Experiences, Opinions, Goals, and How They’ve Helped with My Writing

Last week was an interesting time in this brave new world of ours. I got needed things done. I even did some things I wanted to do. But, there was lethargy involved. A feeling that I was wading through miles of mud to get even the simplest of things done. I knew I had had that feeling before when I had gone through my major depressive episodes. But, it was somehow different, at the same time. So, I ended the week feeling like I had failed at what I was trying to do. I changed my mind though at the beginning of this week when I saw a post prompt in one of my Facebook groups. A prompt that said think of one thing you were successful with during the previous week and one thing you could improve on. “Improve on,” not fail at. That resonated with me, and it’s what I want to talk about today.

First, my experiences. As I’ve said before, my state has started to open up. And, of course, there are rules to abide by. So far, they haven’t affected me too much because I haven’t gone to too many places, and there haven’t been any opportunities to see friends. Now though, the opportunity is coming where I could see friends, and I’m wondering if I want to. All the rules would still be in force (physical distancing, wearing face masks, not lingering to talk in groups), and I’m not sure it would be worth it. Even worse, in the statement of what would need to happen, I was triggered by fear. I know people have used the word “trigger” for lots of things that most people don’t take seriously, and maybe you won’t take this one seriously. I don’t know. But, it’s serious to me. I have a deep fear of abandonment. And, between the abandonment and the depression, the end of last week was awful. That is until I put pen to paper and wrote a short story. A short story about someone being abandoned. I haven’t finished it yet, but I plan to. It was cathartic for my soul which is why it ended up on my positive list for the week. Bad experiences can lead to good short story ideas.

Then, there are opinions. All of us have them whether they are good or bad in someone’s eyes. And, we’re allowed to have our opinions. I have figured out something in the last few weeks though. People don’t want to hear your opinions unless they’re the same as or close to their own. They’ll react badly if they’re not. Yes, I’ve had that experience, and I’m sure you have too. But, I’ve realized some things. After you state your opinion, and it doesn’t go “your way”, you have some choices as an adult.

You can be confrontational and thrust your opinion in someone’s face. It might be important enough to do that. I have watched several people demonstrate for freedom in the last few days, and I respected them for risking public ridicule for something so important.

You can go to where your opinion is allowed. I compare this to the signs some restaurants have which say, “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” If you want to go to a restaurant which lets you eat barefoot, you would just go there. Same for opinions.

Finally, you can stay away from people on both sides of the issue. I lean toward this since I have that option and am an introvert and non-confrontational.

But, as I was considering this issue, I thought of something I haven’t done yet; something that would help me in the writing world. I haven’t practiced in public with my stories. So, I’m going to start the process of revamping my website and adding a stories section. Though holding an opinion and taking criticism aren’t exactly the same thing, they are similar enough that I need to put confronting them in my writing wheelhouse.

As I conclude, I want to mention goals. The stress level of this time has made it very hard for me to set them. And, there are times I’ve felt great angst because I haven’t met a goal. There is wide advice on this very subject all the way from just trying to survive during this time of quarantine to planning and executing the next great American novel. At times, I’ve been so tempted to just survive–that my writing really didn’t matter. But, I found I didn’t want to just survive. I wanted my days to have some challenges. I figured out this was the best way to handle it. Set the goals. Set the goals for each day I want to write. But, give myself grace if I don’t meet them. Isn’t that what it says in Scripture, anyway? 😉

I hope this has been useful to you. How experiences, opinions, and goals can help with your writing. Let me know your tips in the comments.

God bless you!

5 Things I’ve Noticed and Learned During Quarantine

This title is very similar to the one I used last week. I thought it was just as important to talk about the things I’ve noticed and learned during quarantine as well as the things I’ve missed. It’s important for me to take the lessons from the good and the bad as I move forward into what opening my state up is going to look like since this week is the start of the next phase.

One of the things I’ve noticed is how brilliant the spring colors are when I’ve gone for my walks. The green trees, the blue skies, and the many colors of the flowers have taken my breath away when I’ve been outside. I’ve been able to stop and really look at them in a way I’ve never done before. I’ve been still, and I think that’s where God has wanted my heart for the past few weeks. As Psalm 46:10 says, “He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'” God’s creation is amazing, and I want to keep my heart and mind attuned to it as things start to open.

Another thing I’ve discovered is that my patience has grown during this time. Between staying at the speed limit while driving my son to his essential job and giving grace at the grocery store, I find that I don’t mind things taking longer. Why should I? There’s been no need to be in a hurry. I do want to admit I haven’t been perfect at this. Not by a long shot. But, I’ve made progress, and I want to make sure I keep making progress.

In the previous paragraphs, I wrote of positive things I’ve noticed and want to make sure I continue to notice. But, there are negative things too. Things I want to make sure I keep an eye on and turn towards the positive whenever I’m feeling or experiencing the negative.

The first of these is a lack of perspective. When news of the coronavirus first came out and shelter in place orders were enacted by governments, I thought of many other things that would be affected by staying at home. I thought of the possibility of unemployment which I’ve gone through before with my family. I thought of the ministry my friend runs and about how the people she ministers to are considered to be at the bottom of society. I thought of the likely increases in domestic violence, suicide, and other mental health issues. I wondered what the lack of human contact would do to people, and I wondered what would happen with my own mental health issues. (As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a rough two months.) It seemed to me that there were a whole lot of other issues that would come from fighting this virus. But, of course, most people only thought what we were doing to fight the virus was important. Now, don’t get me wrong. Fighting the virus was and is important. This is an illness we had never seen before, and people were dying. But, to think we wouldn’t have any other effects from shutting down our society was very unrealistic. So, just because someone hasn’t done things exactly the way I would have done them during this pandemic doesn’t mean they’re awful. Let’s exhibit perspective, y’all, not show our lack of it.

This lack of perspective that people have exhibited (especially online) has led me to the one thing God has told us not to have in Scripture. What is it? Fear. Fear of death. Fear of the unknown. Fear of this virus. I’ve gone through a lot of this time not exhibiting fear–going out to walk, going to the grocery store, and to the bookstore now that it is open. But it got me thinking. Was I supposed to be afraid? That’s what news, government, and health officials seemed to be promoting. I looked in Scripture, and there were a plethora of responses. I’ll just quote a few.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Here’s one from Psalm 56:3. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”

I liked this one from Isaiah 41:10. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And, finally, from Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

So, that’s the answer to my question. According to my faith, I’m not supposed to be afraid, and that brings me to the fifth and final thing I’ve learned during this pandemic. Faith. I’ve learned that my faith is stronger than my fear and lack and that it can help me notice and learn what God wants from and for me.

May we all lean into the strong faith God wants us to have.

God bless you all!

Five Things I’ve Missed While in Quarantine

I have seen many of these posts floating around in the blogging world for the past week or two and wondered if I would have anything different to say if I attempted one. I decided I did. I’m my own person, after all, right? Right! So, without any further adieu, here are the five things I’ve missed while in quarantine.

The first thing I’ve missed, and, for those who know me, this shouldn’t be a surprise, is going to a bookstore to browse. Yes, my TBR (to be read) pile is way too high, but there is just something about walking into a bookstore and taking a deep breath that is fulfilling to me. It is also one of the ways I find new authors. By looking through a book by an author I’ve never heard of, I see if the story is something I might like or find intriguing enough to read. Yes, I have my favorite authors. Yes, I see the books which are sitting at the front of the store because of their marketing campaigns. But, going through the shelves themselves, that is one of my favorite things to do. When I was able to return to one on Saturday since my state’s retail stores are now allowed to be open, I felt settling in my soul I haven’t felt in a while.

Now, to number two. The second thing I’ve missed is going out to eat or for coffee with my friends and family and actually sitting in the restaurant. I have seen doing this before as taking a break from life and spending time with the people who mean the most to me. But, we haven’t been able to do that for almost eight weeks, and I’ve missed it terribly.

This leads to the third thing I’ve missed which is seeing and getting hugs from my friends. I’ve seen a few people when it’s been necessary, but, of course, there were no hugs. I’ve also seen people with the aid of technology. But, it’s not the same. It can never be the same. Then, there are friends I haven’t seen at all. In the last eight weeks, there hasn’t been a good reason to see them, and I haven’t felt like I could call them either. All of us have been dealing with our own stuff, and it’s hard to know when it would be a good time to talk. Or maybe that’s just what our society has come to. 🙂 But, I’ve missed seeing and interacting with people, and it has become more and more evident that this is a gift from God which I’ve taken for granted.

The fourth thing I’ve missed which might be a surprise to you because of the previous paragraph is having space. With my husband working from home and my young adult children going to and fro, I have, most of the time, been quarantined with people. I love them, of course, but my introvert personality craves alone time so my brain can reset. That has been rare over the past eight weeks. I’ve been able to be alone when I’ve left my home, but not while I’ve been in it. Space, in my life and my home, has been a true gift from God, and I know how grateful I’ve been for it when it has been possible.

Finally, the thing I’ve missed the most since this pandemic and quarantine have started has been going to church and worshipping with my brothers and sisters. Yes, I know the building isn’t the church, but there’s just something about being in such a holy atmosphere and knowing that everyone is there for the same purpose as you that makes the experience more meaningful and the encouragement more lasting. I am grateful though for the time and effort many churches, including my own, have taken to make sure that we can have worship experiences online and what they’ve done to serve us during this time of isolation.

So, there you have it. The five things I’ve missed the most during this quarantine. Let me know what you’ve missed in the comments.

God bless you all!