25 November, 2014

A woman sits on the train

Here is my entry from the last Friday Creativity prompt. 

A woman sits on the train.
image from SimpleScrapper

A woman sits on the train alone.

A woman sits on the train alone going north.

A woman sits on the train alone going north to see her mother for the first time in a decade.

It is not that she does not want to see her mother. She loves her mother. Her mother is springtime and sunshine, warmth and joy. She smells like fresh cookies. Her house is always slightly too warm. There will be a cat in the window and new trinkets of sailboats or lighthouses.

It is the first time she has seen her mother since her divorce. Yes, the divorce was five years ago and she should be passed it. But somehow she fears that nothing she has done, not rising to the top of magazine world, becoming the first woman to edit a major publication, or her apartment near Times Square, will be enough. Her mother drilled into her from the time she was little that she was to get married and settle down. By her age she should have four children. By her age she should be baking quiches and attending knitting clubs, gossiping while her husband does profound things in the city during the day.

She had found that man. A man who bought them a home in Martha’s Vineyard and told her to settle in. And she did. They were going to have a family. She was going to become one of those women in the ads she rolled her eyes at the in the magazine. She was going domestic.

Only it never came. Three months, six, one year then two. And every month she was bewildered when her period came and she had to break the news that she was not pregnant. There were a few months in there when she thought it might happen. The doctor told her she was anemic and to eat more protein.

So he left. Told her to take the apartment downtown (which she promptly sold) and he would keep the house on the Vineyard. Now he was there with someone else, someone who could give him the domestic bliss in those ads she secretly hated.

But she wasn’t bitter. She was happy with her life. She got herself a better place with a view, found a group of friends who didn’t want kids either. They had parties and went out. They loved their freedom, the ability to slip away to the coast or on a cruise and just get away. If you asked her, she would say her life was idyllic in many ways. That is, until she got on the train north to go home.

Turning the page in her book, she hoped the ride would be over soon. She had already worked her way through the stories she brought to edit. She sketched the countryside and tried to sleep. But with nothing else to do, she tried to get into a story she had given up on an hour ago.

Hearing the horn for the next stop, the woman looked to the aisle for a moment. Looking back to her book, she wondered what was waiting for her at the end of her train ride alone going north.  

24 November, 2014

Hello Monday

Here are some articles from around the web that caught my attention:

Interview With Brandy Vallance

Author Brandy Vallance talks with B.D. Riehl to discuss about her first novel The Covered Deep. She also provides a teaser about her second novel. A charming interview with a truly incredible author.  

No, You Are Not ‘Running Late.’ You Are Rude and Selfish.

A rebuke of those who are always running late and how it has become the acceptable standard in our culture to never show up when you say you will. When did 30 minutes late become the new on time? Greg Savage says what is hard – and reminds us that all of our time is valuable. When you are late, you rob the other person (or persons in a work meeting as Savage points out) of time in their day. It’s selfish and needs to stop.  I hope it is the start of an on-time revolution!

It was a good reminder for me, someone who is always trying to get just one more thing done, and is therefore always five minutes late. But no more!

When Risking it All for God Means Staying Where You Are

Those of us who are adventurers and full of wanderlust are always looking for the next place to go. We see home as a temporary stopover (one that might last years, but a stopover nonetheless!) and are always checking the horizon for the next thing.

Kris Beckert asks: What if, more often than not, the riskier thing to do for God is to stay exactly where you are and keep doing what you’re doing for the time being? … What if we should be allowing our feet to sink in a while and keep at the hard, dirty, messy work in which we’re involved?

Another excellent book on the topic of digging deep where you are is The Wisdom of Stability by Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove.  

21 November, 2014

Friday Creativity

The Rules:

1. Set a timer for five minutes

2. Look at the image and write what comes to mind, no editing, no thinking about it - just write. 

3. If you want to post what you wrote below, I'd love to read it.

image via PastNow.

20 November, 2014

What You Do Not Have

There are days when being a writer is easy. When the scenes flow easy and time flies as you craft the perfect story.
Image via This is Glamorous

But what about when the words won’t come?

What about when you do nothing but stare at the screen all day?

What about when you open a story and find that you have nothing to contribute?

When the inspiration dies and there is nothing but the silence to replace it, how do you go about being creative?

I’ve heard plenty of answers – write anyway, go do something else, try a different mode of creativity. To me, all of these answers fall flat because they do not address the underlying issue.

There can be off days, off afternoons, off sessions… But what about off seasons?

I’ve been struggling for a while with authentic writing. I have an acronym: GBS (Get Below the Surface) and it’s all over my pages right now. Relationships are hollow, tensions are fake, stories are predictable.

I have one story I wrote it Rwanda – 1,000+ pages in three months. It is deep, personal, good and real. I read it now and find I can’t relate. I can’t edit it because I don’t trust myself to keep it real and not just go for what is easy.  
Card from Celeste Knight

I often say that, ‘we cannot give what we do not have.’

In my life overall I am in a season of falsity. It is a struggle to be where I am. It is hard to be sitting here, knowing where I want to be, and realizing the route will be anything but easy.

Welcome to the mire, the muck and the lonely path.

Truly it is a daily struggle. It is a momentary choice to not fall into the Pinterest void, but to stay where I am and engage.

In my daily interactions I have to be real. I have to be true to my co-workers, my family, and most importantly, myself, in order for any of it to translate to the page.

So I choose to be real and stand in the mire, hoping for the strength to make it to the other side.

You cannot give what you do not have. 

18 November, 2014

Winning My Wings

As a historical fiction writer, one of the most time consuming things I do is research. Sometimes this doesn’t disrupt the flow of a story. I can get a rough draft out and then add in the touches that make the moment come alive.

Other times the entire story depends on the tiniest of details. Timelines matter and it has to be accurate.

Currently, I am working on a story about WWII featuring the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) and the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as the Ghost Army. Before I can get too far into the plot, a lot of research is needed.

I am trying to get more into the day to day of both of these extraordinary groups. I want to know as much as I can about them, to reach the stories beyond the clichés and the known, to the small details that will bring the men and women who served to life.

I strive to be an accurate historian. I want my stories to be educational, real and engaging. The characters should seem ripped from the moment. The reader should feel like they are there. I want to be known for my historical accuracy. The book should seem as if it were a biography and not a work of fiction.

So I research. I call libraries. I seek out those who served and their families for details, letters, diaries, personal touches.

And while I wait for information, I read – a lot!

04 November, 2014

Sitting in the Discomfort

Tiffany Han recently asked:

What do you really want?

Like, really, truly more than anything want?

And how comfortable are you with sitting with that question
and being unsure of the answer?

To be honest, I feel like I’ve been sitting with that question for over a year. The answers come easy:

I want to be a writer.

I want to be someone who is grace-filled.

I want to show God in a real way.

I want to be a peace maker.

It’s the execution that I can’t get right. Writing is like bread, it takes time to rise. Words on paper translate (eventually) into a story that might get picked up and read. But it doesn’t happen overnight.

I have struggled for most of my adult life with being a slightly sarcastic, direct, realist. I hate inefficiency. I don’t have time for games, and wish that people would just relate to each other in honest and direct ways. I value personal responsibility and action. You can only complain about something to me for so long before I will turn and ask, “So what are you going to do about that?”

But how does that jive with being grace-filled and a peace maker?

I was raised being told that good Christian girls (I hate that term by the way) were to be quiet, appeasing, passive, and obedient. Yet, as I grew older I realized I am none of those things. It took me a really long time to grasp and claim that God makes everyone different. The women I admire, women of deep faith, are not quiet and passive. They are in there, calling out people’s BS and making a difference.

I am a juxtaposition. I am creativity and organization. I am right and left brain. I am passionate and vocal, and yet brought to tears by injustice and disgusted by suffering.

Maybe the point is that I need to break the idea in my head of what being grace-filled and a peace maker means.

Maybe being grace-filled means the ability to call people out of the lies that ensnare them with a little bit of tough love and consistent voice reminding them of their intrinsic value.

Maybe being a peace maker does not mean being acquiescent, but facing things head on, so that people can move more honestly and, while painful and perhaps prolonged, can come to a place of loving each other more because they love each other fully.

Both of those things enable me to show God in a real way.

So, Miss Tiffany, what do I want?

I want to be a writer, whose stories are filled with truth and grace. I want to portray people honestly, and perhaps help people to see themselves more fully. I want to show God in a true way. To destroy the clichés and superficiality that has come to define him. He is a God of mercy, grace, justice, and truth. Mostly, he is a God who is there.

Faith is a momentary decision. Some days it’s easy, other days it’s the hardest thing in the world. But regardless of where we find ourselves, God is there, waiting to be invited into our story.

So I sit in the discomfort of the question with an answer whose time has not yet come. I treasure the moments I get to be a writer, when I can display Christ and be who I was made to be.

And that is what I really, truly, more than anything want. 

27 February, 2014

Simply Begin

A few weeks ago I heard Ali Edwards speak about the importance of finding joy and gratitude in daily life. Ali is a scrapbooking, daily life documenting guru! She documents her weeks in photos, featuring the daily things we take for granted but would be devastated if they were gone: taking the dog for a walk, helping the kids with homework, reading a devotional with our husband, driving with those we love, the coffee and creamer we can't live without in the morning. The moments that make our life rich, real and amazing, and yet, we can easily overlook or take for granted in our busy, hectic, over-stimulated world.

Here is her list about how to approach scrapbooking. I have modified it slightly for my approach to writing/journaling/being creative:
1. I believe that there are an infinite number of ways to tell any story ... There is no right or wrong way to document our memories. 
2. I have no intention of “keeping up” with my scrapbooking. I tell stories as I feel moved to tell them and don’t feel bound to chronology. Some days I’m creating a layout that tells a story from 1980 and other days I’m focused on a story from today. 
3. I believe that telling the stories of our lives can actually change our lives for the better. 
4. My daily mantra in memory keeping & in life: don’t make things more complicated than they need to be
5. The best way to begin scrapbooking (journaling/documenting/photographing) is to simply begin. Start writing. Start photographing. Start bringing them together on your computer or with paper and glue. There is no better time than right now. 

(You can read more about Ali and her scrapbooking on her website.)
I started Project Life last May. Since I quit my job in October, it's been harder to find stuff to document (let's be honest - how many days can I take a picture of my laptop or puppy?). So it's not as consistent as it could be. And while there are multiple pages for the BIG things - vacations, graduations, trees falling on the house. I also remember the capture the special moments: my dog sleeping in the office, the pages of my book edited, snow, dinner. 

I am also trying to bring my creative visual side to my journal. 

I've journaled since I was in middle school, but it's always been writing and nothing else.  I can (occasionally) be fairly regimented in how I think. Journals are for words - nothing else! But for my 30th birthday a dear friend gave me the supplies to collage journal and I've come to see things in a whole new way! I'm taking a journaling class with Dr. Brene Brown and we are bringing together art and writing. It's amazing. 

I'm learning to add photos to my journal, to collage, to put in articles, fun photos and quotes. My journal can be where I am now, and that doesn't always have to be shown with words. 

So, how do you express your daily life? Do you journal, take photos, write on notecards, say a prayer of thanks at night? I'd love to hear how you take in the world around you.