God-breathed

“All scripture is God-breathed and useful…”  And the beautiful thing is God knows exactly what scripture you need to hear at any given moment.

I came into work this morning miserable and disgruntled, as I usually am coming into my retail job.  It’s no secret to my family or coworkers that I do not like my job.  Being a cashier is not where I envisioned myself at the ripe old age of 32.

But how to escape it?  Bills have to be paid, so money must be procured.  Despite my grumblings, I am grateful to be employed at all.  But more and more every day, I want to be home.  I want to be home raising our son and working on our house.

Now, God has blessed me with creative talents, talents that could potentially be used to move closer to the lifestyle I desire.  I can write, I can draw, I can sew.  I can perform most “crafty” things easily.  Ability is not the problem.  What I lack is self-discipline.  And what I have struggled with, I think, is thinking I can create self-discipline on my own.  And yet, time and time again, I have proved to be terribly ineffective at sticking to anything for an extended period of time.  Well, except getting my butt up out of bed and trudging off to work.  That and eating chocolate.  I tend to rotate through my interests (I stick to writing for a month, then I spend a month crocheting, then I cross-stitch, etc.).

I’ve certainly read plenty of tips and advice on how to build healthy habits, change yourself to be more effective, achieve your dreams, and similar nonsense.  But that way of thinking is a trap.  In it, you must achieve those goals through sheer will…and that is something many of us lack.  I certainly do.  Thinking that your dreams can only be achieved if you do X, Y, and Z will ultimately lead to you letting yourself down when you inevitably fail in some way or another.  That is a truth I’ve seen played out in my life many, many times.

But this morning, God gave me a little nudge, a little reminder that I do not have to rely on my own strength to achieve anything.  In fact, the only way to achieve anything of real significance, real worth, is to rely on the help that only He can give.

I opened my study bible to a random page, though I was most certainly not in the mood to read scripture.  I found myself in 2 Timothy, so I read through the fairly short letter.  This verse jumped out at me:

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Holy moly.  You mean self-discipline doesn’t come from the self?  No, it really doesn’t.  And it is such a weight off my shoulders.  I read that and breathed a sigh of relief.  I don’t know about you, but I frequently fall into the “only I can do it” way of thinking.  With God’s help, I need to rewire my brain to instead think, “I can do it, but only with God’s help.  And He is far, far better at this than I am.”

The novel I’ve been working on is one I have felt God pushing me to write.  He wants it written, and He has made that clear in no uncertain terms.  I got a large chunk (~24k words) of it written up during the 2017 NaNoWriMo, but plenty remains to be written.  These past few months, I have let myself be distracted by other tasks and the nagging feeling that I just can’t do it, I can’t focus, it can’t be done, my writing sucks.  That’s when the daily habit, the discipline, starts slipping.

Now God has stepped in – and really, He’s been waiting in the wings this whole time – and given me a gentle reminder that I’m not doing this on my own.  He has given me a Spirit that is always there and more than willing to help me achieve my goals.  His goals.  Our goals.  Because, if I’m in step with the Spirit, aren’t our goals the same?  Doesn’t God seek to bless His children?  He says as much in scripture over and over again, and I can sense that He’s promised as much to me.  But we have to be willing to accept His help.  We have to humble ourselves and say, “You know what?  I can’t do this, not on my own.”  We have to ask God for the strength and discipline to get the job done.  And if we do that, He gladly steps in and helps us carry our burden.

So, starting today, I’m working on a new habit.  Before I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, I’m asking God for His guidance to get the job done that He wants me to do.  I’m asking Him to give me the discipline to write instead of digging deep in myself to find it, because it’s not there.  I’m a lazy, selfish creature, and He knows it, but He can help me grow into so much more.

All this to say…

My deadline for the completed rough draft for the novel 53 is Easter, April 1, 2018.

“I can do all this through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

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Gettin’ back to it

Hello, friends and readers!  How the heck have ya been?  Life has been…how shall I put it?  Insane?  Exhausting?  Blessed?  Yeah, that sounds about right.

My son is twelve weeks old today, and he’s one cutie patootie.  He’s also a handful.  I’m finding whole new meanings to the word “sacrifice.”  I’m sacrificing my time and sleep daily, but as he continues to grow and gives me more and more of those gummy smiles, I’m finding it’s all worth it.

Adding to the aforementioned insanity is the fact that my husband and I just closed on our first house this month.  Hurray, we’re the proud owners of a mortgage!  We’ve spent most of August demolishing and rebuilding the bathroom and kitchen with the help of our families, but last night was our first night staying there.  Lemme tell ya, central air is a marvelous thing.  We all slept well, baby included (YES!).

I’ve been back to work for a little more than a month now.  I’m a cashier at a hardware store.  It’s nice to work with a bunch of laid-back guys, since there is hardly any gossiping or backbiting.  Unfortunately, I also feel somewhat useless much of the time because, well, they don’t train me to do anything.  There’s always been a woman up front to ring people out at this store, but she’s never held any other responsibilities.  The same has held true with my time here, despite my past experience in management, office work, doing-anything-besides-standing-behind-this-blue-counter, etc.  One nice thing, though, is the fact that they don’t care if I read a book, crochet, or WRITE behind the counter.

With that in mind, I’ve stopped pestering them to train me on other tasks in the store.  Instead, I have been writing daily.  It might only be brainstorming notes in my journal, or it might be 500 words of a story, but I’m writing!  I’m incredibly happy to say I have two short story rough drafts sitting in my “To Edit” folder, and I have another rough draft 50% completed.  I’m working on an outline for my fantasy novel, and I’ve submitted a short piece to Microfiction Monday Magazine.  Once I finish this current short story rough draft, I plan on editing the others so they’ll be ready for submission to Meerkat Press and Writer’s Digest next month.

It feels good to be producing work.  Really good.  I even look at my crappy rough drafts with pride.  “I wrote that!  It sucks right now, but I wrote it!”  I know I will have many a rejection letter in my future, but I’m steeling my mind for that now.  I know with the support of my husband, family, and friends, I’ll get past those rejection slips and keep working towards being published.  I just need to keep my nose to the grindstone and keep my eyes peeled for opportunities.

I also plan on being more active on social media, so I’ll be talking to you guys more here and also via Facebook and Twitter.  I’m looking forward to the day I can write the post titled “Published!”  Maybe with more exclamation points than that.  Yeah, definitely more.

Until then, it’s back to the writing.

-MEP

Ye olde textbooks

So, as you guys know, I’m striving to turn writing into a daily habit of mine.  I’ve only had moderate success up to this point.  The chaotic turmoil that has been the first few months of 2016 isn’t really settling down, so there’s no time like the crazy present to build this habit.  Waiting until things calm down would be…well, let’s just say I don’t think things are going to calm down.  So I’m attacking it with renewed vigor instead.

This past week I’ve been really getting back to the journaling, and I’m using one of my textbooks from a Creative Writing class I took many moons ago in college as a source for prompts and training.  The book is Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft by Janet Burroway, and the first chapter on image has been an excellent warm-up.  I can already feel my writing muscles limbering up nicely with the “Try This” prompts Burroway has scattered throughout the book.

You know what’s sad but not surprising?  I’m getting more use out of this textbook now than I ever did during the college class I purchased it for.  And that’s not the only leftover and under-used textbook I have sitting on my bookshelf.  I have books from three or four writing and literature classes that I will be using to teach myself this year (Who needs college?  Bah!).

I’ve already made reading my Bible an almost-daily habit over the past several months, and I’ve slipped writing in the time slot immediately following it.  I find the two work together very well.  Shoot, the scripture readings and prayer requests often spill over into my journaling for the day and sometimes wind their way into an idea for a story.  So these are two habits I have every intention of continuing to build and strengthen.

Okay, I’ve blathered enough for now.  It’s nearly midnight and while I am a night owl at heart, I’m also a six-month pregnant night owl who has work in the morning.  So I must bid you all adieu and good night for now.

– MEP

Welcome to 2016

Hey, folks.  Whew.  The holidays are over.  Thank goodness for that.  I’ll be honest, I found Thanksgiving, birthdays, and Christmas just a little too exhausting these past few months.  On top of all the running around, shopping, expected visits, and events, I am also pregnant for the first time.  So yeah, tiring is a word I’d use to describe my holidays in 2015.

Now my schedule is returning to normal, and I feel like I can think straight again.  That being said, I did some of the first writing today that I’ve done in months.  It’s definitely not good work, but there are words on a page.  Stories have to start somewhere.

Two published short stories, people.  That is my writing goal for 2016.  Now let’s get to it.

– MEP

Cold but busy

It would appear that winter has finally appeared in the Erie area.  We’ve had a blessedly mild November up to this point, but the snow is beginning to swirl and dust the ground.  It’s a good thing I have plenty to do indoors.

I have a rough draft for a short story, and I’m letting it sit for a day or two before I go through it with a red pen and much head-shaking.  Thankfully, even as I cross out huge sections and write frantic question marks to sentences that just don’t make sense, I can tell myself it’s called a “rough” draft.  Whenever I first write out a story, I’m reminded of and encouraged by Anne Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts,” an excerpt from her book Bird by Bird.  If you haven’t read it, you need to take a look (you can read it here).

Besides the writing, I’m also trying to reformat my Etsy shop and get my butt moving on my Patreon art work, so all those together should keep me busy throughout the winter.  Well, and we have the holidays coming of course.  Yeesh.

All righty, folks, I just wanted to touch base, but now I need to get back to it.  I’ll let you all know how my second draft work goes.  It’s gotta be better than the first, right?

Stay warm.

-MEP

After some consideration…

As my dad would say, here’s the deal:  in my last blog, I spoke about my intention to participate in the 2015 NaNoWriMo.  However, since posting that, my life has taken a couple of crazy turns and I find I am suddenly swamped with unexpected tasks and activities.  That amounts to me not finding time to do squat, and I’ve barely touched my NaNoWriMo word count.  So I’ve made the decision not to go for it this year.

HOWEVER!  That does not mean I do not want to get any writing done!  On the contrary, I’m merely changing gears.  Rather than frantically attempting to crank out 50,000 words before the end of month, I want to work on writing a complete short story.  I could write the 50k words and still not have a finished story, and I feel like it would be a much more productive use of my time and a better chance to hone my skills if I focus on actually completing a short story by the end of the month.  I will feel much more accomplished if I tackle the rough draft, editing, and polishing of a story that I can then submit to literary magazines.

So that’s the plan, folks.  I won’t be forcing myself to write copious piles of garbled words this month.  Instead, I will work on completing a story that I will then be able to add to my portfolio and hopefully get published in the not-too-distant future.  This goal is attainable, and I will attain it by the end of November.

That being said…let’s get started on that rough draft.

-MEP

NaNoWriMo approaches…

It’s truly feeling like fall here in Pennsylvania.  The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and our local grapes have just been gathered.

Fall also means that the National Novel Writing Month is approaching.  For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it is a non-profit organization that encourages people to bust out their pencils, typewriters, and laptops to write a 50,000 word novel in one month beginning November 1st.  That’s an average of 1,667 words every day, a challenge that has defeated me in past years.  But last year I managed to reach the lofty 50k goal, and I intend to do the same this year.

As you can imagine, this requires some planning.  I have spoken to plenty of writers on the NaNoWriMo forums who fly by the seat of their pants and have fun doing it, but I want to put a little more thought into it.  Not planning is what defeated me before, that and a lack of discipline (I’m workin’ on it).  My story from last year, though certainly fleshed out, is still not complete, so it will be my task to finish the rough draft this year.  Whew.  It’s going to be tough, but I am very much looking forward to seeing where my characters end up.  I’ll be working on an outline for the remainder of October before I jump into full-blown writing on Nov. 1st.  My fantasy novel IS going to be published someday, but I need that rough draft first!  It’s going to be my birthday present to myself at the end of the month.

What about you, Readers?  Have you ever attempted NaNoWriMo?  If so, how did it go for you?  If you’re prepping to write a story this year, share about it in the comments, and good luck!

-MEP