writing


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It’s made almost entirely of goat hair, is only about 1 1/2 inches across, and I can barely feel the weight of it in my hand. A miracle of construction and efficient in its purpose. Not flashy, not stately or even very sturdy. It wouldn’t last a Saskatchewan winter.

He brought it in for me, rather than mow over it, because he knew I’d love it. And I do.

I love it for its simplicity. I love the sweet bowl, the cradle of it, and I imagine the tiny babies that would have nestled in it, covered by breast or wing until, growing big and getting crowded, they fly.

Everything that is mommy in me feels the pull of this tiny sculptured home.

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I’m working on a wee book about Home. Not about decluttering or decorating. Not really. More about loving. Maybe you’ll read it when I’m done? And think of me, pray for me even, as I try to squeeze bits of creativity and writing time into my days.

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Today marks twenty years for the marriage to which this man and I committed ourselves.

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Twenty years. Crikey.

You know what? In twenty years of marriage, I’ve read a lot of relationship books.

You know what else? In twenty years of marriage, my husband has read exactly zero relationship books.

And another thing. Out of all of those relationship books, I don’t think a single one of them was written by a woman. Nope. And to save you the trouble of reading them all, I’ll sum them up for you here. In one sentence, this is what they say:

Women are complicated and men are dense.

There might be ten or twenty chapters explaining why this is the case and how to overcome this dilemma. There may be exercises to try, and assignments to carry out. But really, this is the main point of every marriage/relationship book I’ve ever read or seminar I’ve ever attended.

And I have to wonder. Why are men writing books that only women are reading?

So here is my contribution to the marriage book industry.

If I wrote a marriage book, it would contain only one sentence:

Be nice to each other.

I wouldn’t spend time explaining that men and women are different (duh!) or that sometimes men don’t understand women (duh!) or that men have needs (we know, already!) or that women like to talk about things. I wouldn’t spend time making jokes about these differences or explaining how men can overcome their manliness to be better or how women can overcome their womanliness to be better. I wouldn’t spend any time at all on brain research or historical research or the newest and most up-to-date social research. I wouldn’t even spend time digging out all the relationship scripture references.

In fact, I’d make this a One Year Guide to a Great Relationship book. It would have 365 pages and at the top of each page it would say… Be nice to each other. And on the rest of the page, if you wanted, you could write how you plan to be nice that day. Or better yet, write all the ways your partner was nice to you that day. I won’t even ask you to buy it. Just grab a notebook and write it out yourself. One for you, and one for that special person to whom you’ve committed yourself.

Presto.

A marriage book written by a woman, that even a man will read.

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A few months ago I discovered a blogger/writer whose work has challenged me more than anyone has in many years. His name is Jeff Goins and a few weeks ago I took his writing course.

I haven’t taken many courses since college. I tried an online thing (that I didn’t finish) about ten years ago. I’ve been blogging for about five years. I’ve written the odd thing over the years that I’ve sent in and had published. But it’s all been dabbling. Sticking a toe in and pulling it back out again.

I started reading Jeff’s blog, subscribed to his newsletter, and purchased his book. And I decided that he was the real deal. A deeply spiritual man who was interested in helping other writers write better. Engage better. Share their work better.

Jeff raised the writing bar for me, so when he offered a writing course a few weeks ago, I signed up for it. Now he’s offering it again, and because I respect him and because I gained so much from the course, I’m recommending it to you.

If you’d like to check this out, go here and read more about it. (This is an affiliate link, which means if you end up deciding to register and pay for the course, I receive a few bucks because I shared this with you. But I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t believe in it and use it myself.)

If you are interested in raising your own writing bar, think about taking Jeff’s course. If you do, I’ll see you there, because there was so much valuable content in it, I’m going to take it again!

Registration closes today. Join me?

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This is the last of my New Year Story Plans. It’s been fun to consider story in the context of the New Year, and to put some stories down in print. One of the most difficult things has been keeping the stories simple enough. It’s tempting to plan too much, to try too hard, but I hope I’ve kept my stories clear. As it is, five New Year stories seems like a lot. We shall see.

My final story is the most difficult to write about. Because, I suppose, it will be the most difficult story to live. I purposefully left it to the end, and I’ve been thinking about it all week. I like all the stories I’ve planned so far, but this one goes that little bit extra. It’s the hardest because it’s the closest to my heart.

I want to write a book.

Whew, that was a difficult sentence to type. But there it is. My final story for 2012. This year, I want to write a book.

Donald Miller suggests that there are four elements to a good story.

1. A person

2. Who know what she wants

3. And is willing to overcome the obstacles required

4. To get it.

Number three is where I’m at now. I’m considering this thing that I want, and determining the obstacles that could keep me from getting it. There are a few, and a lot of them are about me. Because writing, I mean writing a book kind of writing, would require a certain level of commitment, diligence, perseverance and persistence that, frankly, I’m not sure I have. At least, these things do not come naturally to me. They sound hard.

But if the writing, the hard, lengthy, creative process was all that was required, I think I’d be good. It’s the marketing, the self-promotion, that I’m not sure about. Because if I write a book, I’d really like a few people to read it, and from the research I’ve done it sounds like a lot of the getting people to read the book would be up to me.

Publishing has changed a lot in the last few years. Now, it seems, it’s about getting a tribe, and having followers, and blog visit statistics, and social media. Ew.

So, here is what I’ve decided to do with this writing a book story. I’m going to write the best book I can. And I’m going to continue to write the best blog I can. And I’m going to pray about it and commit it all to God and ask for his help and guidance. And somewhere down the road, when it seems like there might actually be a book at some point, I’ll figure out how to do the other stuff.

E.L. Doctorow once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I’m looking forward to blogging about all five of my stories this year. If you’d like to read the other posts in this series, here they are:

New Year’s Day 2012: Fingerprints

Day One: Planning a relationship story

Day Two: Planning a healthy story

Day Three: Planning a faith story

Day Four: Planning a happy story

Oh, and Happy New Year!

It is the last day of June. The year is half over, midpoint 2011. Time, perhaps, to take stock of the year so far. A midterm checkup, so to speak, before the last half of the year goes barreling on by. A review.

Stopping to reflect, to check in. To contemplate the time already spent. To refocus, reorient, reconsider all that had been planned at the beginning and where, at the half way, I am. So I remember, six months ago, the things I considered as goals for this (then) new year. To be nicer, healthier, to read the story in the Word, to be free from debt. Pretty standard stuff, really. Listable and checkable. Yep, doing okay here but oops, need to do a bit more work there.

I think I have been a little nicer. I’ve been conscious of it, anyway. Healthier? Well, I don’t know. It is up and down. Reading … I’m in Exodus. I love Exodus. I have a half-written post about Exodus. I’ve been distracted. Reading other things and not getting back to it. Inconsistent. (My husband slogged determinedly through Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy and now he is already into Second Kings. He’s having a ball. All the battles and beheadings and bloodshed. It’s better than Lord of the Rings, he says. There’s a lot of stuff in here they didn’t teach us in Sunday School, he says. They left out all the best parts, he says!) And the debt thing. We’re getting there!

But the one I didn’t voice. The goal, the desire, kept close to heart, of openness, courage, transparency. Of living life out loud, in the moment, and through Him. Of doing what He says to do, living like He says to live, and … writing it down. For anyone to see. This is why I journal it and post it and facebook it, fearfully each time. What will they think? How will it be interpreted? Is it too much? Will I look silly? Is it just vanity?

And this has been the hardest. To be honest, to truly share a life. My life. This life, my one life, placed in His hands and yet constantly wrenched back in fear. Given and reclaimed. His and mine. The struggle of giving it up to become it all. Much easier to commentate, to write anecdotally about other people and events. But to share what He is doing in me, or how I am so often messing it all up … that is more difficult.

I am preparing, with others, to begin a season of workshops with women on sharing stories. Encouraging women to tell their stories. Believing with all of my heart that it is through this sharing that we truly become the church, the people, the women, that God intended for us to be. Stories are glue. Through our stories we understand each other better, care about each other more, trust. Sharing your story is like having a friend into your home. The relationship changes. Deepens. Community is created. Church, real church, happens.

But how can I ask for your story if I do not consent to tell mine?

So, on entering the second half of the year I’ll recommit to the telling. The sharing. Because it is what He asks me to do. It is what He asks us all to do.

On Saturday I spent some time in a meeting with several other women. I’m heading to my meeting, I said to my family as I left that morning. I felt so grown up.

The meeting was for Sister Triangle Magazine. I must gush a bit about how fun it was to talk about writing and layout and heritage and the future with the women who work to produce this magazine. Fun, fun, fun! Although after the meeting I did the whole did I talk too much? thing. But really, I was inspired by the women that I spent the day with. And encouraged by the grace and love shared among the team.

A portion of the day was dedicated to PD. (That’s Professional Development, doncha know!) So, okay, that part was super fun and interesting. Guest PDer Edward Willett, writer extraordinaire, spent some time helping us assess and plan for the future of this little magazine. Also, we had each been asked to bring a page of writing which he then read and critiqued. Since my computer had crashed and it had been a busy week and I tend, anyway, to be a last-minute kinda girl … my submission was very unprofessionally written in purple pen on notebook paper. Yes, I could use a few more PD days, I know.

I can’t write about Sister Triangle without mentioning the women behind it. The sisters of  the triangle themselves, Mary, Marilyn, and Marge. How these three women have inspired me. They were women leaders at a time when such a thing was barely acceptable.Mentored by their high school teacher and friend, Miss Torkelson, they stepped out in faith, working together on a project about which they all felt such passion.

Sister Triangle Magazine has been around for over thirty years. The commitment to this project by the women who started it all is simply remarkable. I loved it when, in the meeting, Miss Mary shared some memories about where and why and how it all began … not surprisingly, over cups of tea and heart-visits as most women things begin.

It was also encouraging to see the younger women on the ST team rising to the challenge. Talented professionals, missionaries, creative women, marathoners, dedicated friends. It was sweet to hear them support and champion each other, take on new challenges, and voice their concerns and their excitement. I’m so looking forward to getting to know this crowd better.

Sitting in the meeting and looking around at the women sharing the table with me, I was once again  reminded of the great blessing of working with women. With sisters. Now, I just need to get busy so I can meet my deadlines!

My husband and I are in Banff for a few days. The kids are with my parents and Lyndon and I are spending some quiet time together. And I do mean quiet. Banff, by Banff standards, is practically deserted. Several stores have closed or are in the process of closing since we were here last. The economy?

Poor Lyndon is sick, though. He has been fighting a cold for a while. Today he surrendered and has spent most of his time in bed, sleeping lots with the help of some cool, drowsy-making drugs. So I have been on my own.

I took a long walk this morning, following the Bow River to the bridge. There were geese everywhere, enjoying the sun like the rest of us. I wandered in and out of some shops, bought the book The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud (Giller winner), and ended up at the food court in the mall for a few hours – reading, writing a bit,  and people-watching …

… A few tables from me, a young woman cries into her cell phone. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” she says, over and over. Finally, she clicks her phone shut, blows her nose in her napkin, and walks away.

… An Asian (is it politically correct to say Asian?) family sits at another table. The oldest man does most of the talking. He looks very wise and Sensei-ish to me. Why is it that elderly Asian men look so wise?

… A trio of young girls ask the man at the table next to me to take a picture of them. They pose in front of the ski display, and giggle as they thank him after.

… A tiny woman circles the food court, gathering trays and garbage and straightening chairs. I try to catch her eye and smile each time she passes, but she ignores me.

… A grandma walks by holding a little girl by the hand, assuring her over and over that Mommy will be back soon.

… A baby screams while his mother tries to settle him into his stroller. The cries end abruptly as soon as she starts pushing.

My table wobbles as I write. The smell of curry from the Sri Lankan food booth mingles with the sounds of many accents and languages. Young people rush by in their ski wear and woolen toques with over-sized pom poms bouncing on the tops of their heads. I think about my kids and look forward to seeing them tomorrow.

I wonder, as I gather my things and walk back to the hotel, what the young woman was so sorry about.

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