An Act of Defiance: Changed Laws or Changed Hearts

When I first had the idea to write this a few days ago, I wasn’t going to do it. What I had on my mind was a big part of my heart, and there was no way I was going to reveal this to y’all. It wasn’t worth the shame. But then I read the prompt in my writing book and decided to share the deepest parts of my story, very few of which I’ve shared with anyone. First, let me share the prompt itself. “Reflect on those moments where people have dismissed or disrespected your writing pursuits. Did you shrink? Did you defer? Did you become silent? Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you. Commit the crime of being yourself.” (52 Pep Talks for Writers, Grant Faulkner) While this seems to only be a writing prompt, I will also be discussing my life story because they’re intertwined–my life and my writing–to a point where they can’t be separated.

So, what started this line of thought, or should I say when did it start? It happened a few days ago. January 22. I woke up thinking there was something important about the date. I considered it over breakfast and while I was scrolling social media, but the only thing I could come up with was that people I know had birthdays that day. Later on, I saw it. January 22, 2020, was the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing the right of a woman to have an abortion in the United States. There were postings on the upcoming March for Life as well as articles about making sure abortion remained legal for anyone who wanted it.

I have a funny relationship with Roe v. Wade. Let me first say that I have never had an abortion and firmly believe that abortion is the killing of an unborn baby. A part of my Christian faith, so to speak. But, and this is a big but, despite all that, I’m not an activist on changing the law. I’m not someone who gets into arguments about the law, and I’m definitely not someone who makes nasty comments towards those who have had abortions. I ask myself why. Why wouldn’t I get involved in something that I say is so important to my faith? I can tell you why. Changed laws don’t reflect changed hearts, and I truly believe changed hearts is what God wants from us first.

I was born a few years before Roe v. Wade to teenage parents. They did all the right things. They didn’t try and abort me (in a back-alley fashion), and they got married. Now, there are many people who would say I should stop right there. Everything about my existence was done in the “Christian” way, and I have nothing to complain about. Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that I am here. Psalm 139 is one of my favorite psalms, and it tells me that God has a plan for my life no matter how I came to be. At the same time though…at the same time, I grew up thinking I was someone else’s mistake. I didn’t feel loved and valued as a person which has colored my outlook on life. I had a hard time believing God loved me when I came to faith as a teenager, and I still have a hard time today believing God’s love translates into love from my Christian brothers and sisters.

That’s why I have a hard time believing that changing laws will result in changed hearts. Even if the Supreme Court decision making abortion legal was rescinded, there would still be poverty (along with a whole host of other things). There would still be families who struggle to get by, and there would be shame. Shame placed on a child who doesn’t deserve it. Shame placed on a family because of their mistakes. I don’t believe God wants this. I believe He would rather see us make abortion unnecessary than to have a child be thought of as someone’s mistake rather than the precious little soul they are.

Now, I want to circle back to the prompt I quoted at the beginning of this post. Because I have internalized being someone’s mistake, it’s hard for me to think of my writing as something worth reading. Anything I have to contribute, really. I stare at a crowd and wonder what I have to contribute. The things I try aren’t noticed, or they’re just noticed as an aside. Then, I become silent. If my writing or the other things I try and do aren’t noticed, what’s the worth in using my voice?

Then, I come to the last sentence of the prompt and realized that’s where my answer lies. “Think about ways to rebel–to defy the expectations they’re setting for you.” I also look at the title of this pep talk, “Creativity as an Act of Defiance”. I need to defy the expectations of my background and of my psyche. I do have something to say. People might not like it. My closest friends and family might not like it. I might lose friends and family because of what I say. I might even lose Christian brothers and sisters. Who am I kidding? I’ve already lost Christian brothers and sisters. But, it’s who I am, and it’s who God wants me to be. Writing my thoughts and stories is the only way towards the most authentic expression of myself.

So, I write as an act of defiance. I write to change hearts and not laws. I write because God wants me to write, and I write because it’s how God made me. I hope all of you who write can find the reason you write today.

God bless you all!

 

Feeding the Muse

Last fall I went to a writer’s workshop in my hometown. I gained many tidbits of information to add to my burgeoning knowledge of all the different facets of writing, but that’s not what I want to talk about today. No, I want to talk about  the book I received at said workshop and the most recent chapter I’ve read out of said book. When I was at the workship, I was surprised to hear from the author or librarian (I can’t remember which.) that we would be getting something to take home. I looked over at the selection of books, and she further said that the workshop had been funded by a grant from a big company. After the workshop was over, I went to the table and picked out a book by Ray Bradbury called Zen in the Art of Writing. It’s a compilation of several of his essays about writing, and it has been wonderful so far. I’ve had takeaways I wouldn’t have otherwise had, and it’s taken me some places I wouldn’t have otherwise gone. Sounds remarkable, right? That’s today’s topic though based on my take of Bradbury’s “How to Keep and Feed a Muse”.

The muse is a funny thing. I’ve heard it described as the place where all great story ideas come from, and I’ve also heard people denying the existence of a muse (that stories are only written through blood, sweat, and tears). These are also the same people, I believe, who deny the existence of writer’s block and that anything can be written if you put the right amount of work into it. But, all of us who write need a place to get our ideas from, and that’s where I believe the idea of a muse formed.

Bradbury knew this well. In the chapter I mentioned earlier, he talks about all the different ways he feeds his muse. To him, the muse is represented by our very being, and it was fascinating to hear all the ways he nourished his being and mined it for story ideas. He talks about listening intently to all of the story-tellers in his life and how they made events and scenes real to him. Pieces of thsoe stories made their way to what I would call his muse, and he was able to deepen his reservoir of writing ideas.

He also talks about the experiences in his own life and how they led him down the path of more and varied story ideas. I think we, as writers, tend to forget that each of us has unique and particular circumstances that add to any story we’re writing. Bradbury didn’t though. He writes of making lists of nouns in previous chapters. I found that one particularly fascinating and put it in my bank of knowledge to try when I’m stuck for a story idea.

Another thing he speaks about is the reading and research we do and how we should read things we wouldn’t normally read. He says these forms of writing can stimulate areas of the creative brain not normally stimulated. It made sense to me so I decided to try it the other day with a graphic novel I received as a Christmas present. I’m also going to eventually try it with poetry and essays as these are forms of writing I read rarely. This writing, as well as the novels and short stories I normally read, should keep my writing muse well-supplied for years to come.

And, with that, I thought of the approaches I have to my writing and the excitement that comes with each. Because, Bradbury talks about that too. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I can see his point. I believe this excitement can show up in our stories and make them even better. So, over the past few days, I’ve taken the pains to be more observant. First, with the graphic novel I started reading. It stirred pictures in my own head of how I can make the scenes in my book more vivid to my readeres.

Second, with the walks I’ve taken. There is a tree outside of my apartment that reminds me of Halloween with its hulking shape and the amount of leaves it carries in the spring, summer, and fall. The lake on the property reminds me of drifting away to a new world every time I see it.

Finally, with the bread I’ve baked. The smells I’ve experienced and the decisions I’ve made during preparation time have helped me learn different ways of verbalizing the five senses in my writing.

It doesn’t take a whole lot to become more observant, and between that and remembering that our muses are functions of who we all are and our experiences, we can take pains to make sure our muses are always fed.

May we all be inspired by our muses in 2020!

 

Inspiration

I read a question earlier about what inspires me to write and thought I would write a short piece detailing my reasons. First, let me state the reasons that were written in the prompt. Is my writing a desire to create lyrical prose, to escape this world, or to explore my inner world? I think a combination of the last two reasons is what inspires me to write. My world is so normal, and I feel insignificant a lot of the time like I’m not important to people. I want to write about characters who are important, who save the day and the planet. They start off insignificant and then become heroes to those around them. I want them to be recognized as valuable and important people who make sure that all around them who are also insignificant are recognized as valuable and important. That recognition, of course, does not happen in our society, or even in the Christian church, so that’s one of the main reasons I want to escape this world through my writing and write about a better world.

I believe exploring my inner world is a natural extension of the first reason so I’m throwing that out there as well. I want the world to be better so I make-up worlds which then need to come out of my head and be written down on paper so I won’t lose the world or the thoughts leading to it. I’m at my happiest when I’m writing about my inner world and describing the ways it can be better than the world I’m currently living in.

I also feel like writing is a big way for me to redeem my past. That is what brings me back to my book and other things I’m writing after a long time away. I’ve used my circumstances to block my writing time for way too long, and this is what I’m hoping to change in 2020. I’m capable of achieving my goals even with four people and a dog in the house, and it’s about time I proved it.

Another part of the prompt said I should write about the last time inspiration hit and how it came about. It was last fall when I noticed the listing for a short story contest. It said to write a story about why the United States hadn’t been back to the moon in fifty years. Any reason, any scenario. But, history had to stay the same. A light dawned. I could fit my character and her desire to be a pilot/astronaut right into it since women were still being discriminated against in the late ’60s and early ’70s. A story started forming in my head. I was able to write over 27,000 words of it during NaNoWriMo. Where I fell down though was in the planning and execution of it. I didn’t flesh out the outline enough which is why the words stopped. I’ve been able to get back to it now and am combining my writing with reading and research to make sure I get the details right because I want this story to be a good story.

Finally, what makes me come back to writing on the worst days? What makes me sit down and write when times are bad? When I write bad times down, they stay on the page. They communicate my thoughts and feelings, and I gain the courage to live another day. I don’t say that lightly. My feelings of insignificance diminish with every word I write down. The stories I write show other people slaying their demons which helps me, and someday others, I hope, to slay their own demons and make this world a much better place.

 

Word of the Month – Discipline

As I’ve been debating on where I want to take my writing life and this blog, in particular, in 2020, I’ve come back to a concept that’s been popular for the last few years. The concept is to pick a “word of the year” that represents what the person hopes to achieve during the year. I do see the wisdom in it though. By thinking of a word for the year, a person can think of how they want their year to go and choose accordingly. But, I decided to take the concept a step further. I have many things I wish to work on this year, and I thought dividing my words into monthly emphases would be a better idea. It also will give me an automatic blog topic for the first blog of each month. So, with all that said, my word for January is discipline, and my post today will explain how I decided on this word and what I want to do with it during this month.

First, the word discipline has two different connotations–one negative and one positive. The definition of the negative connotation of the word is this. Discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” While I believe in the practice of discipline to train people on how to act in society, this is not quite what I had in mind when I chose discipline as my first word of the month. No, I had a more positive connotation of the word in mind. Nowadays, it’s hard to think of the positive aspects of discipline since we hear so much about the negative ones. But, positive is what I was thinking of, and here is the definition. Discipline is training ourselves to do something in a controlled and habitual way. And this is where I thought I needed to begin as I start working on what I want to accomplish in 2020.

I started writing the list of things I want to do in my planner and was surprised by the number of components it had. Most of them had to do with my writing–finishing my novel, posting regularly in this blog, writing in my journal, and writing more stories. Then, there are the activities that go with my writing such as reading and research and the classes and workshops. It looked intimidating without a plan.

I also wrote down my goals for the other parts of my life such as self-care, spending time with family and friends. and the most important part of my life–my faith practice. I want to let God’s voice lead me in all the aspects of my life; in my writing, in the places I go to serve Him, and in the things I do for Him. It’s my desire to reflect Him and who He is to me with everything I do in this life.

This takes discipline which is why I chose the word. I need to train myself physically, mentally, and spiritually as I write, as I practice my faith, and as I live for Him. Training my brain to focus on the tasks I want to accomplish instead of letting myself be distracted with what the world thinks I need to do. It is hard though. So hard to have discipline in my life though I can see the benefits once I learn and apply it. Being disciplined about working towards my goals will do nothing but help me, and help us all, as we move forward in 2020.

God bless you all today!