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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Super Duper Top Secret Writing Project REVEALED

IMG_20131211_205004I have been tormenting some of you for a while now over my super duper top secret writing project since NaNoWriMo. I can finally reveal what I've been working on.

So... when I decided to do NaNoWriMo, I was in an interesting situation. I always do NaNoWriMo. And, because I feel like it's sort of a rebellious thing, I always try to write a weird book completely outside of my comfort zone that I don't entirely intend to publish but secretly hope it will become a bestseller. So far, no secret hope come true, but maybe someday, right?

This year, I entered NaNo season after talking with my 13 year old about books and how it was hard to find a book for her to read. So, being the slightly insane woman I am, I decided to take on the challenge for NaNo. Yes, friends, my secret book was a Young Adult. Let's be clear here- the book was solely written with my daughter's tastes in mind. Which means a ton of stuff blows up, there's a dragon, the heroine can totally kick anyone's butt, and there's a nod to her favorite character from TV. This also means that I have no idea if there's a market for it, or if it's even wise for me to try to sell a YA at this point in my career, so this book may never see the light of day. And I am perfectly okay with that.

I decided that this book would be my daughter's Christmas present. I wrote it, and I'll be honest, I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Which probably means it's total crap, but I don't care. Did I mention I blew up a ton of cool stuff in it? I also decided that I was going to keep this a secret and make it a surprise, which was REALLY hard to do because I REALLY loved writing this book. And I was REALLY excited to see what my daughter thought.

And then, sometime in December, as I was patting myself on the back for being THE BEST MOM EVER, I had a horrible realization. I had another child who would be really hurt if I didn't write HER a book for Christmas. Thus turning me into the worst mom who ever walked the planet and would cause my child years of heartache and therapy to get over the fact that I clearly liked her sister better because I wrote her sister a book and not her. Crap. So I wrote ANOTHER book.

Yes, friends, once my big December work project was finished, I wrote another book. For my 9 year old princess. I call it, "Mommy needs her head examined." Fortunately, I could get away with writing a shorter book with a less complex plot. I think this would fall into the middle grade category, except that I may have pushed that line a bit. But hey, the point is, I wrote a book for my other kid, and finished it on Christmas Eve at 11:54 p.m., which means that I SAVED Christmas. Or at least I saved myself from the guilt trip I would have been given for the rest of my life for writing a book for one kid and not the other.

Sadly, the second book is not as good as the first. I am not in love with it. It is, after all, a rough draft, but this kid, bless her little heart, is yet old enough to understand. She just thinks that having mommy write her a book is the coolest thing ever, and that her mommy is awesome. Yay me.

The kids opened their presents, and were not as excited as I hoped they'd be. But they were still happy, and Cowgirl, who was sick, spent the day reading my book. She finished it already and liked it. She did not say it was THE BEST BOOK EVER, which makes me sad. Clearly my children do not think I am as brilliant as I think I am. Oh, wait. No kid thinks that of their mom, so we're still good.

So there you have it. My Super Duper Top Secret Writing Project. Two books in less than two months. One that was totally awesome (as far as I am concerned), and one that was not so much (but the recipient thinks it is).

Which means I'm taking a tiny little writing vacation until I hear back from my editors. Or not. Maybe I should write a book for my dog next...

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Deepening the Psalms through Art Journaling

20131203_232046My art journal journey has been really great for me- but because I am not an "artist," I don't always have clever ideas about what to do. Last night's Advent Bible reading had us read Psalm 6. Now, I've read the Psalms a hundred bazillion times. Okay, maybe not literally, since I don't even know how much a hundred bazillion is. But it's a lot. However, as I read Psalm 6, verse 4 really stuck out to me. It says, "Turn, O Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love." Now, I am not a theologian, and I don't claim to understand even half of the Bible. So when something really hits me, it hits me hard and I can't let it go.

The part I couldn't let go is this: He wasn't asking God to save him because he was super awesome. No, he asked God to save him because of God's unfailing love. God's loving character was the reason God would deliver him. How many times do we ask God to save us because of all the different reasons on our list, most especially, the reason that we are worthy? It hit me then, as I read those words over and over, that I do not have to be worthy for God to save me. Theoretically, we know that. But what I found interesting was that this was in the Psalms, aka before Jesus came and assured us of our salvation. Even before Jesus, it was in God's good character to save us because He loved us. His love for us, despite our unworthiness, is unchanged.

Which leads me to my art. This message was so powerful to me that I really wanted to do some kind of art to remember it. To let this beautiful thought about God sink deep into my heart. But it's such a short verse, and I am so bad at art, and I don't have a very creative artistic mind. Some of you are probably looking at my picture thinking that I am SO creative and SO good at art. Trust me, that's not talent, that's just being a good student of a few simple techniques. (For which I am very grateful, and if you want to learn some of this, you should take the Made Art class. LOVE it!) Anyway, as I was really trying to think of ways of expressing what was in my heart, I felt really inadequate. And I was tired, so I prayed about it, then went to bed.

Tonight I sat down to make art, and I realized that I still have nothing. So I went to Pinterest for inspiration. I saw a lot of great pieces of art in other art journals, and for whatever reason, I was drawn to tree pictures. I thought about it some more, and then I remembered a project we did with Kelly Watts on the Proverbs 31 woman. Which is when I decided to combine the cute little circle thingys she taught us with my tree and the other ideas floating in my head. Why am I telling you this? Because you need to know that I am not an art genius. I just wanted to make something cool to express my joy at seeing something beautiful in God's Word.

And that leads me to the art I created. Maybe you didn't get a good look at it, but when I look at it, I think, um, that's really depressing!! The landscape is barren, the girl in on her knees crying with her eyes closed, the tree is bare, and even my cute little flower is falling apart! I felt so much joy in God's word, but as I created the art, I was creating depressing stuff. I didn't feel depressed, but I don't know, it just came out. But the more I worked on my art, and the more I contemplated the verse as I made the words, I realized something. How many times do I resent other people's blessings from God because in my mind, they don't deserve them? It really humbled me and struck me in a lot of painful places. And so, I painted, I sharpied, and I prayed. I thought about how imperfect I am, how I wanted people to know that I made so many mistakes in my art, and it was okay. I thought about a quote I once saw attributed to Bob Ross, and how if you make a mistake, you just turn it into a bird. It made me happy to think about making birds in my art. No, I did not actually put a bird in my art. But I think about my life mistakes, and how God has let me turn them into birds instead of leaving them as big ugly blotches on the canvas of my life.

So my picture looks kind of depressing. A depressing situation, and I guess, a depressed person. But God's Word is surrounding her, and it is full of hope. I realized that it's actually a hopeful picture, because no matter what is happening in our lives, God's love is unfailing. Which led me to the final touch on my picture. I'd planned it only being about Psalm 6:4. But as I thought about how thankful I am for God's love, I couldn't help but add a reminder to my rather pathetic tree- my favorite verse of praise: Psalm 106:1. Versions of it appear in different places in the Psalms and I love that it is so often repeated. My favorite phrasing is a mishmash of versions, and I think that's okay too.  "Give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good. His love endures forever."

What I loved about taking this verse and making it art is that in all, I spent about four hours on one verse. I think if you'd handed me a verse and asked me to spend four hours on it, I would have said you were nuts. But because all that time marinating in this one verse was spent doing art, I felt like I got so much more out of it. I dug deeper into the verse and I feel like I know it intimately. Yet I also know that even with all this, I still don't fully understand it. And I'm okay with that too.

Have you read something recently that's spoken to you? Consider turning it into an art project to see if you can dig deeper.


Monday, December 02, 2013

Lesson in Writing Productivity

2013-Winner-Vertical-BannerThis is my (I think) 8th year of doing and finishing NaNoWriMo. I ended with just over 62,000 words, plus I also wrote a proposal and sample chapters that didn't get counted in this number. Some of my friends get freaked out over those numbers. I will say that this has been my most productive word count writing month ever- I probably wrote somewhere around 90K.

I'm not saying this to brag on how well I did. Honestly, I think a lot of it comes from knowing myself, my process, and accepting it. I wanted to share some of what I learned because I hope it will help some others figure out their process as well. The key, in my opinion, is accepting and following your own process. We all work differently. So take a look at what worked for me and see if you can apply it to your own process.

I do work full-time. I've been telling myself it's part time, but I finally accepted the writing on my timesheet, and so I am admitting my full-time status. :) So how do I write that much AND work full time?

1. I recognize and respond to my productive hours. If I sit down to write at 9 a.m., I'll have maybe 1K done by noon. If I sit down to write at 9 p.m., I'll have 1K by 9:30. Therefore, I only write during my productive hours. This does mean, with a full time job and a family, that I went to bed later than I wanted to and I have been really tired this month. But with an active family and a husband who worked 60 hour weeks in November, plus a major work event, I didn't have a choice to put off other responsibilities to write. I wrote when I could, and I made it as productive as possible.

2. I recognize and respond to other productivity cues. I can't work with any background noise or the TV. I mean, I can, but if I have the TV on to catch up on my favorite show while I'm writing, I'm lucky to get a page written. With the TV off, I can write 1K in the time it takes to watch a show. So I made a choice to let the DVR record my shows, and when I have time, I catch up on them. I also recognized what an easy distraction the Internet is. Even though I told myself, "I'll look this up real quick," it ended up sucking a lot of my time for writing. So... I found times and places to write with no Internet access. My best writing days were in a coffee shop with no Internet access and in a car as a passenger on our Thanksgiving trip.

3. I accept my choices. It's easy for all of us to say, "I have no time." But when you look at ways you waste time, then you can examine what you could be doing instead. So when I felt like reading a book instead of writing, I was conscious of that being my choice and reminding myself that I DID have time to write, but I was choosing something else. I didn't do a lot of things I wanted to do this month, but I accepted it as MY CHOICE. By owning my choices, I felt a lot better about writing and taking the time to do the things I needed to do and also taking the time to do things I wanted to do. I did make choices to spend time not writing, but I accepted that as my choice, and I didn't feel guilty. Personally, I think there is a lot less guilt whether you write or don't write, when you accept the choices you make in that direction.

4. I accepted it as a fun "want to" instead of a "have to." I never go into NaNoWriMo with a lot of pressure. This year, I had a plan to write a book that is completely not in my genre and I haven't even decided if I'm going to try to get it published. I broke a ton of rules and had a lot of fun. I chose to see this book as a "play" book, to experiment and explore. Yes, I kind of had that luxury because all of my writing deadlines have been met. But I think sometimes we approach our writing with a lot of pressure and an idea of the rules and a list of everything we have to accomplish and I think that stifles our creativity. Every once and a while, I think it's good for our brains to have a break from that pressure and just let it go crazy.  My book is kind of crazy. But I'm really pleased with it, and I'm proud of what I did.

5. I nurtured my creative spirit. Remember that accepting my choices bit? Well, this month, I did a lot of art journaling. I really did not plan my time well at the start of this month. I joined three art challenges, a fitness challenge, NaNoWriMo, and had my usually busy life. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not fully complete my fitness or art challenges.) Some days, I ignored my art challenges to write. Some days, I ignored writing to do art. Some days, I did both. I remember from my time doing The Artist's Way that Julia Cameron suggests having artist dates with yourself. One day, when I was struggling with the writing, I closed my computer and went to the art museum. I came home to free flowing words and felt capable of handling what was a tough scene. I am learning that when I take time to nurture my creative spirit by playing with stuff in my art journal or going to the museum, or doing something creative OTHER than writing, my writing flows faster and better. If I art journaled and wrote in the same day, I averaged about 2k in an hour. If I only wrote that day, I averaged 1K an hour. To me, those numbers are significant, and it tells me that allowing myself creative freedom in another arena makes me more creative in general.

So that's how I got it done. It wasn't pretty at times, and please don't come to my house anytime soon or you will see the things I chose not to do so I could write, but if I could go back and choose how I spent my time differently, I wouldn't. I think I learned a lot this month and I'm excited to apply it to future months.

How did your writing go? Do you have any productivity tips that make your writing go faster?


Sunday, December 01, 2013


20131201_214012I'm doing a lovely Advent art challenge from Claudia Love Mair on the word behold. I was really trying to think Advent, but this beautiful stream is what kept drawing me. Perhaps it's because in this season of crazy, I crave peace, and the peace of this scene soothes me. Not that it has anything to do with beholding, of course. Unless I think about all the beholding we do in this season. If you look at many of the houses in the neighborhoods, and in all the stores, you'd think that someone vomited Christmas all over the place.

I don't think it's any different if you compare Christians and non-Christians. Just because it says, "Jesus," doesn't mean it's any less noisy. The noise of the holidays starts earlier and earlier, and I was thinking the other day that the longer we draw it out, the less special the decorations seem to me. A friend of mine likes a particular song, but it's such a special song that she hates to hear it very often. She says that when you play it too much, it becomes common, and when it becomes common, it becomes less special. That's how I feel about everything Christmas. I don't feel like Christmas decorations are very special. Or very honoring to Christ. Yes, I'm even talking about those plastic baby Jesuses you see in manger scenes. Really? Does beholding that draw me closer to God? Not really.

That's not to say I'm anti-Christmas or even anti-decorations. We just pulled a huge tub out of the attic to dig out our Advent wreath to light our candles and say our blessing as a family. I think we have about five more tubs full of Christmas junk to put out. And yes, Santa still comes to our house, and we're participating in our church's Advent Conspiracy project to build a well for a sister church in Rwanda. But I'll be honest. Those things don't draw me as close to Christ as a peaceful spot far away from the craziness, a place where I can be still, and BEHOLD!

I hope this holiday season, you take a moment to find the place where you feel closest to God, and just sit there- away from what everyone else tells us is supposed to represent the season, and find peace.