Be Kind To Your Child

For several years, I was in what we called a creative workshop. Just a handful of folks discussing the creative process, led by my pastor Kyle Gott. I came to see the creative part of us as very childlike. Eager to experiment. Fed by instant gratification. Fragile to criticism.

Here’s the thing. We wouldn’t nag a child into painting a picture. We wouldn’t berate a child if they didn’t build a lego project when they had all day. We wouldn’t tell a child that their painting isn’t very good.

If you get stuck while writing – or painting or playing the guitar – try treating the creative part of you as a child. Be understanding and encouraging. Try to make things fun and exciting. Be complimentary. Give your child a new journal and ask it to tell a story.

There is no denying that discipline is a part of this whole writing thing. A big part. But so is letting our creative side play.

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Shut Down The Shouter

Let’s silence the voices in our head.

Okay, hopefully we’re not hearing real voices. I’m talking about those subtle voices. The fearful, doubting, negative words, perhaps once spoken to us and about us, that we still carry around.

I had a conversation with a woman who had been divorced for over twenty years. She sat there crying, talking about the awful things her ex had once said to her. He had wounded her, and shame on him for that. But it occurred to me that he said those things two decades ago, and yet she still allowed them to have power over her. She was the one who repeated them, who let them echo in her head, dragging her down.   

I had someone who meant a lot to me, who tended to be critical. She has since passed away, and I miss her greatly. However, I sometimes wonder if I would have written my novel if she was still around. I have to admit her negativity was a weight on me.  

Here’s the thing though. I know that her critical nature was not because of who I am, but because of who she was. So allowing her words to stifle me… is on me. She wasn’t the one who held me back. I was. I was the one who let her voice – my perception of her voice – echo in my head. I was the one who anticipated her negativity… and adopted it. She may have planted the seed – quite unintentionally – but I gave it room to grow, watered it, nurtured it.  Her words would have been buried long ago if I hadn’t given them fertile soil to blossom into something they were never intended to be. I did that. Not her.

Now I’m not beating myself up about this, and I don’t expect you to either. What I’m saying is we all need to examine those voices – the fears, the doubts, the criticism — and understand where they come from. And then choose to release them. Or bury them. Or whatever metaphor you want to use. Let’s silence them. In their place, let’s put our voice. Our true voice. The voice that has something to say and wondrous things to create.

Disprove the naysayer. Convince the doubter.
Drown out the whispers. Shut down the shouter.
Create what you love, no matter what’s said.
Silence the critics who live in your head.

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The Wonder of Weeds

I love spring. The warmer temperatures are wonderful. Walking out without a jacket is liberating. But it’s the colors that truly delight me. Right now, it’s all about variations of purple. My lilac bushes are blooming. The redbuds are in bloom. I have a few grape hyacinths in my garden and my overgrown vinca is dotted with little flowers. Soon, my iris will begin showing off.  

Even the weeds are dressing themselves in this most majestic of colors. For my first mow of the season, I didn’t trim close to the trees in my backyard because of the profusion of wild violet. And before I mowed through a part of my lawn where the weeds are thriving, I stopped to take note of the eye-catching purples of deadnettle and ground ivy.

If you don’t know what those are, neither did I. I had to look them up because I have always just known them as weeds. And I guess come summer, that’s what they’ll be. Right now, they are intricate, purple flowers.

It occurs to me that God made them all – the flowers that we carefully cultivate and the weeds we curse. He made them all appealing in their own way. We’re the ones who decided that we will nurture these while mowing down those. We’re the ones who define some as flowers and some as weeds when in fact, they are all beautiful blooms. How many other things of beauty… of delight… do we overlook because of the names we’ve assigned them?

Words are important. Words shape our perception. Words help us define our world. Let’s question the words we use sometimes. And maybe in so doing, we’ll stop and notice the wonder of weeds.

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Fearfulness

Become more fearful of not doing something you should do than you are of just doing it.

It took me a very long time to decide to fulfill my childhood dream of being an author. Part of that was because of life. Life needs tending to, always. But when I started attending a Creative Workshop headed up by my pastor at the time, Kyle Gott, I slowly came to realize that my real problem wasn’t about time, or lack of ability, or not knowing how to do what I wanted to do — all of my excuses. My real problem was fear.

I was fearful that I wasn’t really capable of accomplishing it. Fearful I wasn’t a good enough writer to write what I wanted to write. Fearful of putting something out into the world that was so very personal. Fearful of the response I would get and how I would react. Fearful that my childhood dream — that this dream I had held onto for so long — was not going to end well.

As I told a group of people during a talk at my church last night, once I faced my fears, I was able to study them. Understand them. And I decided that the only thing that made me more fearful than attempting to write a novel, was not writing one. I became more scared of not taking a stab at my dream than I did of doing it. Not writing a book would have been a regret. A deep one. And aside from a few cringe-worthy moments that still float around in my memories, I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life. Not doing this would have been a monumental one.

So I wrote a book. And I’m writing another one. I haven’t sold a lot of copies. I can’t claim to be successful yet. But, this was never about becoming rich and world famous. This was about becoming a writer. A novelist. Just like I dreamed of when I was a kid. I did it. The world hasn’t changed. But my life has.

I encourage you – make room for your dreams and your passions. Make time for them. Become more fearful of not doing something you should do than you are of doing it. Give yourself nothing to regret.

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It’s About The Journey

I was fired from my first “career” job a year out of college. I was also fired from my third. I won’t tell you I didn’t spend some time feeling sorry for myself, because I did. But now, looking back years later, I’m thankful for it. What I learned taught me how to succeed. More importantly, I think, it taught me how to survive.

It’s why I’m an indie author. I have no intention of failing. But when I have setbacks, I know I’ll recover. I learned how a long time ago.

Plus, no one can fire me now.

It's the war not just the battle
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Let’s Walk On Water

I was thinking about the story of Jesus… and Peter… walking on water. I looked at the reasons why Peter was able to walk on water, however short-lived the experience was. The obvious reasons are because he had faith… and Jesus was on hand to command him to do it. But beyond that… before that… he first imagined that he could do it… he dared to think that he should do it… and then he asked Jesus to allow him do it. I thought it was a good thing to think about as we look ahead at the things we want to accomplish in the new year. We always focus on the things we want to change about ourselves… to work on our faults. What would the year look like if we imagined something big… dared to think we should do it… turned to God for the approval and the assistance… and had the faith to do the seemingly impossible. That’s my resolution. Happy New Year, everyone.

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It’s About What We Could Be

“Do you quilt?” asked the electrician, as I moved piles of stuff around in my laundry/sewing/craft area so he could get to the breaker box.

“No,” I was forced to admit.

Nor do I use 95% of the fabric and various and sundry other things I have in bins and drawers and piles. Much of it was inherited from my late mother, who loved the idea of sewing much more than she did the actual activity.

But I can’t blame her for all of my stacks. And I think I owe her an apology for the eye rolls over the years. Mom, turns out I’m a lot like you. While I don’t generally buy fabric that I’ll never use (at least not nearly as often), I’m still hanging on to some of what you bought. And I’ve kept all of the buttons and lace and tools and notions.

I think, more than the actual fabric and trim and fringe, it’s about the possibilities. It’s about what they could be, were we to invest the time. What we could be, if we took the time to invest. That’s much harder to let go of, I think.

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Little Moments Of Glory

I have written a novel. I am proud of myself. I am proud of my writing. I am proud of my book.

And I am delighted that people seem to be enjoying it. It is affirmation of the work I did sitting alone in a room for three years.

But it’s a little weird. It took me a while to come to grips with the idea of signing my book. It felt… pretentious. (I have gotten over that and am happy to sign, by the way.)

I love hearing what people think and am thrilled when someone tells me they like BUKU. But I admit, I also feel a bit vulnerable. (It is my first book, after all.)

I have had friends joke that they “knew me when”. I’ve heard phrases like “now that you’re rich and famous.” Let me assure you. I’m still in the hole financially, and there are 349,846 authors who are more famous than me on Amazon right now. (That’s my sales rank across all books on Amazon at the moment!) I’ve had friends who I haven’t spoken to in thirty years say they’re proud of me. That’s humbling.

So do I have a point? I think I do. And it’s this. Writing and releasing a book has been one of the most fear-inducing yet pride-producing things I’ve ever done. And I think both of those things are good. When we steer away from what scares us, we deny ourselves little moments of glory.

What I have done is small… minuscule in the scheme of things. Kinda like winning a trophy in t-ball. And yet, in my little world, to me and my friends, it’s a big deal. And they’re the people I care most about anyway.

So let me encourage you to do something that scares you. Terrifies you. Makes you feel vulnerable. Sing a solo at church. Post your latest poem on Facebook. Paint a picture of your dog.

Maybe it will go unnoticed. Maybe it won’t be very good. But how else will we ever be all that our Creator created us to be? How else will we open ourselves up to a moment of glory, no matter how small it is?

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The World Needs You To Be An Artist

A family member just passed away. I have two friends recently diagnosed with cancer. I know people who are dealing with depression, addiction, chronic pain, and the inevitable march of time.

Some of the people in my circle are lonely, sad, overwhelmed, grieving, depressed, broke, jobless, friendless, faithless. So when I post on Facebook that I’m excited about releasing my first book, a part of me feels… guilty. Frivolous. Shallow. What I’ve done will not cure sickness. It will not feed the hungry. It will in no way change the world.

I’ve written a book about monsters chasing people through the mountains. And yes, there is a love story in the book. And a tale of good vs. evil. And a touch of spirituality. But it is, after all, entertainment.

Except to me, it’s more than that. I accomplished a dream I’ve had since childhood. I started a new career in my fifties. I figured out how to do something that I had absolutely no idea how to do. (And am still trying to figure out a lot of it!) I faced the fear of rejection and self-doubt and worked past it. I set myself a huge goal and (eventually) met it.

More so than that, I tapped into that awesome creative spirit that seems such a mystery to those fortunate enough to experience it. I can’t really tell you how I thought of the story of BUKU. I can’t really tell you how I came up with multiple characters and a storyline that seems to tie together. I can’t really tell you where the melody to “Iris’ Lullaby” came from. Creativity remains somewhat magical to me.

Which brings me to my point. In a world filled with heartbreaking things like death and cancer and pain and depression, creating can be essential. It reminds us that there are things far more fascinating than the everyday world. That there are things far more mystical, far more meaningful, far more enjoyable. It reminds us that there is something beyond us that we can connect to as we delve within.

I don’t say these things because I wrote a book. I say these things to encourage you to write a book. Or paint a picture. Or make a quilt. Or sing a song. Or take a photo. Or plant a flower. Or color with your granddaughter. Or whatever it is that is inside you, longing to be let out. We can’t stop the sorrowful inevitabilities of life. But we can interlace them with things we create with our hands and our minds and our hearts. We can bring beauty and peace and passion and godliness into this cold world.

I hope you create something today. Or this week. Or this year. Not because the world needs more entertainment. But because it needs more hope.

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Making Dreams Come True

When Lee Ann Womack won Female Vocalist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards, it was a dream come true. Literally. Lee Ann used to watch the awards show as a child and dream of winning the coveted trophy. She worked hard, with single-minded conviction, until she actually did it. She was named the top female singer in country music in 2001.

But Lee Ann said that after the euphoria died down, she was left with a big question. What next? What do you do when you achieve what you’ve worked for for so long? Well, I am about to find out!

No, I’m not up for an award. And probably never will be. But I am about to release my debut novel to the world. Of course, my dream doesn’t center around one book. I hope to write many more. But here at the top of a hill I’ve been climbing for several years, I find myself contemplating the path behind me. It extends all the way back to childhood when I read books that transported me to other places and times. That’s when I told myself I could do that too. The adult me took a long time to get around to it, and I can tell you that path has been long and steep and even torturous at times. But hey, young Jenny. Look at the hill we have climbed.

There’s lots more to do. I’m self-published, so stuff like covers and formatting and marketing and websites is all in my hands. And of course, it’s time to start on the next book. It’s just that, right now, I want to acknowledge that I did it. Whether it sells or not, I have fulfilled a childhood dream.

And folks, I can tell you. It feels good.

I hope you remember your dreams. I hope you can do something that helps you accomplish them in some way. Maybe you can’t become an astronaut, but you can still explore the stars by studying about them. Maybe you can’t be a superstar, but you can still sing or act or paint or pick out a tune on a guitar.

What hill did you want to climb as a child? Have you tried climbing it lately?

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