Writing

So, I’m writing a novel…

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Two years ago, at the encouragement of CJ, a lovely young woman at church, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated). CJ, bright-eyed and full of storylines, had already completed her first novel the previous year and was eagerly anticipating November 1 so she could get started on her next one. According to NaNoWriMo rules, she’d have to finish this novel by November 30. CJ who is an excellent writer, was also 16 at the time.  So I thought – oh yeah, I can totally do that.

I can’t over-emphasize how excited this news made my husband. I’m pretty sure he married me because he likes the way I write (notice I didn’t say communicate; verbally I’m the queen of unfinished thoughts, rabbit trails, hand gestures, many tears and exclamation points; our relationship began with written communication and while strangely he does truly love me in my moments of intense, emotional verbal processing, I think he holds my softer written words in a tender spot in his heart). Any chance he has to encourage me to pursue this introspective passion of mine, he takes with full force.

That said, he committed to making sure I was up by 6 am every morning, so I could start writing the 50,000 words required to finish the NaNoWriMo challenge. Please let it be known that I am *not* a morning person, and that cannot be changed,  I don’t care what anyone says – including my husband, who swears you can train yourself to be a morning person (but this is coming from someone who voluntarily signed up for the Army and medical school in one fell swoop. Advice from super heroes must be taken with a grain of salt). Anyway. Husband woke me up at 6 am every morning and for two weeks I sat there at the kitchen table, huddled under a blanket, clutching a coffee mug, hen pecking, word by word… a non-novel.

That’s right. I told my husband I would participate in NaNoWriMo but that I couldn’t possibly write a novel because I only think in non-fiction prose. Ask my husband for a story idea at any given time and he’ll rattle off some brilliant combination of character, location, and conflict. I, on the other hand, will stare at you blankly and say “Um, yes, well. It will be about this woman, in her early thirties, right? Yeah, so she’s had a lot of transitions in her lifetime and she really loves God but she’s often struggling with how to reconcile faith with the world around her and what it means to love Jesus, really…” You get the idea. Perhaps I am a little too self-centered (okay, I know I am, let’s be serious). But I also tend to think that I’ve been given a gift of tying pieces of my life together, of seeing things in a slightly different light, and of finding glimmers of grace in the broken down and sooty bits.

So I really do think that when it comes to writing, my calling is first and foremost to learn how to be better at this. So I committed to writing 50,000 words of non-fiction prose in November of 2011. And… it did. not. happen. After 2 weeks, I gave up. I had little time, little energy, and it was honestly a little annoying (and a bit guilt-inducing) to get all the NaNoWriMo emails encouraging me about my “novel” when a novel was not what I was writing in the slightest.

But.

This year is different. I have more time on my hands, for one. Last time I tried NaNoWriMo I was working full time, was a relatively new bride with boxes to unpack and a new husband-roommate to care for [get used to], and was completely stressed out to the max. Now I have a flexible schedule and several coffee shops in walking distance from my house. Our boxes are all unpacked. My husband is working on plans to transform our garden shed into my very own writing cottage. (Yes. You read that correctly. My husband is making me a writing cottage. Did I win the lottery or what?)

Also, I think I might have a story idea. Just maybe. It may turn out to be absolute crap, but the point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to write the most amazing novel in the history of man; the point of NaNoWriMo is to get you writing each day; and to show yourself that it is entirely possible to write 50,000 words. The thought is, you get it all out in the month of November, and then you take the next few months to edit, revise, re-imagine – heck, you can take the next year. Because the crux of it is you’ve shown yourself you can commit to and execute something worth creating.

We’ll see how it goes. But I’m hoping, since I’ve published here that I am committing to the task, you guys will help keep me accountable. Let’s see where we are this time next month, shall we?

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Grace

Man doesn’t live on bread alone

Our books are still in boxes.

Usually, when I set up a new living space, my books are the first to be unpacked. I like to touch each one, pause; if there’s time, I open a few of the pages and read a few lines. Meditate on words once read, underlined, starred, recalling back to a younger self who read with passion and curiosity.

I married a man with as many, if not more, books as I have in my possession. The fact that some are duplicate is a private confirmation to me of our perfect synchronization. Thus we are the Curletts of Many Books and at the moment these treasures are still in boxes, sitting in the corner of our basement.

One book in one of those boxes is my Ryrie Study Bible, which I’ve had since sophomore year of college, when I decided my faith needed to be my own. Lately I’ve been craving the word, and Googling each verse in question hasn’t been cutting it. My husband’s Bible is worn; crammed with pencils, notes, and memorabilia; it is held together tightly by a rubber band. I love his Bible, but at a distance.

Rather than open every one of the twenty boxes in our basement to find my collegiate companion, I instead went to Amazon and purchased a thin line ESV Bible. I imagined myself tucking it into a purse or a suitcase, something toteable. Perfect. When I read the description I realized that there would be no notes, no cross-references, no footnote exegesis. I worried a bit that I wouldn’t be able to follow these words without the guidance of scholars. (I know, I know. Martin Luther and all that. But you know, sometimes my brain hurts and I need a little help.)

So…ever since that Bible made it to my doorstep? My hungry soul has been eating it up. Chapter by chapter. Number by number. Epistle by epistle. It feels comfortable, friendly. It makes sense to me. I am understanding its words in a way I never have before. There is clarity and an understanding that has never been present with me as I’ve read the word of God.

Maybe this shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but I have to be honest: I am surprised. This prayer thing works. Sure, in certain denominations and certain pulpits, pastors and ministers pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the word of God. But how many times do we do that and experience…nothing? I would venture a guess that most of you reading this know what I’m talking about (or perhaps just as likely, you really have *no idea* what I’m talking about and the idea of asking the Spirit of God to help us do anything sounds a little freaky-deaky. I don’t blame you. It’s bizarre, right? Nonsensical). But here’s the thing: I asked him to help me, and he has been helping me. Honest truth.

How did this come to be? Well, a couple of weeks ago I had an ugly cry episode (definitely not the first!) where I professed from the very depths of my being that I believe in who he is and what he is capable of doing – namely, changing me. But this time I specifically asked him to open up my eyes and ears and heart to the truth of his word.

And guess what? He is true to his word. He’s been doing it. It feels like a fog has been lifted. And it’s rocking my world.

I don’t know what to make of all of this, other than to laugh through my tears. Cathartic is the word that comes to mind. I feel compelled to write. I have a new confidence I’ve never, ever experienced before.

Could it be possible that the Lord has known, since before the creation of this world, that it would take me until October of my 32nd year to fully experience the truth of his promises? That it would take me this long to study the clues along the way?

Just now I opened a box strewn with gifts. Brennan Manning. Frederick Buechner. Madeline L’Engle. Who say: You’re forgiven. You’re called. You’re a creator.

And now: the questions remain, “What do I create?” and, “Am I worthy of the task to which I am called?”

Something is brewing. Something is being knit together. And my Father, who purchased my life with the sacrifice of his son, clothes me in righteousness and undeserved reward.

He is with me.

Thank you for being a witness.

e

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