Writing is a Journey

Writing, like most things in life, is a journey.

My early stories remind me of a toddler stumbling around, halfway on their hands, halfway on their feet, trying to stand up and failing, oh so many times. There are bumps and bruises, and goodness, it was rather amusing to those standing on the sidelines watching.

Then came the days where I was steady on my feet, and ran around like a crazy little child. I didn’t care how the words looked, if the grammar was acceptable, or if the plot line flowed. Instead, I was incredibly excited to simply know how to write, and I wrote with abandon.

Next came the knowledge that although I called myself a writer, I was quite far from being an author. Like the dream of running a marathon, transitioning from being a writer to being an author took hours of hard, hard work. I had to change my mindset, work with muscles that were unaccustomed to being used, and stay dedicated even when certain parts of my brain were screaming at me to give up.

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There were things I had to let go of, other dreams I had to set aside, and naysayers I had to stop listening to. As time went on though, not only did my work begin to pay off, but it also helped me stay more focused and dedicated in other areas of life.

Although I’m a published author now, there are still so many things I don’t know. So many things I could be better at. So many areas to grow. Sometimes it feels like the bends in the road are coming more often than before, and there are times when it’s daunting.

But, despite being overwhelming, I’m excited to see what pops up next. Writing isn’t an overnight road to fame. Writing isn’t always fun. Writing is quite often not what I had expected it to be, but it is worth it. The curves, the dips, the hills, the detours… they all work together to make my life as a writer an adventure. And hey, writers need to have inspiration, right?

Do y’all relate to writing being a journey? What does the road ahead of you currently look like?

On the Subject of Positive Thinking – Authorish Thoughts

This morning I’m sitting on my adopted parent’s wrap-around porch with birds singing, fans blowing, wind rustling through the leaves, and soothing piano music playing. There are at least five bird feeders within my view, a pond is just across the yard, and we’re at the edge of the woods, so the wildlife activity surrounding me is constant.

Today I’m posting “part two” of my last post, which is actually the reply I sent to the aforementioned beta reader after he replied to the first email (which would be what I posted on Tuesday). I hope y’all enjoy seeing some more of what goes on behind the scenes in my brain when I’m working on a book. 


The email:

I agree with your first several comments, so no need to start there. In fact, most of what I’ve been pondering recently has to do with “positive” thinking instead of the issue of praise. 
First off, let’s define positive so we can make sure we’re on the same page. I just google searched “positive thinking defined” and this is what I found “Positive thinking is a mental attitude in wich you expect good and favorable results. In other words, positive thinking is the process of creating thoughts that create and transform energy into reality. A positive mind waits for happiness, health and a happy ending in any situation.” You might be gratified to hear that I don’t agree with that type of positive thinking, and if you thought I did, then therein lies at least part of the problem.
My definition of positive thinking is more along the lines of “Living life with the knowledge that everything works together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes. With that in mind, chose to find the good in every situation, dwell on the positive, and be thankful and rejoice while refusing to be weighed down by worries or negativity.” 
 (Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Luke 12:25 And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?
Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.)
With that out of the way, I want to tackle the idea of being “positive.” You seem to assert that the Bible does not support being positive, and I disagree with you there. The definition of “positive” according to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is: *Good or useful *Thinking about the good qualities of someone or something *Thinking that a good result will happen *Hopeful or optimistic *Completely certain or sure that something is correct or true. 
All of those definitions besides the last one (which is obviously a different form of “positive”) are pretty much the way I understand Philippians 4:8. 
I agree with you that it’s silly to put our fingers in our ears while chanting that everything will be okay and believing that our words alone will change the outcome, so rest easy there. However, I’m pretty sure you’re missing a vital part of how God has so intricately created us, and that’s what I really want to cover in this email. 
Throughout the years I’ve had the chance (through my non-writing job) to learn some about how the human brain works and it is fascinating how much the words we say and the thoughts we think really do make a difference. Since learning about some of the studies I’m going to share, certain verses in the Bible have made so much more sense to me. 
Although simply thinking about something doesn’t necessarily make it into our reality, it does have a much bigger impact on our reality than some people realize. For instance did you know that studies have shown that when you want someone to remember something it’s far more effective to say “Remember to do _____” instead of saying “Don’t forget to do _____.” This is because our brains have the habit of omitting the “don’t” and simply remember “forget to do _______.” Sounds crazy, but it’s true. 
Then there’s what’s called “The Law of Focus” and it states that “What you think about expands.” Now in reality, the law isn’t saying that it really does expand, it’s more that our consciousness of what we’re thinking about awakens and therefore we notice it more. There are so many things around us each day that our brains have effectively learned how to block certain things until we no longer notice them. (Take wearing glasses for instance, after wearing them for a while I don’t even notice that they’re there unless I think about them consciously.) 
A common example for explaining how the Law of Focus works is to imagine that you’re vehicle shopping. You decide you want a red pickup truck, and begin researching what kind of make, etc… would be the best for you. Now as you drive down the road and a red pickup comes toward you on the other side of the road, instead of simply passing it, your brain consciously observes it and you actually see it it because you’ve subcocniously singled your brain to be on the look out for red pick up trucks. (When I was little I once decided mustaches were freaky and wow, it’s crazy how many mustaches I began seeing.) 
This law makes a big difference in life once you’re aware of it, because it means you can pretty much choose what you become aware of. About four years ago I decided to become more thankful and consciously looked for things to be thankful about. Now when I’m in a difficult situation, my brain automatically begins finding things to be thankful for, which is not only very biblical, but is also quite helpful.
There are a lot more studies, books, and articles about the brain works and I think you’d find them fascinating and enlightening. For now though, I want to switch over to how I think that the Bible is in agreement with these types of discoveries. 
First off, Matthew 5:28 is a pretty good verse for showing how serious thoughts can be. In this verse we see that in certain situations we can commit sin by simply thinking something.
In Proverbs 17:22 we’re told that a merry heart does good like medicine. That’s pretty big. As I said in my last email, my doctor specifically told me when I was getting over Lyme disease that if I wanted to get better, I needed to focus on “good” (I forget the exact word) things to retrain my brain after so much pain. Her advice sounds very much like this verse to me.
Mark 9:23 says: “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.” This verse indicates that what we believe, what we think about, has a huge impact on our lives. It’s not us who has the power to make things happen, but we are supposed to focus on the One who does have the power and on what He can do, instead of negativity. 
For instance, next time you have to do something that totally freaks you out or that you really don’t want to do, think about your attitude. In my case, driving was a big issue for me. I felt like it was important to learn how to drive, but I was scared to death to have that power in my hands. Getting my drivers license was a five year process (which is a long story we won’t go into today). The last couple of years it was simply because life was too crazy to spend time on, but the first couple of years it was a big mind game. Every time I thought about driving in my mind I would be like “I hate driving. I don’t want to drive. I hate driving.” and then I would imagine everything that could go wrong. Not fun. Eventually I realized I was letting fear control me and therefore that was wrong. 
Over time I changed the way I thought and felt about driving by praying and consciously working on my mindset and attitude. Instead of saying “I hate driving” to myself, I began quoting verses like “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheth me” and “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind.” I also began praying that I would get over my fear and then I would rebuke fearful thoughts because I realized they weren’t from God, but from the enemy. Over time I got to the place where I would be like “Thank You, God! I’m going to enjoy driving today.” because I knew I was walking in His will, so therefore if anything happened, it was okay, because He had it all under control. 
Proverbs 10:24 (What the wicked fears will come upon him, But the desire of the righteous will be granted.) is another verse that helps show that our thoughts are important. 
And, I’m going to end with talking about Proverbs 15:4 (A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit.) and Proverbs 12:18 (There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health.) These verses both clearly point out how important what we say is, and I’m going to go a step further and say I think the same “law” applies to our “inner talking.” Aka, when we beat ourselves up or dwell on the negative, I think we’re invariantly crushing our own spirits and piercing ourselves with a sword.
This email is just a little drop in the bucket when it comes to the subject of thoughts, but hopefully it will give you some food for thought.  
Hoping I made sense…
Lydia

On the Subject of Praise – Authorish Thoughts

Several months back I had a beta reader for WLHYL who expressed his dislike for how often my characters “praised” each other. The beta reader had some valid points (such as the fact that since it was in first person it made the main character seem conceited when she was personally praised), but overall I disagreed with his view point. In the end I toned down the praise directed at the main character, rewrote some of the other stuff that could have be construed as being prideful, but kept most of the encouraging words in the book. 

I wrote a somewhat lengthy email to the beta reader explaining my reasoning and thought y’all might be interested in reading the email as well, since it discusses some of the “behind the scenes” authorish thoughts going through my head when I write. I hope y’all enjoy. (By the way, “Maddie” is the main character in WLHYL.)

The email: 

An explanation of why I have my characters say nice stuff about each other so often… Hopefully this helps clear it up. (And, I don’t know if any of what I say will be new to you, but hopefully my thoughts come out clearly and you can understand what I’m trying to say.)


First of all, I do totally agree that you shouldn’t praise yourself: Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips. (Proverbs 27:2) I’ll work on fixing that in the book and I appreciate you pointing it out.


And, please keep in mind that I know there are a lot of verses about flattery and deceit and lying tongues, but in this email I’m talking about real and genuine praise because that’s what my characters are doing. 


One more thing, I don’t generally like using the word “praise” because it makes me think of praising God, but the world also means “the expression of approval or admiration for someone or something.” I’m using the word a lot in this email because the Bible uses it a lot in the verses I’m quoting.


As an author I find words to be extremely important and I’ve discovered that God does, too. Take for instance Proverbs 18:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. I’m not sure how much more serious you can get then that. 🙂


I know some Christians shy away from anything that sounds like new age-y affirmations, but what they don’t realize is that the Bible has been teaching that we should speak kind words and have positive thoughts all along. Even the above quoted verse about not praising yourself says that we should let other people praise us. 


In Proverbs 31:28 we’re told that a virtuous woman will be called blessed by her children and praised by her husband. Plus two verses earlier it says “and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” That covers the whole family speaking kind and praiseworthy words in just three verses. 


Proverbs 15:4 says: A soothing tongue is a tree of life, But perversion in it crushes the spirit. There have been a lot of times when I didn’t feel well or I was tired and someone would say something unkind to me and all I wanted to do was go crawl in bed because all of my remaining energy felt sucked out. And, on the other hand, there have been many times when I’ve been going to rest because I feel so bad and then someone says something really kind or sweet to me and it’s wonderful because life has been spoken to me and I suddenly don’t need to rest any more.


Ephesians 4:29 says: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. Since we’ve already been told that we should praise others, doesn’t it make sense that part of the “edifying” and communications that “minister grace” to others might include praising them? 


Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:31-32 We’re not only supposed to get rid of harsh words, etc…, but we’re also supposed to “replace” all that bad stuff with good stuff. When I think of being kind, I think that includes our words.


Proverbs 12:18 says: There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword: but the tongue of the wise is health. 


Proverbs 15:1 says: A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger. 


Our parents taught us to share genuine praise and gratitude often, not just with each other, but everyone. It’s a really good way to “minister grace unto the hearers” and spread “life” and “health.” I don’t know how many good conversations have been started with a total stranger because one of us have given them genuine praise, but it is really a neat way to be a light to others. 


(Illustrating story, hopefully you don’t take this as bragging because that is so not my intent. Once in a public restroom I thanked the cleaning lady for how good of a job she was doing and commended her for keeping it so nice. She started crying and said she’d been having a really hard day and that was just what she needed. The conversation ended with me praying for her and giving her a hug. I have no clue if she’s a child of God’s or not -that never came up- but I do know I was able to minister to her and help bear her burden and spread God’s love.)


You also had a problem with Maddie reminding herself that she had worth, so here are a few of my thoughts on that:


You would agree that human life is worth something, right? (Of course.) We are made in the image of God after all. And, in addition to that, as God’s child, Maddie is now the daughter of the King of kings. 


I didn’t mean that what Maddie did on her own made her worth something extra special. But I do think far too many people don’t realize what they are worth to God. He sent His Son to die for us, after all. That doesn’t make us worth anything on our own (I know our righteousness is like filthy rags), but since the highest price possible was spent to redeem us, we do have worth. In Him. I probably need to make that more clear in the book though.


Matthew 10:31 says: Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.


And, I can’t remember if we’ve talked about “Positive Thinking” or not, but I thought I might as well share my thoughts on it now in case it comes up later on. 🙂


Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. When I was finally starting to get better the doctor told me that when I woke up each morning, the first thing I needed to do was think of something happy. This was because my body had been in pain for so long that it was literally trained to signal my brain with pain signals, even when I was no longer in pain. Therefore I had to retrain my brain, so to speak. I had recently implemented thanking God for 10 things when I first woke up, so I just continued doing that. Hearing the doctor made me think of this^verse though. 🙂

Philippians 4:8 says: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. And Proverbs 10:24 says: What the wicked fears will come upon him, But the desire of the righteous will be granted.


To me this is very specific. Even though some people turn having a positive attitude and positive thinking into something weird and twist the idea all around, in the end the basic idea is a command from God. That means we can’t choose not to obey simply because some people have taken the idea and polluted it. (Just for clarification: I don’t agree with the health and wealth brainwashy stuff some people teach.)


Just a few more verses before I end my tome… 


Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.


Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things [are] possible to him that believeth.


And, I had not realized how late it was getting. Wow. I’ll probably end up using an edited version of this as a blog post one day since I’ve created a book… 


I hope this clears up the issues you have with the praising. I can imagine you’ll still want me to tone it down, and I will possibly do so… But hopefully this will give you some food for thought and possibly help change your outlook on the matter after you’ve looked into it. 


Let me know if you have any questions and I would be really delighted to hear your thoughts on all the above and if you are still in a state of great disagreement with the Emersons (errrr, umm, or their author).

~Lydia

Bookworm Happiness

Two weeks ago when I headed out to North Dakota where my adopted dad was in the hospital I was anticipating a lot of waiting time and therefore a lot of reading time. My iPhone kindle was stocked and I even brought a couple of physical books along with me. 
Then the waiting began and I couldn’t focus at all. It was crazy because normally I can gulp books down in almost any situation. I ended up forcing myself to read a non-fiction book about thirty minutes each day, but other than that my reading was pretty much nil. Multiple times I picked up several fiction (and non-fiction) books that should have grabbed my attention, but after a couple of pages, or sometimes just a few sentences, I would put the book back down, sighing. It was driving me nuts to have so much time on my hands and yet not be reading. Or writing. Or editing. 
In reality our hours were interrupted quite often with doctors giving updates and nurses checking in and all that common stuff, but I really know how to get reading time in, even when busy. I’m the kind of girl who reads while she brushes her teeth. And walks down the stairs. And folds her clothes. So, to not read felt alien and sad. With all that was going on with my adopted dad though, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. (He’s recovering well, but slowly, from his heart attack and open heart surgery, by the way.)

On Friday we {finally} arrived back in Ohio. While sitting on my adopted parent’s porch late that afternoon I decided to give reading another go. To my surprise, I could actually concentrate and understand the words. Throughout the rest of the day I read for a couple of hours, thrilled to have my focus back, at least somewhat. Reading still didn’t have that magical pull I was used to, but at least it was somewhat interesting and I kinda wanted to find out what would happen next.

Then on Saturday I went back to eating healthily (something I hadn’t kept up with while in ND), and I went on a nearly six mile walk. Wonders of all wonders, I gulped down a whole book that day. Sunday I continued the trend and in went another book and a half. This morning I finished reading my third book in two and a half days.    
While walking on Saturday I also felt a twinge of hope that I’d perhaps be able to focus well enough to edit this week. I guess there’s nothing like getting back in familiar surroundings and a well-worn lifestyle to bang the brain back into gear.

This is one of the first times I’ve gotten my computer out in the last two weeks and I have high hopes that my writing work will be back into full swing before long. The atmosphere here is so peaceful and I’m looking forward to spending many hours going through When Life Hands You Lymes for (hopefully) one of the last times before moving on to the next step in the publication process.

In the meanwhile though, it’s quite nice to be able to read again.

An Empty Inbox

I have this thing about emails. For years I’ve been horrible about answering emails, and when I say horrible, imagine having an email over a year old sitting in your inbox, still needing a response. Yes, it was very, very bad.

At the end of last year I decided that era of my life was over and I was going to answer emails in a timely manner. First I had to decide what “timely” meant, and I decided that under two weeks, preferably under one, would be my aim. My next job was to empty out my inbox, so I spent a lot of time in December doing just that. I made it a point to respond to emails even if they were eighteen months old, because after all, two wrongs don’t make a right and better late than never and all that other good advice. Besides, if it was me waiting for the email, I’d probably still remember that the person had never replied even if a good portion of my life had been lived since I wrote to them.

It was beautifully freeing to start out 2016 with a (nearly) empty inbox and the thrill of starting over (at least in mindset) at my fingertips. At that time though, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be to  keep up with replying to emails. Seriously, it’s better than a game. (Or maybe I should say a traditional game, because keeping my inbox empty is a game to me.)

The thing that amuses me the most is that I have nearly as much fun emptying out my inbox as I do receiving emails. It’s especially enjoyable to me when I reply to emails either on my phone or my computer and then I get on the other device and watch as my inbox seemingly magically clears of emails.

I have a rather non-efficent way of sorting my emails right now which consist of over 80 folders. Most of the emails go in a couple of the top folders which I conveniently put “2016” in the title so they’re easy to get to. Some day I need to clear up some of the excess folders, but until then I’ll be quite happy to go along with the system I have.

So far this year I’ve mostly kept to my plan. There might have been a very few times that I’ve gone more then two weeks without replying to an email, but I can’t recall any at the moment. Although I must say, sometimes I kinda cheat at my own game and reply with an I’m so sorry that I haven’t replied yet, a full reply will be coming soon to longer emails. Still though, I’m replying, so that counts.

A lot of Saturday nights I do a somewhat of a mad dash through my emails, trying to get as many of them responded to as possible before the week is over. It’s one of the most satisfying feelings to end the week with the screenshot on my phone of a nearly empty inbox. (And yes, I do screenshot it and then smile happily at the picture.) It’s also a lot of fun to wake up Monday morning with a dozen or so emails waiting to be read, in fact, that’s probably one of my favorite parts of Monday morning.

This morning I had fun going through and answering the emails I’ve had come in during the last couple of days from my Lymeaids (beta readers for When Life Hands You Lymes). It’s encouraging and fun to read their feedback and see WLHYL from someone else’s perspective.

Today is also the day when I finally totally and completely emptied out my inbox. I’ve generally had at least one email in it at all times and was fine with that (I actually like how it looks with just one email). Today though, today was different. I’ve replied to and sorted all the writing emails, all the business emails, all the personal emails, and all the junk emails. So yay!

Deep happy sigh. Now I can simply sit back and wait for my inbox to fill up again. (Which is code for: I need to hurry and get to work at my non-writing before I’m late.)

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What about y’all? Do you enjoy having an empty and sorted inbox?

Writing Advice (and how it sounds when I can’t collect my thoughts)

A question I get asked on a somewhat regular basis is if “What’s the best advice you have for new writers?” Oh help us all! How is a question like that supposed to be answered? My urge is to cram as much advice as I can think of into about sixty seconds and that generally looks discombobulated and somewhat nonsensical like this: 
My recommendation is if you want to be a writer you need to read a whole lot because when you read you get to learn. Not only should you read books about the writing craft, but you should read blogs about the writing craft. You should maybe find a writing group to join. Also, you should read a lot of books because when you read a lot of books it helps you to learn how to do character arches and to foreshadow and all that kind of stuff. You learn to do descriptions, you learn what you do like and what you don’t like and then you can incorporate that into your own writing… Although obviously don’t steal from other writers.

I also think it’s really important to read reviews for other books so you can see what writers like and what they don’t like. Um, I also really recommend to, um, write a lot of reviews yourself because that helps you to think through what you do and don’t like about the books you’ve read. It also helps other writers.

If you want to be a writer you need to write. Um, I know that sounds silly, but, when you write it really helps you to get better. Consistently write and that really helps. Um, just really dig into it and go all for it. Yeah.
That ^ my friends, is a literal word-for-word dictation of 60 seconds of me trying to give writing advice.  

What I really mean to say looks more like this:

If you want to be a writer I highly recommend you read a lot. There are many benefits to reading, including learning the way to craft a story and annoying habits you’ll want to avoid in your own writings. Reading books (and blogs) about the craft of writing is very important, as well as reading books that are in the same genre you write.

It’s also important to get in the habit of writing often, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time. No matter how much you study how to write, you’re not a writer unless you actually write. 

In addition to reading and writing, finding a good support group can be extremely helpful. I’m part of an online writing group and have been incredibly encouraged and supported by the other members.

One last thing is rather difficult, but fundamental: If you’re wanting to pursue publication you’re going to need to be extremely open to a lot of critiques, some of which will hurt. It’s hard not to get defensive when someone’s tearing your precious book apart, but a lot of times it actually helps make the book better. So, pretty much you need to be extremely passionate and willing to leap out of your comfort zone and keep going even when the going gets tough.

Only, I’ve yet to figure out how to make my words flow smoothly when I’m talking. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been working on reading out loud this year. So often my words get jumbled up and I seriously miss saying words, or even full sentences, out loud because my brain is like “hurry child!” which isn’t always good advice.

What about you? Do you find it easier to express your thoughts when you’re writing or talking?

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The destination for our Around The World in Fifty-Two Weeks post for this week is: Chad!

When Getting Stuck in a Swamp is Comparable to Writing

It was a sunny and warm day when my grandpa, brother, sister, and I decided to go canoeing in the swamps of Florida around eight years ago. We rented two canoes and shoved off the bank, ready for an adventure. The water was a murky reddish-black and lily pads and saw grass grew in abundance; there hadn’t been much rain recently and so the water levels were low and the brush levels were high. It was beautiful.

The day was enjoyable until we tried to make our way back to the canoe rental building; we could see it in the distance and had planned to make a big circle and arrive where we had started. The problem was that with the low water levels we soon came to a stand still, stuck in a marshy mess. Using our paddles we were able to maneuver backward and then row a little further and try in another place. This happened over and over again. The problem was that evening, and the closing time for the rental place, was fast approaching and it would take a long time to go back the way we’d come. We were tired by this time, our energy zapped by the hot sun and futile fights against the saw grass. On top of all that it was incredibly frustrating. The building was so close and yet because of creatures like alligators that were abundant in the water we couldn’t exactly wade through the swamp to arrive at our destination.

At last we ended up turning back and using up the last vestiges of our allotted rental time backtracking. The sun had sunk far lower than it was supposed to and we were late when we arrived back tired and achy to return the canoes. The rental guy was happy we were safe and informed us that if we hadn’t arrived back within 20 minutes protocol would have required him to call in an emergency helicopter to find us.

Recently there have been times when working on When Life Hands You Lymes has felt kinda like being in the swamp. I can see the destination. I can feel the time crunch pricking at me. I try one path and then another, and although I make some headway, I’m still not where I want to me. It’s frustrating to be so close to where I want to go, and yet so very far away.

Throughout the last few months I’ve waded through a whole slew of murky emotions as I try and figure out which scenes are actually needed and which can be done away with. I’ve tried to look at the book objectively, to sift through the silt to collect the gold and toss out the rest.

I sent WLHYL out to be beta read (which I’ve begun referring to as Lymeaids) three and a half weeks ago. I’ve only received feedback from a handful of Lymeaids, but that feedback has made me antsy to hear back from the rest so I can compare and study and come up with conclusions about what really needs changed. I’m dedicated to making WLHYL as good as I can with the help and resources I have. Right now those “resources” happen to be the minds of helpful people. It’s hard to be patient when I’m so eager to start in on the next draft, but I’m endeavoring to stretch my patient-capabilities and just focus on other aspects of life.

Writing WLHYL was an adventure. Editing it and writing the subsequent drafts has been a crazy adventure. I haven’t always enjoyed it. There have been times when I want to give up. There have been times when I’m so sick and tired of the book I wish it was magically perfect and published and I never have to work on it again. And yet, there have also been many, many times when I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with the WIP. I’ve met a some other writers who have been amazing and helpful and turned into friends, including several who have also experienced Lyme disease. I’ve learned so much not only about writing, but also about myself. I’ve gotten lost in the Emerson’s world. I’ve grown and overcome and placed myself solidly outside of my comfort zone.

Yes, working on WLHYL sometimes reminds me of our swamp adventure, but do you know what? I look back at that day in the swamp with fond memories. Although it could have turned out bad it didn’t, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll forever look back at these months of working on WLHYL with fond memories as well.

(And no pictures today cause we’re currently traveling through mountains with very little internet service.) 

Author Disillusionment & Delight

It was nearly midnight several days ago and the world was dark around me. My thoughts had started out excited: How long would it be until I could reasonably hope to have a completed version of When Life Hands You Lymes in my hands? What could I do to promote the book? Would the book give the hope I had always dreamed of? 
Before long though, my happy expectations faded as I waded deep in the overwhelming swamp of It’s not good enough. Suddenly a deluge of issues flooded into my brain and next thing I knew I was wondering how in the world WLHYL was ever going to work out. The ending scene was good, but what about those last few chapters? Did they wrap everything up? Or, oh my goodness, wait a second: I never fully closed that issue. Or fleshed out that sub-plot fully enough. Or explained in a reasonable way why she had overcome that problem. 
I prayed. I worried. I tossed and turned in bed. Finally I pulled my phone over and opened a copy of my book. I skipped toward the end and settled down to read. As the words came into focus and I inundated myself in the story again, I felt hope rising up in me. Some of the sentences that I’d written recently and hadn’t even remembered described the feeling I was going for so perfectly that I felt like gasping. In a way, this book had become part of me, and the emotions trickled onto the page without me being fully conscious of what I wrote. 

The hope that I’d fall asleep and escape my nightmare didn’t happen, so at last I propelled my weary body off the mattress and half tripped over to the windows where I opened the curtains. {From WLHYL}

“My dreams have crashed down around me and my world stopped spinning for a time.” I leaned forward “Yet I’ve found that the world is full of music, whether I can play it or not.” At that moment though my words felt fake. I couldn’t hear life’s music, only an awful, crushing silence. {From WLHYL}

Tiny waves of peace lapped at my toes. Yes, the book still had issues. Yes, it was scary thinking of other people going through it and finding mistakes. Yes, I had a lot of work to look forward to with it… Yet in a way this is just the beginning. Although I’d been crafting WLHYL for almost 30 months, it’s still just a baby. And babies need to grow.
I keep having to remind myself that life is full of corrections, and that’s a good thing. Just because WLHYL has a river of issues that need cleared up, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have an ocean of possibilities waiting to be discovered. 
Instead of being cut adrift by the tide of uncertainty and possible disillusionment, I’m choosing to delight in the possibilities and learn and grow and take each step at a time and dance to the tune of some unknown melody. In reality, God has it all under control, and even though I still have quite the road ahead of me, with Him all things are possible. So I’m gonna throughly enjoy this journey and I’m grateful for y’all who are along for the ride with me. 

Soon their music filled the room with a thousand different memories that swirled around me in a kaleidoscope of colors and hues that danced in perfect harmony with each other. {From WLHYL}

The Brain Jumper

It’s easy for me to get inspired and find new ideas, if I’m feeling a bit dry though, there are three things that I’ve discovered that will almost always help my mind jump into action and push me into brainstorming or problem-solving mode. And those three things are:
1) Walking 
2) Cutting grass and
3) Swinging
Obviously y’all know all about my walking habits if you’ve been reading Noveltea for very long. I really enjoy walking and it’s so helpful. There’s a quote that goes something like “If I had four hours to cut down a tree I’d spend the first two hours sharpening the axe.” (A saying attributed to Abraham Lincoln.) I’m pretty sure that if I had four hours to write a story I’d spend the first hour walking. 
This is the 8th year that I’ve been cutting grass and it’s literally one of my favorite things about summer. I normally start as soon in the spring as I can and continue as late in the autumn as is reasonable. (For instance, I cut the grass for the last time in November of last year and in March for the first time this year.) Cutting grass is amazing because I’m not only getting work done, but my brain is also on super-fast speed, helping me figure out all sorts of things. I take tons of notes while cutting grass. 
Photo credits: Logan Howe

And then there’s swinging. If you haven’t swung recently you should really give it a try. I’ve swung a lot in my lifetime. I’ve worn through at least two swing chains, one plastic/metal swing seat, and one rope/board swing. (It’s actually pretty cool when a swing breaks, because swinging feels like flying and then all of a sudden I really am flying. Until I land with a thud, of course.) Oh, and that’s not counting the porch swing… But we won’t go there today. 

One of the first things I saw when we arrived at this house was that they had a swing in the yard. “Look, Lydia! It’s a swing!” Almost immediately I had about half of the family point it out to me. It’s beautiful. And it has an even more beautiful view. And I’ve swung on it so much during the last three weeks that I’m actually rather shocked that the rope hasn’t worn through. I’m used to a chain swing instead of a rope swing, so I’ve gotten a blister or two and I’m working up some callouses, but it’s so worth it. 
Next time you happen to see a swing set, you should really try it out and see how inspiring and motivating it is. 
* * *
In addition to the tip about swinging, I also have a really cool website to tell you all about. It’s called “Don Howe Success” and it’s something my dad has put together. Each weekday Dada posts a 2 or 3 minute video where he talks about success and how to live life well. You can sign up so that the videos are delivered to you each day via email. It’s completely free and there’s no catch… He does it because “To whom much has been given, much will be required.” He’s got a wealth of information and I highly encourage y’all to watch at least some of the Golden Nuggets, as his videos are called. 

Editing Musings

This morning I got up at 5:30 so I could go out on the beach and edit for a while before going to a business meeting at 8:00. The world was soft, peaceful, and muggy although a steady wind was blowing and made my light jacket a tad bit inadequate.
The sky and ocean brightened little by little, the pounding waves keeping time with my fingers typing on my keyboard. Unnecessary scenes disappeared and wordy sentences were chopped down as the waves rolled in and out, smoothing the sand. Descriptive words replaced every-day-ones as the sun shone through the clouds, creating new pictures in the sky. 

As the morning progressed I wrote out the plot-line again, the physical feeling of the words being formed on real paper helping my mind open new ideas. I pondered the different elements in the story, wondering how they should mesh together and which points where most powerful. I folded paper and drew straight lines. I fiddled with the pen, clicking it and twirling it back and forth. 
I mused over the hours, days, weeks, months, even years I’ve spent on the story. There have been so many changes. So many breakthroughs. So many mountains to climb and oceans to swim through and jungles to explore. Each day brings me twenty-four hours closer to when I’ll be able to share When Life Hands You Lymes with the public, and yet I can’t even imagine when that day will come. This book has changed so much since the original draft and so have I.