My mentor wrote to me after my last blog post and commented that it sounded from my recent writings like I was discovering writing as a spiritual practice. I think that is an accurate assessment of how things are changing in me.
My initial philosophy of writing was, “writing is a vehicle by which you communicate to others what you think.”
When I started blogging I realized that was a fairly self-centered way of writing. Blogging taught me about the nature of writing and reading in the midst of a community, and how important it was not just to say what I thought, but to listen to the voices of others as I mixed my voice into the community. This second philosophy of writing was, “writing is a vehicle by which you participate in community.”
That second stage philosophy has turned out just to be an oasis to stop at in a much longer journey. I have come to the place where writing is a method by which I begin to wonder what God is doing in the deeper space between the words. It is becoming an exercise by which I am trying to contextualize motives and mysteries…the heart of the world, my own heart and in the deepest iteration of the work ,the very heart of God. “Writing is a spiritual practice in which you discover God.”
Our church has recently developed a manifesto. We have published it on place cards for every member of the church to have at home, and we have created giant pieces of art to hang on our walls so that people can read our purpose as they walk around the church. I call it “The writing on the wall.”
I have come to understand that “The writing on the wall” is God’s specific marching orders for us as a church. As I am part of the church these marching orders apply to me. It is necessary that I discover what my position in the church is so that I may understand what part I will have in carrying out these marching orders. Writing this novel now is contextualizing what my role will be in the future as a member of this church, as a soldier in God’s army and as a citizen of that heavenly domain to which we all hope to attain. It is so much bigger than the novel, and it is the novel all at the same time.
Sounds like a spiritual practice to me and man it is more than I bargained for.
I planned well for this year’s NaNoWriMo. I created a detailed list of goals to tackle. I began months ago working on building my writing and reading stamina so that I could handle three hours a day of reading and writing. I even thoughtfully restructured my schedule between work and home so that I would be able to manage the new writing regimen.
What I did not plan on was the level of weariness I was going to come into this season carrying. I am tired not so much physically but emotionally. While I now have the working space to plan in a longer nap every day, I am realizing that this is not just about getting the physical rest my body craves. There is a work to do in the midst of all the writing and reading.That work has to do with facing some emotional issues and coming to terms with them. I have to let some things go to gain peace. I have to change my expectations regarding certain things to come, and I have to allow some people to walk away as I realize I cannot fill their expectations of our relationship. I have to give up what I cannot control and embrace what I can control. Honestly, the list of things I can control is turning out to be rather small.
I think part of NaNoWriMo this year may be about far more than just writing the next great American novel. I think it is about something far closer to home. I am beginning to feel like God planned all this in advance so that I would be able to come to terms with the monumental changes which have taken place in my life over the last 2 years. Strangely, until the beginning of this month I was not even really aware that I was having a struggle with these changes. Fancy that.
I am still plowing my way through NaNoWriMo 2019. I am still engaging in the work. Go me!
Today in the midst of my daily reading about writing and in the midst of rereading my manuscript I am meditating on the importance of my voice in the community…the conversation I bring to the table. I have worked through the manuscript of Pork Chops With the Sentinels Of Azatan one more time. Taking notes as I go and thinking about the connection of scenes within the book and the progression of characters throughout the story, I find myself asking:
“Will this story create conversations of value?”
“Will this book make people think?”
“Will it cause people to disagree?”
“Will it cause anyone to change?”
My sister is in her last performance tonight of the play “Seven”. I saw the piece last night. It was good. I disagreed with many things in the play. It made me angry for the plight of women around the globe. It made me want to have a conversation about….well, …something bigger than me.
That is what I want from my book. I want to engage as well as entertain. I want to start a conversation that will go farther than….well,… me.
We are still plowing our way through NaNoWriMo 2019. By reading this you are still engaging in the work. Go us!
I have three core values which God has been trying to massage into my life over the last 20 years or so. Those values involve becoming SLOW, CONSTANT, AND INTENTIONAL.
This morning in prayer I was reminded of these values and I had opportunity to take stock of where I stand in my personal growth track concerning them. Over all, I am much improved from where I was even a year ago. That said I still let people, felt expectations and life circumstances rush me right past my goals. Of the three values I struggle with “slowing down” the most.
My mentor told me that one of the things I was going to have to do to complete my novel was to learn to love all of my characters (even the villains). She told me I was going to need to sit with each one until I had learned how to see them each as real people and figure out how to give them the grace which real people may not deserve but desperately need.
Here is the problem. I cannot do that fast and I seem to have become addicted to instantaneous living. I like my coffee that brews in less than 30 seconds. I love my microwave that cooks my food in under 3 minutes. I like my meetings that last less than an hour and I love to pack my day with as many quick things as I can possibly push into it. So one of the things I need to practice during this NaNoWriMo is slowing down where it concerns my writing. Once again this seems almost counter-intuitive when it comes to the purpose of the month, but I think that it is one of the things I have to use this month for if I am to be a success.
SLOW AND STEADY WILL WIN THIS RACE!
How do you slow yourself down in a racing world?
So far so good! It is day 4 and I am posting about my writing journey this month for the third time! I feel pretty good about that record and my first goal of going beyond November 4th has now been achieved! That of course is a little tongue in cheek, but honestly, I feel like this year is going to be different where NaNoWriMo is concerned. I am actually heading towards the achievement of my writing goal which is to finish. Pork Chops With the Sentinels of Azatan.
I feel confident because I have prepared for the journey and I have laid out a course to follow.
Preparation for NaNoWriMo started in September by rereading the manuscript for the book, which I had hidden away for almost two years. It continued with a second third and fourth reading. Each time I read it I notated: changes I needed to make, scenes I needed to delete and scenes I needed to add. Then I compiled a list of all those things and I created a writing schedule for myself which includes a monthly writing sabbatical which is to be three days long. That work led me to a restructuring of my daily schedule to give myself even more time to write. I bathed the whole thing in lots of prayer and now….. LAUNCH!!!!
Life sometimes feels like a dance competition to me. If that is so, then NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a quick step in the middle of a much longer bit of movement.
I have come to this challenge in years past unprepared and extremely unintentional. Usually I have given up by about Nov. 4th. So getting past tomorrow is goal number 1 this year.
In years past I said, “Let’s just try this and see what happens”. Of course the old addage held true: “If you aim at nothing, you are sure to hit it.”
This year I am approaching the work with a plan. It actually started exactly a year ago, with a word from the Lord about some changes that I had to make with how I spend my time. The changes seemed a little extreme to me, but with a year of prayer and consideration under my belt I know they are worth making.
The confirmations about this restructuring have been many, but a fellow blogger, John Eli helped me see that the time is now for this work to be done.
This is the month I will launch into the finish of my book Pork Chops With the Sentinels of Azatan. I know…I know… this month is supposed to be about writing a new work, The truth is I already have two new books in draft form and the outlines of four more in the hopper. I don’t need new material right now. What I need to do is finish something. So that is what I am going to do. Maybe it is not the traditional path that NaNoWriMo prescribes, but it is the plan that God has ordained and confirmed at least five ways from Sunday!
So the writing goes on! Updates soon.
Glance in the mirror
Morning stubble’s reflected mask
Raccoon’s eyes moor the darkness.
A broken vow
makes it a day for sad songs on Youtube.
I sigh. The mirror fogs.
I am a lump.
So I sparkle coffee-stained teeth.
Mint and aluminum phosphate smack the smell away.
My razor hides for hours the stubble
Which signals sorrow.
All these signs that say I still miss you.