Who Are You? A Guest Post by Erika Morrison

I’m just getting to know Erika Morrison, but what can I say, I love all of who she is and how she is in the world.  Friends have been raving about her new book Bandersnatch, and I have it next up in my queue to read.  Today, I hope you’ll relish her words and find your joy and your amazing worth through them.  Much love to you all.

Who Are You? A Guest Post by Erika MorrisonThe cardinals make it look so easy. The honeybees make it look so easy. The catfish and the black crow, the dairy cow and the cactus plant, all make being created appear effortless. They arise from the earth, do their beautiful, exclusive thing and die having fulfilled their fate.

None of nature seems to struggle to know who they are or what to do with themselves.

But humanity is the exception to nature’s rule because we’re individualized within our breed. We’re told by our mamas and mentors that–like snowflakes–no two of us are the same and that we each have a special purpose and part to play within the great Body of God.

(If your mama never told you this, consider yourself informed: YOU–your original cells and skin-print, guts and ingenuity–will never ever incarnate again. Do you believe it?)

So we struggle and seek and bald our knees asking variations of discovery-type questions (Who am I? Why am I here?) and if we’re semi-smart and moderately equipped we pay attention just enough to wake up piecemeal over years to the knowledge of our vital, indigenous selves.

And yet . . . even for all our wrestling and wondering, there are certain, abundant factors stacked against our waking up. We feel and fight the low ceiling of man made definitions, systems and institutions; we fight status quo, culture conformity, herd mentalities and more often than not, “The original shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out of all our other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.” ~Frederick Buechner

So, let me ask you. Do you know something–anything–of your true, original, shimmering self?

I don’t mean: Coffee Drinker, Jesus Lover, Crossfitter, Writer, Wife, Mama.

Those are your interests and investments.

I do mean: Who are you undressed and naked of the things that tell you who you are?

Who are you before you became a Jesus lover or mother or husband?

Who are you without your church, your hobbies, your performances and projects?

I’m not talking about your confidence in saying, “I am a child of God”, either. What I am asking a quarter-dozen different ways is this: within the framework of being a child of God, what part of God do you represent? Do you know where you begin and where you end? Do you know the here-to-here of your uniqueness? Do you know, as John Duns Scotus puts it, your unusual, individual “thisness”?

I can’t resolve this question for you; I can only ask you if you’re interested. (Are you interested?)

I can only tell you that it is a good and right investment to spend the energy and time to learn who you are with nothing barnacled to your body, to learn what it is you bleed. Because you were enough on the day of your birth when you came to us stripped and slippery and squeezing absolutely nothing but your God-given glow.

And who you were on that born-day is also who you are now, but since you’ve been living on this planet long enough to learn how to read this article, then it follows that you’ve also lived here long enough to collect a few layers of horsefeathers and hogwash.

So, yet again, I’m inquiring: What is it that you see before the full-length bathroom mirror after you’ve divested of clothes and masks and hats and accessories and roles and beliefs and missions and persuaders and pressures–until you’re down to just your peeled nature, minus all the addons mixed in with your molecules?

Do you see somebody who was made with passion, on purpose, in earnest; fearfully and wonderfully, by a Maker with a brow bent in the center, two careful hands, a stitching kit and divine kiss?

Can you catch between your fingers even the tiniest fragment of self-knowledge, roll it around and put a word to it?

Your identity is a living organism and literally wishes to unfurl and spread from your center and who will care and who will lecture if you wander around a little bit every day to look for the unique shine of your own soul?

One of the central endeavors of the human experience is to consciously discover the intimacies of who we already are. As in: life is not about building an alternate name for ourselves; it’s about discovering the name we already have.

Will you, _______, rise from your own sacred ash?

Because the rest of us cannot afford to lose the length of your limbs or the cadence of your light or the rhythm of your ideas or the harmony of your creative force. The way you sway and smile, the awkward this and that and the other thing you do.

These are the days for opening our two clumsy hands before the wideness of life and the allure of a God who stops and starts our hearts. These are the days for rubbing our two imperfect sticks together so we can kindle another feeble, holy light from the deep within–each of us alone and also for each other.

There is no resolution to this quest; the only destination is the process. But I hope there’s a small spark here that will leave you wanting, that will leave you with a blue-fire lined in your spine, that will inspire a cellular, metamorphic process in you; an odyssey of the soul unique to you and your individual history, organisms, and experiences.

There is maybe a fine line between being lethargic about learning ourselves and not being self-obsessive and with that tension in mind, how do we begin (or continue) the process of unearthing and remembering the truth of our intrinsic selves?

Bandersnatch: An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul was written because sometimes we all need a little hand-holding and butt-nudging in our process; someone or something to come alongside us while we pick up our threads of soul discovery and travel from one dot and tittle to the next.

We are the Kingdom people and learning your own fingerprint is something of what it means for the Kingdom to come in response to an earth which groans forth it’s rolling desire for the great interlocking circle of contribution to reveal the luminous and loving Body of Christ and slowly, seriously–like it’s our destiny–set the world to rights.

Kingdom come. Which is to say: YOU, [be]come and carve your glorious, powerful, heaven-appointed meaning into the sides of rocks and communities and cities and skies.


Without being formulaic and without offering one-size-fits-all “how-to” steps, Bandersnatch is support material for your soul odyssey, a kind of field guide designed to come alongside the moment of your unfurling.

Come with me? And I will go with you, and if you’re interested, you can order wherever books or ebooks are sold.

Or, if you’d like to read the first three chapters and just see if Bandersnatch is something for such a time as the hour you’re in, click HERE.

All my love,

Erika Morrison



When The People We Love Don’t Get Our Writing Needs

“He doesn’t get why I want to write all the time.”

“She interrupts me every time I sit down.”

“I never get a solid hour to myself to write.”

When People We Love Don't Understand Our Writing Needs

© 2013 Daniel Oines, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I hear people say things like this a lot.  Many, many of us feel like the people we love – the people who truly love us – simply don’t understand this writing thing.  They don’t understand why we want to spend uninterrupted time alone, in a room, with some books, some paper, and a screen.  More, they don’t understand how important the “alone” part of that process is. . . and sometimes they can’t quite get the “uninterrupted” part either.

Sometimes, the people we love truly don’t understand what we do or what we need to do it.  I suspect that’s true of every profession or passion on earth.

For writers, maybe that lack of understanding is exacerbated by a cultural apathy toward our work and a general ignorance about the ways of creativity and art.  Maybe because our 21st century ideas of “effective work environment” involve wide-open work spaces, a slew of meetings, and teams as the ideal method of production make it more difficult for people who work in traditional environments to understand the necessary isolation and solitude that good writing requires.  Maybe it’s just that the people we love feel slighted and ignored when we shut the door on them, even if that closed door is necessary for what we do and love.

People I loved have told me that writing is only a “hobby” and that taking that much time alone “just to write”  is “selfish.”  One person even told me, “You need to be realistic. Writing is not real work. You need to get a real job to pay your bills and do the things you want to do.”  (The fact that I wanted to write was, apparently, not included on the list of things I wanted to do.) 

The truth is that some people don’t get it, and they never will because they don’t want to.  I suspect that these folks may be quite focused on income (and may be justifiably so), may be controlling, or may be so disappointed that they have no pursued their passions that they can’t bear the joy of watching someone else pursue those.  For how to love those people and love yourself, I don’t have much wisdom beyond this – think carefully about why these people are in your life. Do they love you? Do you love them?  Do they need to remain a part of your life on a daily basis?  (I don’t say those things lightly.  These are hard, serious questions, especially when these people are those closest to us every day.)

But for those folks in our lives who really love us and really want the best for us, we can do a few things to help them love us better when it comes to our writing:

  • Explain what we need for our work. Sometimes, our loved ones really don’t know that we need silence and time alone to write. Sometimes, they truly don’t understand that one hour behind a closed door can be far more meaningful than three hours at the kitchen table where interruptions are the norm.  We can make that more clear for them.
  • Schedule our time to write. I know we often like to be all “the muse comes when the muse comes,” but I know from experience that the muse will show up when we sit down.  So look at your calendar, talk with your partner, and then slot in writing hours that work for all the people near you.
  • Send the signal. Close your office door, if you have one. Go to a coffee shop. Hang a clock on the wall with “Dad is free at _______” so your kids know.  Explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it then – your scheduled hours, a big deadline, an idea that needs to get noted now.  Help the people you love know that this is the time they need to give you space.
  • Follow your own rules. Sometimes, it’s hard for the people we love to take our writing seriously because, well, we don’t take it seriously ourselves.  We get up during our allotted hour. We wander around to see what everyone is doing. We schedule other things over our writing time.  If we want people to respect our writing space and our work, we have to model that for them.  Sometimes, that’s the hardest thing.

If you are, like me, blessed to have people who get you and your work in your daily life, give thanks.  Philip gets me. He understands, and he gives me the space – both metaphorically and literally – to do my work.  I pray that you have someone – preferably your favorite person in the world – who gets that for you, too.

Have you had people you love be dismissive of your writing? How do you respond? How do you help the people you love support you in your work?



The Most Important Thing We Can Do With Our Words

The Most Important Thing We Can Do With Our Words

A Helping Hand by Gustav Vigeland

Yesterday, someone sent me a note that compared me to Cheryl Strayed, which alone would have made my day. But then she said that something I wrote reminded me of Strayed’s words in tiny beautiful things, a book I adored at first reading and have come to hold as a guide for how I want to write and love in this world.  I teared up. I forwarded the note to Philip. I took a deep breath.

I had written something that mattered to someone, and I needed to dwell in that space for a moment.

Sometimes, I’m so busy with whatever – hitting my word count, building my platform, finishing my to do list – that I forget that people are on the other end of my words. More even, I forget that what I say effects those people – for good or for ill, whether I remember or not. I need to do better.


Far too much, writers – myself definitely included – focus on what writing gives to us whether it be money or fame or confidence.  None of those things are bad, of course.  But in our individualistic, self-centered culture, it’s really easy to think that those personal rewards are the primary reason for which we write.

We’d do better to think of income or a little self-assurance as bonuses for the writing life and instead put the benefit of our readers as our primary focus.

Now hear me. I’m not saying writers shouldn’t be paid for our work or that self-awareness is not priceless. These are important things, too, but maybe just not the most important.

The most important thing we can do with our words it to give someone hope or companionship, the light of understanding and an awareness that someone else gets it, gets us. 

Life is a lonely experience for all of us at moments, for some of us most of the time.  If as writers we can help someone feel a bit less isolated, if we can help someone, as C.S. Lewis’ character says in Shadowlands, “read to know we’re not alone,” that is worth more than any paycheck, any ego boost, any bestseller’s ranking.

So was I honored to be compared to Cheryl Strayed? Absolutely.  But what warmed me more and carried me through the day were these words, “You helped me immensely.”

What do you think the most important value of writing is?  Feel free to disagree with me, offer other suggestions, share your own stories.

I wrote my new book Writing Day In and Day Out with the goal of providing some practical suggestions and some camaraderie on this challenging journey of a writer’s life.  I truly pray it will be helpful to you.  You can get a copy at iTunes, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Amazon. Thank you all so much. 

What I Learned During the First 3,000 Miles on the Road with Dad

Lesson from 3,000 Miles on the Road with Dad

A drawing of an elk? at the White Mountain Petroglyphs

In the past six days, Dad and I have driven over 3,000 miles from Anchorage, Alaska, to here in Rawlins, Wyoming.  We’ve traveled through four national parks – Jasper, Banff, Yellowstone, and Grand Tetons.  We’ve moved through three provinces and almost two full states.  We’ve seen elk, mule deer, antelope, and elk.  We’ve talked, listened to 1.5 books, spent several hours with NPR, and ridden in comfortable silence across some of the most majestic land I’ve ever seen.

I am tired. I am road-weary and homesick. I am relaxed, and I’m so grateful to have had this time with my dad.

Today, we visited the White Mountain Petroglyphs north of Rock Spring, Wyoming. These amazing drawings were carved between 1,000 and 200 years ago by the American Indian people who call this land home.  The drawings are holy, sacred. I put my hand above them with gratitude.

When we arrived at the beautiful sandstone rockface, we were alone, and we walked around the large rock outcropping and marveled at the stories told there. I couldn’t resist trying to read them. Were they like totem poles, where the images spoke a story of strength and power hierarchy? Were they stilllifes of specific moments? Or were they linear retellings?  I have no idea.

I left that beautiful place reminded that story is the core of how humans make sense of the world and that I am a storyteller.

Sometimes, I lose track of that in the push for sales and followers and all the other stuff that comes with being a writer.  Today, I am reminded.

That much time riding gives a person time to think, and today, I posted this on Facebook:

I want to write books. I want to travel for research and be home to write. I want to delve deep and settle in with stories.

I don’t want to be widely acclaimed or earn big fees for speaking. I don’t want to seek fame at the cost of the great fortune it is to be a writer.

This, my dear friends, is the great insight I have gained on this trip.

Stories, that’s what my life is made to be. Stories.

Sometimes it takes 3,000 miles to remember.

I don’t know what your life is made to be – teacher, welding, parenting, landscaping, selling, dancing – but whatever gives you joy, whatever slips into your mind when you need things to make sense . . . I hope you have a way to do it as much as possible.  Because we need you and all you do.

Here’s to 1,700 miles more with Dad and all the lessons of the road.



Put Pen to Paper: A Writers Write Interview with Jennifer J. Chow

Put Pen to Paper: A Writers Write Interview with Jennifer J. Chow

As I sit here just north of Homer, Alaska, nothing sounds better than a cozy mystery, so it’s a perfect day to share Jennifer Chow’s words on writing and her newest book.

1. Tell me about your latest project.

Seniors Sleuth is a fun, cozy mystery. It features Winston Wong, an ex-video game tester as the protagonist. He’s out to solve a mystery at the local senior home.

2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood? 

Ever since I figured out how to read, my eyes were glued to a book. Fun field trips involved going to the library and browsing the shelves.

3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?

Since I have kids, I tend to write when they’re involved in school or extracurricular activities. When they were younger, I snuck in time during naps or after they were in bed. I used to write in the evenings, but I’ve now developed a habit of writing during the day.

4. Who are you reading now?

I just finished this great crime anthology from the local Sisters in Crime chapter in Los Angeles. It’s called LAdies’ Night. Clever, right?

5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?

 Charlotte’s Webb absolutely drew me into writing and reading as a kid. I loved rooting for Wilbur and even owned a stuffed pig as a child. Joy Luck Club for showing me that Asian Americans have stories people want to hear. And The Remains of the Day for displaying innovation in writing subject and style.

6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?

I never could juggle properly. It’s hard to balance platform and writing. I try to carve out specific time for marketing and other concrete time for actual writing and revising.

7. What is a typical day like for you? 

I tend to write longhand in a journal and then type up/edit that piece later in the day. On my blogging days (Mondays and Fridays), I will start with the blog entry first. I save outreach and connecting with readers for the afternoon or evening.

8. Describe your dream writing space? 
I would love a beautiful writing desk surrounded by bookshelves housing signed editions of my favorite books. I’ll also need to have a constant supply of my favorite ballpoint pen nearby, and a place that can easily hold a laptop and a printer.

9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?

I think the hardest critique I got was from someone who thought they had to suspend their disbelief too much. I try to balance writing fictionalized stories and creating interesting situations for authentic characters. My hope is that by attending workshops and classes and running my manuscripts through beta readers and editors, I will create novels that are both realistic and unique.

10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?

No matter what, continue to put pen to paper (or finger to key). You can only improve and overcome rejection by writing more. Also, I would highly recommend building friendships wNovelist Jennifer J. Chowith other writers (authors are some of the nicest people around).


Jennifer J. Chow writes Asian-American fiction with a geriatric twist. Her debut novel, The 228 Legacy, won several awards, and she also writes the Winston Wong mysteries under the name of J.J. Chow. Visit her online and read her blog: www.jenniferjchow.com