Why I’m Blogging Even Less

Why I'm Blogging Even Less

© 2008 Floriana, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Yesterday, I had a migraine, and by the time I finished all my work at 5:30, I was so tired I could do nothing but lay on the couch, watch Family Feud, and sleep during the commercials.

Today, I woke with a pain between my shoulder blades and my SI joints completely locked up.  My teeth on the right side ache, too, a sure sign that I’m grinding them while I sleep.

My body is telling me – without question – what I have needed to recognize emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually for a while now – I’m too stressed. 

I’m saying YES to too many things and NO to myself, too often. 

I can’t sustain this.  But more importantly, I don’t want to sustain this level of activity.  Instead, I want to enjoy every single thing I do.  For me, that means I have to DO less so that I can enjoy them MORE.

**

This morning, my friend Shawn Smucker sent out his newsletter.  In it he says something I needed to hear:

Does the world benefit from us sharing our opinions on everything, or could not sharing an opinion actually be a virtue our world sorely needs more people to practice?

More and more, I’ve felt like I need to share less and reflect more.  I find myself wanting to spend more time with my thoughts. I want to weigh my words more carefully before I put them out into the world. I want my ideas to get more space to develop and expand.

In short, I want to write more books and fewer Facebook updates, tweets, and even blog posts.

So I’m only going to be blogging once a week from now on, probably on Wednesdays.  I may pop in for special posts when big things happen or when it feels like staying silent is being complicit to injustice or oppression. But mostly, I’m going to savor my words and serve them when they are wiser, better, more helpful, more seasoned.

**

I don’t know how you’re feeling these days, if your body is telling you to slow down or if you just feel a little bit of dread about how MUCH each day carries. I don’t know what you can let fall away and what you must continue to carry in your full arms.  Only you can decide what is best for you and your life.

My hope and prayer for your days and mine is that we wake excited to live them. I hope that when we open our eyes, we take a breath and stretch to find ourselves rested, our bodies limber, and our spirits eager but calm.

How are your days feeling lately? How’s your stress level? What do you do to keep yourself healthy and balanced? 

My Writing Newsletter

While I’ll be writing less frequently on this blog, I plan to write more often on my newsletter.  In that bi-weekly email letter, I share resources on writing and reading, talk about my latest projects, share free books and other offers, and make announcements about upcoming events for writers and readers here on the farm.  When you sign up, you’ll also get a free copy of Our Best 10, which includes 10 pieces of writing from some of the best writers I know. 


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God’s Whisper Farm Newsletter

And if you’re interested in getting updates on God’s Whisper Farm specifically, we do weekly newsletters with stories from the farm, updates on what’s available in the farm stand, event announcements, and exclusive newsletter-only photos for the critters and this beautiful piece of land that we steward.

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Seeing Again: Strategies for the Hard Work of Revision

You can save some of the sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. (Are you a woman, or a mouse?) — Annie Dillard in The Writing Life

Seeing Again: Strategies for Revision

© 2014 volkspider, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Yesterday, I finished a book on writing.  Or I should say, I finished a good, solid draft, a hard-won draft that was carved out of the wood of an idea in minutes during a crazy busy period of my life.

Today, I will review the 33 pages of this brief idea, and I will change almost every word.  If I am lucky, a nugget of idea will be clear, and I’ll be polishing. But what I may see – to use Dillard’s metaphor – is the shimmer of a vein that leads into something still buried.  I will mostly likely need my pick-ax, not just my soft cloth.

I would rather skip this part.

But I would be a lazy writer if I did. Writing is hard work.  Every time. The number of nuggets grows with practice, and I see more veins in my work now than I did 10 or 5 years ago.

Still, revision takes a ruthlessness that I don’t like. Shedding the blood of darlings, following Faulkner’s advice is tough – true. But the toughest thing for me is to realize that all the clarity I thought I carried into those words is nothing more than a muddy puddle.  I always have a lot of filtering to do.

I have found in the words of others over the years a few things that help me.

  • Step back. When I’m on a tight deadline, as I am now, I may only get one day away, but even in that one day, my brain begins to forget what I wrote so I can see it new.  Or new-ish.  If I have more time – and I leave lots of time to revise my full-length books – I put the manuscript away for a few weeks before I revise.  Then, when I come back, it’s like I’m reading someone else’s work.
  • Slow down. As I begin, I read slowly. I read out loud if necessary.  I need to be able to understand the work that each sentence is actually doing, not what I intended it to do. I go cold about what I wanted to say, and I analyze to see if I actually said it.
  • Change formats. When I revise, I print everything out (two-sided). The use of paper and ink is worth it to me to be sure I get a fresh take on what I’ve said.  I read slowly, page by page, with a pen in hand. I mark up the whole thing, move bits around, add, cross-through. If the manuscript doesn’t look like it went through a pen-induced massacre, I haven’t done enough.
  • Open hands. For me, this part is hardest. I let go of what I have decided the work will be. I let go of my original intention. I let go of what I think is most important, and I let the work tell me what needs to be said. I used to think that statements like this were a bunch of mumbo-jumbo – I’m in charge, and my work does what I want it to do.  But I’ve learned that most of the time, some part of me beyond my conscience understanding, a part connected to a Presence beyond me, knows what is most needed and uses me as a tool to say it. My job, then, in revision is to find what is hidden in the walls of my own intention and mine it, pulling the silver shimmer into the light.

It really would be glorious if the Muses of inspiration just handed us texts fully-formed, Venuses of language sprung whole into being. But in my experience, that doesn’t happen for anyone.  Instead, writing requires work.

And if you ask me, the work refines not only the words but the writer, too, and goodness knows, I need refining.

What do you do when it’s time to revise? Any strategies that are particularly helpful to you?

 

I’ll be sending my brief book on writing out to everyone who subscribes to this blog or my newsletter sometimes in August, so if you’d like a free copy, please subscribe here – http://eepurl.com/bdmYif.  When you do, you’ll get another book free, right away; Our Best 10 includes writing advice from some of the best writers I know.  I hope you enjoy both books. 

Coloring Books and Fire – When We Ask for Wild Things

No, No, you say. Rather something wild.  – from “Unfinished” by Margaret Rozga

Coloring Books and Fire - When We Ask for Wild Things

Mom’s Page

Yesterday, I found my mother’s coloring book – Color Your Own Book of KellsMom always loved Celtic spirituality, the way things looked back on themselves, intricate and bright. Tiny angles of drawing spreading their wings over words. Illuminations in every way.

She had colored only one picture, the first, as I would expect she would. First things first.

I inherited my mother’s sense of order, her love of earth tones, too.

But in this picture she let color go wild, bright orange at the top, royal blue, violet, kelly green.  Within the confines of these lines, she let herself loose.

**

This morning I read in that cumbersome book of Kings. I’ve been moving through a chapter a day, bearing up under the idiocy of kings who give up the best things in the world because they must get them for themselves and now. Self-sufficiency run rampant. Me on the page.

But now, I’m in the pages with Elijah, a prophet with whom I did not ever find much charge until the last decade, when all that my life looked like it would be changed in every single way. Then, suddenly, this wild man who trusts God’s birds to bring him meals speaks of who I want to be. I watched him hear God’s Whisper and felt my soul soar.

Bold, brash, wild with trust and confidence that extends beyond my own meager talents.

In I Kings 18, Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to the equivalent of a Biblical duel. And when they cannot get their gods to light their fire (there’s definitely a class rock song in there somewhere), he gets people to pour water all over his oxen, fill a trench, and be sure that everything is fair on sopping.  Then, he prays and asks God to show off. “Bring it on, God!”

God rains down righteous fire so intense that it burns up not only the oxen and the water in the trench around the altar but the stones on which the altar is built.

Talk about showing off.

**

As I looked at the second page of Mom’s coloring book, the one I started yesterday, I got this vision.  I didn’t see ladders to heaven or monkeys with rabbit ears or anything.  I simply saw how gorgeous this page would be if I let myself color out of the lines a bit.

This is a big deal for me to even imagine because in coloring books – and much of life – I am a color in the lines kind of woman.

But I’m going to try it out, sweep these pencil strokes wide and free on the pages, and see what I see.

I’ll share the results over on Instagram when I’m done. A word of warning, I see a lot of goldenrod in this vision.

**

Lately, I’ve been getting pretty wild in my dreaming for this writing business. I’m setting big dreams down into words that make them goals, and I’m working my tail off to get to a place where the balance of farm to writing fits who I am.  It’s a lot of work, but goodness alive, if I can pull this off . . . . it’ll be like God has just pulverized the stones under the altar of my life with God’s righteous fire.

If it comes together as I’m praying it will, if God decides this is the best way for me, for Philip and I, for the writing, for the farm, it’s going to take a miracle. But I believe that God has birds bring food when we need it and sends stacks of fire to lead the way when we’re lost. I believe that fire rains down at God’s command and dreams become farms when I step into God’s way.

Trust me when I say that if all this comes together, I’ll be hitching up my overalls like Elijah did, and while I may not be able to beat a chariot all the way to Jezreel, I’ll be dancing. You better believe I’ll be dancing.

What would you do if you let yourself dream wildly? If you trusted it was possible? What would you write? Where would you go? How would you live?

 

Many thanks to Preston Yancey for the post that sparked this one. Please, if you would, take a few minutes to visit Preston’s blog, and if you would hold up a pray, a good light, a kind heart for his son Jackson.

Farm Update – Space to Love and Be Loved

How glorious the splendor of a human heart that trusts that it is loved! — Brennan Manning

Farm Update - Space to Love and Be Loved

The barn wall – all reclaimed wood.

The room is 10 x 14′ perhaps.  In it, we will have two sets of bunk beds, a desk, and a chair. Gentle lighting. Quilts. Books. Coasters for the sweat of iced tea and the steam of hot.

Next door, the bathroom will have a shower with the most fun curtain I can find, a sink with great lighting, and all the necessaries and Philip’s special Jeep outhouse picture.  (You’ll need to see it for yourself.)

Beyond the wall, a rustic kitchen will have all that’s necessary to make a meal, grab a late-night snack, boil that tea water.

Soon, you will be able to come stay here at the farm, in a space built with you in mind, a space designed to give you rest and room. A space created to remind you that you are loved every minute of every day.

**

This week, Dad finished the wall of reclaimed wood that separates the public space of the barn from the private rooms.  We still have doors to hang and a sliding door to build between Philip’s shop and the meeting room, but we are making fast progress.

We also set up that kitchen – stove, freezer, mini-fridge (in case you wanted to relive residence hall days or pretend you’re in a fancy hotel.  I’ll get a few tiny bottles of liquor and pickles.), and the world’s oldest (and heaviest) microwave.  Everything from appliances to cabinets is recycled, and right now, two antique doors make the countertop.  Soon, we’ll add a sink and connect the electricity, and we’ll have a full kitchen in the space.

In the bathroom, we have the sink – moved from the guest bathroom that was in my office – and we’ll get a shower stall with a really nice shower head. We promise we’ll get the best composting toilet we can.

Then, when it’s all done, you can come – with your family, with a friend, on your own. You can come to write or simply get away. Or spend the night after the concerts and readings that will soon fill the front of the barn.  Plan a historic Virginia tour and crash here.  Whatever reason you need a safe, comfortable, cozy place to stay – our barn will be here for you.

The rate for staying over will be minimal, and we will do our very best to accommodate budgets and schedules.

Think of our bunk room as a rustic airbnb.

**

Our goal in this space is not to create a 4-star hotel experience for you (except for the tiny liquor bottles, of course.) No, here, we want you to feel like you came to a little bit of home, a place where you feel safe and relaxed, where you can hear bleating goats and wake to the crow of a rooster.

Here, our only goal is that you get rest and that you know – as deeply as possible – that you are loved for all of you are, all of who you were, and all of who you will ever be. Every minute of every day.

If we do that, well, Whisperers, God’s Whisper Farm will be more than we ever hoped and dreamed.

If you were going to come have a rustic, restful experience, what would you need? Or what might you NOT want to have at hand?

This coming Saturday, the amazing Shawn Smucker will be here on the farm to read from his book The Day the Angels Fell and to talk about writing and living. I hope you’ll join us for a potluck supper at 5pm and then stay for Shawn’s talk at 7pm.  Wilma, the fainting goat, let me know this morning that he’s very much looking forward to seeing you, so please come.  The event is free, open to the public, and appropriate for all ages.

The Gift of Small Audiences with Thanks to Pierce Pettis

The Gift of Small Audiences with Thanks to Pierce PettisI can still remember us as 18-year-old young women. We’re on the floor of our residence director Sandy’s apartment in our freshman dorm. She’s told us she wants to share a song with us.  We sit as the tape player sends the music into the air:

In this suffering and blindness
The milk of human kindness spills
And no one cries
With his ninety eight pound frame
Stickman doesn’t carry too much weight
In a world where everybody dies

This was my introduction to the gifted singer-songerwriter Pierce Pettis.

In the 22 years since, I have listened to Pettis’ music. I’ve seen him play in churches and coffee houses, and when I need my soul to settle, when I need it to remember how to sing, it’s his music that I put on.

Yet, I expect that for most of you this blog post will be the first time you’ve ever heard his name.  He’s not very famous. He doesn’t fill arenas with his shows. His space is more intimate. He speaks to aching hearts not hulking crowds.

**

There’s a lot of advice out there. Do this to get more readers? Do this to sell more books? Do this to build your mailing list? Do this to get more people to love you?

Certainly, if we write, we want to have people read our words. I’m wondering though if some of this advice is much more about filling some space inside our spirits rather than it is about connecting with people.

Lately, I’ve been letting the Spirit whisper to me about how my job is not to get my work to get my book on the bestseller’s list. I’ve been resting in the idea that my job is to write the best things I can, to write them for the people who need them, to pray that they are honest and helpful and real, and to then let them go.

Here’s the facts. I have a few hundred subscribers to this blog, and I love every single one of you for giving me your time and space.  But when I’m focusing too much on “building my list,” I lose sight of both you and me. Instead, my vision sharpens onto some number that means absolutely nothing.

I’m beginning to learn (or is it to remember?) that the size of the audience doesn’t matter. I’m beginning to be encouraged to sit with where I am, who I am, and what I have to say, right now.  I’m finding myself thrilled to speak with the people who have crossed my path, and more and more, my words turn toward what I hear you all saying.

So thank you for being here. Thank you for speaking to me. Thank you for listening. My prayer is that the things I say may bring you a bit of what you need today.

**

Just now, Pettis’ song “We Will Meet Again” came on, and the hope I take in seeing Mom again has filled my heart and my eyes.

It’s those quiet moments with songs, books, friends, partners – it’s those that matter. Not the arenas full of folks. Not the bestseller’s lists. Not the Amazon rank or the income bracket.

The quiet moments where a steel string guitar dances in the air and the summer morning is golden and crisp with dew. There, I sit with you and sing.

That’s more than I will ever need.