Stories Left Unfinished

It’s been quite some time since I wrote any fiction. Well, let me rephrase that: it’s been quite some time since I finished any fiction. My first novel scared me off of writing for a while. Like years. It’s unpublished and for good reason. It’s really awful. I know this because I gave it to an old english teacher who didn’t have the courage to tell me just how bad it was; she just stopped talking to me. Can you say ouch? I used to be embarrassed about it, but I’m not anymore.

Everyone has to start somewhere.  When I placed my tushie in the computer chair and my hands on the keyboard determined to write that first book, I knew absolutely nothing about the craft of writing. I had only passion and determination, and it drove me through a plotless fifty thousand words of flat, lifeless characters and thinly veiled references to my own life (I feel no shame about admitting it because I think all authors start out a tad bit on the autobiographical side).

It’s been about five years since then.  The road from there to here is littered with half finished manuscripts. I’ve learned a bit about the craft and I’ve imitated other authors’ voices as I’ve struggled to find my own. I’ve had a lot of stops and starts and I am just now starting to feel confident. I feel like now, after five years, I am finally coming into my own.

And I haven’t finished a manuscript in five years. That’s okay. I know all the writing advice out there always says to finish what you start, but like all writing advice, I don’t think this is true for every writer, especially the beginner. Every single story I started and didn’t finish, with the exception of one, mayyybee two, I left unfinished for a good reason. It might have been a thin plot, a terrifically awful protagonist, or inconsistent tone. These stories were unfixable for me at the time. I didn’t have the necessary skills to even recognize what was wrong with them. I just knew something wasn’t working. With the exceptions I mentioned above, I think it was probably a lack of courage and discipline. The fact of the matter is I can look back now and say with certainty that I learned from those experiences and I’m a better writer for them.

If you’re following my blog (I have a handful of readers at the time I’m writing this), you may have noticed that I’ve started posting less frequently, once a week instead of twice. The reason why is because I’ve been working on a novel that’s finishable. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s going to need several rewrites, but all the main elements are there.  It works. The characters have depth. The plot flows along. The tone is pretty consistent.  It’s exciting for me and I’ve been dashing towards the finish line. It probably won’t be publishable, but it’s a pivotal moment in my writing life. For the first time, I can see how all the elements of fiction writing fit together and play off of one another.

Here’s to finishing the next one. and the next one. and the next one.

 

 

Verb Love

My husband and I have been together for nine years. Nine years. It’s flown by at a breakneck pace, at least for me. My husband may tell a different story. Sometimes we’ll be sitting around in the evening reminiscing and laughing about something, like how we got into a knock down, drag out fight over a crooked piece of wall art in our first apartment, and it will hit me all of a sudden that we have so much history together. I can’t believe we have so many memories to share.

I was twenty when we met and he was twenty-three. I look at pictures from way back when, and my eyes get all misty and I get this funny tickle in my throat. We were just a couple of kids, so young looking. We thought we had it all figured out, when in actuality we were only on the cusp of adulthood. I think back on that time quite fondly. The night we met. The long distance relationship angst and the euphoria of finally seeing one another.  It was wonderful and exciting. It was fight and chase each other into the rain. It was intense, in a way that makes me feel exhausted now.  It was so easy to love each other, in spite of the turmoil we sometimes faced (and caused) in our relationship with one another because we didn’t know our Holy Father.

Things are a bit different now. We’re older. We’re more stable, both financially and emotionally. We bought a home and we have a child. While I sometimes look back on our earlier days wistfully, I don’t think I’d want to go back and relive them. There is a lot less turmoil these days, but sometimes it’s more difficult to love one another. It’s hard to divert time to just spend on one another. And our definition of love has changed.

Love isn’t just a feeling anymore, the highs and lows of infatuation. The world believes that infatuation is love, and they sell it that way through television and magazines. They use the two interchangably, but it’s not true. Love is a verb. It’s something you do. All you have to do is crack open your Bible and take a peek to find out where this kernel of truth came from. It’s there, from the front cover to the maps. Verb love is Christ like love.

See, if you’ve been married for a good chunk of time, you know that marriages go through seasons of struggle, apathy, or even straight up dislike. It’s normal and to be expected, although the world will tell you differently. The world tells you that you should get up and leave the moment you feel unsatisfied or if things get a little tough. But there’s beauty in sticking it out. There’s satisfaction and growth. And you get to see real love, in action; The kind of love that says, “I’m going to do this thing for you, even though you’ve been really selfish lately. Even though you’ve been neglecting our relationship this month. Even though you’re a tootie head. I’m going to go out of my way for you. I’m going to do something that I’d rather not. I’m going to make sacrifices. Even though you don’t deserve it.”

That’s the kind of love that Jesus gives. It saved my soul. It’s kept my marriage afloat.  Let me practice it more like You, Lord. More and more and more.

 

 

 

Life; Organized

There’s a meme floating around the internet that says something along the lines of “Great! It’s the weekend! Time for me to do fifteen loads of laundry!” I laugh every time I see it because I cannot even begin to tell you how true the spirit of this message is to my life.  All my house cleaning is saved for the weekend. I wish I didn’t do it this way and I tell myself every Sunday evening that I’m going to do more through the week so I don’t have to spend my entire Saturday cleaning my house and my entire Sunday afternoon doing all of our laundry. It never happens though. I clean someone else’s house all week, so it makes it difficult to be gung-ho about doing my own. I’m so sick of domesticity by the time I get home in the evenings that sometimes it’s hard for me to get dinner on the table and we fend for ourselves more often than I would like to admit. It sort of makes me feel like a bad mommy-wife.

I at least keep clutter in our living areas to a minimum. I put forth some effort in that department. People never know what I’m talking about when they come over and I tell them to please excuse my house. I just don’t want them looking too closely because the truth is, I’m a “Monica’s closet” person at heart. If you’re not familiar with the sitcom Friends, Monica Gellar is a character on the show who is an extreme clean freak.  On an episode in season eight, however, it’s revealed that she has this closet in her apartment where she hides a mountain of junk that she just can’t seem to get rid of.

See, cleanliness really isn’t the problem. My husband and I have always been the type of people to clean up after ourselves. We don’t normally leave dishes in the sink. We put our clothes in the hamper and we rinse the sink out after we brush our teeth. It’s not really clutter either. The things in plain sight and the things that we love, that actually bring value to our lives, have a place. We put them back in that place when we’re finished with them.

No, what really gets me, what really makes me feel like my life is in a constant state of disarray is the hidden clutter, my versions of Monica’s closet. Under the beds. The things in the closet under the stairs. The top rack of literally every single closet in my house. Under the sinks. And it’s all things that we don’t use anymore that I just can’t seem to get rid of, like purses that I haven’t carried for years, rolls upon rolls of yarn when I rarely knit anymore, and like Monica, the proverbial punch bowl that I need to keep in order not to step on anyone’s feelings.

About twice a year, I  pump myself up to get my life organized. I tell myself that there’s no sense in keeping all of that junk. Occasionally I’ll actually clear some of it out, but more often than not I get all sentimental or end up convincing myself that I’m really going to lose this last ten pounds and be able to fit back into that. So most of my junk ends up in a different closet than it started in or organized in a different way, but still there. I just can’t help it. I guess Monica Gellar is my spirit animal.

The Beauty of Real

My husband and I got rid of cable TV almost as soon as the Roku hit the market. We have a lot of scorn for our previous provider, who charges outrageous rates because they are the only company in the area (yes, I live out in the country, but not quite as far out as you might think). Switching over to the Roku has been a blessing in more ways than one though. It’s helped the budget in a gigantic way. I’m talking cutting our bill by more than half. We also love that the shows we enjoy are now “on demand” for us. It’s nice to come home and be able to watch whenever we like. Even for shows that come on weekly through suscription services like Hulu or Starz, we wait until the season is over and then binge watch. If it’s a suscription service that we don’t use regularly, we also have the added benefit of only having to pay for it for a month instead of the length of the show’s season.  The biggest benefit of cutting out cable for me, however, has been no commercials, and probably not for the reason that you think.

See, I struggle with feelings of inadequacy and I am particularly susceptible to the sins of seeking the approval of man and covetousness (I am not afraid to get gritty and raw with you. When we share our brokenness and need for Christ with others, they can recognize their own). Coming to know the Savior has shown me that I have value that is not based on the approval of others, but I still struggle occasionally and try to avoid certain triggers that may cause me to sin in this area. What this means for me is that I avoid certain stores and I never, ever look at magazines. Here lately it has also meant a Facebook break. I may end up deleting Facebook altogether. I am still praying about this. What I didn’t realize until they were gone, is that commercials make me feel the same way that these things do.

This may seem crazy, but think about it. Commercials and advertisements are hardwired to make us feel inadequate. Their core message is that our life is not complete without their product or service. We will never be attractive. We will never be good parents. Our children will miss out. We will never be happy. Unless we buy what they are selling. If that’s not a recipe for temptation, I’m a raccoon (albeit a cute, chubby one). What’s more, is that the images and ideas that they try to sell us are not real. Stainless steel pots and pans, leather furniture, expensive make up, hip clothing, and the most high tech gadgets on the market will not satisfy us or make us beautiful.

Only Jesus can do that. He’s enough.

So what exactly is true beauty? What’s true joy? Only the work of Lord in us: A quiet and gentle spirit. Meekness. Humility. Servanthood. Thankfulness. Obedience. Compassion. A heart bent on loving others no matter the cost. These things are of eternal value, and do not fade away with the passing of time. Now that’s real. And beautiful.