Those Who Can’t Do, Teach

I had the opportunity today to sit down with my mother-in-law and help her work through a book idea she has. This book has been on her mind for the last several years, and she has some notes down, but has been struggling to focus her plot and make concrete decisions.

Enter me. She knows I’m a writer, and I’ve been doing a lot of work in this area, so she asked me if I would help. Of course I said yes.

I’m no expert, by any means, but I do know things. Mostly, I know things I’ve done wrong. Mistakes I’ve made can be easily passed on. I know things I’ve read about, through articles and blogs and forums and James Patterson’s masterclass.  At this point, I have a decent amount of experience simply putting words to paper. I’m honored that she thinks my opinions are worth something.

It was an interesting experience, having a face-to-face discussion with someone about writing. Someone who actually cares and is specifically looking for my opinion. Someone who thinks I have something to teach them.

I think the bones of her story are good. The idea has merit. But it does need a lot of work. There are a lot of questions she needs to answer before she can begin to put words down. Big questions like: Where do these powers come from? How do these people find out about their powers? What is the inciting event that precipitates action? And smaller things, that will determine how she tells her story: Where does this story take place? Which character will be your main character? What POV will you write it from?

As I said, she has a lot of work to do, but I’m thankful that I can steer her in the right direction. I don’t have the answers to these questions (it isn’t my story), but I’m glad I know what questions need to be asked. Like many things over the last several months, it helps me see my growth as a writer and the things that I’ve been privileged to learn.

I may not be anybody, yet. I’m not published. Not even close. I’m not officially anything. But I still have value, and I still know things that can be passed on to someone who doesn’t know quite as much. It makes me feel good about myself, and tells me that the work I’ve put in hasn’t been in vain.

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. And not because of the food, although I do love Thanksgiving food. It’s because of the family. Family members all flooding into one house, eating and laughing and playing games together, gets my heart all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. I have a big extended family, and we don’t always get to see much of each other. That all changes at Thanksgiving. Aunts, uncles, cousins, occasional grandparents, everybody all in one place is what makes this holiday special to me.

This year is a bit different. We live far away. From everybody. No big family get-togethers for us. So we made a different family. Friends from church. People my husband works with. These are the people we’ve invited into our home to share Thanksgiving with us. It won’t be the same, but it’ll still be special in its own right.

This has been a difficult year. Exciting at times, but also terrifying, and wonderful, and stressful, and awful. I’ve been dealt some pretty heavy personal blows, one after the other, and my faith has been tested in ways that I never imagined. We moved 1100 miles away from everyone we know. We made a new life here, but it’s lonely sometimes. I got pregnant. I miscarried at only 7 weeks, and my heart broke so hard I thought I was dying. I finished a manuscript, and went through the devastating process of being rejected by agents. I’m looking for a part-time job, which may sound like a good thing, but it isn’t. It’ll give me less time to write, and feels like a step backward in my goals. I’m also struggling with not getting pregnant again, and it’s taking an emotional toll.

Even through all the ups and downs, God has been there to sustain me and pick me up. I know that His will is good and right, regardless of the pain it may be causing me in the moment. He allows me to have a spirit of peace and joy and true gratitude.

To that end, I would like to share some of the things I’m thankful for today:

  •  My health. I often take it for granted, but after the pregnancy and miscarriage I had some serious concerns. I’m making a conscious effort to take better care of myself.
  • My husband. He’s my best friend, and my earthly rock.
  • My free time. This is the first time in my life I’ve had the opportunity to write freely, to really try my hand at making something amazing. I never realized how much I wanted it until I made a concentrated effort to make it happen.
  • My writing projects. Even if I never become successful, I’ve still learned amazing lessons and had the opportunity to watch myself grow as a writer. I can tell the difference, and that growth is important to me.
  • Our move. I wouldn’t have chosen this place, and the landscape is incredibly boring. But it’s an adventure that Kasey and I are on together. We’re leaning on each other in ways we haven’t before. It’s a new place for both of us, with new things to experience and learn. I never want to stop learning.
  • The military. Kasey’s job situation over the years has been…unstable. We’ve both at times been on unemployment and food stamps. He’s struggled to find just what he wants to do with his life. The military has provided that stability for us. It’s taking care of our family, and giving Kasey the opportunity to chase his own dreams.
  • My dreams. They haven’t figured much in my life up until now. I had dreams, but there were always reasons I couldn’t chase them. I’m chasing them now. I know what I want, and I’m going to make it happen. It’s a scary thing, chasing your dreams. My fear of failure is second only to my fear of success.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I could never put into words all of the things I’m thankful for. Everyday things, like food and shelter and hot water, would make the task endless all by themselves.

I’m also thankful for you. There aren’t many of you. My posts only average about 3 views, and on a good day might hit 7. But I’m still thankful for your continuing support, and for letting me ramble and vent and try to form my jumbled thoughts into something coherent. This blog has been cathartic for me, and I hope something in it has been helpful for you too.

Happy Thanksgiving.

My New Office

This past Saturday, I finally got my office. Mostly. It isn’t quite complete, but I’m excited at the opportunity to have a workspace all to myself.

If you’ve following this blog since the beginning (a whole 2.5 months ago), then you probably know that my husband and I just moved to New Mexico this past spring. We’re living in base housing, which had me really stressed out but ended up being pretty amazing. We were given a 4-bedroom house, and immediately had a zillion ideas of what to do with the extra rooms. Okay, not quite a zillion, but you get the idea.

One bedroom is ours, obviously. A second is the guest room, which has already been used twice now and will be again this week, because my mother-in-law is coming to visit for Thanksgiving. The third is my husband’s game room. He’s a nerd, just like me, only he loves video games instead of books. The big TV is in there, along with a comfy reclining loveseat and his collection of games. The fourth bedroom has been mostly unused, and has served to collect random things that don’t go anywhere else or boxes we still haven’t unpacked.

The room has been slowly driving me insane. I hate having a catch-all room, I hate things not having a proper home, and I hate feeling like there’s useless space in my house. So, I finally got my act together over the weekend and did something about it. I spent most of Saturday working in that fourth bedroom, cleaning, sorting, throwing away, and generally making it a usable space. It now contains all of my bookshelves (3), a small TV that really doesn’t have a better home, a couch piece for me to sit on, and a box with a pillow on top for me to prop up my legs. No desk yet, but hopefully I’ll have one soon. There’s also a box of office supplies that, until we get a desk, are homeless.

Most importantly: I now have a dedicated work space. Prior to this, I’ve done all of my work on the couch in the living room. Which is mostly fine, I’m just easily distracted and feel like my stuff is always in the way. I don’t like having my laptop out in the open where anything can happen to it. Now I don’t have to. I’m ready to move into my new office, and I’m excited about the work I’ll be able to accomplish in there.

Talk to me in the comments. Where do you do your writing? Do you have a dedicated workspace?

Comments are up!

It took a long time, but comments are finally available on the homepage instead of having to navigate to the post page (Thanks Jonathan!). It’s been driving me nuts, but probably not anybody else, and that’s okay. It’s fixed now, so I’m happy.

I know it’s been a few days since I posted anything. Honestly, I’ve been distracted, and I haven’t had any decent ideas of stuff to write about. I also haven’t been reading anything for the past week. I’ve chosen to spend my evenings instead binge-watching Orange Is The New Black on Netflix. I’m starting the last season, though, so I should be back to reading soon.

My writing time is catching up with me, though, even when I’m watching TV. I keep catching myself analyzing character development and plotlines throughout the show. I’ve never paid that much attention before, but now I can’t not see it, I can’t ignore the story being told and just zone out like I’ve always done in the past.

I do have an idea of what I’ll be reading next. I’m going to forgo the library for a while and focus on some of the books I have at home. I have several works of J.R.R. Tolkien that I haven’t read yet (not Lord of the Rings, I’ve read those 4 times, I think). I also brought back, along with the poetry book, all of my parents’ classics, so I think I’m going to dive into them some too. We’ll see. I tend to accumulate books and not read them, usually from book sales where I can’t pass up 50 cent books. I’ve nearly run out of bookshelf space.

So that’s what’s going on here, at least for now. Don’t give up on me, and keep reading. I might say something useful one of these days.