The Sympathetic Antagonist

phantomI posted an informal poll on Facebook asking readers whether they rooted for the Phantom or Raoul to end up with Christine at the end of The Phantom of the Opera movie.

One commenter asked, “Why would you choose the controlling, reclusive psychopath?” In the real world, I most definitely wouldn’t. The character of the phantom was a controlling murderer. I would never encourage anyone to be in a relationship like this. His control over her and his surroundings and disregard for life were apparent. He is blatant in his tactics and you can easily avoid them, unless, apparently, you are Christine.

Raoul is also manipulative and controlling. He’s simply more understated with it. He tells Christine her fears are unfounded. He encourages her that all she needs is him in her life to be protected. If she will walk away from the bad, the life he gives her will be practically perfect. He downplays her feelings for the phantom as not real. She could never actually have any positive feelings for such a monster unless brainwashed.  That being the case, what she feels for him is unimportant and should be dismissed.

Christine is better off on her own. She needs to figure herself out before committing to a man. Her trauma started with losing her father, continued as she mistakenly associated the phantom with a promised otherworldly guide sent by her father, and then was rounded out with the fear inducing events of the movie. She’s been through a lot emotionally, and it would be best for her mental and emotional health to process these things before pursuing a committed relationship.

But that’s not the point. Focusing on character, I want to look at the phantom again. He is clearly the antagonist. He is an obsessive, controlling murderer. Yet there are people that struggle with his loss at the end of the movie. Why? Why would intelligent, emotionally balanced individuals who would NEVER condone such relationships in real life be left feeling less than satisfied at the end of the movie?

The answer is a key to making our own antagonists better. Without background information, the phantom is only evil bent on the destruction of everything to get what he wants.  In this one sided world he is completely selfish and there is nothing about him to garner anyone’s sympathy. We would actively cheer for his demise as good triumphs over what is so clearly evil.

But we are given the phantom’s history. Tortured and unloved, his first memories of life are horrific. His own mother didn’t want him and thought him a monster. She’s probably the one who sent him to his childhood tormentor. To escape abuse and constant public humiliation, he has to kill the man who has caged him for financial gain. To stay safe, he lives apart from everyone in the network of tunnels running under the theater. He’s learned there is little to no compassion for one like himself. Though he’s around people, he is on the outside, a feral child looking in at what he cannot be part of.

Through Christine he finds a way to interact with the world. He helps her improve her singing. Her voice becomes his voice to the public. He is obsessed but believes it’s love. All he knows of love is the messed up version he’s seen lived out on stage. When his “love” is threatened, the phantom reacts, escalating in his protection of that relationship. As she chooses Raoul, he lashes out in retaliation against those who would take not only his voice but also his love from him.

When Christine reaches out to him in the end, the truth begins shine through. Love doesn’t despise based on the flesh. Even he can be treated with compassion. To make sure the one they love has what is best for them, a person will give up their own wants. For the first time, the phantom begins to understand love and responds with his first action of real love in allowing Raoul and Christine to go free. It breaks his heart and he hopes she will choose him, but he lets her leave. Then, he leaves the only life he’s known taking nothing with him except her ring. He loves her throughout her life, letting her live in peace with Raoul. We see it in the rose and ring left on her grave. He loved her by letting her choose and going on without her.

Because the one who created the phantom’s character gave us insight into his past, we get to see him as more than evil. He is broken. The tormented became tormentor to protect the life he knows. And because he is not evil for evil’s sake, because he shows signs of growth in the end, we are left with the hope that he does become more than what he’s been. His pain brings our compassion, and that compassion coupled with the promise of change leaves some wishing it could be different for him.

As a writer I want to remember this when writing antagonists. Unless I’m writing a purely evil character, I need to give them motivation. I need to give them hurts and triumphs and losses. The only thing that separates the antagonists from the protagonists is what they do with those events.

It’s been said that an antagonist is the protagonist in his own mind.  As a writer I must remember to show this to the reader. I must leave my antagonists vulnerable and redeemable. In doing so, I create a character who is more relatable and realistic. I give permission to the reader to feel compassion for the way the antagonist’s hurts have shaped his life while still holding him accountable and avoid writing into my story a cartoon villain whose sole purpose is causing trouble or inflicting pain.

 

Write Stuff Wednesday: An Interview

2f8c97e9-014e-4796-9373-22b108cebe0eUsually I post a quote on Wednesday, but today I had the opportunity to participate in an interview. This interview had some really great questions, and I thought I would share them with you.

I want to thank Elisabeth Trainor for thinking of me for her 5th grade research project on becoming an author. It was my pleasure to help out. I hope your project is a success!

What are some of the responsibilities you have at your job?

My main responsibility as an author is to write, whether it’s the next book I’m working on or something for my blog. I’m also responsible for promoting my books. This includes doing interviews, being a guest on other blogs, participating in book signings, speaking to groups, and creating images to post on social media that tell others about my books.

Is this the job you went to college for?

I know several writers who went to school to get degrees in English or creative writing. While I’ve taken several courses and attended workshops to help make me a better writer and increase my knowledge about the business aspects of writing, my course of study in college was psychology. But even that aids me as a writer by giving me additional insight into personalities to help me create more realistic characters.

What are some of the best things about your job?

I love creating new people and places for the readers to connect with. I have always loved stories, and now I get to create them for others. As a Christian author, I love that God has given me a way to encourage other believers through something that I am passionate about. Plus, I can work at the time of day that is best for me. And if I want I can do the writing part of my job in comfy clothes!

What are some of the worst things about your job?

I don’t know that there is any part of being an author that I don’t like. There are parts of it that are more difficult for me. I’m not a math person, but working for myself I have to be responsible for the tax information our state requires. That is definitely not fun. To help promote my book, I have to learn new computer programs or apps. I’m not proficient with a lot of these things, and that makes using them frustrating until I get used to them. I also have to talk about myself and my writing. As a fairly introverted person, this is very uncomfortable for me. But I’m getting better at it.

Why did you choose to be an author?

Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies. Each book introduced me to new friends and places I’d never visited. The stories I read would show me new perspectives and ideas I hadn’t thought about before. As I got older and read more faith based fiction, I found a lot of truth in the stories that I read. The people the authors created encouraged me and challenged me to grow as a person and as a Christian. I came away from the best books I read excited and wanting to create that same experience for others.

Where is the most comfortable spot you like to write at?

I have a comfy chair in my office. It faces a large window that looks out over the field behind my house and the woods beyond the field. It’s a very quiet, peaceful scene. When the weather is cool enough, I like to open the window, look out, and write with the fresh air coming into the room.

What inspires you to write?

Overall, I think the reason I wanted to be an author is what inspires me to do it. But there are people and things that continue to keep me focused and encouraged. I believe God gave me this ability and passion, and He inspires me to write in ways that will allow others to know Him more. I still find inspiration when I read a really good book. It leaves me anxious to get back to work on my own stories. When I’m feeling less motivated to write, I have a local writer’s group and friends that encourage me to get back to it. They help me work through what’s holding me back and cheer me on when things are going well.

Do you write non-fiction or fiction?

My books are fiction. They are set in the real town I grew up in, but the people and situations are all from my imagination. My blog posts are non-fiction. They are all about writing, reading, and living a life of faith. One day, I’d like to have devotional books that pair up with each fiction book I write. Those will be non-fiction as well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite non-fiction author is Sheila Walsh. Her books deal with the real issues that come up in living a life of faith, and she handles each one with honesty and openness. It’s nice to know someone isn’t just telling you something from theory but instead from a life that’s lived it out.

My favorite fiction author is Kristen Heitzmann. Her stories draw me in. She’s an amazing story-teller, and I come away feeling like I’ve been visiting with friends. The messages in her stories have helped me with things I’ve gone through in my own life. I got to meet her once, and she is also a very kind and encouraging individual.

How did your book get published?

After I completed the manuscript, I researched publishers and agents. A lot of publishers won’t take new authors without getting the material from an agent. So, I had to approach both. I sent out several query letters explaining the story and why I was qualified to write it. I also had to give them information on my writing training, accomplishments, and how I could help market my books.  I got rejection slips. Most authors do. But I kept sending it out. Authors need to learn how to persevere.

Mantle Rock Publishing accepted the manuscript, and I signed a contract with them. The book had to be sent to them for edits. As I completed them, I sent it back. Their cover designer worked on designing the perfect cover for my book while I was busy editing. Then, with the edits done and the cover design approved, the publisher sent it to the people who would make it into the actual book in time for the release date. I will never forget the first time I held my finished book in my hands. I’m blessed to have this job.

From Year to Year

path1February 13th was the anniversary of the release day for Faith’s Journey. One year. One year since I held my first published book for the first time. One year since I sold the first copy. One year since I celebrated with friends and family at the release party.

A year before that I was busy finishing that same book. I’d gotten my contract with Mantle Rock Publishing, and I was working hard to make Faith’s Journey the best story it could be. I had a summer of editing deadlines to look forward to. I had twelve months to start letting people get to know Heather Greer, author.

The year before that I was faithfully attending writer’s group and getting feedback from that trusted set of writing friends. I was gathering the nerve to send queries out to agents and publishers. I was researching those agents and publishers to determine the best options for me and Faith’s Journey.

This year I am busy making plans for the release of Grasping Hope, the sequel to my first book. It comes out in a month. The edits are done. The cover is beautiful. It’s available for pre-order. I’ve got invitations sent out for the launch party. I’ve got decorations lining the walls in my office. I’ve even ordered a new dress for the occasion. And if you know me, you know that’s a big deal. I don’t do dresses.

The point is that a lot has changed over the last few years. I’ve always felt like God wanted me to use my love of writing to minister to others. And though I never stopped writing completely, I have to admit there were times I wondered if I would see this dream become reality. But it’s a journey. Each step, each year has brought me closer to where I am today.

It’s also reminded me that the journey is not over. Where I am today is not where I will be next year. Each day is giving me an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. It’s allowing me to implement ideas for marketing that I hadn’t previously known or considered.

The dream, the ministry, is not complete. What has happened is simply a milestone on the road to where God is taking me. Seeing my first book published was a big milestone. There will be many more in the years to come. This isn’t the end of the writing trail. It’s only the beginning.

I could choose to operate under a different perspective, and it would drastically change the path of my writing journey. The same is true in our faith. So many times people see salvation as the finish line. It is the goal to reach for and once grasped, we have everything we need. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We need to adjust our focus and realize the act of coming to God for forgiveness of sin through Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection is a beginning. It is the beginning of being reconciled to God. It is the point where we find our relationship with God restored.

The key word is relationship. A relationship is on-going. It grows and changes over time. We learn more about our God. We learn more about how He sees us. Our love for Him develops changing the way we relate to Him and to other people. From the inside out, the truths we learn about Him transform us into the people He wants us to be.

When I look at last year, I want to see how much I’ve changed in my relationship with God. I want to see areas where I’ve learned and grown. And I don’t want it to stop there. Every year in my future I want to be able to look back and see a little more of Jesus and a little less of me.

 

Saying Goodbye

I love quotes. I guess that’s why I came up with Write Stuff Wednesday. Usually, I share a writing related quote, but really I’m a fan of any type of quote. I especially love quotes from children’s books. Today’s quote falls into this category.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

I’ve had friends come and go in my life. Some have been incredibly hard to say goodbye to and even now, years later, I still find myself thinking about them. Their friendship was that special kind of relationship that shapes who you are. They are beside you in the bad times and laughing with you in the good times. You grow together and support each other. You can trust them just as they can trust you. Their absence doesn’t go unnoticed.

Some books are like that too. Some end and you go about life as usual. You enjoyed them while reading them, but as you turn that last page you’re satisfied with the end. Their story is over, and you are ready to move on.

Other books are harder to place back on that shelf. Whether it’s the characters or the message or both, you connect with the book in a deeper way. You empathize with the characters’ pains and relate to their struggles. Maybe they’re dealing with the same doubts you face. Maybe you’ve experienced a similar loss. Whatever the reason, reading these books is like holding up a mirror and seeing yourself. You connect with people dreamed up in the imagination of someone else. Reaching the end of these books isn’t as easy. The resolution of their problems may be satisfying, but their story has not left you unchanged. You’ve been encouraged or challenged as you’ve read each page. These are hard books to leave behind. These are the books you visit again and again.

These are the books I want to write. I would love nothing more than for people to come away from my stories changed for the better. I would count myself successful to know that others have connected with the characters I created and come away encouraged or challenged in their faith. As I strive to learn and grow as a writer, it is my hope that those who read my books will find “something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.

 

Roads and Choices

path“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who attended high school in the United States that has never read “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Students across the nation and through the years have written essays on the poem and its meaning. Experts have written the same, likely with more finesse and insight. But whatever Frost’s deeper meaning, the actual incident of choosing a path found me and my husband on our way to a local Mexican restaurant to meet friends. It went something like this:

Our car zipped through the intersection heading north.

“What are you doing?” It was time for passenger seat driving.

“I’m going to the restaurant.”

“But you didn’t turn. You’re supposed to turn right at the light. Turn onto Wall, then Grand, then you’re at the restaurant.”

“Or I could go straight up to Grand and turn right. Go down the road a little bit, and I get there just the same.”

“Yes, but that’s not the way we get there.”

“Maybe it’s not the way you get there. But it’s how I get there.”

“But it isn’t right. You went the wrong way.”

You’re right. It’s not as poetic as Frost’s choice of roads, but we, of course, made it to the restaurant. I don’t think it was any quicker to go my husband’s way, but I don’t think it took longer either. There were pluses to his way. There were merits to my way. Contrary to what I indicated in our discussion, there was no right way to get there. There wasn’t even a best way. There were just multiple paths to reach our destination.

And isn’t that what Frost’s poem is really all about? Isn’t that what writing is about?

In March my first book, Faith’s Journey, was published. It was something I’d worked years to accomplish. I published with a traditional publisher, Mantle Rock Publishing. I wrote my manuscript in the evenings after working a full-time job and getting dinner for my family. I wrote on the weekends when I didn’t have to work my day job. I sent out query letters to multiple publishers. I didn’t use an agent, though I queried some of them as well.

In November, my friend Brenda Gates published her first book, Anna’s Song. She wrote it while caring for her elderly father and taking care of her family. She considered traditional publishing, but chose instead to self-publish. She went through all the necessary, professional steps to assure the highest quality book, and the result is a wonderful book I loved from page one.

Other authors work only on their writing. Some work only through agents. A few began writing and ended up with publishing companies. Some authors self-publish while others go the traditional route. Our paths are different, but the destination is the same. As with anything, what the end results look like will vary greatly depending on what went into the journey. But however different our basic paths to reach it, the basic destination is the same.

We all belong to that unique group of people known as authors. We’re all moving at different speeds. We all have personal messages and styles. But we can still come together and support each other because we have one thing in common. We are authors. It’s great to have a group of like-minded people to belong to.

And it’s wonderful to know that our writing isn’t the only place to find it. As believers, we are all part of the body of Christ. We have been given different talents and gifts. God put s a passion for different ministries into our hearts. We all have the gifts of scripture and prayer to help us grow in our faith. But we don’t all grow in the same way or at the same speed.

I have heard God speak clearly to me through Christian musicians. Others seem to draw more from listening to the messages of great theologians. Hearing God’s voice comes easier for some when they’re sitting silently in nature. Whatever way God speaks to you, it’s okay. As long as the message is supported by scripture, it’s still God’s message for you.

I have a heart to see women grow in the faith they already have. My mom’s passion is for spreading the gospel to the lost. I know some who have a heart for the little ones in our lives and others who serve the teenagers. It’s okay. There’s a need for each of these things, and God uses our different personalities and interests to fill those needs.

There are multiple roads in our wood of faith. There is one out there that is uniquely yours. You aren’t meant to walk down mine. God didn’t design me to go down yours. Our individual paths may look different, but we are still called to come together in support and encouragement of each other. We have something greater than our differences holding us together as one. We are Christians, and our faith brings us together.

By the Book: If you have one, what does your writing path look like? What about your path of faith?

TBR . . . Later

IMG_4635Just when I think I have it under control, my TBR pile inexplicably grows. Well, I say inexplicably, but that’s not entirely true. I know why it grows. There’s a plethora of interesting looking books out there, and I lack self-control. But it’s more than that.

With the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself looking forward to four precious days off work. Four whole days to read, write, and get caught up on writing projects. I wanted to be honest with myself so I lowered it to three days. After all, Thanksgiving Day would put my focus on my family not my to-do list. I was blessed to spend the day listening to laughter and conversation with my entire family. It was more than a fair trade off with not being able to get work done.

Friday, I managed to complete a blog post and remind people on my social media feeds to check out the Literary Feast Facebook Fiction Party I’m participating in on Monday. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.) I also responded to some commenters on a guest blog post I did this week. And even though I refuse to Black Friday shop in town, I managed to finish over half my Christmas list through online shopping.  However, I struggled with a headache all day which left me unable to focus for actual writing or reading.  That’s day two.

Today, I admit I got distracted. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I do want to decorate for Christmas in the coming weeks. I can’t do that if my house is a mess. So, I dusted and vacuumed and organized the front room in my house in preparation for our Christmas tree. I’m not putting it up today, but I did get my snowmen set out. And because we need to eat, I did my grocery shopping. I have to say I’m a fan of online shopping with same day pick-up. I shopped this morning and will go pick everything up this afternoon. Day three is half-way over, and I’ve not accomplished much.

Tomorrow I have church and an anniversary lunch for my in-laws. That will take a huge chunk out of the day. I know there won’t be a lot accomplished in the writing or reading departments. Then, it’s back to work on Monday. Four precious days off work, and I’m not going to have a lot to show for it.

Part of me is frustrated at myself for taking it so easy these last few days. I had a lot to accomplish. I’m working on book three and waiting for new edits from the publisher on book two. I’ve written a Christmas devotional and memory journal, and I’m planning a Christmas get-together as a trial run of how it will work as a women’s ministry tool. I needed to get things in order for that next weekend. I’m part of a group planning a women’s retreat as a ministry and fundraiser for our local church camp. I needed to get some work done on that as well. My posts for Monday’s Facebook party should already be written and scheduled. They aren’t. My list doesn’t even include reading the next book to review, but it should.

Then I think of the story of Mary and Martha. I know it related more specifically to giving ourselves so fully to preparing for Jesus that we miss our chance to really be with Him. But I think there’s an everyday message too.

I spent time with my husband, children, and grandson these last few days in addition to my parents and in-laws. We laughed a lot, and I watched my sons play with their nephew. His face lights up when his uncles are around. I spent a normal afternoon taking a walk at the mall with my mom and my grandmother. Her struggles with age and dementia left her needing a change of atmosphere yesterday, and I needed to get out of my house for a bit too. I decided to go with them, and knowing Granny’s days are diminishing, I’m glad for that memory of an ordinary afternoon with her.

I could have spent my time on my to-do list. I could have spent it on doing things. Those things need done, and they’re good things. Instead, I chose to spend it with the people I care about. And I think it’s like Jesus told Martha. Choosing the people is choosing “the good part”.  Everything on my to-do list and my TBR pile can be taken care of later.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Hidden Stories

old-farmhouse-2535919__340“Everybody walks past a thousand story ideas every day. The good writers are the ones who see five or six of them. Most people don’t see any.” Orson Scott

There’s a small dilapidated house down the road from my grandmother’s house. The wood siding has long since faded and worked loose from the house. Shutters hang in crooked lines refusing to give up their final hold on the window and plunge to the ground. The porch is in shambles, and the yard is overgrown. I wonder why the owners don’t tear it down. It doesn’t serve a purpose.

Still. It draws and keeps my attention. The dark windows pull me in to find the house’s story. It’s the story of an old farming couple, shriveled through years of manual labor in the hot southern Illinois sun. It’s the story of disappointment, a childless couple with no one to care for the home they worked so hard to create once they’re gone. It’s a melancholy story that is as beautiful as it is sad.

It’s a very different story from the one birthed by the abandoned farmhouse near my in-laws house. The simple white house is newer in style. White siding is dingy but still intact. Large, glass windows stare out at me without shutters framing their dark depths. Another farming family lived here. They worked the land but with more modern conveniences. They shared meals with their children around a large kitchen table. There was laughter and love, but there was also discontent.

As the children grew, the life of the farm didn’t offer enough to satisfy. Though it left their parents with no one to carry on the family legacy, each child chose to leave for more lucrative lives in the city. The couple worked their farm, selling off bits and pieces to make up for the bad years, until their bodies could take no more. The home was reduced to a house after their deaths, and the land waits for a time when the children can agree on the proper way to dispose of it. It’s the story of the loss of a way of life and a lack of appreciation for all it held.

Two empty houses. Two different stories. But they’re each only one of many that could be told. Who knows where the truth lies? These are simply the stories I see first when I look at the two houses. What do others see? Two empty houses.

This is why I write.

The stories I see are different from the stories anyone else may see. And some people may not see them at all. That’s why writing is important. We can share stories others can relate to but not otherwise get to hear. We can put life back into empty houses.

But it doesn’t end with story-telling or houses. As believers, we each have a different story. We also have unique ways of approaching life. Just as writers need to see stories in the world around them, believers need to see the lives of the people around them.

We’re called to be salt and light to the world. We’re called to reach into the lives of others and change them through practically showing them the love of God. To do this, we must see their story. With empty houses and a laptop, I can imagine a story and shape it to fit my desires. With people, we need to dig deeper and find the truth. What do they need? How are they hurting?

When we see these things, we can act on their story. We can give love in an unlimited number of ways that will speak to their need. We can show them God through joining them in their story for a time.

And the beauty of it is, the people in need aren’t the only ones like empty houses. Each of us is a unique house on our own. When I step into someone else’s story, I bring my unique perspective, my own story into theirs. I can minister to their needs in a way that is different than anyone else.

This carrying of each other’s burdens, sharing in their joys, and showing them God’s love in practical ways is a believer’s calling from God. Not everyone may look at an empty house and come away with a story like a writer does. But seeing and responding to the stories of others is a trait every believer should cultivate in order to live their faith each day.

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.

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.

Write Stuff Wednesday: Why

why-2028047_1280“Maybe it won’t be famous. Maybe it won’t be a movie. But that’s not why I started it. And that’s not why I’ll finish it.” – Ryan Reudell

Maybe one day my books will be as famous as those by Karen Kingsbury or Melanie Dickerson. It would be amazing if a production company approached me about making one of my stories into the newest Hallmark movie. (I don’t know if you know this about me, but I love Hallmark movies. All of them. Not just the Christmas ones.) I recently saw a social media post about another author on that path right now. Congratulations to her! I hope it’s an awesome experience for her.

That could happen to me too. It would be wonderful if it did. But I can live my life as an author and consider myself successful even if neither of those things takes place. Why? Because that isn’t why I write. I come home from my 8-5 job every day to spend my evenings working on marketing, blogging, and my newest manuscript until long after I should be asleep. My reasons are simple. I love to write, and I feel like God wants me to use whatever talent I have in that area to help encourage others in their faith. Writing is a way I can encourage and challenge others that I might otherwise never get to meet.

If my books never reach the popularity of Karen Kingsbury’s books or get made into a movie, it’s okay. I’m doing what I feel God would have me do with the interests and talents He has given me. I’m sowing whatever seeds of faith each story contains, and I trust that God will allow those seed filled stories to make it into the hands of whoever needs them and grow what He wants in their lives. If He chooses to bless my hard work with a best seller I’ll be ecstatic. If not, I’ll trust Him and keep writing.

By the Book: What talents has God given you? Have you ever asked Him if and how He wants to use them?