Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I’m honored to be a guest at Ritty’s Adventures in Writing today.

“When do you put ‘writer’ on your business card?”

I was about to teach a workshop at a writers conference when a woman in the front row asked me this question. I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly, so I asked her to repeat it.

It seemed an easy question to answer, and I gave her an easy response. But the question is more complicated than I made it. My own writing journey testifies to this. I’ve had business cards that say “writer, editor and speaker” on them for years, but that doesn’t mean I always believe I’m any of those things.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

In college, I was a mass communication major. We liked to joke that we were getting a B.S. in B.S. (For the record, I have a B.A.) I didn’t put a lot of thought into my major. I just knew that I liked to write. I took my first creative writing classes in college (and received my first soul-crushing critiques). But college is also where I began to see myself as a writer. And try as I might, I couldn’t deny it.

College is also where I heard a statement about writing that has stuck with me for more than a decade. Jane Friedman, a colleague at my college newspaper who has gone on to be an influential voice in the publishing and writing world offering countless words of wisdom to writers, spoke to a group about her self-discovery as a writer.

She said, “I don’t want to be a writer. I am a writer.”

Powerful stuff.

Read the rest here.

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I’m trying to read more nonfiction. I love stories and I can read fiction fast, but there’s a lot to learn and be challenged by in the nonfiction world, too.

Here are five nonfiction books I’ve read this year that top my list of best of 2013, so far.

1. 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Turned my world upside-down and introduced me to one of my favorite writers out in the book world and the Internet world. Great principles for simplifying your life.

7 cover

2. Wrecked by Jeff Goins. My world was already wrecked when I read this, but it confirmed that God is up to something with us. If you’ve had a life-changing encounter with poverty or justice issues or on a mission trip, this is a good follow-up book for incorporating that experience into the whole of your life.

wrecked cover

3. Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. It’s a book not just to be read but experienced. It’s a guide for establishing rhythms and disciplines into your spiritual practices and living a balanced life.

4. On Writing by Stephen King. I can’t believe it took me till now to read this book. His writing advice and experience is invaluable.

5. Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist. I know I just reviewed it this week, but her writing style is unique and I’ve never read a book that blends personal experiences, cooking and spirituality so well.

bread and wine cover

What’s on your list of favorites so far this year?

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1. A group of writers. Mine meets tomorrow, and I look forward to this monthly get-together almost every time. When I stopped working as a journalist to be a stay-at-home mom, I lost my group of people who understand what it’s like to live in a writer’s head. Don’t have one of those? I used Google to find mine.

Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange | http://sxc.hu

Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange | http://sxc.hu

2. A supportive family. I’m finding among writers a common element: husbands (or wives) who encourage, support and sometimes even push their writer spouse to follow the dream. They watch the kids, give up the computer and say “yes” to hare-brained ideas.

3. A creative space. My desk is a mess and we have no extra rooms in our house. I want to believe that my creativity would bloom bigger and brighter if I had a room where I could close the door and escape into my fictional world. There are some good ones here.

4. A library of books. I was a reader before I was a writer, although probably not much before. Good stories inspire me to write good stories and how me how it’s done. Bad stories inspire me to write better stories and show me how not to do it. Reading is essential to learning the craft of writing. Click to tweet.

5. A foolish determination. I say “foolish” because often the pursuit of publication, the writing of a novel, the house spent putting words into sentences and paragraphs, looks like wasted time and effort. People will mock. And discourage. And reject. And judge. But the writer who knows what she is called to do and can’t not do it won’t let those things stop her. She might be momentarily discouraged and let doubts fill her mind, but in the end, she will passionately pursue the story.

What would you add to the list?

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Author Ginny Yttrup’s third book, Invisible, released this week. You can read my review of it here.

Today, Ginny stops by to talk about writing, St. Augustine and her journey with God. ginny yttrup

1. How long have you been writing?

I began writing about 20 years ago. I had no education, but I had a dream. I began attending writers conferences, learned all I could, and 17 years into my writing journey, my first book, Words, was published. My writing journey is one of faith and perseverance.

2. Describe your writing routine/schedule.

Well, sadly, I work best under pressure. So typically, I wait until the last minute to begin a manuscript and then I write under panicked circumstances! That means, I’ll write 10-12 hours a day. I’m a slow writer, so I may not accomplish a large word count during that time, but it’s what I do. I’ll wake early—5:30 to 6:00 a.m., grab a cup of coffee, and go back to bed with the coffee and my computer. I’ll write until I feel the need to move.

Because I have major back issues due to reconstructive back surgery several years ago and rods and screws from my shoulder blades to my pelvis, I can’t stay in one position for too long. So once the pain hits, I move. I’ll get up and take a walk or a hot shower and then sit in a chair for a couple of hours and write some more. Then I’ll move back to bed where I can write from a flat position—often with an icepack beneath me.

I’ll write until 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. at the latest. I can’t think after that. Then I’ll go to bed by about 8:00 p.m. and start the whole thing over the next day. Coffee and exercise and chocolate sustain me during those writing months. And God’s mercy envelops me and strengthens me! Also, besides my kids and my housemates, I don’t typically see anyone during those months of writing.

3. In what ways were you inspired by St. Augustine in the writing of Invisible?

Oh, Saint Augustine. I really didn’t like him at first! He seemed like a gluttonous womanizer. But I stumbled upon a quote of his that was so enlightening. It tumbled around in my brain and I couldn’t seem to let it go. The quote is listed, along with two verses, in the beginning of Invisible. I finally picked up his life story—Confessions—and read it. Mind you, this man lived in the fourth century, so I was certain I’d feel no connection to him. But as I read his confession—the sins he struggled with and his transformation through Jesus Christ, I felt like I’d met a soul mate. People are the same through the ages. We are created in the image of God and we live in a fallen world and struggle against our sin nature. We are all the same—uniquely made—but our struggle and, for Christians, our salvation through Christ, is universal. I think if we accepted that fact more readily, we’d see less prejudice in our society.

4. In the book you talk about how important it is not to “edit your life” – how are you living out the power of that statement these days?

I live that statement by attempting to live authentically. I live by a “what you see is what you get” principle. That doesn’t mean that I share everything about my life with everyone. But it does mean that I attempt to live the truth and share the truth when appropriate. Sometimes, I’d much rather edit out the ugly parts of my life rather than share my failures with others or share the pain of my past or present, but God keeps nudging me to speak truth.

5. In what ways is God calling you out of hiding these days, calling you not to try and be “invisible,” calling you to live out the reality of Imago Dei in your life?

Ah…living life “visible” is one of my greatest challenges. I’d much rather hide away. MUCH rather! Yet God…  As I look back on my life, I realize now that God’s been calling me out of hiding my entire life. As an abused child—one who was sexually abused between the ages of 2 and 14, I never wanted to do anything but hide. I couldn’t tell the truth. I hated who I was. School was torture for me. I attended 5 different schools during my elementary years—so I was always the new girl and I was painfully shy. I hid behind that shyness and all that pain.

As a teenager, I hid behind alcohol and drugs.

These days, whenever I feel like hiding, I push myself out. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have days where I want to stay home—so I do—but instead, I’ve learned the difference between being an introvert who recharges by spending quiet time alone, and being asked to do something or go somewhere and letting fear keep me bound.

The two most personally challenging ways I’m visible these days is through marketing my books—that act of stewardship of the message God’s given me that so often feels like self-promotion. And through speaking to groups. The fact that I speak at events and retreats is simply one of God’s healing miracles in my life.

But it becomes easier and easier to live life in front of others when I take my eyes off myself—die to self—and instead focus on who God is and who He created me to be. I am created in His image! When I hide in shame—I hide Him too. I no longer want to do that. Instead, I pray He’ll shine through me—that His glory will be visible to those I encounter.

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I’ve been reading a book that tells, in fiction style, stories of biblical men who led the Israelites out of Egypt and while wandering in the desert. They followed the Lord’s leading – a cloud by day; a pillar by night. When God moved, they moved. They didn’t know where they were going or how long they would stay once they got there, wherever “there” was, or whether they’d have water or food or shade. The Lord led them and they followed, totally dependent on His faithfulness and goodness.

And if your familiar with this story at all, you know that the people didn’t follow without complaint. They whined and complained and wished for slavery again even though they were free. And God answered even their whining.

He gave them what they asked, but sent leanness into their soul. — Psalm 106:15

A certain fast food burger joint made a name for themselves by telling customers: “have it your way.” Meaning, of course, that a customer could personalize and customize his burger to suit his tastes.

I wonder what this says about our mentality as a culture. Has having things “our way” made us lean in soul?

I often tell my kids, maybe not in the same words but with the same meaning, “Okay, have it your way.” As in, you don’t want to nap today? Okay, have it your way, but you’ll be in bed after dinner. Or, you don’t want to pick up your toys right now? Okay, have it your way, you’ll miss out on stories because you’ll be cleaning up?

This use of “have it your way” is completely different than what the burger chain intended. And I wonder if it’s what God meant when he gave the complaining Israelites what they asked for.

Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say a version of this back to God: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Some days, I feel like I’m fighting to have my way with the day and when I come to the end of myself, I throw up my hands and say, “Fine, God, have it Your way.” Where I want to be is in a place where I start the day saying, “Your will be done,” even if it means I deny myself what I want to do and instead do what the Lord leads.

Today, I have fought to get a few minutes on the computer – to blog, to read a few articles, to answer some e-mail. Instead, I’ve bought groceries, washed dishes, played games with the kids and now I’m in an epic battle with our son for a nap while fielding unending requests from our daughter about a snack. I only have so many hours before I have to start dinner and my husband gets home and then it’s bedtime routine and then I’m exhausted and there goes my day.

I was called to be a writer before I was called to be a parent, and both things are important to me. I will fight for both of them with everything I have but one will inevitably be the loser. (Honestly, all you author moms out there, I don’t know how you do it and I wonder if I’m doing this whole thing wrong.) And when I choose my kids and their urgent needs, a part of my writing life dies.

Saying to God, “Your will be done” is no easy or painless thing.

In another book I’m reading, the author describes this petition of the Lord’s prayer this way:

How different from the prayers of “help me get my way,” “make everything turn out the way I want it to” and “bless my projects” that we are so often disposed to offer! The more we are able to internalize this petition–”Thy will be done”–the more complete our journey to maturity in Christ.

So if asking God to give us what we want produces a leanness of soul, then asking for His will to be done must produce the opposite: a meaty, muscular faith and trust that can withstand the toughest of challenges.

Oh, how I’d much rather be a couch potato Christian. Instead God calls His followers to walk in faith, to exercise trust and to submit to His leadership.

Every day, we are faced with the same choice: to have it our way or to say to God, have it Your way.

So, which will it be?

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It’s November, which means for the second year in a row I’m attempting to write 50,000 words of a novel in a month.

Crazy right?


But not as crazy for me as NOT writing.

See, I have this wacky relationship with words. I need them. I cherish them. I cry over them.

Last week as my husband and I took time to clean and sort our things in the attic, I found a box full of notebooks and journals. In them were more than a decade’s worth of words and lessons and notes about what I’d been reading in the Bible.

They were wet. Or had been. And when I pulled them from the box, they were moldy and stuck to each other and undecipherable.

And still I hesitated to throw them away.

Those were my words!

Fear not; they are in a garbage bag awaiting a trip to the curb this weekend.

It still pains me to see them ruined.

And yet I have hope because words are part of me. Maybe I can’t re-create the words or the notes or the life lessons. And maybe it’s good that I can’t relive the early years of our marriage with a day-by-day dramatic and emotional account in my own words.

Sometimes, I need to write just to get the feelings out. To process all that’s going on in my head. I think in written words, not spoken ones. When I open my mouth, I tend to say little or speak a ton of nonsense. I don’t really have a happy medium when I speak. Writing, though, is a whole different story. (Pun intended?) It’s my therapy. My encouragement. My soul-cleansing.

And it’s a demanding friend.

The more time I give it, the more time it wants. In the quiet of my home these last few days, I’ve showered my writing with attention. Tomorrow, I will feel guilt when I have to divert my attention to the children. Writing and children CAN coexist without attention starvation. I’m still working that balance.

Writing requires commitment. And commitment is always hard work. And hard work is rarely easy but almost always worth it.

I find myself comparing my writing relationship to other writers, and just like in friendships and marriages, no good can come of the comparison game. Still, I am jealous sometimes of the time other writers can spend with their writing.

And I wonder if I’ve chosen wisely, this friendship with writing. We are lifelong friends, though, and to lose this friend would be to lose a piece of myself. This friendship might not ever (okay reality check: will not ever) make me rich in the ways of money, but it enriches my life in ways I can’t tally.

So if you see me this month, and I have a far-off look in my eyes, it’s because I’m dreaming of my next writing span. Or I’m tired and undercaffeinated because I’ve been up early or late writing.

Bring me some coffee! I’ve got a date with a book’s worth of imaginary friends!

And now it’s been confirmed: I am definitely crazy.

If you want in on the crazy, here’s the manifesto.

Write on, friends. Write on.

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This week has been a blur. I’m in the thick of a writing deadline and with my husband still in the hunt for a full-time job, I’m bringing home the bacon. (Mmm … bacon.) At least that’s the case this month. So I’ve spent more time out of the house writing (and drinking copious amounts of coffee) this week than I have in the last couple of months. Blogging hasn’t been high on my list of priorities, but I don’t want to lose the rhythm I had going, so I’ll try to keep up. If not, I promise I’ll be back. Don’t go away! (Okay, that sounds a little desperate.)

Even with deadlines breathing down my neck, writing makes me smile. More than that, it feeds my soul. And I come home mentally tired but spiritually refreshed and better able to hang with the kiddos.

Speaking of hanging with the kiddos, Phil has made the writing possible by staying home with them four mornings this week so I could write. It’s not easy (I know!) and I love him more for it.

Last week we started potty training Corban and this week, he’s catching on like it’s his job. I don’t want to get my hopes up that he’s going to be easier than Isabelle was, but we have drastically decreased our diaper use in a week. Even Isabelle has stopped wearing any overnight diapers this week. All I can say is “Thank You, Jesus.” Our finances are tighter than they’ve ever been and spending less money on diapers is a major deal.

Because money is tight, we’re trying to better consume the food in our house before we have to go to the store to buy more. That means kitchen adventures are plentiful. And mostly successful. Yesterday we made scones to eat for breakfast this morning. Yummy. And I repurposed some leftover shredded beef from tacos into a beef pot pie. Also delicious. Next up: I’m going to make some cornmeal crackers for snacking on. Crackers from scratch … who knew? I certainly didn’t. I’ll let you know how that one turns out.

I’m lovin’ our kids’ imaginations. At least once this week, they introduced themselves as “bread” and “Fred.” Those were their names. And they stuck to that story. Now Isabelle, who is fond of rhyming these days, is making up her own exclamations. Today I heard her say, “Jiggers and jaggers!” when she was attempting something difficult and as we approached a set of bleachers in the park across the street she said, “Bleed my beachers.” Not exactly “Kiss my grits,” but it’s close. I hope this doesn’t turn into preschool swearing. I’m not ready to deal with that yet.

She comes by ridiculousness honestly. In conversation with my husband today I said these words: “Well, the Titanic just sank …” I was referring to the plot of a book I’m reading. It’s not everyday you can slip “Titanic” into conversation. And speaking of the early 20th Century, we finished watching the first season of Downton Abbey last night, and I’m thrilled that our library system has Season 2, even if we have to wait for it. We can’t get it instantly on Netflix right now, so waiting our turn is our best option. Maybe by the time Season 3 premieres, we’ll be caught up.

We still don’t know what tomorrow (or the next day or the next day) will bring but we are praising God and trusting Him because He is good.

Whatever your situation today, rejoice in that.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.

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God made me a creative. I’m no better or worse than someone who isn’t. It is what it is. Lately I’ve been realizing creativity is a blessing and a curse. With the following list, I’ll try to explain.

BLESSING: You’re never lonely. As a creative, I’ve always got characters and stories in my head. Or a good book within arm’s reach.

CURSE: People might think you’re antisocial because you prefer to spend your time in a made-up world.

BLESSING: The more you use it, the more you get. Sometimes the words or ideas won’t come until I start writing. Anything.

CURSE: It’s an unpredictable gift. Case in point, when I should have been packing myself for the overnight trip to take the kids to their grandparents, I was engrossed in a new writing assignment, letting the words that have been lodged in my head flow freely at last. I’ve been jotting notes about this assignment for days, in between other activities because I can’t take the time I need to sit down and write for a long period of time.

BLESSING: Your kids will ask you for “imagination stories” to put them to sleep.

CURSE: You will sometimes put yourself to sleep with your stories.

BLESSING: You tend not to be satisfied with “the way things are” thinking that everything can be improved upon. (This may also be a curse.)

CURSE: You will fight the urge to answer respectable questions like, “Where are the kids?” with ridiculousness like, “We sold them to the circus.” Or “We traded them in for a new pair of shoes.” People will not always find this as funny as you mean it.

BLESSING: You can do what you love and get paid for it.

CURSE: People might think you’re flighty, ditzy or lazy because you work with words for fun and get paid for it.

BLESSING: Your friends will think you’re clever with your Facebook posts and tweets. (Or at least you hope they will.)

CURSE: You’ll think you’re much funnier than you really are.

BLESSING: You’ll need LOTS of alone time to hone your art.

CURSE: You won’t get it because you have two kiddos demanding your attention. All. The. Time.

BLESSING: Your kids will enjoy being creative, too.

CURSE: They will interpret creativity as meaning it’s okay for them to color their entire legs green or draw dots on their faces.

BLESSING: You are full of ideas and opinions.

CURSE: You can’t turn it off.

And on that note, I leave you with this incomplete and possibly incoherent list.


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Eight minutes changed my whole day.

Between grocery shopping and preparing lunch for the kids, I had squeezed in a phone interview for an article I’m writing. Phone interviews were a daily part of the job when I worked for newspapers, but since I’ve been a stay-at-home mom and sometimes-freelance writer, they’ve been rarer. Because predicting a time of day when the kids might offer me a few minutes of uninterrupted time to speak to another adult in a semi-professional capacity is about the same as picking winning lottery numbers. In this particular circumstance, I took a chance (and my husband was home and available to referee briefly as needed) and it paid off.

After I ended the call, I eagerly and willingly put the rest of the groceries away and engaged the kids in reading and play time before we sat down to lunch.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but for me, wanting to play with my kids doesn’t come easy. See, I’m a task person. I see a job that needs doing, and I do it. (Unless it’s washing dishes and then I ignore it for as long as possible.) I need activities to have purpose. Sometimes playing Barbies or taking a walk around the block at a snail’s pace seems pointless to me. And don’t get me started on seek-and-find books, which are my daughter’s absolute favorite right now.

Measuring productivity as a mom is hard. I know that playing with my kids, reading to them, taking walks and the like are all part of their development and do have purpose. It’s just that I can’t always see it. Which is why I often choose housework or errands over straight-out playtime.

Here’s what I’m learning, though. I was called to be a writer before God gave me children. I know that some moms feel called to their role. I’m not sure that I do. So when I have the chance to exercise my calling — a phone interview, writing an article, attending writers group, leading Bible study — I become a better wife and mom. Those things fill my tank and restore my sense of purpose. Being a mom is important work, and I know that. However, there’s more to me than my mom-ness.

While my husband’s been in seminary, he’s had one night class almost every semester. I’ve taken those nights as my writing/creative nights. Looking forward to that time helps me get through the cleaning, the picking up toys, the breaking up fights that encompass the rest of my day.

For me, writing is a need. When I don’t do it, I suffer and so does my family.

I learned in Sunday School this week (via video teaching from John Ortberg and Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy) that one of the best things you can do for the people around you is to take care of yourself. Writing is part of my self-care plan.

For you, it might be something different. Art. Youth group. Talking with a friend regularly. Volunteer work.

How does [fill in the blank] make you a better person?

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Hey, today I’m blogging over here. Lisa DeLay has a great series going — offering spiritual guidance for us who blog.

Head on over and check it — and all the other contributors — out!

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