For Such A TIME As This

I think I keep forgetting that writing a novel takes time, especially when typing with acrylic nails–but some sacrifices must be made for upcoming weddings; friends are worth it.

So I type–click, click, clack, and I think about the stories I have started. This year? Probably ten of them. Yeah. I am on the first page, or the first chapter, and that is it–yet I call myself a writer. Perhaps I am like people in Africa, “I am a teacher. I have the certification, the degree, and whether I do teach or not is entirely beside the point” (a friend today told me that roles/titles/positions are very important to the people of Africa, whether they do what the position requires or not). Maybe I am a pseudo-writer : with acrylic nails.

It’s like a dairy farmer who wears high heels, pencil skirts, and blow-dried hair. Right.

But I guess for such a time as this in my life, I’ll read my books when I get the chance, peck out a few words when they flash into my head, and take little chicken steps: maybe someday out of all these words, books, and chicken scratches a novel will emerge. It may take years. And who knows, I may still be wearing acrylic nails.

Where Do You Write?

I started writing in the first floor lounge: it was too quiet. I moved outside: it was too hot. I ended up on the floor at the bottom of the stairs (yes, on the floor), with my books around me, saying random hellos to whoever walks by. Why am I not in my room, or on the sofa, or under some shade tree outside? Simple–it’s too much work. Even with the distractions of my fellow colleagues, the fairly obnoxious air vent, and the blue hard floor, I would rather be here than work hard to figure out where I could create best.

But, I did go to all the effort and moved three times, and this is still the best I could do . . . . in that amount of time? Right.

You would think creative people would have some sort of idea where they liked to create things, but no, I wrich around until I find the right place, with the right air temperature, and the right noise level, and the right amount of people: never too much and never too little.

Sometimes it takes me too long. I’m being lazy, and I can’t find the right place, and I am frustrated, and I would like to throw something across the room, and there is no wood to chop outside (number one problem for being at college, right?), and meanwhile the clock ticks, and my time slips away until its bedtime, and so much for creating. My heart is unhappy, my time is unhappy, and my word document is sobbing.

How do you figure out where you create best in the shortest time possible?

 

Why Do You Write?

 

Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass opened my eyes to another world. I am not done with his book but that hardly matters. He asked the question that has been bothering me the most. Why do you write?

Why do I write? I haven’t the foggiest idea. Jumbles of pictures about people and locations and gripping emotional trauma creep into my mind, and I just want to spit it all out. I get excited. I think other people will be excited too. I like to hang out with myself making things, so stories creep to the top of my list of things to make and . . . I just write them. Yet I struggle. I can’t figure out why I am doing it.

It hit me the other day, “Wow! Jesus used stories!” Master storyteller. I learn something new every day from his stories. But I am not Jesus, and I am not one of the multitude of writers God spoke through to write the Bible. I am just a person, living life, trying to figure it out, crying when my heart breaks, jumping when I am excited, planning on graduating from college . . . you know, the daily routine. Why should I write?

If I were to die tomorrow without having written a single piece of world-class bit of literature, I doubt the world would notice, or even that it would be a worse-off place because I didn’t get my story written. Or if I were to live until  I was eighty-five, having written several amazing novels, would it really change the course of history that much? Would my work have any significance at all? I kind of doubt it.

Words are alive. They breathe. They move, and they beat out a rhythm we all end up accepting or rejecting, following or turning away from. In that sense, I know once my words were written and sent out, they would change something, but would it really be worth it to invest so much of my time?

I read these books because I want to learn and because I want to write. Is reading them worth it? It takes a lot of my time, and I wonder, should I be out, living life instead? I am not sure yet. Just like I am not sure why I write.

Which is a problem. If I don’t really care about my writing . . . or don’t know why I write, how can I expect my readers to care?

 

 

Must Watch: The Spelling Bee

I used to say I was an English major, and I would look down at my shoes, my eyes frantically trying to hide between my half-lowered eyelids. I wasn’t too proud of the fact, and I didn’t really want anyone else to know I was a book-reading, fact-studying, eye-glass wearing, poor style-dressing, nerdy English major. I don’t think I was very proud of my major. In return, they’d sympathetically pat me on the shoulder and walk away, saying, “We don’t like reading either.” End of conversation.

However, I graduated from that stage of my life since I actually do like to read, and I do think writing is the greatest thing since strawberry jello, and I do like being an English major. Perhaps its just because I don’t wear glasses, but my enthusiasm seems to be contagious. Instead of sympathy, people keep shoveling URL addresses at me. “You have to see this! Brian Regan! He is soooo cool! He talks about spelling!” Go figure.

Here’s another one a friend shared with me today:

Living Life

Camp quickly became my life this past week. Working as a day-time counselor, I am either at high energy (when I am with the kids) or at ultra-low energy (when I am back at my dorm room in the evening). Either way, I am not writing or reading.

However, I am living, and since living vibrantly as the person God created me to be is my goal, I am not minding so much. Living and writing helps me understand LIFE. Working at camp helps me be part of LIFE.

I like to learn about people, I like to understand them, and I like to be a part of telling stories, reading stories, or creating stories–just so someone can be entertained for one evening, or perhaps not feel so alone, or possibly learn something about LIFE.

The first week in July I skpyed my two younger brothers. They were bouncing off the walls, showing off their muscles and their entertainment abilities (they are not too much the sit-and-talk type), so I asked them if I could read them a story. “You are Special” by Max Lucado aired over my laptop screen, and the boys, age ten and eight, sat and listened to me read. And yes, we are over 1000 miles apart. Stories can bring brothers and sisters together.

Two close friends graduated this May. This summer we’ve stayed in touch through reading Anna Karenina together, a book by Lev Tolstoy. We email one another about the book, and though the emails are sporadic, they also drip with details from our daily lives. Stories keep relationships together.

I don’t always know why I am an English major or why I want to teach kids some day, and I don’t always remember why I am reading through these twenty-five books. Then I go to camp, and I work hard with kids, laughing with them, riding amusement park rides with them, and singing myself hoarse in the van with them, and I know why I am doing this.

Some kids don’t have the chance of education. Not all know how to read. Not all enjoy reading. I wonder how many kids have actually been read a story.

I read to learn so I can teach. Then someday I can teach someone else how to read, how to write, and maybe they can begin enjoying living life too.

I love Psalm 16:11. It’s a cry of truth to our Creator, God of the Universe: “You make known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Maybe God can use me someday to show others the paths of life.

What tangible ways have stories or books influenced your life?

Singing Punctuation

Friends and I hung out at Wendy’s today, and between the fries and salads (their strawberry-chicken-almond salad is really good!), we started talking about my life, and how I am reading books; books like Strunk’s and White Elements of Style. 

They thought it was a great way to pass away my time and mentioned this video. I just had to share it with you! Do listen the whole way through; the last songs are the best! 🙂

Book Store Daydreaming

I’ve thought about what I want to do with my life, and a few things keep reverberating to the surface: teaching, education, books, writing. They blossom here, in my everyday life, but yesterday, I had a new thought. What about a bookstore?

Up till now, the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. A good college friend dreamed of opening a coffee shop someday. Her dream came true earlier this year. I always applauded her on. A coffee shop sounded exciting and artsy and melancholy and hauntingly beautiful and musty and familiar and friendly. But I hadn’t planned on opening a coffee shop. It just wasn’t quite in my style, I guess you could say. I like music; I like art; I like coffee, but the draw wasn’t there for me. I wasn’t passionately enthralled with it–like she was.

Then I started setting up an Ebay account to sell books, and I realized, “This is something I could do every day.”

When I was in Pennsylvania for two weeks, I visited the Cupboard bookstore with my mom and fell in love with the antiqueness and the colors. There was this cat, black and white, that padded around the rows and rows of bookshelves. I think I found her sitting on a stack of books at one point. She came up, rubbed around me as I crouched by the animal bookshelf, practically mesmerized by the bindings and smells.

I just wanted to stay.

I couldn’t then, but maybe someday, I can start my own.

A library, a bookstore and a coffee shop. Or teashop. With a cat. 🙂

The Summer Hum

It’s summer. Classes are out. And I have very little structure in my life. At least with writing and reading. There is practically no incentive for either . . . not because I don’t want to but because my time has bounced away like a rubber ball into family events, birthday parties, crazy adventures, and plane travel. I think I am just beginning to track my time ball back down again.

With stumbling upon un-scattered time, I am searching for incentive and ideas. My room (with a new roommate) has been picked up and laid down with style; my new jewelry organizer (made from an upsidedown soap holder) has been glued to the wall with care. Every shoe is in place, and the carpet is merely waiting for a sweeper. There is nothing else disheveled and out-of-place to put back to rights, so I am searching for creativity. Where have my ideas gone? They seem to have flown the coop.

Usually, or at least mostly, I run from ideas. I don’t like them. I don’t want to discipline myself to actually follow through and carry them out, and ideas without action are pointless–at least to me. So I run.

But some of my biggest delights are flipping through my art sketch pad and saying, “Hmmmm . . . that’s pretty,” or stumbling across some bit of dialogue I don’t remember writing and being caught up in it and delighting in it because it’s so fun and expressive and great! It may not be good writing, but it does capture a little bit of humanity somehow, and that’s exciting in itself because isn’t that the point of writing?

So I lost my ideas in the shift from semester to summer, but I’ve been shuffling back through the Story Doctor, and besides laughing at all the grammatical errors (Alas, the fate of being human!), I’m ecstatic. The blogs are doing their job. They are helping me REMEMBER.

The ideas are flitting back in quickly . . . hurriedly . . . name the dog . . . make the day book . . . drop gold coins . . . climb the ladder . . . talk to the people . . .

It’s time to keep this summer humming. 🙂

Scars — Why Story?

Because somehow in the grand scheme of things, it is stories that keep us going. Look at Hunger Games — it has our culture hooked right now.

Look at Harry Potter, the Twilight series, Lord of the Rings . . . and the stories continue. Book form, DVD entertainment, fast action video games, gossip in the lunch room . . . it’s the stories that intrigue us.

They keep us wanting to live. Offering hope in the midst of tragedy, new ideas in stagnant waters, they help us remember who we are as people. They encourage us by dishing out a little bit of understanding and compassion. With chaos erupting around us, they make us laugh.

And when there is nowhere to cry, it’s stories like The Notebook that gives us a reason to pull out the tissue box. Stories bring tears when nothing else can convince us . . . . to let it all go.

Stories . . . they offer hope.

In the following video script, the Skit Guys talk about scars, saying “ours are stories of pain and brokenness.”

http://skitguys.com/videos/embed/1398/

Our scars tell our lives–they show how much just living every day hurts.

But God’s scars–those nail prints? “They are a story of forgiveness and healing . . . for all eternity.”

And that’s where hope comes in.

We’re living in the reality–in a true story–of hope.

Happy Easter.