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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

I’ve been blessed with an abundance of gifts. Creativity and a general intelligence have led me to excel in writing and music and speaking and business and oh so much more. I’ve always felt a little guilty for those gifts because I can’t possibly put them all to use at the same time. I feel the pressure every day to pour myself out and, even when I do, I still have a talent or two that didn’t get used. By not using my gifts I assumed I was putting them on the shelf to accumulate dust or being the man who received one talent and buried it (see Matthew 25:14-30) instead of doing something useful that would earn his master interest. But I’m wondering now if I’ve been looking at things upside-down.

For the last fifteen months music, in the form of worship leading, has taken precedence over writing (as evidenced by the postponed release of Rise of the Dark Sprite). Five weeks ago, I set down the guitar. I’ve set down a lot of things lately–but more on that another time.

It was a hard decision, perhaps one of the hardest of my life. Worship leading fulfilled so many parts of me, satisfying deep needs to minister to others and to celebrate the goodness of God. I miss it profoundly. In the five weeks since I said goodbye to my church I haven’t touched my guitar, either out of a deep sadness or a perpetual busyness. Probably a combination of the two. And, yes, I have been feeling a little guilty for not sharing my gifts as a musician and worship leader with a church who needs it.

But then I got to thinking…

What if my talents are like a deck-building game? Bear with me here. We’re nerds in this family. We save the world from super-villains over the holidays; hit every premiere weekend for Marvel movies; own the extended version of anything involving Middle Earth; and planned our vacation around seeing the new Star Wars move in IMAX. So it should come as no surprise to you that we delved right into a deck-building game based on The Fellowship of the Ring. The purpose of the game is to buy cards, worth abilities and victory points, that then go into your deck. Each round you deal yourself five cards, use them, and put them away to be re-dealt later. One round I’ll be wielding Legolas Greenleaf’s bow like a young Katniss Everdeen and the next I’ll have moved into defensive position with Boromir’s shield. I get five, usually awesome, cards per turn and it is up to me to put them to good use.

Now, back to my point. Perhaps my life is like a deck of cards. Each year I add a few new weapons to my arsenal (maybe a new passion for the banjo–that would be cool), and deal myself out a hand of talents. In 2015, the focus was worship leading and a new job. In 2016, I hope my focus will be writing and healing (surprise, surprise, when you have Lyme’s disease apparently you can’t work 80 hours a week). It’s not that I’m letting my God-given talent for song-writing and worship leading go to waste this year. It’s that He has handed me different cards. If I put them to waste, shame on me. But if I spend 2016 playing a great game with Legolas’ bow and choose not to pine for Boromir’s shield, then I think I will have done well.

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Writing is a joy like no other. And after nearly a decade of dedication (I’m twenty-three now; I was fourteen when I finished Issym–my first book), it is still full of surprises. I sit down at the keyboard with no concept of what I want to say and yet words, beautiful, important words, come flowing out. And they ease the ache in my soul.

I’ve come face-to-face (yet again) with the reality that seasons end. Good, wonderful, God-blessed seasons do not last forever. That’s why they are called ‘seasons’ after all. So I’m closing some chapters in my life, most notably with my resignation from my beloved coastal church. Working six days a week and commuting over wintry coastal roads for early morning worship practice is no longer a viable lifestyle. And while I am disappointed beyond measure, I’m also supremely confident that God orchestrated this decision and so it is good.

He has been showing me the value of finishing well. Not focusing (for once in my over-achieving life) on what is to come, but instead focusing on doing the last few weeks of this season to the very best of my ability. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’m a major Eiffel Tower nerd. I’ve always been struck by how it was built to be temporary. Knowing that his creation was doomed for destruction, Gustave Eiffel still poured blood, sweat, tears, and inspiration into the now iconic tower! He wasn’t daunted by the certainty his creation was temporary. He finished well. And so will I.

12278732_10207210957488957_8617144566751611846_nAs for the holidays, we’ve had a few less Christmas movies or mass-baking evenings than the usual season, but we’ve still had lots of fun. Who knew it could be cold on Christmas Tree Day even without snow? And who knew how FREAKING TALENTED my brother-in-law and I are at picking out Christmas trees. (Isn’t it a beaut?)12219417_10207199026510690_5196170164171381163_n

We’ve celebrated a few less birthdays than usual too, thanks to cases of pneumonia and a deer that made contact with our family van. But the 12274458_10207199026950701_7812799157813826790_ncelebrations we have pulled off have been awesome, from flame-filled nights at the local hibachi to an entourage of people taking dear niece Evelyn to Build-A-Bear for Year 1 of a running tradition. (The writer in me couldn’t help but stick a note inside.) Yes, my niece–who surprised us all with a month early arrival–has reached the age of one going on thirty. Intelligent, persuasive, and highly verbal, she is already turning my world upside-down in all the right ways. I can’t wait to spend Christmas with that sweet little soul.

Overall I’m settling into a new skin–one that’s a bit less afraid of the telephone and far more confident in glasses and even more determined to keep on writing. One that is learning to let go and still savor every second of every season I’m in.  A few months back I wrote a song for my church and I think I’ll close with it here:

Verse 1: There is time for celebration. There is time for tears. You’re the God Who holds me through it all. You’re the God Who holds us through it all

Chorus: Hallelujah to the King of majesty. To the One Who calls me friend. Hallelujah to the One Who conquered the grave. And is coming back again.

Verse 2: The past, the present, and the future, Can overwhelm the soul. But You say “Do not fear for I am near”.

Verse 3: You are trustworthy; You are faithful. You number the hairs on my head. How can it be that You would love me through it all? How can it be that You would love us through it all?

Bridge: You are good, You are good, You are good. You are faithful and sure. For everything there is a season. In every season You are Lord.

 

 

 

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This post goes out to all my fellow struggling writers out there…

Sometimes it happens. Authors find their creativity, sense of purpose, and vision has stalled out. (Believe me, I’ve been there.) And so I’ll devote this installment of the Jessie Mae Hodsdon Writing Guidebook to that very thing. How to win back excitement when writing has taken on a monotonous or overwhelming quality.

Blog Bonus Feature: I consider creativity a gift. A treasure of immeasurable price. And so, when it threatens to disappear–being swallowed up by the busyness of life or the pressure of deadlines–I fight back. Because I refuse to let imagination slip out of my life. Don’t give up, struggling, starving, drained artists. Please. Don’t give up.

#63: Recognize that the Halfway Point is Hard.

Anticipate that inspiration will dry up around the 1/3 or 1/2 mark of your novel. The initial excitement over the characters has run its course; you have established your setting; and the basic plot is well in hand. Now what? Whether or not you outline, there comes a point of uncertainty. The best way to deal with it is to expect it. Then you won’t be discouraged when it arrives.

#47: There is Value in a Break.

I want to start this entry by offering a warning. Just as breaks have the potential to bless, they also have the potential to curse. If you make them purposeless (ie not writing, reading, or daydreaming anything), they could destroy your rhythm. Instead, take a purposeful break from your story by reading multiple novels, watching movies, and doing something unrelated but creative. (Your probably already know what that creative thing is. Maybe you like to cook or play guitar or draw. You get my drift…) This will stimulate new creativity inside of you and, before long, you will find the old passion for your story returning

#81: Minor Characters have the Potential to be Awesome.

I’ll assume you are familiar with Frozen. Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff are incredible main characters, but really… where would the movie have been without the trolls? Not far. Kristoff would have been a little less loveable. Anna wouldn’t have gotten the push to accept her feelings. And the essential clue/moral of the movie would have been lost. Not to mention the trolls (especially Grand Pabbie) added flair and spice to the story. The minor characters gave background to a major character (Kristoff), direction to the writer, plot clues to the movie watcher, and color to the story.

I’m a big fan of secondary characters. (And I’ll admit, sometimes I carry them a little too far.) But minor characters, being able to sustain eccentric personalities you could never get away with for main characters, have limitless potential. When your writing has stalled, turn your focus from the main characters you know so well and let your mind tool on the minor characters. Perhaps you will discover background, direction, plot clues, and color too.

If you have other ways to deal with the stall-out point of a novel, let me know in the comments! Best wishes in your writing endeavors,

Jessie Mae

(See my previous posts about the Guidebook here and here.)

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I made it to 1:11 PM today without any caffeine. This is a feat of epic proportions. And, all by itself, it might be worthy of a blog post. But since you were probably anticipating something with a bit more substance, I shall try to add words to this post. The caffeine hasn’t sunk in yet. Bear with me.

I’m officially caught up at my desk at the law firm. I’ve dabbled around editing the first three chapters of Rise of the Dark Sprite. And ideas for future books are nibbling at the corners of my consciousness, taunting me with their sweetness while giving no hint as to their substance. All in all, I feel–just a hint–more like myself. Although, that could have something to do with the love recently given by my niece.

Baby Evelyn held onto her mother’s hands today and walked with great determination and sweetness towards me. Sister Kate and I both watched in amazement at her new prowess. And it made this aunt feel very loved.

As for this moment… a little introvert time. Josh Garrels, Starbucks’ coffee (yay!), and writing. Yes. I’m in for a good couple of hours.

Blog Bonus Feature: My health hasn’t weathered all the travel of the last few weeks very well, but I’ve decided to embrace whatever this summer season brings. The adventure will be worth the exhaustion. My advice to you: Stop and smell the roses. Even if they make you sneeze.

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It’s Thursday. How did this week fly by so fast? Tomorrow, already, is my sacred day of rest. But with my niece stirring softly in her sleep beside me and Matt Maher reminding me in the background that Chris is risen from the dead and Easter service almost planned, it feels rather like Thursday has its own kind of rest.

This week held a special landmark. After around twenty seven classes and countless hours of intense feedback and sweat-breaking assignments, my student has finished her novel! This teacher is doing a happy dance of pride. There are always times when writing a novel seems impossible–when writers block hits or characters keep secrets from their author or scenes refuse to bend to that author’s will. (I am of the belief that books have a mind of their own–or at least the good books do.) But my student has waded her way through the various swamps and FINISHED HER NOVEL.

So, one last encouragement, Camp NaNoWriMo started yesterday. If you want to write and are intimidated by the process, take the plunge today. Check out the site, grab yourself a private cabin, and start that book already. The minimum word count is only 10,000 for the month. Believe me. You can write 333 words a day. And it is immensely good for the soul to write–whether or not you finish your story. 🙂

In closing (and because the baby is stirring, so don’t judge my grammar–I don’t have time to edit) and in anticipation of Easter, I am reminded by Maher’s Christ is Risen:

O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light. The glory of God has defeated the night.

Hallelujah. Amen.

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As I was working on the novel yesterday, I came across the following note from my old self:

Insert random details about the building and city of your choice. Yes, you skimped the last time you were writing, but, hey, it was 2:34AM, so you were understandably exhausted and had poor judgment.

Reading this was highly amusing to me. Sanity and logic truly are not my strong points when writing in the early hours of the morning. Yet, I still contest that some of my best work is done there. When perfection fades in sleepiness, when everything gleams as bigger and deeper than it might otherwise appear, when the creativity of childhood still beats within my heart.

It was 10:30 when I put the laptop aside last night, with another thousand words in my favor. And as soon as I could pry my groggy eyes open this morning I wrote again. It is dedication more than inspiration, but words–and some of them very good–are falling from my mind into the realm of reality. So be it.

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Why is it easier to blog than to work on my novel? I cannot really say. Except that with every few hundred words I write here, I have the privilege of hitting the word: Publish. Whereas, with my novel, ‘publish’ will not be an option until many more months of labor have been inserted. Oh, yes, and several thousand dollars. Nevertheless, I do make progress on my novel. And with each word I dutifully type into the Word document I get just a little bit closer to finishing.

Some novels are hard to write because you lack inspiration. Others, because you lack focus. Still others, because you lack incentive or experience. But a select few novels… These are hard because they hit a little too close to home. They express more of yourself than you meant to share. And going to the computer to type no longer feels like an escape from the every day. No; it feels as if you are reliving your every day.

Now, all along I have protested that this novel has been a painful growth spurt–and I do believe it is. But I am also beginning to wonder if maybe the novel is so hard because it is so much of myself. I can recall writing Asandra (Book 2) and telling my mother that it was too sad. No one would like it. And yet, it was the novel where people began to say, “You let us see so much more of you.” It was the tale that got people really, really hooked to my writing.

So, in truth, the Lure of Lemons may turn out to be the epic failure I fear it will be. Or it may become yet another turning point in my career. Either way, the answer will not be found on this blog or in procrastinating any longer. It will be found in finishing the work and risking myself yet again to share it. The consequences for failure won’t be so extreme; but the rewards for success will be sweet. So I had best get back to drafting…

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