Writing Aerobics

I know all the arguments for consistent aerobic exercise. You’ll have more energy. You’ll lose weight. You’ll be healthier—in body and mind. In fact, I know a woman who is clinically depressed who says if she doesn’t get enough physical exercise, her outlook on life takes a nose dive.

After years of battling my own dark clouds, I have discovered something about myself. It isn’t the physical exercise that bolsters my spirits and gives me energy. It’s the exercise of writing.

When life gets in the way of my words, I sag. I’m learning that even when I rightly put relationships in my life ahead of my writing, I still need some small outlet for my words—whether journaling or blogging, writing a note or an email.

And isn’t that the definition of a writer? Having an innate, God-given urge to put words on a page, whether to instruct or rebuke, encourage or entertain?

Join me in exercising whatever gift God has given you. If you are a writer, enjoy the pleasure it gives the Lord as you write the words He has called you to write for this particular day. And see if you don’t find a lighter spring to your step and a brighter smile on your face.

I do.


Losing Words

I lost my words today. Over 1700 of them. Seven pages. They just vanished due to an error when I tried to close and save my file.

Fortunately, I’d printed them, due to a similar loss last week. But now I have to type them back in again.

It’s frustrating to make progress only to slip back to where you began. Like being called for a holding penalty after a thirty yard gain.

I’ll push ahead again, but with considerably less vigor. I like to keep moving forward on my first drafts rather than edit as I go and this will slow things down a bit.

I keep telling myself that even in this the Lord is in control. He sees all my words. He knows which ones will stay and which will go. He sees the finished product when all I see are tangles and frustrations.

So I will write my words once again. As I do, I’ll marvel that the Lord gave them to me in the first place.


Juggling Act

I have two novels finished, one in the process. Well, actually, I can already see work that needs to be done on the other two, so I guess technically, they aren’t finished. I need to tighten the writing and plot in book #1. I need to do some fill in research about an obscure area of the world in book #2. Meanwhile, I plug along on book #3.

I’m so into book 3 that when I sat down to work on re-vamping my proposal for book #2, I couldn’t remember the main character’s name! It was quite disheartening. There sit Thing 1 and Thing 2 on my shelf, languishing in the realm of “near completion.” I want them to be finished, to push them out into the world. But the circle winds ever tighter. Until they are finished finished, will they attract any attention from editors or agents? Until they attract attention from editors or agents, is it worth my time to finish them?

I’m not sure whether to take heart or lose it when I hear stories such as those of T. Davis Bunn and others who had many “finished” novels taking up shelf space before one got published. And it wasn’t one of the ones sitting, either. So I keep writing. Book 3 builds, week by week, into a complex story.

I wonder if this one will be a sitter, too. Will these characters ever live for anyone but me? Maybe not. And I guess I’m okay with that. But it would sure be nice if one of these days everyone else could meet the people with whom I spend most of my days.


A Short Story

In participation with the Celebration of New Christian Fiction (click here for a listing of participating posts), I am posting one of my yet-to-be-published short stories. It’s an experiment in present tense and I think it reflects the heart of Christ for our relationships.

Issues of the Heart

The ringing phone jolts me from a deep sleep. Fumbling for the receiver, mouth dry, heart pounding, instinct propels words from my mouth. “Hello? Hello?”

No answer. Another ring.

Press the “talk” button, my fuzzy brain reminds me.

“Your father had a heart attack early this morning. Don’t worry, he’s okay.” Mother’s voice shakes just a bit as she speaks.
“Where are you?” I swing my legs off the bed, my toes searching for the fuzzy slippers usually within reach. With the phone still at my ear, I shuffle across the tiled bathroom floor and into my large closet. She talks while I jot mental notes—people to call, things to be done.

I snatch up the wrinkled pair of jeans on the floor and wriggle into them. I wrestle a sweater over my head, trying not to drop the phone, still listening to my mother’s raspy voice.

“You don’t need to come to the hospital. Just make a few phone calls for me. I’ll call you this afternoon, after I’ve talked to the doctor.”

My heart flutters in protest. How dare she assume I wouldn’t drop everything to be there with her—with him. I puff up, ready to explode my answer. Silence on the other end deflates my angers. She’s hung up.

I stare at the phone, the dial tone sounding loud in the stillness of early morning. Memories of that other early morning swirl thick, driving me to my knees. Has it been five years? It feels like yesterday.

That morning I had been the one making the call.

I replay the conversation in my head, as I have a hundred times since then. “Mom, Kyle’s had a heart attack. We’re on our way to the hospital, but it’s not looking good. I only have a minute. I know you’re busy, but if you could just make a few phone calls for me, I’d appreciate it. I’ll talk to you again this afternoon and let you know what’s going on. Thanks, Mom.” Click.

A natural defense, I tell myself again. I didn’t want to burden them. I didn’t want to disrupt their lives, too. But even as I tell myself this, I know it is a lie. I hadn’t wanted her there. I hadn’t wanted her to see me hurting.

I hadn’t wanted to need her.

Now she didn’t want to need me.

The smell of coffee forces me into motion. Pushing aside the memory of Kyle making me coffee every morning, I run a brush through my hair and whisk makeup over my face. In the kitchen, steaming liquid fills my tall, stainless steel travel mug. I savor the first bitter sip. It kicks me into high gear. I grab my purse and head out the door.

My hands shake as I dig for my cell phone. I throw it on the empty seat beside me, both hands gripping the wheel. Ten short minutes later, the hospital looms before me. I look away, concentrating on the signs for visitor parking. An empty space. Turn the car off. Now the phone calls begin.

It is hardest to call my children. Natalie told me just last week the boy she is dating might be “the one.”

“Will Grandpa walk me down the aisle?” she had ventured in a small voice.

“Of course,” I had replied.

Now I hear worry in her voice. I picture her biting her lip and twirling the lock of hair that falls next to her face, like she did at her dad’s funeral.

I call Daddy’s sisters, then Mother’s. “We wish we could be there,” they all say. “We are praying.”

Steeling myself against the onslaught of memories, I step from the car, my feet heavy, reluctant. And yet at the same time, eager, anxious. At the Emergency room entrance I feel the tingle of flesh as my fingers touched Kyle’s until the paramedics wheeled him out of reach. It was the last time I felt the warmth of his skin on mine.

Misty-eyed, I stumble through the waiting room doors. My mother sits slumped in a chair, hair half-curled, half-straight, eyes wide and shadowed. The sleeves of her sweater bunch unnaturally and I spy a bit of pink satin, lace at the edge. Battered white slippers cover her feet. It could have been me. It had been me.

I lay my hand on her shoulder. Her head jerks up. We look into each other’s eyes, sisters now—sisters in suffering. Suddenly, we are in each other’s arms, crying tears we should have cried together before—tears we must cry now.

More than an hour we sit, sometimes talking, sometimes crying, sometimes in understanding silence. The TV drones on in the background, telling of other people’s tragedies; we know only ours. The nurse intrudes politely. Daddy has been taken to the ICU. We can see him.
We stand, unsure of each other.

“I can go now, if you want me to,” I stammer, afraid to hear her answer.

“No. Don’t go.” When she places her hand on mine and I almost can’t tell which is whose. When did I get to be so old?

“I want you here. . .” she pulls her hand back and drops it at her side, “unless it’s too painful.” She shrugs and looks away. “I understand, either way.”

I feel a tug at my heart that hasn’t been there since girlhood, since just before those first years of asserting my teenage independence. I smile as a memory flits down and lands softly, like a butterfly whose wings flap, then slow, until I can see every color, every intricate design.

“Do you remember the first time I really skinned my knee, Mom? I was six, I think. I had on my new roller skates and hit a bump in the sidewalk. It bled for so long I thought it would never stop. Then my whole knee turned to scab.” As I tell the story I can see that scrawny, headstrong little girl, pigtails flying. “Once the scab got hard it hurt to bend it. Remember?”

Mom nods. The light in her eyes tells me she knows what I want to say, but she will let me say it anyway. Still, I hesitate.
“I think it’s time for my heart to bend a little.” I bite my lip and look away. “I’ve been limping for a long time. I know it will hurt for a little while—but it will heal. You told me that, and you were right.”

She smiles back at me, like she did when I was eleven, twelve, thirteen, when lights would go on inside my head and I would reveal to her some truth I had stubbornly refused to believe before. A smile of love, with no “I-told-you-so” behind the eyes.

I reach for her hand—glad I won’t ever be too old to need my mother, glad once again to accept the role of daughter.

We gather her things and leave the waiting room. I spy Daddy as we pass through the doors to the ICU, bed propped at a semi-reclining angle, making the nurse laugh. My daddy, just like always—except for the tubes and machines. He sees us and lifts a hand. I wave back. Mom wipes her eyes, blows her nose.

And I wonder whose heart will heal faster—Daddy’s . . . or mine.


Turned On Its Ear

It’s an interesting exercise—taking a well-known story and putting in a plot twist diametrically opposed to what people have thought all their lives. I’ve run across two of these in the past few weeks, a novel and a play.

When my daughter was assigned to read C.S. Lewis’s Till We Have Faces for her English class, I was intrigued. I’d never heard of this Lewis book, nor of the story of Cupid and Psyche, from which it is derived. (Somehow I missed most of Greek mythology.) Anyway, Lewis approached a well-known story of an ugly sister and a beautiful sister, the god who married the beauty, and the jealousy and bitterness that sprang up in the ugly sister, from a whole different perspective. His premise: what if the ugly sister couldn’t see the gifts and luxuries bestowed on her beautiful sister by her god-husband? What if her actions were interpreted as anger and bitterness over his sister’s beauty and good fortune, but instead sprang from a fiercely possessive love for her sister and a misunderstanding of her current circumstances?

It sounds crazy, but it worked—wonderfully—and on many levels.

In the same vein, my husband and I went to see Wicked last night. Wicked is a Broadway musical about how the Wicked Witch of the West became so. It starred all your familiar Oz friends and was again, quite a twist. Born green and unloved, the so-called Wicked Witch tried and tried to make good happen for people only to be misunderstood, only to have her powers used by the conniving wizard. In the end, she made Glinda, the Good Witch, promise never to try to clear her name, for it would only end up soiling Glinda’s, too.

The creativity of both of these authors astounded me—looking at the familiar in a whole new light. It made me wonder what part of the story I am not seeing in the people and situations I encounter. For isn’t that what happens in life so many times? We have expectations of people and situations and we assume the same pattern remains in place. It doesn’t always. I’m glad to be reminded of that. Sometimes others’ intentions are not what we thought. Sometimes others’ perspectives are completely different from our own. Sometimes we need to ask the Lord to reveal to us the story behind the story before we are able to see people through His eyes and extend them His grace.



One Fell Swoop

I woke Saturday morning to a glorious sight—an article with my byline in the Dallas Morning News’ Rockwall/Rowlett Neighbors pullout section. A full page. With color pictures. And a line in italics at the end that declared me “a freelance writer.”

WOW! It was amazing. It was thrilling. But I didn’t jump up and down or call everyone I know. I just savored the moment, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Then the mail arrived. Low and behold, the day got even better. A large manila envelope bore my name. I ripped it open. Beginnings Magazine. My first fiction publication. I turned to the story I know almost by heart, “Seat 6.” I’d been waiting for this for almost 10 months. Again, I reveled quietly in the moment.

It’s a bit overwhelming to discover your words in print twice in one day. Fiction. Non-fiction. Magazine. Newspaper. My words on a page for all to see. Scrolling back through the annuls of my imagination, I thought I’d be elated, ecstatic, uncontainable.

But all I felt was humbled.

Thank you, Lord, for being faithful to the dream You put in my heart so many years ago. May my words always bring glory to You alone.


Jumping in with both feet

I've resisted long enough. It's time to take the plunge.

So here I am. One more writer amidst the surging sea of five bazillion other writers. Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings, my rantings, my ravings. Maybe they will make you laugh. Maybe they will make you cry. Maybe they'll just help you pass the time when you should be doing your own writing and are scared or frustrated or bleary-eyed.

However and whyever you showed up at my sight, welcome. I'm glad you stopped in.