving here was fortuitous as there were so many more resources available for writers than there were in my former home town.
But, of course, change and life continued to happen. I miscarried our third child in late 2011 and went through some dark and black times during the following year. I continued to write, but it was almost as if I was doing it through a fog. I finally realized at the beginning of 2013 that I was suffering from depression. We had begun visiting the first church we had gone to in eight years, and I had come back to the Christian faith I had as a teenager and young adult. The pastor of that church offered to counsel me, and we began talking. It didn’t take long for him to get clued in as to how I coped with the world, and he suggested I journal what I was feeling. I did so, and the fog started lifting. I had a place where I could be completely honest with myself, and it was a place I didn’t have to share with anyone else.
Since that time I have filled many journals and written blog posts and stories. None of my stories have been published yet, but I know that is only a matter of time. I am very grateful to all of the people who have encouraged me along the way, but especially to my husband and to my pastor who every so often asks me if I have written it down when I start to tell him something.
Have a great day!