Posts tagged ‘writing’

January 8, 2014

Not Being Afraid to Start Over

I thought I was done. I really did. I had written a book.

The manuscript that I had been working for almost 2 years had finally reached the stage of the game when it was time to really get serious about publication.

I learned how to write a book proposal (which is no small collection of words!). And, I wrote one. Some publishers were even interested. One was really interested. I knew with a little more attention I’d be on my way to the author track. Visions of my book launch party filled my daydreams with glee.

I was ready to be done with this project. It had taken enough out of me. I had “done my time” putting butt to computer chair.

I was ready for an editor to hold my words in hand and do that thing I’d heard they’d do: tear it a part (to make it better of course).

But then something happened.

I went to Africa– a land of so much fertile soul filled ground for me.

In November with Feed The Children, I crossed the ocean for another big adventure in Kenya. And one night at dinner when Kevin and I happened to be alone, I just came out with it my stirrings.

“I am not done with this book. I need to start over.”

Kevin, knowing his task master wife well, looked at me with eyes of disbelief. “What??”

Yup. I knew in my gut was true. I’d already made the decision to start again.

Not because the details I was seeking to narrate in the story had changed. Or because I suddenly realized I needed a whole new writing style. Or even because I lost the courage to tell the story I started to tell when I began with chapter one.

No, I needed to start over because I didn’t write the book I was meant to write.

I needed to re-write the whole manuscript.

Many of the bolts and hinges of the story I wanted to tell were there but the framework and the intent was all off.

I needed write about how pain can be a catalyst for transformation and in particular how relationships can be spiritual tools of such. Parts of the old story would be there but the voice would be altogether different.

But the thing is I am not very good at starting over. Though I feel writing is an art form and so I guess that makes me an artist– I am not your typical artist type. I don’t like open-ended possibilities. I don’t like perfectionist driven dragging your feet deadlines. I’m a “getter done” kind of girl even if I post blogs with misspelled words.

And here I am in January, staring at a manuscript that needs new life. How could this have happened?

I’m going to do it though. I’m not going to be afraid to start over. Because this is what I know in my heart of hearts:  what I could have offered you would have been good but what I could offer you might just be great. So why not?


December 30, 2013

Year in Review

January 2013 began with a bang. A quiet bang that is. I left my position of pastor at Washington Plaza Baptist Church in Reston in pursue more writing projects and support the work of Feed The Children. I blogged and sought to practice Sabbath keeping as I transitioned. Some days it went better than others.

imageIn February as I settled into my new life of nomad in chief (spending half my time in Arlington, VA and half in Oklahoma City, OK), I continued the tradition of cookie on a stick baking for my new Feed The Children family throwing one amazing Valentine’s party (If I do say so myself🙂, I visited new churches like this one in Tennessee and was humbled along the way, and I fell in love with the ministry of writing.

In March, I participated in my first US Feed The Children food distribution in my hometown of Washington DC realizing how hungry some of my neighbors actually were.  I continued to pack and re-pack my bags learning more about simplicity every day. And I wrote a post for the Associated Baptist Press called, “I Left the Church, Don’t Hate Me” that explained how I was trying to figuring out my pastoral calling in my new life.

As April rolled around, I continued to breathe deeply even though I wanted to hyperventilate some days out of feelings of “What am I doing with all this new free time I have?” I thought a lot Imageabout the young men with disabilities in Kenya that I’d met the previous August and how work makes us feel useful. One day in Oklahoma I went without shoes along with the rest of the staff of Feed The Children to raise awareness about childhood poverty. As I got deeper into the journey of writer-pastor I faced fears of the big questions of life like “Am I good enough?”

In May, Kevin and I traveled to Central America for the first time together. Guatemala won a special place in my heart for its beauty and the kind souls of its children. Oklahoma City was never the same after the F-5 tornado hit Moore. I wrote this prayer in response that went viral the week of the tragedy.

Women of WatongaAs the summer began, I continued to preach once a month at Watonga Indian Baptist Mission in Oklahoma, took a short vacation to Costa Rica for the wedding of a dear friend and got in a ride on a zip line through the jungle, and reflected on the fact that Kevin had been at Feed The Children for over one year. Oh what a difference a year can make in your life!

In July, I spent some time back at youth camp with my friends from Son Servants. And, it became clearer and clearer that my vocational calling as I looked forward was all about creating something that didn’t exist.

August was not a great month in the Hagan household as if out of nowhere, I got sick with an infection that caused much havoc on all of my lower abdominal organs. I had emergency surgery and was in the hospital in Oklahoma for several days. I learned much about being cared for by others and resting deeper than I ever had in my entire life. Though it took me till September to feel like writing about it.

HBApreachingIn October as I started feel stronger every day, the travel picked up again. I worked in Nashville, TN alongside Feed The Children assisting with social media at several key events. I preached at Hawaii Baptist academy as their pastor for Christian Emphasis week. I hit my stride in truly feeling at home in my skin as a pastor outside of the church— even writing a three-part series about it.

The highlight of November was absolutely our trip to Africa. My heart overflowed with JOY with every minute I was in Kenya. I couldn’t but write about joy with every post describing this trip. I became official at Feed The Children (it was a long time coming!) taking on the position of Ambassador of Social Advocacy though my pay did not change (I am learning to work for free).

1425738_10152117196929809_1922494367_nThough I didn’t blog about it here, in December Kevin and I continued our Christmas tour in Central America– visiting with orphans and other children in our programs in Honduras and Nicaragua. We played the part of “father” and “mother” Christmas bringing gifts to thousands of children. It was an amazing privilege of presence. On the blog, I joined with colleagues and friends to bring you the Baby Jesus Blog.

This sermon I preached at my church, Martin Luther King Christian in Reston, VA in early August theologically sums up how I feel about 2013. This was a year of suffering. This was also a year of resurrection.

I am glad, though, that through it all grace has been ever present and I’ve survived. Thanks for reading and cheering me on along the way.

Happy New Year!

November 5, 2013

Hitting the Plazas of Nashville and Honolulu

These days the life plan of our household never extends beyond two months ahead– and this is if we are lucky.

Kevin and I take opportunities as they come. Kevin never knows when the next international crisis will hit that will need us to pick up and travel. I never know when an opportunity to help a friend or congregation out with preaching will come up either.

Though people often want to “know our schedule” I have to say we don’t really have one! Kevin and I look at life with the most broad strokes of openness, strokes I could have never imagined embracing even a year ago.

So with this said, the last two weeks, our travels have taken us to Tennessee and Hawaii (with Kevin having a stop back at FTC headquarters in Oklahoma City in between).

I am traveling more and more with Kevin because:

1) It is great to actually see my husband

2) Writing projects are something I can do anywhere

3) I’ve started working in the PR/ Communications department of FTC alongside the Director for Social Engagement (i.e. I help with social media posts like those you find on Facebook and even more exciting projects in the works).

So- Nashville was stop one on this two-week tour. In the course of four days on the ground, we visited with the staff at the NEW LaVergne, TN FTC distribution center, distributed books to inner city kids at a Nashville school, assisted with a food distribution to 800 needy families at a Nashville church and attended a FTC fundraiser in Franklin, TN with celebrity guest such as Evander Holifield and Naomi Judd.

I was tweeting up a storm and also had the chance to catch up with my Nashville family while I was in town as well.




Then the following Saturday, we make the trek across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii. And no, it wasn’t for a vacation and it wasn’t a vacation.

I was invited to preach each day at the Hawaii Baptist Academy Christian Emphasis Week in the elementary school.


The theme for the week was “Sticky Faith.” Every day we look at Biblical characters who were known to have faith as described to us in Hebrews 11. Noah, Abraham and Moses were among the standouts. Each morning I lead in chapel and then had opportunities to roam around the campus and hang out with students participating in “sticky” activities that helped them make their faith their own.

By the end of the week I think most every student in the school could answer the question: “What is faith?” by saying, “Faith is believing in what we can’t see.”

I was delighted to work alongside such a great team including the Christian Minister of the school, Cindy Gaskins.


On the last day of chapel, I was able to share more about our work with Feed The Children– telling the Hawaiian children about other children in the world who are seeking to share God’s love where they are as well.


Meanwhile, Kevin spent time at this foundation— learning more about their work with homeless children and sustainable agriculture. All experiences that could help him and his team strengthen the work of the domestic programs in the Mainland of the US.

After two weeks of travel, I was so glad to be home (the Oklahoma home that is) and have spent the last two days doing laundry.

It is a joy to me to see so many of the different plazas of the world and be able to still stand on them as a preacher and minister.

October 8, 2013

3 Reasons Why Social Media Improves Writing

Over the past couple of years and more specifically this calendar year, a lot of my energy has gone into assisting organizations and individuals (including me) with strengthening social media practices.

Hoping to answer the question: “How do you build online community?”

And then, actually doing it post by post, tweet by tweet, share by share.

Most recently, I’ve joined the social media team at Feed The Children. Exciting new things are happening in the communications department and next week I look forward to telling you all about our newest project launch!

I’ve also assisted individuals as well as small groups of people with growing their online presence. (As my bio says, I’m known for making folks disciples of twitter . . . strange but true). As an aside, if you want to have a conversation with me about this, feel free to contact me through the email address under About Elizabeth.

All this strategizing about social media has got me thinking about my own writing life in conjunction with it.

So to writers who say they want to go to their bubbles of offices and deactivate their WiFi to meet their deadlines, I beg to differ. I believe I am a better writer because I am a social media practitioner. And it’s not just because I’m procrastinating. Here are some thoughts:

1. You really can say a lot in 140 characters.

When I first started tweeting, I was overwhelmed as many new to twitter are that I had to something in less than a sentence or two. How was that even possible (especially from overly verbose me)? But the more I wrote and edited tweets I found myself going through a daily editorial exercise without even thinking about it. There were words in a given sentence I didn’t need. There were abbreviations that I could use instead of other words. And I saw that it didn’t take a long paragraph to convey emotion, passion or even conviction. 140 characters was enough indeed.

2. Clever humor is so attractive.

When is the last time you read someone’s post on Facebook or someone’s tag line on Instagram and laughed out loud? Maybe I just have found some really witty accounts to be associated with, but reading other people’s funny posts pushes me. It pushes me not only to laugh more (it is good not to take life so seriously), but also to think of ways to craft more appealing sentences myself.

Sure, I could just say, “I’m watching the Miss America pageant tonight on tv. Trying not to be snarky.” But it is way more inviting to conversation with others if I say something like, “Irish dancing is always cooler than a tutu. She’s looking at all the other contestants and saying top this #missamerica” Simply put, participating in social media stretches my creative muscles and I believe my longer prose thanks me later.

3. Practice, practice, practice.

In the weekly discipline of keeping up a blog, perfectionism goes away. A blog is never meant to be perfect. It just is. So the best thing a writer can do happens: there are words on a page.

When I have conversations with writers who wrote prior to the “post your every thought online” times such as these, one of the most positive reflections I hear from such writers is this: you don’t know how lucky you are as blogger to have so much practice! And it is true a blog is great for trying out any new ideas. It’s great to see what ideas stick and which ones don’t.

And, while the act of blogging and sharing your writing on other social media channels can easily lead to narcissism or not taking the necessary time to churn out rich thoughts that more established publications can provide– a blog is good because it keeps you writing and conversing with your community of readers. Practice does not make any writer perfect, but it does keep us moving in the right direction.

October 4, 2013

What Happened to Old School Blogging?

I’ve been in the blogging game since 2006 back before blogging was cool or everyone and their mother had one.

My friend, Amy first told me about hers and I was inspired. (We were both kids back then! Pictured to the right). Like her, maybe I had things to say too?

(If you’ve been keeping up with me since the end of my seminary journey until now, you deserve a prize. Please raise your virtual hand and I’ll give you one. Seriously, I will. I’ll know you’re legit if you can identify the name before I was: “Preacher on the Plaza”)

Recently I was reading over some of the earliest posts– posts I might have previously thought were to simple or not very challenging theologically or mostly a journal of life– and I missed them.

I missed old school blogging. Blogging that told stories of people’s kids or family parties.

Or blogging that documented vacations or life milestones.

Or blogging that wasn’t afraid just to say something out of fear of how it might come back to bite your next job search.

Or blogging that only your closest friends and maybe a rare stranger that soon turned into a friend read. A blogger and friend tweeted something along these lines recently too. And got me thinking . . .

Where did the old school blogging go?

For me, I am a different kind blogger now.

I’m a blogger who is the wife of a guy who runs a global non-profit and though I say that my opinions expressed are my own, I have to remember that what I write ultimately in some way reflects back on him.

I’m a blogger who believes in the power of online community– I write not just for friends but for those of you who I don’t know in person (but maybe one day I will!).

I’m a blogger who believes in the platform of a site like this: a platform to challenge the religious norm, to be a voice when social crisis plagues our world, and to speak to those who I might never have a chance to sit down with a cup of tea with but in whom we might have a lot to learn from each other.

I’m a blogger who can’t live without a blog. Though it began as a hobby and something fun to share with family and friends, over the years, I’ve learned that writing in a public space like this is not only important to my personal processing but to those who might want to enter into the conversation with me. Many of you have told me over the years that you are reading and thinking with me. And for this I’m so grateful.

And while I long for the days of simpler posts of what I did last weekend or what is my favorite ice cream, I can’t write like that anymore.

These past years there have been some great challenges, challenges that have put me face to face with what calling, vocation and faith in deeper ways than I’ve ever known.

The more I grow in my understanding of God (or the mystery thereof) and how the world works, I know I have to keep wrestling with the big questions. It’s just who I am. It is why I blog. (Though not to be discouraging on others who write for other reasons, of course).

My hope is that as you stop by from time to time you’ll keep reading, keep commenting, keep pushing me toward new ways of thinking about life in this world.

While I might miss the ease of old school blogging, I know where I land on the other side will keep taking me to the next place I need to go. 2013 will soon be old school too!

August 8, 2013

Be Someone

We can’t help it, but in our society we are what we do.

When you meet a new person (especially in the circles I run in it seems) the first question that gets asked when you meet someone new is, “What do you do?”

And in response free-flowing answers are something like, “I am a lawyer. . . . I teach school. . . . I work for the government. . . . I direct an organization.”

When we hear these responses and other similar to them, we nod our heads in approval and say with our body language and sometimes our words: “Oh, good. That sounds interesting. How long have you been doing that?”

But then there are those responses we can give like: “I consult.”

“I’m a stay at home mom.”

Or, “I’m a writer” that usually seem to evoke less than energetic responses.

Some of us don’t understand how a person could just consult or just stay at home with their kids (aren’t they wasting their talents by not pursuing traditional full-time work?), or we think, “Isn’t saying you are a writer code for you don’t know how to get a real job and that you sit in your bathrobe and eat chocolate all day?” (Yeah, you know you think it even if you don’t say it).

But what if you are called to be a generalist consultant or a stay at home mom or dad or heaven forbid even a real writer?

I sat at a coffee meeting with a new colleague on Monday. Catherine is a consultant for social media (something I’m doing more and more of these days) and self-employed too.

We talked about the frustrations of being in an office of one, doing helping work through writing and social media for non-profits (and folks not wanting to pay for our services, ugh!), and how easily our value in the society in which we live is tied to what we do.

In response, Catherine offered this nugget of wisdom that she’s known to share with groups during one of her training sessions: “Don’t worry about being something. This will get you nowhere. The someone who you think you are because of a job could change at any moment. The title you have on your business card will not be with you forever. Instead, put your energy into being someone. This is who you are that will never change.”

I was struck by the simplicity but depth of her words. I may not be the something that I once was, but I am a somebody.

My friend, Ken and I were talking about this very thing a couple of night before. I was bemoaning the fact that I often feel like a “nobody” since I left the church and don’t have an official title of “I pastor ____ church” to add to my name. And Ken pushed back. “You are a somebody. And you are doing important work. You just don’t see it like the rest of us do. . . . ”

And then came Catherine’s words about “being someone instead of something.”

Clearly I needed to hear such a message.

It’s a hard road and most certainly the path less traveled, I believe to find yourself outside of the confines of a role or a particular job. Ask someone has recently started a new business or who has retired early how they’re feeling about the transition, and you’ll know I’m speaking truth here.

You don’t win the “most impressive” award when you meet new people at a happy hour or a professional gathering with a non-traditional “what I do” response.

Instead, you have to brace yourself for the stares, the strange tones of folks reactions, and comments hurried your way like I recently got, “Do you like being a housewife?” (Ok, I almost died. No, I am NOT a housewife).

But, I am a someone. And so are you– in whatever you do.

Last night I was talking to my friends Tim and Debbie. In the course of the conversation about vocation and what it means to enjoy life at the fullness that life can really be, Tim chimed in to say, “I’ve always thought about life like this: who you really are is what you do when you aren’t at work.”

And while there are all different sorts of implications for vocation and paid work interlacing and certain people’s 9-5 “It pays the bills” sort of jobs having all different levels of meaning for us– I think Tim is right.

We have clues to the “someones” that we truly are if we notice what we are naturally drawn to in our free time.

And it is not that we become these things, such as, “I am a cook.” “I like to garden.” Or, “I am so happy when I get to keep my grandchildren” but that the character qualities that motivate us to do these things shine through. And we see more clearly our souls.

We are challengers (or not).

We are contemplative (or not).

We are relational (or not).

And these things do not change. We simply are.

We were created with value and purpose and uniqueness. We can be a someone no matter if our work is validated, paid for or even appreciated. We can find fulfillment in simply BE-ing.

I’m not there yet. I really like being a something better than someone. But, I’m on my way and I wonder if others of you out there are too?

July 19, 2013

Creating What Doesn’t Exist

People ask me all the time what I miss about church life? Do I miss preaching all the time? Do I miss the committee meetings? Do I miss the hospital visits? Do I miss the cranky people calling me after church on Sunday afternoon?

I’m not really sure how to answer these questions.

Because yes, I do miss church life.

I miss putting on a robe on Sunday morning with the wind of courage behind me, filled with something to say to eager listeners.

I miss people calling me to say “I just needed to talk to my pastor.”

I miss the privilege of walking an adult through a baptismal process and seeing the light come to their eyes just before the water touches them.

I miss Sunday potlucks– you know the meal that is best served at a church where you really never know what exactly you are eating . . .

(But, no I don’t miss anything with the description “cranky” in it. And no, I most certainly don’t miss long committee meetings).

However, all this to say, as much as I miss these things, I know I’m in the right place. I know this season of life as a non-traditional work-er, minister type in the world is where I am to learn.

Sometimes, in life, I believe, we are asked to give up what is most comfortable, what we most know, or even what makes the most sense to us and our educated friends around us. We are asked by God to seek out the new.

I was having a conversation with a colleague a couple of weeks ago. It was a colleague I’d worked with in denominational life connected to my most recent pastorate, a colleague I hadn’t seen in six months. It was fun to see her happy face again.

Yet, personally, it was a sad day for me when we ran into each other. A day when I was thinking a lot about what I had lost and how much I missed about my former life. But this colleague surprised me with the first words coming out of her mouth were, “Girl, you are looking so good!”

How could she say that I wondered? I had just been crying in fact.

She went on to explain was that my posture seemed more relaxed, more at ease, that their was light in my eyes she hadn’t seen in me when I was going about the business of keeping a particular church in good order. I thought, well, now that’s interesting . . .

This colleague then asked me more about my future plans and what came out of my mouth was, “I feel called to create something that is yet to exist.”

Well, then. That was news to even my own ears. Called to create something that doesn’t exist . . .

Upon further reflection of this moment, I realized maybe this was why she said I was looking well. As much as I do miss the familiar or even the simple joy of putting on a robe and saying, “Thanks be to God” every Sunday– there’s something about this season of re-evaluating, of re-grouping, of renaming that suits my soul quite well.

I am more myself. I am more at ease. There’s light pointing me in new directions I might have been scared to death of years ago, but now I’m here. There’s no turning back now.

It doesn’t mean the path to get to this unknown place is easy though. It might suit my soul. But, my body doesn’t like it very much at all.

My days are often filled with self-doubt, loneliness and lots of prayers of “Why can’t I be like everyone else?”

I want to work normal hours. I want my work to be respected and acknowledged– even paid for from time to time. I want to not feel so alone as I usually do between the hours of 8-6 pm every day.

But in the meantime, I try to see the progress I’m making along this path of what I know not of, and what does not exist yet.

I eagerly look forward to any opportunities to connect with other like-minded thinkers and doers– even if I have to travel to another state to find them.

I eagerly look forward to moments when my ministerial identity gets to be expressed in an life-giving and affirming way (such is hard to come by in Oklahoma, but that’s another story for another day).

I eagerly look forward to the day– whenever that may be– when my eyes get to see the dreams come to pass that my heart has had a long-standing commitment to.

And on that day, I’m sure I’ll probably say that the journey, no matter how long or hard it has been was worth it.

But until then, all I can say is this kind of creative work is harder than I could have ever imagined.

June 2, 2013

My Faith is Essential to Who I Am

There seems to be nothing profound about this statement. If you know anything about my background, you know that I graduated from seminary and I served two particular churches as a full-time pastor for 6 years. I blog all the time about religious centric topics. Duh, of course, my faith is essential to who I am. Case closed.

But, something about stating this as fact at this juncture of my life feels different. Maybe even scares me a little.

I don’t feel I’m not the kind of person who just comes out and says such so bluntly. And I really hate being lumped with these kinds of Christians who might come from these camps and start conversation with judgment before love . . .

I think actions speak for themselves. Do I love? Do I forgive? Do I consider someone’s needs before my own? Words are not always necessary.

But then this weekend, as I worked on another draft of the book proposal for my upcoming memoir about grief, I realized something I’d never thought of in such a strong way. And that is: my faith is essential to who I am.

As I wrote the words on the page of this proposal, it felt like I had invited myself into my own coming out party.

For, there was no way I could describe the book I’ve written without talking about the interwoven themes of God’s provisions, God’s love and God’s direction within my story.

I just couldn’t.

And even though I so desperately don’t want an expression of my faith to be lumped together with the kind of Christian paths that I’ve seen hurt people and that (in my humble opinion) don’t seem to be grounded in the teachings of Jesus, I couldn’t tell my story without it being a FAITH story.

As I wrote the marketing plan for the book that I hope one day soon with convince a publisher to want to print my narrative (hopefully a non-religious publisher!), I couldn’t help but think that the reason why I believe my spiritual memoir will sell is because search of something, or someone greater than ourselves IS what deep down we’re ALL looking for. Search for spiritual connection to the Divine and one another is essential to the human experience.

And with all of this true, we crave stories of faith in all shapes and sizes.

We crave stories that will tell us how others made movement in their lives when all seemed lost.

We craves stories that tell us how messy weaves of relationships can survive deep wounds.

We crave stories that tell us how hope born in our hearts rides the waves of the most turbulent storms.

And, though at first glance my book might seem off-putting to the very people I want to reach with my story–
those on the edge of a religious tradition
those who are in the throws of deep grief without a faith community
or those who have only experienced people of faith as obnoxious

I can’t tell my story any other way than: faith is essential to who I am.

What about you? How do you talk about the spiritual part of you? Or do you talk about it at all?

May 15, 2013

Silence Is Not Going to Hurt You

Over the past several months, I found myself with more quiet and uninterrupted time than I’ve ever experienced before in my life. My pastoral Sabbatical has gone on for more months that I would have planned in the beginning.

By March, the temptation was to “just do something.” To fill the space with more books to read, more coffees to have with new friends and old friends alike, and more trips to take. Maybe start or learn a new hobby? Maybe get a part-time job just for the fun of it? More of something to fill the void of time that used to be offered to the church.

Sure there were things to do like finish my book manuscript which would fulfill my commitment to the Louisville institute, events to attend with Kevin for Feed The Children, and the usual of keeping up with house chores (in two cities nonetheless) and the never-ending pile of mail that always seems to need attention on my desk.

But, still even with all of this “doing” there was plenty of silence left. Still there was quiet. Still even with all of the coffee dates and lunches I could muster energy up to attend, there has been just me. Alone. In quiet. Making friends with this state of being called solitude.

There have been days when I’ve loved it, savoring every minute.

There have been days I counted the minutes until I could go to bed at night or Kevin came home from work.

There have been days when all I wanted was a friend to call and rescue me from the void that is life in my living room alone.

But the silent beat has gone on.

And this is what I’ve learned: silence, even as much as we all fight it, is not going to kill us. Nope. It hasn’t killed me. Well sometimes it might have felt like it would, but it didn’t. And I don’t think it will.

Silence has been God’s great transformational gift that my busybody soul has needed.

One of the authors I read in seminary but have become fascinated with again the past couple of months is Roberta Bondi. I’ve loved reading her again because of her focus the desert fathers and mothers of the 4th century who retreated to find solitude. And Bondi writes about what made them tick, how they related to their fellow silent pilgrims, and most of all what they learned about prayer as a result.

As I’ve stuck close to her book, To Pray and To Love again, I’ve been reminded that the Spirit often does the best work in us when we surrender to the quiet.

Bondi makes a case for such by saying that when the distractions of our lives are stripped away we have no one or no thing to blame for our laziness, our moodiness, our impulses, or our addictions than the brokeness that is within us. In solitude we realize that life is not about our jobs, our families or even our own ambitions for the future.

Rather, life is about us and God. Life is about all of life flowing out of God’s great love for us. Life is dance card full of great opportunities designed just for us to soar.

But only in silence would we know this.

Only in silence would we have eyes to see these things.

And, only when we say no to the temptation of adding just one more thing to our plate do we make room for God.

Life filled with God is worth fighting for even as the hours of silence continue on. At least for now.

April 14, 2013

What if I’m Not Good Enough?

On my ongoing relationship with the part of myself I call “a writer” I think about a lot about things like this:

–What is good dialogue and how to construct it authentically

–What are strong verbs and how avoiding adverbs as much as possible.

–What does life smell like and how to describe such without using worn out similes.

But, most of all I think a lot about what makes writing good?

Like most writers, I have that fear in the back of my head that says, “What if I am not good enough at this?” As much as I love the challenge of constructing beauty, what if I am never accepted as a writer. What if I never get published? (Because of course, as much as many of us say that publishing doesn’t matter, it does).

And I know I’m not alone.

Because the more I have conversations with folks who are considering writing for the first time or more frequently the one concern that seems to be raised every time is: “What if I’m not good enough? What if no one cares about what I have to say?”

And, what I most want to say to this excuse in myself and others is: “Stop listening to that crap in your head and just write! If you want to write, write!”

I want to say this because I believe we as artists (musicians, painters, dancers, etc. alike) waste so much time that we could spend producing our craft by judging ourselves before we even get out of the gate. And by doing that, we miss out on the best contributions we might have to offer. Anne Lammott, of course has a lot to say about this.

Because what I think makes writing (and of course, this is my humble opinion) good is: writing that tells us the truth. And it doesn’t take special skills to tell the truth. You just speak it!

Sure, in the writing world, grammar and proper use of metaphors and paragraph structure within a chapter are all important– and without the best possible setting for words to flow they simply won’t have the chance to leap in reader’s hearts as they did in the writer’s– but “good writing” is not all about technical details.

It’s about the soul of the piece. Is the writer telling their truth?

I read a lot. And I can usually tell pretty quickly if I am going to stick with a book or discard it from the pile of books on my nightstand or in my Kindle.

I am easily annoyed by writers who try to sound like someone else or use words that aren’t a part of everyday language of anyone I’ve ever met or who are so full of ego they don’t admit what is really troubling them.

I love stories: stories that make me feel less alone, wise stories that speak truth on the page that I’m not ready to say aloud, but want to, stories that give me new insight into those I love and those I hate, and stories that leave me convicted about how much more I need to learn on this journey of life we’re all on.

Writing like this take courage.

It takes time to know yourself well enough to bring truth to the page.

It takes hope in the human condition– that when you risk the potential disappointment of putting yourself out there– others hungry for the truth will hold your work with the reverence it deserves.

So, what makes writing good? For today, I say, it is YOU who makes YOUR writing good. And ME, MINE– even the parts of me that are anxious, fearful, scared, unforgiving or absent-minded. When I do the work of bringing more of ME to my work, then I think not only do you call it “good” but my Creator looks at my creation and smiles.

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