I’m Trying to Become a Writer

I’m trying to become a writer.

For the last few months I have done all within my power to learn more about the craft of writing. Stephen King told me in On Writing to “not come lightly to the page.” Anne Lamott showed me that the act of writing turns out to be its own reward; that publication shouldn’t be my end goal. Her book, Bird by Bird, revealed to me the ideas of short assignments and {cough} “poor” first drafts. According to Steven Pressfield, art is war and resistance is the enemy within. He encouraged me by saying, “If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are.” Because I ask myself that question all the time.

I soon discovered that learning about writing didn’t make me a writer…Click here to find out what I discovered it takes to actually become a writer, an artist, a leader and even a Christian.

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Today I have the privilege of guest posting at author, Mary DeMuth’s blog! I was able to sit down with Mary at the writer’s conference I attended in April, and she is as encouraging and friendly as she seems in her writing.

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Guest Post :: Levi Martin

Josh and I first met Levi in our freshman year of college. All we really knew of him was that he slept through all of the classes, and yet somehow managed to get the highest grade when the tests came around. Levi and his wife, Christy, were married eight months after Josh and I, and we have traveled the path from college-age students to young marrieds to ministry leaders with them. They have been a constant source of encouragement and counsel for us, as well as life-long friends regardless of distance. I am so very pleased to have him sharing here today, and you should wish him a happy birthday because his is Saturday — but we all know the world is going to end that day so you can’t do it then.

The Cave

Deep in the wooded foothills of the Rocky Mountains a young boy wanders alone following the course of a stream back to its source. As he climbs the ravine this stream has carved over the eons, his imaginations dances along the ridgeline in ages past. He is an explorer in every sense of the word. But buried deep in this boy’s heart is the mark of his origins, a piece of his homeland lies hidden amidst all the dreams conjured by the histories of mankind. He springs lightly as the brook, from rock to rock, ‘round ancient trees and boulders, his face brilliant in the deep, dark of the forest. Why does he exult among the trees? What is it about nature that fills him with wonder and excitement?

As he wends his way to the spring, a gleam of light catches his eye. If you have ever been deep in the forest you may know the way a clearing in the trees can shine with a light from another world. He abandons his quest to find the source of the stream, enchanted by the glow of the clearing just a little ways off. Against the steep incline of the side of the gully, two large boulders form the mouth of a cave, and spread before the mouth of this cave lays a large swath of moss dotted with the most delicate white wildflowers. As the boy stands, transfixed by the perfect scene illuminated before him, the steady hum of his vivid imagination quiets as the peculiar quality of this place steals over him. He does not need to imagine himself a brave explorer of the past or as a mighty warrior glorious in victory. He simply sees the brilliant colors, feels the wild air of the forest around him, smells the earthy aroma of the moss, trees and rocks – he simply is.  He feels wonder as well as fear – tranquil exhilaration.

This scene is enchanting, but what of the cave? The brilliant light of the verdant clearing penetrates mere inches into the gloom of the cavern. What is it in the heart of a boy who dares not enter the dark, yet cannot leave the cave unexplored? His pulse quickens as he stands hesitating, irresolute. His mouth is dry, palms clammy; the hair on the back of his neck stands on end. Ultimately the pang in his heart yearns for the unknown, for the mystery; and against his natural alarm and revulsion he steps forward and into the dark.

And now we turn the page (to absolutely steal from an author I heard speak recently)…

I recently attended a writer’s conference. There was a central theme of writing because we must write, but a secondary theme arose for me. It would be very difficult for me to explain in detail what this other theme was in the space of this post, or even with many more words. The central melody may be memorable from your favorite song, yet there may be another theme that speaks to you from hints and whispers of harmony or rhythm. This is often too ethereal to put to words, yet too moving to ignore.

Here is my best attempt…

Joy is incomprehensible without suffering, beauty only stands as remarkable against the backdrop of the dreary, and light reveals what darkness hides. I am not advocating some sort of dualism, far from it. The concept that began to take form for me was a contrast of a view that sought to remove pain and darkness in order to represent beauty versus a concept that faces darkness with light; revealing the ugliness that darkness may hide, but giving hope for redemption.

“Light and dark must both make an appearance in our art” – Gina Ochsner

This concept was being applied to the art of writing, but it was easily relatable to all forms of art. However, as I thought more about it this concept came to bear on many other areas of life. In counseling it is often the great majority of the work to be done to simply look at the source of the pain – to shine a light on the ugliness of trauma and suffering. People do not relate well with one another when they hide their flaws and fake tranquility, and yet peace and tranquility are the beautiful hope of redemption. There is great beauty in being able to look at what life truly holds and trust God. Trust that not only does He see the truth, but He also enters into our pain with us while remaining transcendent and able to be our ever-present salvation.

How about you? (to steal from yet another writer I adore),

Where do you see God’s light in the dark places?

Levi Martin is an M.Div. student at Multnomah University in Portland, OR, where he and his wife of almost ten years both work. Levi is an amateur songwriter, poet and theologian now working on his first novel. This is his first foray into any form of writing more public than school papers.


Guest Post – Jennie Pollock

Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout May I have dedicated to guest writers. Today’s guest post comes to you all the way from England! I was introduced to Jennie through her brother Peter, someone I knew through Twitter. As I read her post, I was amazed at how similar we are. Perhaps you will see yourself here as well, as you think about the passions God has given you.

Just Write

“I wish Christians who say they want to write would just write,” my neighbour at last week’s dinner party berated me.

Yes, I had foolishly admitted that I want to write.

In my defence, I do commit words to page almost constantly these days. When I’m not composing e-mails or business letters at work, I’m making notes for the next essay in my Masters’ degree. When I’m not doing that, I’m commenting on my friends’ Facebook statuses, writing movie reviews on my church website or reposting articles I’ve seen around on other websites.

When I can find the time, I also blog.

So it’s not that I’m not practising the art of forming coherent sentences, or tasting the fear of committing my thoughts to print and sending them unprotected into the world. I’m just not writing what I want to write, what I think matters.

I can scribble out brilliant treatises on how wrong it is that chartreuse should be a shade of blue (that rich, fruity, vibrant word can only possibly describe a shade of pink, surely – the pink of overblown roses and sunsets over the sea and the taste of warm raspberries. If onomatopoeia is the term for words which sound like what they are – squish, thud etc – what is the term for words that sound just completely opposite to what they describe?), or compose business letters from the formal to the chatty to the forbidding. When it comes to writing creative pieces which will touch hearts and challenge minds, though, I’m stuck.

What’s holding me back?

Time, of course, is a big one. Once I’ve finished my Masters’ degree, I want my evenings back, but if I want to write, I’m going to have to sacrifice at least a couple a week (and preferably a little time each day) to writing. Do I care enough to be willing to do that?

Content is the second one. How do I narrow all I want to say into one topic at a time? How do I frame it in a compelling story peopled with believable, sympathetic characters who an audience will actually care about? Am I making time to listen to God and allow him to direct my thoughts and my fingers?

The third, and possibly most significant, barrier is intimidation. I am surrounded by words. My bed is piled high with books I’m in various stages of reading – Bibles, study guides, biographies, novels, philosophy text books, note books, puzzle books. There’s even a couple of maps and, for some reason, a cookery book at the moment (I’m not sure how much cooking I was planning to do in bed, when I brought that one through!). Then there are letters, postcards, prayer letters and bank statements.

Thousands and thousands of words surround me every day. Some of them were written 6,000 years ago, others were committed to print for the first time in the last week. Some of them are engaging and inspiring, others dry and dispiriting.

How can I compete with all this? What can I add? Who would ever want to read it?

Then the words echo in my head again: just write.

If this is what God has put on my heart the best – the only possible – response is to just do it. I have to trust that he has given me this passion for a reason and will use it for his purposes in his time.

That will take patience and action, but I’m going to keep practising.

Watch this space…

What has God put on your heart to do?

What’s holding you back from just doing it?

What is the opposite of onomatopoeia?


Jennie Pollock is a ‘proper’ English administrator with ideas and dreams WAY above her station! She lives in the very heart of London, works at a think tank, and is studying for an MA in Philosophical Studies. She loves London above almost anything else. Yes, even more than books. Books about London are pretty much heaven on earth. For years she has longed to use her words to glorify God and shine His light into the dark places. She’s thrilled and awestruck that it’s finally started to happen.

Jennie’s Blog:  New Song 40 - Jennie’s Twitter: @MissJennieP

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It’s Nice Not To Think

Happy Royal Wedding Day! Happy Day After Steve Carell’s Last Day on The Office Day! Happy Friday!!

This weekend is going to be intense! Today I’m baking eight quiche for a friend’s baby shower, which I am unable to attend because I am going to a writer’s conference tonight, and all day tomorrow. Poor Josh will have all four kiddos all on his lonesome for 12 hours! Someone please send him Starbucks, earplugs, and maybe a nanny. {I can hear my mom now, “He’ll be fine. Don’t worry about him. You need to enjoy your time away.” — Yes mom, I know. Thank you for loving me.}

All day yesterday I anticipated Lisa-Jo’s prompt. I realized why, as I watched my DVR recording of Top Chef Masters. On each episode there are two challenges: the Quick Fire and the Elimination Challenge. The Quick Fire involves the chef’s preparing a dish with certain criteria in a short amount of time. They don’t have that much time to prep or think, they just go on instinct. Elimination Challenges are usually over a two-day period, giving the chefs time to second-guess, over think and mess themselves up.

Five Minute Fridays are like Quick Fires. I don’t over-analyze what I say, and it just comes out. {sigh} It’s nice not to think. 

So, here is my unedited gut response to “If I Knew I Could, I Would…”

GO

You know how people always say that the best way to find your perfect job is to ask yourself what you would do if money wasn’t an issue? I think that’s such a weird question. Because no one would say that they want to be a janitor, or a lunch lady. Then, there would be messes all over the place and elementary children without food.

Some jobs are necessary, even though they don’t feel dramatic or life-affirming. I’m not really sure what this has to do with Lisa-Jo’s prompt. I think it’s because “If I knew I could, I would…” begs for me to tell my dreams. And dreams always seem like the answer to that question.

So, I ask myself, would I still be a stay-at-home mom? Because none of my current dreams have me changing a constant conveyer belt of dirty diapers, getting peanut butter smeared on my “I just put this on” shirt, or having “Mmmaaaaawwwwwuuuuummmm!!!!” screamed at me all day long. I want to write a book. I’ve said it before — it’s always met with silence, which seems like disapproval. I do. I also want to go to France, be a missionary and be fluent in a love language.

The thing is, had you asked me that question 10 years ago, when I was working full-time in an office with a crotchety old lady whose dream was to return to New Mexico with her family, I would have said I’d want to be a stay-at-home mom.

It’s a funny thing about dreams…

STOP

Now it’s your turn…How would you finish this sentence?

If I knew I could, I would…

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