The​ Elusive Goal of Being

It’s Monday morning and instead of trotting about on the treadmill as I write this blog post, as has become my norm, I’m sitting on my bed with my back against the wall and Praise and Worship music playing next to me.

See, I’m not in an overly exuberant mood this morning. I got up, had my devotions, accomplished a few little tasks, and did some leftover dishes. And felt wholly uninspired. This morning I don’t feel like accomplishing, doing, or working. Instead, I feel like crawling back in bed and starting the morning over again – you know, where I wake up early feeling excited about life and gung-ho about checking things off my ever-present-list.

In reality, I’m giving myself grace. This is my “Saturday” of the week – aka the only day I’m not working at the coffee shop, so I purposely decided to go at a slow pace this morning. I told myself last night that I could sleep in today, get caught up on things about the house, even read fiction in the middle of the day. (I mostly reserve that pleasure for late in the evenings except on Saturday and Sunday.)

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As it turns out though, I don’t want to go at a slow pace. I look at my to-do list and want to begin checking it off, yet I’m tired. Sundays are my favorite day of the week, but they’re also long and include a lot of people-y time. Rest is good. And necessary. And something I fully applaud when done correctly.

And that’s something I’ve been pondering a lot.

While reading the book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries I’ve been reminded over and over again about how I view the world. About how I’m so focused on doing, doing, doing, that I often have a difficult time just being instead of doing.

Doing is good. But being is also good. And there’s a balance there somewhere that I’ve (as of yet) found to be totally elusive.

Resting, pondering, thinking, recharging, visiting, and letting go are all things that I need to do more often, yet sometimes it rattles me because, well, ya know, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. I want to – need to – have my identity wrapped up in who I am in God instead of what I’m checking off a list.

Checklists are good. But checklists and checkmarks being my identity is bad.

And so, I’m learning.

This morning my pace is plodding. I’m taking time. I’m letting go of my expectations. I’m accomplishing, but slowly. And that’s okay. Because life doesn’t always have to be rapid and active.

Currently
Setting: Sitting on my bed  
Listening to: Praise and Worship music on Spotify
Random Fact: My ivy plants, Maggie and Nathan, basically died back in December, and are beginning to grow again! 
Question of the Day: Do you ever ponder the differences between being and doing?

When Writing Takes Preeminence

Sometimes writing is about sneaking in sentences, paragraphs, and a page here and there as you flit about life making meals, scrubbing the floor, folding laundry, and washing the dishes.

And then sometimes writing is about being able to intentionally carve out time where you focus solely on writing and feel the rest of the world recede as your characters and worldbuilding take preeminence in your life for a glorious time period.

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Last year contained a lot of the former – somehow fitting writing in spite of everything else clamoring for my time. Often times I didn’t feel like much of an author. It was an uphill climb as I told myself over and over again that this was just a season and one day I’d be back to writing the way I wanted to.

During the year I was able to accomplish writingish tasks, but not with the aplomb and delight I was used to. Instead, it was like a scrubbing a burnt pot – a lot of work, a lot of time, and not much to show for my effort.

Then this year dawned. Life has slowed to a reasonable pace, rhythm has been established in my world, and writing has taken off.  It’s beautiful.

I work at a coffee shop that is forty-five minutes away, and although I really like my drive (hello thinking and processing time), it also bothers me to drive an hour and a half for a five-hour shift. So, I’ve begun going to work early to work on my writing.

My reasoning was that I’d be working on writing if I was at home anyway, and everyone seems to consider coffee shops to be great places to write, so why not? And guess what? As it turns out, coffee shops are amazing places to write.

At home even when I try to stay focused on writing I’m always hopping up to put a load of laundry in the washer, stick supper in the oven, or go for a walk. And that’s fine and necessary. But being able to write without those distractions? It’s amazing. 

Currently
Setting: Treadmill 
Listening to: Spotify on shuffle (currently the Narnia soundtrack)
Random Fact: The weather dropped over twenty degrees while I slept 
Question of the Day: What’s your favorite hot drink? 

Reassessing Goals for 2019

It’s the last Monday morning of January and I finally got around to re-writing my goals for 2019.

I had decided when I wrote my year-long goals at the end of December that I would think about them during the first month of the year and decide what goals I really thought were realistic and good to focus on. I could add, take away, or edit the eleven goals as much as I wanted to before the month ended.

Because, ya know, goals are meant to be used as tools, not to act as chains.

So all month long I’ve been thinking about my goals. Very early on I knew one of the goals wasn’t something I actually wanted to focus on this year so I nixed that one right away. The other ten were solid though, so I kept them as well as adding seven more.

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My handwriting for my new goals is a little bit shaky because since we’re coming up on the end of the month I’m needing to be multitasking in order to accomplish everything left on my month-goal list. That means I’m walking on the treadmill with a built-in desk as I answer emails, blog, write weekly goals, and catch up on the rest of my easily-done but time-consuming tasks of the morning.

It’s a common joke that a lot of people are “over” their New Year Resolutions by the end of January, but a cool thing about goals is that you can have something fresh and new to work on every day. Every week. Every month.

Today, twenty-eight days into the month I’m far more excited about the goals I’ve set for 2019 than I was at the beginning of this year. I’ve found a rhythm that works for me, and although I do have unproductive days where I get behind, I’m eventually able to find ways to catch up and get back in the groove.

Goals are a tool, and they’re a tool I’m really thankful for.

Currently
Setting: Treadmill 
Listening to: Spotify on shuffle  
Random Fact: Papermate Flair markers are my favorite 
Question of the Day: How are your goals coming along?  

The African Memories

Four years ago I clambered aboard a plane that I was supposed to be on for nine hours and ended up being on for nineteen hours. It was the beginning of a grand adventure.

My sister, cousin, and I arrived in a nearly colorless land where the tans, browns, and reds ran together. And then we met the people – bright bursts of color against a drab world. A people full of lively music, welcoming hospitality, unbelievable drive, and a joy and humility that I won’t ever forget.

We went to visit some friends and paint their house. Our hours were spent peeling layer upon layer of old paint off the walls, standing on ladders to roll new brightness onto the ceiling, and delving into the culture of the country. It was delightful.

While there I learned how to make Indian curry – perhaps an odd dish to discover considering I was in Ghana, West Africa, but it remains one of my favorite dishes to this day. The lady we were staying with also taught me the trick of how to make eggplant not taste bitter. (It’s really simple actually, and something I did last week: You simply slice the eggplant and lay out the slices then sprinkle them with salt. The bitter juices emerge after ten minutes or so and you just blot them up and the eggplant is delicious and bitter-free.)

Attending a Ghanaian wedding, climbing a termite mound, eating food under a mango tree hanging heavy with fruit, watching the thermometer climb to 110, and getting to ask endless questions about the way people believed, thought, and lived, made the two weeks fly by way too fast.

It was a delightful interlude in my life and I’m thankful for the memories that swing in each January to say hello.

The Character Sketch of Life

It was a slow day at work. The shop was clean, the shelves were stocked, and the customers were all happy and cared for. I found a blank piece of paper and spare pen and positioned them next to the cash register.

For the next few hours whenever there was extra time I jotted down a few questions, then the answers. My character’s name was written in bold at the top of the page, and just below that in smaller script were the words character sketch.

As the afternoon passed with a small trickle of people coming in for a warm drink, I delved into one of my supporting character’s lives and discovered things about here that made a lot of sense.

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While developing a character there are various ways to sketch them out, the formula I worked with included writing the character’s Dark Moment, followed by a Wound Received from Dark Moment, Lie Character Believes, How The Lie and Dark Moment Affect characters life. It’s a way to dig into the childhood of the character and discover why they’re the way they are.

My character had a good childhood. Her’s was happier than most as she grew up in a loving family where she was protected, supported, and cared for. And yet there were still things – both positive and negative – that happened in her childhood that made a significant impact with how she viewed her life as an adult.

And the same is true for each and every one of us. Even those of us who had the best childhoods and can easily come up with seemingly never-ending good memories also have pain. Who we are today is shaped in a large part from where we came from.

Yet that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Pain, hurt, and troubles that we’ve endured can be redeemed and turned into something beautiful.

It’s truly amazing.

Currently
Setting: Chapman’s Coffee House (yes, again)
Listening to: Captial Kings 
Random Fact: In Peru it’s so cold people wear wool blankets around their waist to help keep them warm. I got one when I was in Peru years ago and do the same (see above picture)
Question of the Day: Is it snowy where you live? 

Slipping Writing In {When Life Gets Busy}

It’s 5:43 a.m. and I’m sitting at my desk with a mug of strong French Press coffee in my left hand. This morning I’ve gotten ready for the day, collected books for a co-worker from my rainbow shelves that still leave me confused, started a load of laundry, packed my lunch, and am nearly ready to head out the door for work.

I’d like to think that my blogging this early in the morning before work speaks of dedication and careful planning… Of going to bed early the night before so I can get up at an appropriate time to blog and still be fresh and chipper for the rest of the day. Yet in reality, I have time for blogging simply because I woke up early and therefore was able to snatch a few minutes.

And that’s what my writing life is like sometimes.

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Instead of the carefully planned days forming perfectly scheduled times where I write during my most productive hours and churn out quality work that will impress the masses… Well, sometimes it’s catching a moment here in there. Sometimes it’s stationing the laptop next to the stove so I can stir the soup at the same time I throw my characters into metaphorical hot water. (It’s actually a pretty epic way to live when you stop to ponder it.)

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As it turns out, I still do try and schedule writing into my days. I have daily lists and weekly goals and valiant efforts. And sometimes they work out well. I feel like a rather successful little writer as I sit enthroned upon my chair and stay focused for long periods of time. These are the times that I’m probably the most productive in my writingish world.

But I’m not letting lack of focused time be my excuse. World crafting isn’t something that’s supposed to be easy. Becoming an author isn’t for the faint of heart. Discipline, slipping writing work between other work, and staying dedicated are all things that are par for the course when you sign up to be an author.

So that’s why I’m here, coffee cup nearly drained and my mind already racing ahead about how many steps I need to take (literally and figuratively) before I can be out the door and in my car on my way to work.

Currently…
Setting: My office desk
Listening to: The wind singing
Random Fact: WordPress randomly changed their Publish button from blue to fuschia
Question of the Day: Are you a morning bird or night owl?  

The Gift of a New World

Folding laundry. Matching socks. Cutting up strawberries. Bedtime. Rainy days. Nap time. Special Occasions. Early morning. School time. After the house is cleaned. While outside. While inside. In the car. While on trips. Over the holidays. At the grandparents. If we got hurt. Birthdays. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn…

These are just a few of the times I had books read to me as a child.

As in, I was basically being read to constantly as a wee tot, and for that, I’m forever thankful. A deep fondness and respect for written words was fostered in me long before I could read them myself, and those feelings only grew once I could devour stories on my own.

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Looking back my childhood memories are punctuated time and time again with idyllic settings including books. I’m one of the younger ones out of ten children, so life was obviously busy for my parents and older siblings yet I don’t have any memories of a book being refused to be read. I’m sure there were occasions, but they were few and far between compared to the host of times books were read to me and my siblings. (Sometimes a task had to be completed before a book was read, but that wasn’t a “no” or “not now” that was “let’s hurry up and finish this then I will” type of deal.)

Nowadays I’m one of the “grown-ups” who can read to little children. Our house abounds with books, thousands of them in hallway-lined bookshelves, offices, and baskets for kids. Quite often my little niece asks me to read to her and that makes my writerly heart jump for joy.

I want to be one of those “yes” people – an adult who shows through example that books are important, special, and a treasure to be delighted over.

Next time you’re around little children, why not make it a point to read to them? And, if you’re looking for a Christmas gift, why not choose a book? It could be the gift of a whole new world that could change their life for forever. How neat is that?