Monday, July 31, 2006

Water Babies

We joined a swim club this summer. I didn't really understand this whole swim club thing to be honest. If they existed while I was growing up I didn't know about them. I think we belonged to a country club once but I don't remember going. So this whole "pay money to join a club and use the pool" thing is new to me.

But I am so glad we did.

I first heard about these swim clubs at an aerobics class. It's amazing how much women share in a room where they bounce around and sweat like pigs. I discovered a lot of things in that aerobics class, but learning that most swim clubs have a two-year waiting list was very valuable information. I located one near my house, verified that it had a baby pool in a reasonable proximity to the "big" pool and put my name on the waiting list. One year later we're in and we've spent a good deal of the summer in the pool.

There is something so calming about being in the water. Even though I've been a little - okay, fine - a lot stressed out this summer, I don't seem to be taking it out on my body like I usually do. Instead of knots in my shoulders, my muscles are relaxed and instead of feeling crabby and cooped up, I've been out in the sun.

It's been good for me. And that's why I know I need my mental state to catch up with my physical state. I am more aware of my mental anxiety simply because I don't have any physical anxiety.

My biggest battles have always been inside my own head. I'm reading this very interesting book right now called "Thin Within". And I'm learning a lot about the difficulties your mental state can throw on the rest of your life.

Being aware of it is only part of the problem though. God is trying to work something deep within the soil of my heart and even though I keep digging it up - I really do want to learn it. The wter has helped me listen more deeply than sitting at home in the air conditioning. I can't explain why, but it's definitely been true.

And all of that from the swim club:-) Money well spent. (And I didn't even mention how my kids have slept like rocks this summer:-)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why Write?

Sometimes I just want to write. Not because I have to, but because I want to. Maybe it's a character I want to get to know. Sometimes it's an image I can't get out of my head. Other times I just need to tell someone else's story.

Lately, I've been toying with an idea that would require me to write the entire book without a contract. I still want to write it.

Yet, I'm keenly aware that as a writer-who-must-earn-at-least-a-partial-living, it's not particulary cost-effective.

I want to do it anyway.

Same goes with the screenplay I would like to finish. All the work has to be up front. I can't sell a thing unless the thing is written. Upfront labor without any guarantee of being paid.

Can you imagine if other industries worked this way?

What about going to the gas pumps and pumping just a few dollare worth of gas (though that's not much anymore). We look around and decide this gas station isn't very neat and there is some trash by the pump and the handle was sticky so we decide to go somewhere else. When asked to pay, we instead say -

"This station just doesn't meet my needs at this time."

Or how about a plumber that comes to fix your icemaker and he comes in and tracks mud on your floor, puts scuff marks on your tile and makes your whole kitchen smell like beer and cigarettes. He fixes the icemaker but instead of paying him you decide that the experience wasn't worth it.

"Your work just isn't suitable for this house."

Or a home builder who agrees to build a family the exact home they are asking for - without a contract. The builder builds it with the right number of rooms and the right number of floors and special custom molding and windows to add a special touch. But when the time comes to actually sign the contract, the family decides that yes, there are five rooms, but they should have been in different places and yes, you added that garage just like we asked, but it should have been a three-car garage instead of a two. Nobody has three car garages! the builder protests. "Ahhhh," the family says, "Our house must set the standard and this house doesn't meet our standards."

Just doesn't work anywhere else.

Do all the work first, spend hours and hours at your computer for nothing in return and still I can't help but do it.

Writers are crazy.

And still there's nothing else I'd rather be.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Commercial vs. Critical Success

Though I don't have the time or the energy to try to back this up with all sorts of stats and examples, it's the rare film that enjoys both popular and critical success. Take a look at the movies that are nominated for Oscars - many of them turn out to be small,intellectual films made by people who are more interested in saying something than reaching wide audiences. The movies that enjoy huge box-offices and sold-out audiences - well, those aren't the ones that will be hailed by the critics.

There are exceptions of course. But for the most part, it's difficult to have it both ways.

I think novels face a similiar problem. Someone recently wrote an e-mail to one of the dozens of loops I'm on about how she's not interested in being brilliant, she just wants to write entertaining books. And that got me thinking quite a bit. Because it would be very hard to do both.

I have another friend that would likely be considered one of those "brilliant writers". I don't even want that friend to read my books.
Chip MacGregor mentions the word "brilliant" regularly as he writes posts on The Writer's View and mentions names of those he sees as the best of the best. I hear reviews of author's "lilting prose" or "beautifully written characters".

I read novels that make me ache inside I so long to write as well.

I don't have any delusions of grandeur. I know I'm not brilliant - and that I may never be. But that begs the question - whose opinion really matters? I mean, yes, we are supposed to write unto God - for His good pleasure and for His purposes. His opinion is the only one that counts.

At least that's what we say.

But truly - there are lots of opinions out there that count in some form or another. There are the readers themselves. The reviewers, the bookstores, and the sales people all make decisions about the worth of your book. Already, just a few years into this world of publishing, I find myself evalutaing my ideas in light of all these opinions. It's not enough to have a good story idea - that's only part of it. You have to have a hook for the marketing people to sink their teeth into. You have to have a way to make your name known. You have to be brilliant enough to capture the editors attention.

I find myself simply wanting to write. To write so much that I simply have to get better with each manuscript that is completed. Like a painter I long to experiment with different mediums and textures. What would happen if I did it this way... I wonder what this story would look like told this way...

But there is so little room for experimentation. Unless you don't care about your work being published. And I don't know if I would be content to simply write for writing's sake. Because the interaction with the readers that are touched by your stories - well, there's just nothing else like it.

So ultimately - I want it both ways. I long to write a book that someone, somewhere might declare brilliant. But at the same time, I want to write books that actually reach readers - not just judges and reviewers and the few people who have the patience and appreciation for brilliant prose.

And I'm not sure I can have it both ways. An editor once asked me what my goals were as far as publishing was concerned. And my answer then is the same as it is now:

I want to be able to keep writing books - for the rest of my life.
I want each book I write to be better than the last.

I suppose, in the end, that's all I can really try to do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Take me Home

I have grown up with animals so having them around is just part of life. My grandmother - who lives with us - barely tolerates animals, so living with us must be challenging. And after returning our 3 year old dog to the breeder that we had for the last eight months (a story in itself) we've been on the hunt for a new dog to add to our family.

We brought home Chase last Saturday from a PetSmart adoption event and what a little love he is. They think he's part lab, part Boxer, but I don't really care at this point because he's sweet and he plays with the kids.

We had been toying around with buying a puppy from a breeder but the more I looked at the hundreds of dogs looking for homes from shelters and rescue groups, well, it just didn't seem right. Chase is the third animal we've adopted from a shelter - the first two were cats and they seem a little miffed that we saw fit to bring Chase into our family.

But having a puppy around is like having a new baby, and since he wasn't really crate trained, it's been a sleepless few nights as we try to get him used to sleeping in the crate. He would probably be quite content to sleep on the end of the bed but I have two issues with that -

1) We don't really know how big he's gonna get and
2) I'd rather not wake up in the middle of the night to find him peeing on the bed.

Ya know what I mean?

Two of my kids are old enough to be a big help - taking him out back and all of that. The third one, well, I'm just trying to teach her to leave the poor dog alone.

Check here for the animals that need a home in your area.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Home Sweet Home

Ya'll are great prayer warriors!

I made it through my whole trip without one migraine or horribly embarrassing moment! I'm excited to be home even though I now need to vacuum and mop and do a huge amount of laundry.

It was a good trip all in all. I was able to connect with some online friends that I only get to see at events like this. I got to meet a lot of people in person that I only knew in name. I was able to spend almost four days surrounded by people that get what I do.

I also got a lot of encouragement. Which was nice. You all know that I've been in a tough spot for the last year - unsure as to what I am doing next and where this path is taking me. At times I've been hopeless and at times I've been scared. Being in Denver was a little bittersweet because I got asked a lot about what that next project is going to be.

And I just don't know the answer to that. The encouragement was nice to hear - that I just need to hang in there. To not be anxious. Funny. That's exactly what I'm always telling my seven year old worrier.

I did have two rather extraordinary things happen but they are the kinds of things that I kind of need to see how they will pan out. If they do - you'll be the first to know:-)

In the meantime I'm going to go catch up on my e-mail and convince myself to start in on the laundry. I'll write more about ICRS...I promise.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Off to Denver

Well, I'll be flying out to Denver to attend the International Christian Retail Show this weekend.

I'm a little nervous.

Last year I got a little - loopy - from the altitude. I wasn't always a Christian and well, before I met God, I even drank a little. Okay, sometimes a lot. Well, that's all I have to compare my experience to Denver to - my old drinking days. I felt tipsy. And you know that internal moniter that keeps you from saying whatever pops into your head - yeah - well that thing wasn't working at all.

I was standing there talking to people and I knew I should stop talking, but it was like I was unable to do anything about the babbling that was coming from my mouth. The whole time I was there I either felt sick, manic, or I was embarrased about what I might have said while I was being manic.

And though I tend to be a rather straightforward person, I was just a little too honest a couple of times. I think. I mean I can't know for sure since the entire trip was a bit of a blur.

So I'm not anxious to go back. Even though I've got a new book this year. Even though I have to try to convince bookstore owners to put my books on their shelves.

But I am bringing my husband this year and he has promised me that if I start acting bizarre or loopy that he will whisk me away and dose me with drugs. The only thing that worked last year was aspirin - go figure. Everyone just kept telling me to drink water. Trust me, it wasn't possible for me to drink any more water than I already was and still I felt sick and kind of stupid.

So if you think about me - pray I don't say anything crazy to someone who could end my (practically nonexistant) career.


Monday, July 03, 2006

What about me?

I bet you've never asked that question. I seem to be asking it a lot lately. There's a saying that has become very popular in Christian circles - "it's all about Him" - that makes some feel that they asking the "what about me?" question is wrong and sinful.

I don't think it's sinful. It's pretty natural. And God understands. I think there's actually more danger in not admitting we feel that way from time to time. There's a balance found in living for Him, and remembering that He came to die for you. If you were important enough for Him to die for you, then you are still important - you have value, you have a purpose - it is just found in Him now. So it's about Him - and us. We are part of His grand and wonderful plan.

All this made me think of an old song:

"What about me
It isn't fair
I've had enough now I want my share
Can't you see
I wanna live
But you just take more then you give"

I want my share. You see, I've been getting a boatload of rejections and it's like every one is a bucketful of water in my little life boat. After each one that gets poured in, I wonder if this is the one that's going to topple me into the water for good. And it seems like a lot of people in the boats around me aren't getting any water poured in their boat.

It just doesn't seem fair.

But the reason I believe that the "What about me?" question isn't wrong to ask is because there is really another question lurking behind it: "Do you still love me?"

When we are being blessed and loved on by God it's easy to feel loved. When we feel like we are being passed over and pushed aside, it's easy to feel that maybe God just doesn't like us anymore.

But feelings aren't necessarily truth. The thing that must hold me steady is that no matter what the circumstances, no matter how much water gets poured on my parade, God is still for me. He still loves me. That's what I have to hang on to even when I don't feel it. God hasn't forgotten about me and He hasn't forgotten about you. Just as He is at work inside of me - teaching me deeper and deeper levels of trust, He is always at work in you, too.

So if you're in the same sinking boat as I am - hang tight.

God is in the boat with you.

Cross-Post for the new 4:12 Live! teen blog Girls, God and the Good Life - same blog with a new name.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


So it was a few days early but a local chuch here had their Fourth of July celebration last night. Moon bounces for the kids, music and lots of fireworks. Good times!

I know it's kind of corny but they played a song last night. I'm sure you know it.

God Bless the USA

The chorus is:
And I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

And I do love this land. With all of our debates and difficulties, squabbling and bickering, we are blessed to live here.

And this weekend, like most of you, I'm just reminded of that blessing as I watch the fireworks burst in the sky.

Happy Fourth of July!!