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Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Cooking is like writing. Just ask anyone who has watched me create bruschetta. It is long, repetitive work as I chop the basil, the garlic, and the tomatoes. Out of memory and with frequent tasting, I mix in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese as, nearby, the bread toasts in olive oil or butter. From all this we can gain several lessons applicable to writing…

Lesson #1: Don’t give up before the end!

It would be fairly easy in the midst of Michael Buble’s serenading of my tomato slicing to stop. About a half an hour in it seems the task will never be completed. Excuses like, “Company will be here soon,” slip to the tip of my tongue. Yet, if I surrender to the fatigue, it would all be for naught. Writing is much the same. Many would-be authors never finish. Their tales are consumed by the daunting work they fear they could not complete. Just remember: without an ending, your story is only a bunch of chopped tomatoes.

Lesson #2: Revise.

Mere chopped tomatoes no longer, the bruschetta now has all its ingredients. Yet it does not taste quite right. I recoil as I put it to my lips and add a bit more of an ingredient. This is the time for tweaks, fixes, and revisions. This phase takes a pile of bruschetta that could never be served to company and turns it into the masterpiece guests will be talking about for weeks. In writing, revisions are the necessary tweaks that fill the novel with aroma, spice, and color. It is a common mistake to think the first draft is publishable. Chances are, it isn’t.

Lesson #3: At some point, stop second-guessing.

All this revising is well and good. Until, that is, I begin to fix parts of the recipe that were never broken. A chef is his/her own greatest critic. Eventually, well-enough has to be just that. It is time to add the bruschetta topping to the French bread. This is a magical moment, when criticism fades and taste buds rule. When writing, it is perfectly just to spend a long time fixing, reshaping, and editing a story. Nevertheless, an end to the perpetual changes must come. Know when to be satisfied with your work. Consciously choose to experience the thrill of a finished story, instead of always second-guessing yourself.

Keep writing and dreaming, friends,

Jessie Mae

 

 

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This weekend was Captain America 2 (twice) and God’s not dead (once) and book reading and sleeping and a couple of friends. Its the end of a brilliantly busy week. I wish I could stay in my big new bed and take a nice, long nap, but I’m off in just a few minutes. To run to Starbucks and meet a friend I have not seen in a couple months. And, yes, it will be worth the sacrificed nap.

So I don’t have much brain power for this Sunday afternoon blog post, but I wanted to write… well, something. Something to prove that my fingers still work and that my mind has a little capability left. Maybe not much, but a little.

I cannot give you spoilers for either movie, except to say that God’s not dead is actually worth your time. I had low expectations and went mostly just to support the Christian movie industry, but I was pleasantly surprised by the acting and plot twists. So go, if you haven’t.

As for me, if I stay on my bed any longer my eyes will close, my laptop will fall, and my coffee-buddy will find herself waiting for a friend who never shows up. So off I go…

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For four days I have left you. Four days for a more noble cause than usual. I have been writing. Back to the drawing board with my novel, a fresh Word document before me. I keep from the first, failed, half-finished draft only that which makes the story soar. My novel and my soul are better for it. For four days I have written, indulged in the Psalms as a refuge from the swirling words of the Lure of Lemons, been rigorous about taking all medicines (new and old, prescription and supplemental), and tackled my wild life into submission.

Patient friends who sought me out through mid-November to mid-January are finally getting a little more of the attention they deserve. Precious family members are finally the confidants they ought to have always been. Life, slowly, is beginning to make sense. As if I am coming out of the fog of illness that was my life.

But my room already begins to show signs of sickness again. An unkempt desk, a chair that houses lost objects, and a dryer sheet too far down on the floor to bear picking up. This time, it’s not the bitter surges of Babesiosis that strikes me. Just a common cold. The kind that makes you drink too much tea and turns your nose raw. It’s quite the relief to feel normal sick. My head might seem a little fuzzy, but its the physical kind of fuzzy that is not nearly so alarming.

Sister Kate and I pulled into the mall parking lot today and just sat for a long time. She shared Jeremiah 29:11, a verse we all have heard too much (if that’s even possible when it comes to Scripture). But instead of focusing on the ‘prosper’ part, she highlighted, “For I know the plans I have for you…” (ESV). God knows the plan. It’s in His mighty, wondrous, talented hands. So sick with Babesious or sick with the common cold or starkly healthy, I’m in the book that He is writing.

And it is far better than any story I could ever craft.

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I have known since yesterday that I needed to take a little solace with a chocolate croissant at Starbucks. I point out the croissant instead of the coffee because, quite honestly, I drink enough coffee at home for three people. I certainly do not come to Starbucks for more caffeine. It took a good deal of maneuvering to finally make it here. By the time I did my hair was frazzled only slightly more than my mind.

Now, I am not as shy as I once was. If I see a person from my past I no longer dodge that awkward “Do we know each other?” conversation. Instead, I plunge head first into the icy waters of reconnecting. Today that dialogue went something like this. (Paraphrase warning.)

Me: “Hey! Did you go to Bangor Christian?”

Him: “Yes. I did. A while ago. Wait a minute. Oh. Hi! It took me a second to recognize you.”

Me: Filler dialogue. Then: “So, how are you? What is your wife up to?”

Insert random dialogue until we come to his question: “What are you doing for work?”

Me: “I’m writing full-time.” (Of course I don’t mention the eight hours a week I labor for my parents at the law firm because my true day job is ‘author’ not ‘chief errand runner.’ Seriously, which one sounds better? And if there is no question of honesty involved, then I will be leaving out the law office clerk title every time.)

Him: Stammering. “Like, for the newspaper? Or?”

Me: Completely unprepared to have gotten past the first thirty seconds of reconnecting dialogue. “Um… I write books.” Then, a bit more smoothly. “Living the dream. It doesn’t pay much, but, you know…” (Had to stick in the honesty there.)

Him: “That’s great!”

Me: Now feeling completely out of my depth and remembering that I, in fact, still the same girl that has run from people and friendships and conversation as much as is humanly possible… “Well, thanks for the coffee. Bye!”

To the old friend’s credit he was remarkably warm and friendly for someone who probably does not even remember my name. And to my credit, I jumped outside my comfort zone in a major way. Perhaps one day conversations like this will be so common place that they won’t be worthy of a blog mention. Until then… I leave you and return to my hermit state with my laptop and headphones.

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Two Sources of Rest

I spent a lovely last evening hanging with some friends I do not get to see enough. That is the thing about good friends, you never get to see them enough.

So even though I was in the pre-stages of the cold going around and could have used the rest, I dragged myself to my feet and enjoyed my evening. By the time I got home I knew that I needed my rest. I determined to sleep in and get back to work this afternoon. It was absolutely the right call.

Rest is important. Sometimes it comes through sleep; sometimes through fellowship with good friends. Sometimes it comes from both sources.

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I am not sure what I can say beyond that today was a very good day. The sun was beautiful. Not that I noticed when I rolled out of bed and trudged through the morning with the twinges of sickness still clinging to me. When Seth got to town I was not sure how the day was going to go. (It went wonderfully)

Seth is the brother of Shandy, who is my brother’s wife. So we call each other brother and sister, but that is more because of friendship than any true relation. We are the same age, have been close for years, and are the kind of friends who can talk once every three months and stay close. He lives about two hours away so I do not get to see him that much, but he came to Bangor so that we could finally catch up. We started at my brother’s house, playing with our nephews. While there, I got a call from Julie about my possible enrollment at Nyack. There were some glitches (as expected) but I am still hoping they can be overcome.

Next, Seth and I went to my traditional hangout–My Fork. Usually the service is excellent, the food good and the prices mediocre. Today, the service was terrible (it was an hour and forty-five minutes after we first sat down that we were able to get out of there), the food was good and the prices were excellent. Interesting change-up. Though our waitress needed more training I am still a fan of the restaurant. Seth and I talked for that time, catching up on all the details. It was probably a good thing.

We proceeded to play a very poor game of mini-golf in the sunshine. We did not bother with the score and it was good to talk about the stuff that really mattered. Thinking the sun was beautiful, we took a walk. The sun was beautiful; unfortunately the wind was absent. We were roasting by the end of it. Seth and I escaped to the movie theater to watch Green Lantern. At the end, I felt a bag of popcorn hit my arm. Turning to throw insults at whatever teenager had done it (I figured it was someone I knew), I instead found Andy, the dad in my ‘other’ family, and his son. Seth and I stood around talking with him, his wife and their two kids for a few very wonderful moments.

Wasting just a little more time, we took Shandy and the boys to a friend’s house for some swim time. I nearly had a heart attack when Shandy screamed ‘Jessica’ (she ALWAYS calls me Jess) with the death-cry only a mother can have. Apparently, my younger nephew had gotten a big smile on his face and decided to jump into the pool. He has always been a dare-devil Whipping around, I found that somehow Shandy had caught him first. He thought it was hilarious. I thought he was going to kill me. Thankfully, Shandy thought it was awesome.

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Goofy

Goofiness is a thing that is all too often missing from writing–I cannot say that I am the exception. Sometimes writers do not write goofy because we have no time for goofiness. We locked ourselves in our rooms and pound out thoughts with imaginary people–who rarely say or do anything funny because that is not part of the story.

That is why writers need our friends–to restore some of the simple happiness to our lives. And today, my sister and I did the goofy things of life. Shopped, ate, watched a movie, spent money; tried on hats and sunglasses. We laughed and took life less seriously. In the midst of your major plotline (which typically, and understandably, makes the main characters a bit grumpy) do not forget the fun parts of life.

Simple Happiness

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