Write Stuff Wednesday – Writers Write

“This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy and that hard.” – Neil Gaiman

There are days when writing comes easily. I’m perfectly rested. Focus is my middle name. I have nothing pressuring me for my attention other than my work in progress. My time is my own, and I make use of it. The words flow, and the story comes as naturally as breathing. Those days are like a perfectly wrapped Christmas present opened to find an equally perfectly picked item inside the paper.

Then come the days when you open the gift and realize the giver merely wrapped something, anything in order to have a gift. You were an afterthought worked in at the last minute. It’s a box of chocolates for the one who everyone knows has been dieting for a month or an iTunes gift card for the person who has an Android phone. Those are the times when no matter what you do, the story doesn’t want to flow from your brain through your fingertips and onto the screen. Your amazing story idea stalls in the middle of the telling. You write, but it simply doesn’t feel right. Doubts creep in. Maybe you don’t have another story in you after all.

Good days or bad, a writer does one thing. They write. Even when it feels bad. Even when it is bad. They write. We write. We bask in warmth of the days when it’s that easy. We fight our way through the difficult days knowing that there is no mistake that cannot be edited out. We continue in hopes that the sun of successful days will soon shine on us again. Through good and bad we keep writing  and growing stronger through the journey. We do it because we are writers.

It’s this same attitude we need to bring into living our faith each day. How do we be Christians? We get out there every day and live like Jesus lived. It’s as easy and as hard as that. We’ve been given the instruction manual and the perfect example in Jesus. Some days godly love flows easily through our actions. Our priorities are ordered by God’s word. Keeping God’s commands don’t seem like a burden at all.

Then come the days when we just can’t seem to rein in our thoughts or control our attitudes. We are in a funk, and it shows. The difficult people push our buttons, and the last thing we feel like doing it loving them with the love of God. We realize selfishness, discontent, anger, deceit, or pride has taken root in our hearts. We want to do good, but we find ourselves giving in to temptation. We feel like failures of the faith.

But good or bad, we don’t give up. We keep coming to God in repentance for our failures. We turn back to Him and find not only forgiveness but also strength for the next battle. We bask in the good days, not because we’re so great but in praise of the One who gave that day to us. We glean lessons from the bad days, and we find our faith stronger because of it. We do it because that’s what believers do. We are followers of Jesus, and to be that we must keep following.

Full of Character with Amy C. Blake

Today’s author interview is with Amy C. Blake. I’ve enjoyed reading and reviewing her books, and I’m so happy she joined me for Full of Character. Keep reading after the interview to find out Amy’s books and how you can connect with her.

What character from the books you’ve read has impacted you more than all the others?

Honestly, Jesus is the most influential character from all the books I’ve ever read. As for fictional stories I’ve read, I’ve gleaned from characters in a number of genres. And as for characters I’ve written, Levi Prince from my YA Christian fantasy series has had the most impact on me. Since his is a four-book series about four consecutive summers in his young life, I’ve spent a good deal of time assessing his character growth. He’s also a kind of conglomeration of my own kids (homeschooled pastor’s kids), and so I’m very invested in how he turns out.

What character you created was the easiest to write? The hardest?

Patience from Whitewashed was the easiest because I can relate to her impatient tendencies and her strong desire to accomplish her goals. Christy from Colorblind was the hardest because she’s very sweet and yet, for most of the book, not a Christian because she’d believed her false-teacher daddy’s preaching.

I loved both Patience and Christy. All three of the girls in that series are very different but such good friends. Scripture is full of real people who had character to spare. Which one do you most relate to or enjoy reading about?

I enjoy reading about Peter because he said some of the most audacious and wrong-headed things and yet understood exactly who Jesus was when others still didn’t get it.

It always amazes me that we can get it wrong even when we get who Jesus us, but even more amazing is that He still uses us. Do you plan your characters and their backstories before you begin writing or are you as surprised by them as your readers?

I like to at least have a pretty good idea of their personalities and backstories before I write. However, they do sometimes surprise me with their behavior.

If someone wrote a movie about you, who would you like to play your character? Why?

My first thought is, why in the world would somebody write a movie about boring old me? If for some reason they did, I don’t honestly know who I’d like to play me. I can think of several actresses I admire, but none that I would really want to play my part.

I’d like to thank Amy, once again, for joining me today. If you haven’t read her Main Character Monday interview with Nat, check out last Monday’s post.

More about Amy C. Blake:

Amy C. Blake
Author, Homeschooler, Pastor’s Wife
amazon.com/author/amycblake
Now available: Whitewashed, my Christian suspense novel about 18-year-old homeschooler Patience McDonough (Book 1, On the Brink series)
Now available: Colorblind, my Christian suspense about 18-year-old homeschooler Christy Kane (Book 2, On the Brink series)
Now availableTie-Dyed, my Christian suspense about 19-year-old homeschooler Nat Montgomery (Book 3, On the Brink series)
Now available: The Trojan Horse Traitor, my YA fantasy novel about 13-year-old homeschooler Levi Prince and his adventures in Terracaelum (Book 1, Levi Prince series)
Now available: The Fall of Thor’s Hammer, my YA fantasy novel about Levi’s second summer in Terracaelum (Book 2, Levi Prince series)

Change and Hope

hopefortomorrowI drove down the narrow tree-lined road and past the trio of houses from my childhood. They looked the same way they’ve looked for years. But they’re not.

I live in the same place I lived when I was a child. I don’t mean the same neighborhood or the same city. I mean I live within a couple miles of the home I lived in until I was five, and I live across the field from the home I lived in from the time I was six until I got married. I walk down the same road, past the same houses, that I used to ride my bike down when I rode to my grandma’s house. It looks the same. But it’s not.

The houses are still there. The flower gardens still bloom in the spring. The roads still rise and fall and twist and turn as they always have. But everything has changed. The houses on that narrow tree-lined road are filled with people I don’t know. My grandparents and aunts and uncles don’t call them home anymore.

At one time I knew everyone on the road by my house. My other grandparents, my great-grandmas, a slew of great-aunts and great-uncles, and family friends that had known each other for years filled ninety-five percent of the houses along the road. I trick-or-treated down that road without coming to the house of a stranger. There are still some I know. A few family members still live there. But I no longer know a majority of the families living there.

The changes wouldn’t be visible to someone who didn’t know the area personally. What’s outside is similar enough, but what’s housed inside is vastly different. Those are the changes that make a difference. Those are the ones that give the neighborhoods a completely different character.

Some changes are like that. They leave what’s on the outside untouched, but the internal changes affect everything. It’s a lesson Logan De Witt is confronted with when he returns to his childhood home in Hope for Tomorrow by Michelle De Bruin. With his father’s unexpected death and no other males in the household, the responsibility of keeping his family’s farm running for his mother and sister falls to him. It’s a duty he’s more than willing to accept even though it takes him away from the church he pastors.

Arriving home, Logan is greeted by the familiar. The farm, the work, and his home are all as he remembers. But the people are not left untouched by the same grief he faces. When the town’s new teacher arrives to board with Logan’s family the toll their father’s death has taken on his sister becomes glaringly apparent. Instead of finding solace and friendship with the new woman in the house as Logan expects she will, Tillie’s internal struggle is vented in her direction. The more the internal bitterness is given space in her life, the less she acts like the sister Logan remembers.

Logan finds himself in a life that looks like it used to on the outside while struggling to make sense of the truth that life will never be the same again. Financial struggles, discontent in his home, fear to love and possibly lose that love, and this new, unwelcome side of his hurting sister combine to make Logan’s transition to this new reality rocky at best. And even if the storms cease, the real substance of their lives will never be the same.

Change is inevitable. We can fight it, or we can grow through it. We are not meant to stay the same. God sent His Son so we can be different. He wants us to become a new creation. He wants the old, sinful things to pass away. God’s desire is for those who believe to develop the mind of Christ.

God doesn’t really care about our outer packaging. Just like with David, God looks at our heart. He wants us to seek Him first. Our priorities, beliefs, and actions should be shaped by His word. When these changes take place, they may not be noticeable just from a look, but it’s the inside that makes us who we are. What is in our hearts determines our character, and our character determines our actions. These are the changes God desires. These are the ones that will make all the difference.

Traditions and Recipes

recipe2.jpgI love reading and writing. Those pursuits and how my faith affects them is what this blog is all about. But I have other hobbies too. In honor of the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, I’d like to share one of them with you.

I hold many fond memories of these holidays. No other time of year focuses so heavily on things like family and tradition. And one of my favorite activities is enjoyed more at this time of year than any other.

I remember my grandma baking at Christmas. Every year she made divinity, peanut brittle, and lace cookies to share with friends and family. I picked up the hobby after my freshman year food and nutrition course in high school. Every year since then, I’ve collected holiday cookie recipe books and spent hours in the kitchen. Before kids it wasn’t unusual for me to make 120 dozen different cookies and candies. Now, I’m lucky to get 20 to 30 dozen, but that’s okay. One day I’ll be able to devote a week to baking like I used to.

I look forward to creating in the kitchen every year. This holiday season, as thanks for sticking with me and this blog, I’d like to share some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. Come back every Friday for a new one, and if you get the chance take a look at some of my review and writing posts too. Today’s recipe was passed down to me by my grandma. It’s a staple of my cookie list every year, just like it was hers. I hope you enjoy it! recipe1

Write Stuff Wednesday: What I Need

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” –Virginia Woolf

An author friend of mine used this quote on Facebook this week as she shared about her new space dedicated to her writing. It caught my attention, and so I did what any good author does. I borrowed her quote for my blog post.

On a side note, Linda Fulkerson has four fun and creativity inspiring adult coloring books for writers available on Amazon. If you enjoy coloring, quotes, coffee, or a combination of the three you’ll enjoy her books. I have one myself and have pulled quotes from it for Write Stuff Wednesday more than once.

Anyway, back to the quote at hand. I think it resonated with me because of my own writing journey. Starting out I wrote in my room, lounging on my bed. With a house full of kids, it was the only place I could call mine. Even sequestered in my personal space, the noise of television, music, game systems, and arguing children chose to disregard my very real walls of separation. This was initially the reason I started writing to music, a practice I continue to this day.

As my family grew up and my children started working, I moved from my room to the living room couch. I had to contend with my kids’ frequent trips to the kitchen for snacks or into the utility room to do their laundry. Trying my best to block out everything that was not writing I plugged in my headphones and kept my eyes fixed on the computer screen as much as possible.

My bedroom and living room writing arrangements were less than ideal. I did the best with what I had available because I had to write. In September, things changed. My oldest son married and moved out leaving his bedroom empty. Tonight I write this post from my office. It houses everything I need to write in peace and comfort. The simple act of having my own space has increased my productivity and given me greater opportunity to keep my writing business organized.

My office makes up the corner in an L-shaped trio of rooms. The other two belong to my two remaining sons. If you have teenagers, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that I still have to deal with noise, but that’s okay. The difference is amazing.

My biggest struggle in writing has changed along with the changes in my family. Now, instead of a room of my own, I deal with lack of funds. Teenagers are expensive. I have no choice but to work a full-time non-writing related job to help pay the bills. There are nights when I come home too tired to write. There are nights when no matter what I do I can’t make enough time to write on my work in progress, blog, market, and continue to learn about the business of writing. If only I had the funds to stay home and write full-time. How much more could I accomplish? How much faster would projects be completed?

It’s frustrating and discouraging. But still, I keep going. It may not be the way I pictured it, but I’m getting to do something I’ve dreamed about since I was a little girl. I’m getting to carry out the purpose I’ve always felt God had for me. And if what I do encourages or challenges one person in their faith, then it’s worth all the difficulties.

The decision to keep on despite the hurdles is one that I find I have to carry into my faith walk too. I want to be able to spend my time in ministry and not just my writing ministry. There is so much I’d like to do, but I have to weigh each thing carefully due to a lack of time. But the issue is more than a simple shortage of time. It’s about my expectations versus God’s reality.

I want to be stronger in my faith. Spiritual growth is important to me. An increased and deepened prayer life appeals to me. I know how I’d like those things to happen. I’d like to be able to spend more time in detailed study of God’s word and enjoy closeness with Him that naturally springs for my time with Him. It happens that way sometimes, but it’s not been my experience the majority of the time.

My faith has grown and my prayers have deepened more often through the devastations of life. I’ve felt closest to Him when I’ve had no choice left but to lean on Him completely. I’ve learned first-hand the truth in “counting it all joy” and considering “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Though I never sought to go through hard times, I’ve seen God do pretty amazing things in my life because of them. I just had to keep on despite the frustrations and disappointments.

Whether in faith or in writing, it’s important to remember reality may be different than the dream. It’s not a reason to give up when frustration sets in. We choose to keep going because what we’re doing means more to us than what we’re going through. One day maybe we’ll have the room of our own and the money to go with it. Until then, keep putting pen to paper and faith into action.