Blog 3: So, to God I went…

So, just to recap Tuesday’s blog, after feeling stuck. it was time to stop ruminating on my own human doubts and seek higher counsel.  So, I asked God for a sign that I should continue writing my novel.  Then, I began to look for the manifestation of a sign.  However, God didn’t send me one; I received a cascade of signs that ultimately led me here with you, and I received much more than I asked for.   Here is what I have dubbed Cause and Effect: My Godly Guideposts

  • Cause:  On the first day of my summer vacation, I had traveled to my sister’s home in Maine where her family and mine came together to celebrate the recent engagements of both my niece and my daughter respectively.  While sitting on the beach, my brother-in-law teased me about being off the entire summer and challenged me to write a blog about something new that I would attempt on each day of the next nine weeks.  A blog?  I thought.  I have absolutely no desire to write a blog.  I’m not even sure how.  I need to finish my novel.  I, therefore, dismissed it right away, but his crazy suggestion swirled around in my head .
  • Effect: When we returned home, continuing to feel sluggish and paralyzed, I avoided writing as I let mundane tasks take over like cleaning and food shopping.  Despite my refusal to entertain the notion, the blog suggestion continued to gnaw at me, but  I wasn’t the adventurous type, so it was unlikely I’d try anything new, and what about my novel?   As I grabbed my purse,  I thought,  Come on, God! Where’s my sign?  Why can’t I get going here?  
  •  Cause: With my cart fully loaded, I stopped in the stationery section of the grocery store and noticed a little inspirational book entitled, What is God’s Will For My Life? by John Ortberg.
  • Effect: It was inexpensive, so I bought the book  with the hope that it would help me figure out this writing thing and bring me a sign.  Little did I realize that the book itself was a sign.  I read it in one sitting.  Ortberg’s premise is that God’s purpose for each of us is that we evolve into the best version of who we are created to be.  We need to listen to God, surrender to His will, but we also need to act.   He states, ” We must pray and then proceed with the conscious assumption that God will answer. Based on that assumption, we begin looking around to see of if perhaps he has answered in a way we might otherwise have missed. […] Why would we assume that passivity is a greater inducement to God to reveal his will to us than activity? .[…]When you face a choice and make a decision, don’t limp across the threshold. Hop.”(51,72,74).
  • But I didn’t act or hop.   I simply shut the book and went to bed.
  • Cause: The next morning, I discussed Ortberg’s book with my son, and out of the blue, he tells me that he wants to start a blog.  His only problem was that he didn’t know much about starting one.  He asked me if I knew if we still had that book he had bought a while ago about blogging a book? I forgot he had purchased it, but it could prove useful to both of us.
  • Effect:  I then set off to find it, and in doing so, I decided it was a perfect time to clean and reorganize the office.  I was gratified to find the book, How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir and to know that for once my penchant for cleanliness led to something other than avoidance.
  • Cause: However, I avoided giving the book to my son. Still inquisitive about blogging,  I decided to take the book with me on our boat.
  • Effect: While sitting on the beach, my future son-in-law noticed the book in my hands, and finding it odd, he  inquired as to my aspirations. Feeling uncomfortably out of the my element, I dismissed the idea of blogging immediately. I told him my initial impression was that blogging seemed overwhelming, and I felt I had no subject upon which to write and nothing to say. (Are you laughing to yourself right about now?)
  • Cause: For reasons I can’t explain, I continued to flip haphazardly through the book’s pages, where I arrived at a section that discussed the success stories of people who blogged and then turned their blogs into books.  I read each of them, and one in particular jumped out at me, for I knew I had Martha Alderson’s book,  The Plot Whisperer  on my newly organized office book shelf at home.
  • Effect:  I found it and began to reread the book, and in the opening pages, it was as if Alderson was speaking directly to me.  She writes, “you are writing about a character transformed through the Universal Story.  That character pursues a goal.  She faces a series of conflicts and obstacles, and as a result, […]she is transformed, and her ultimate transformation creates her anew with a different understanding of herself and her existence.  As you write, you will begin to see a similar pattern emerge in your own life as you face conflicts that arise from your writing.  In the end, you, too, will be transformed.”(1).  This made so much sense to me.
  • Cause: Wow, and this revelation also connected to Ortberg.  Perhaps God was signaling to  me that I could evolve into the best version of myself by evolving into  the writer he created me to be.  I needed to be open to all possibilities of what writing could offer me.  It was glaringly apparent  that although I had prayed for a sign to continue with my novel, the idea of starting a blog was now very much in the forefront of my thoughts. I had a feeling God was nudging me to do both, but I was still filled with self-doubt.   I asked myself over and over, Should I begin a blog?  Should I explore my own writing and share my thoughts with others ? Am I drifting away from my novel, or can I do both?
  • Effect: Mentally exhausted, I decided to read a bunch of articles my mother had given me.  I wanted a momentary respite from my prayer, but God wasn’t having it.  I came across an article by the author of the column God Squad, Rabbi Marc Gellman. He had written it  to commemorate Father’s Day, and it is entitled, “Drawing On Special Memories of My Dad.”  It is about his father, Sol Gellman, and his ability to draw upside down, which helped his clients immensely.  As an architect, this alleviated the constant need for him to keep switching the paper back and forth as he fleshed out his ideas in front of them.  Rabbi Gellman slowly came to realize that his father’s quirky talent was much more than simply that.  It was a way for his dad to reach out to others in an effective, communicative way, and this was something anyone could learn to do. “Drawing upside down is a skill we can all possess-it just requires learning and love.”
  • Cause: His words hit me like a thunderbolt! I was waiting for one sign, but God had sent me a ton.  I wouldn’t be drawing upside down; I’d be writing upside down! God would show me the way and help me find the words.
  • Effect: It was time to hop.  I evaluated my decision to start my blog using Ortberg’s question, “Is it congruent with becoming the person I believe God created me to be?”  The answer was yes.  It was time to become the writer and human being God designed me to be.    I would call it Writing Upside Down, and here I would have the ability to explore my own truth and transform myself through writing and creating.
  • Effect:  Here I am with you.


Blog 2: Anyone can write…

One just needs to be disciplined.  Anyone can blog, too.  I don’t want you to think that I am doing something super difficult. You just have to commit to doing it!   If you want to write or blog, you can!  I support your decision just as so many of you encouraged me last night on Facebook.  Thank you to all of you who enthusiastically received my first blog.  I thought it was great that I could share it with my friends and family.  You were all so supportive, and I truly appreciate it. Yet, according to Brenda Ueland, author of If You Want to Write, A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, anyone can write, and we all have a unique story to tell.  Do you want to hear how I derived the courage to begin this blog? If you just said no, sorry!  The question was rhetorical, so here I go.

I started my novel 10 years ago, and mind you, I didn’t set out to be the next Harper Lee.  No, I simply love Chicklit, and after reading my beloved Sophia Kinsella’s novel, Can You Keep a Secret?, I felt this sensation in my gut telling me that I could do this.  So, I grabbed my computer and just started writing.  No outline.  No path.  I just got in the creative flow and let it take me.  I soon discovered that I loved writing in this genre.  I would reread what I had written and laugh out loud.

I was so enamored with myself  and what I had initially created, I allowed my sisters, my niece, and my best friend to read the beginning.  Yes, I encouraged them to be brutally honest, but inwardly,  I was so nervous to hear their true reactions to the scenes I had created.  To my pleasure and astonishment, they all said they loved my heroine, Nora Donovan, and her wacky adventures– and they wanted to read more!  The immediate problem that faced me was I didn’t have any more.

Now,  you would think this would have given me more impetus to write, but it didn’t.  It caused me to do the exact the opposite.  I began to put all sorts of pressure on myself, and started reading books on the craft of writing. Unfortunately, that was all I was doing.  My inner fear became a barrier between me and my story.   The critic came out in full force, and she started jabbing me in the chest. I stopped writing for my own pleasure, and I couldn’t bring myself back to my novel.

I’ll admit, my house was never cleaner;  I spent the majority of my weekends  mopping my kitchen floor and cleaning every bathroom instead of  writing; as a result,  my family was continuously sick; the germs had to find someplace new to live and prosper, and they jumped down their throats.  By the time I but the Lysol away, the afternoon would be dying, and I’d tell myself I would write tomorrow.

Well guess what; each missed tomorrow added up to 10 years! Yeah, sure, I gave myself many outs:  I needed to clean my house, right?  I am a wife and a mother after all. Oh, and lump on top of  that my full-time job as an English teacher.  Really? After a full day of teaching eighth graders how to write, who in her right mind is going to go home and tackle her own writing?  Uh, plenty of people, Jayne, but unfortunately you chose not to be one of them!

So here’s the thing.  Try not to judge me, but last summer,  I went to a medium.  I know it seems that I am meandering off topic, but I bet you can guess what I asked her.  Yup, I asked her if I would ever publish, and she said, “Uh, Yes… but not the way you expect.”

For a moment I pondered what that phrase really meant, but I was excited that there was a strong chance that my writing intention would find its way into the universe, the stars would align, and by gum, by golly, I would publish.

At this point, are you expecting me to tell you that this information got me back  to writing?  Uh, it sort of did, but very intermittently.  I’d devote some time to it here and there on a weekend or a vacation–when I wasn’t vacuuming– but I was stuck for sure. I began  to worry that I liked the idea of being a writer far more than actually being one! At the rate I was going, I might need to hire a ghost writer to write my novel for me!

As this summer approached, I decided I was not going to practice another summer of avoidance.  I admonished myself: Everyone is busy; however, if one wants to write, he/she will surely figure out a plan.

Therefore, I decided to stop being a pantser.  This is someone who doesn’t outline and merely writes as she flies by the seat of her pants.  This is a right brain trait, and an author of this type focuses on characters more than plot.  However, this type of writer–me–tends to write a lot of superfluous stuff because he/she doesn’t have the full story mapped out;  instead he/she allows the character(s) to dictate where the story goes.  Thus,  I decided I would need to be a plotter.  I couldn’t afford to lose any more time, and decided I could accomplish far more if I did what the left brain people do and formulate an outline of my novel.  It was time to be sensible.

I had already written  249 pages, and I knew I would need to go back and figure out what vital pieces needed to be deleted or added. So I did just this, using the book, First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S. Wiesner.   I followed the day-by-day instructions and started analyzing my book so far.  As helpful as the book was, it still didn’t stimulate me to continue with my novel.  I did character and setting sketches, outlined the important elements of the structure, but I couldn’t bring myself to fire up the computer and joyfully pick up where I had left off.  I was out of the flow; I had lost my muse, my bliss, my way!

Realizing I had a major problem, and I was the one standing firmly in my own way, I knew I needed spiritual guidance.  As Julia Cameron states in her book, The Artist’s Way, I was reminded that “everyone has a dial to God.  No one needs to go through an operator.” So, to God I went.

Look for my next blog on Friday, and I’ll tell you how God showed me it was time for me to be writing upside down! I promise it will be shorter, too!








First Blog- It’s About Time…

Really, it is.  After talking about writing a novel for the past 10 years, there are many reasons why starting a blog is necessary if I ever hope to complete it.   First, and foremost, after reading tons of books on the subject, I decided it was time to put all of my ideas, questions, frustrations, and insights on to the page.  You don’t know me–or maybe you do–but the one thing I know for sure is that I need to be policed.  Writing in isolation, while fulfilling, was not getting me to the written page every day.  There was no immediacy, just a dream of finishing someday and hoping to publish.  By starting a blog, I must show up and do it.  It’s that simple  Second, I love an audience.  As a singer, I stink at rehearsal.  I phone it in and don’t go for it.  Writing in isolation feels very much like this.  I need the personal connection of an audience.   The thought of it gives me energy to write.  Third, I feel authentic. I wrestle with perfectionism which has led to writer’s paralysis,  and I realize there is no one who can free me except myself.  The only way to become the writer I want to be is to figure out the best way to get my story written. What is my process?  What works?  What doesn’t?  Hence the name writing upside down.  I am willing to experiment and make mistakes in order to get to where I want to be, and I hope that you will come along on my journey.