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. 

14 January, 2014

The Gifts of Imperfection

I am currently taking a journaling class with Dr. Brene Brown focusing on the journey from "what will people think?" to "I am enough." We are reading her Gifts of Imperfection, journaling, tapping into courage, connection and compassion. It is hard to look so far internal and realize that we can only give to others as much as we have given to ourselves.

It is a process. This year I've decided I am letting myself off the hook. I am done striving for perfection, which will never come. I'm going to be real, messy, love openly, accept love freely and try new things. It's time to let go of the struggle to "fit in" and instead become me and belong. And part of that is realizing that I am imperfect and that is okay.

I'm Imperfect and I'm Enough

"Cultivating a Wholehearted life is like trying to reach a destination. It's like walking toward a star in the sky. We never really arrive, but we certainly know that we're heading in the right direction." ~ Brene Brown

07 January, 2014

Getting Healthy

I went to a trainer for a follow-up appointment today, and it turns out in the last six weeks I’ve gained weight and my % of fat weight has gone up.

Before I go any further, let me say that my motivation here is a desire to get HEALTHY! Read – HEALTHY – not skinny or perfect or to reach a certain weight – but to be more HEALTHY.

It’s one of the greatest myths out there that skinny = healthy. That is just not true. You can be a size 0 and have a weak internal system and be ready for a heart attack and you can be a size 12 and be in top physical condition.

This is not about a size or an arbitrary number on a scale – it’s about health – which you cannot judge by looking at someone.

The meeting was so disappointing because for the first time in my life I am exercising regularly, which means trying to work out three times a week. At my first appointment my trainer gave me a way to work out using my heart rate and I’ve been trying to follow that, whether on the spinning bike or the treadmill. Now I’m being told to workout 5 days a week, 45 minutes, and add it stretches and strength training.

Believe me I am not the exercising, active kind of girl. Not naturally at least.

I have been overweight since I was 12. I was overweight in middle school and got teased mercilessly for it. I stayed that same weight until my late 20’s when my weight started to go up.

Still, I feel beautiful.

I’ve become okay in my own skin. I wear what I think flatters my body but have never felt this need to become a size 4 just to be accepted. I have floated between a size 10-14 and that’s okay with me. I am comfortable in my skin. I think I am beautiful, I am a sexual being and I don’t see anything wrong with my wide thighs, my tummy or my size 12 body. I would gladly become healthy and stay a size 12!

I don’t think a number should define our beauty. I think it should be where YOU are okay with yourself, not what the media, or shame, or unrealistic expectations tell you to be.

beautiful, healthy, encouragement

You should feel good in your body and reach whatever form of appearance is good to you. If you can be healthy and weight 215 and love your curves – do it! Flaunt it and love your form. If you can be healthy at 125, and want that form, groovy! But don’t pursue the unrealistic ideal that the media or movies or other women tell you to be.

For me this is a desire to be HEALTHY, to be able to do what I want: ride a bike race, hike for a few hours, run without thinking I’m going to die. While I pursue that it will mean I lose my tummy, I tone my limbs, and I change how I eat.

This is scary for me. I know in order to break the mental weight in my head I am going to have to face demons and deal with some buried pain. I’ve become okay with my weight because I thought I had to look like this. I bought into the lies of middle school.

Part of my self-sabotaging any previous attempts to get healthy has been this fear that I don’t know who I am if I’m not overweight and unhealthy.

So, we are becoming healthy! My husband and I are going to track what we eat, make adjustments, work out, and move more! I’m not setting a target weight. I want to be healthy. So I am going to let the trainer tell me what’s a healthy % of fat and when I’ve reached that goal. 

Mostly I want to be able to look in the mirror and like who I see staring back at me.

I am choosing to be open about this process – in all it’s joys and pains - in hopes that by putting it out there, along with the attempt to leave shame behind and encourage women to love each other (and themselves) more, someone else might realize they can make a change and become healthy too.

It takes work, intentionality and a shift in priorities and lifestyle, but for the chance to be healthier and live better and longer, I think the tradeoffs are worth it!