Full of Days, Intentionality, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Maybe Someday; Maybe Now

Ten months ago, at 34 1/2 years old, I began to run. Although this was an entirely new activity, it wasn’t a momentous decision that stands out in my memory. It was a vague desire for a fresh exercise routine. It was frustration with my body and a need for an energy outlet. It was a craving for alone time that was genuinely beneficial, not pampering. It was a wondering what I might be capable of if I tried.

Ten months ago, I could jog half a mile before requiring an interval of walking. Two days ago, I ran a full 10K race.

No walking. No stopping. I ran 6.2 miles. Ten months ago, this accomplishment was not even in my sights. The suggestion of it would have evoked laughter. Yet here I am, able to say I did it and beginning to think about when I might do it again and how much better I could do it the next time around.

What’s your “I wonder if I’m capable of this” scenario? You know you have one. Maybe you have more than one.

Here’s another of mine: Ten years ago, give or take a few months, I began writing a story. That, in itself, was not a new endeavor. I’d written the starts of several stories. I’d toyed with the idea of writing a book. I lived for 20+ years with the persistent desire to write but without the gumption to pursue it at full tilt. Then ten years ago, I started this story. Unlike with the others, I didn’t stop.

After 1 1/2 years, I had a legitimate first draft of a 126,000 word novel. Now I have a book publishing contract for my much revised, thoroughly edited, still imperfect 102,000 word draft of that story.

What’s your “maybe someday” endeavor?

Today is someday. So is tomorrow. Whatever the reasons for your waiting, there are reasons to begin.

The incredible thing about trying is the way it snowballs. Efforts made produce belief in possibilities. Goals met give birth to new goals. Pride in accomplishments erodes doubt in yourself.

One of the hardest lessons I had to learn along the routes of both of these accomplishments is I have no idea what I am capable of. None of us do. Persevering toward the finish line of a goal is the only way to chip away at that ignorance. Then, when seemingly impossible goals are reached, a continued awareness that you still don’t know your full capabilities will drive you to continue choosing now over leaving it to someday.

Fiction, Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Saying Yes

I did it. I signed the book contract that was offered to me recently for the publication of my debut novel. Let’s just make a list of all the words that come to mind when I try to describe my current state:

  • Excited
  • Relieved
  • Nervous
  • Peaceful
  • Floating
  • Thrilled
  • Scared
  • Thankful
  • Eager

All the feels, as the kids say these days! After reviewing the contract and researching its terms and language, as well as communicating with the publisher on questions I needed answered (and being satisfied with their clarifying responses), I said yes to my dream.

I’ve been saying yes for years. At the start, when it was yet another story idea taking shape in my imagination but this time something caused me to follow through on it. Then the year and a half spent writing the first rough (so, so rough) first draft. Oh, the hours spent and chai teas consumed at Copper Rock coffee house in Appleton! I swear, I need to arrange an author reading there. After the initial rejections from publishers when I naively submitted my barely edited draft to them, I kept saying yes. Through the years of gradual editing and fitting in writing time in tiny, occasional increments, still I said yes. And throughout 2016, when I made it a year of heavily editing the manuscript and learning skills I needed as a writer, I continued saying yes.

Over and over, I said yes because that is the only way to fulfill the dream of your heart. If there’s another way, I don’t know it. Today, I said yes to a publisher. It’s the yes that’s waited for me here, biding its time until I showed up to meet it. Each yes led to this one.

Fiction, Full of Days, Love, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

What Is the Book About?

“What is the book about?”
I couldn’t possibly count the number of times I have heard this question. Sometimes people want a summary of the plot. Other times they are looking for the genre or a succinct synopsis. Easy question to answer, right? Right.
As the author, maybe because I am specifically a new author, I find the question difficult. How do I condense this story down to a few simple sentences? This story I’ve been writing and tweaking and rewriting for almost a decade. These characters I created from scratch and know like my best friends. Their relationships, their dilemmas, their pains and victories. How do I answer that question?
Then I stumbled upon this photo from the online magazine, “Verily.” I saw it and exclaimed, “That’s it!”
“Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” (St. John Paul II)
That right there is my book pared down to one sentence. The theme at the heart of Full of Days is the worthiness of love even when sacrifices are necessary for its existence. That truth is the reason I wrote it. Extending from this theme are the additional claims: that love’s worth is essentially increased by those sacrifices and that no authentic love is capable of existing without some sacrifice.
In Full of Days, the protagonists experience this truth in varied ways. Sacrifice of pride and of approval. Sacrifice of comfort and security. Sacrifice of self. The latter is the only means for love to thrive. Do not mistake it for a pretty, romantic notion. It is the depth beneath the romance. It is the struggle beneath the prettiness. Self-sacrifice is the sustenance of love.
And, oh, the rewards! Freedom gained when pride and fear are rejected. Joys and adventures experienced when security is set aside and faith is boldly chosen. Strength built by arising from sorrow. Yes, my beloved characters experience these too.
If there is anything, anything at all, I hope my readers gain from this novel, it is a little less fear of and a little more courage for authentic love.
Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Doing the Hard Things

Ever have those days when God drops His subtle tendencies and instead places what you need smack dab in front of your face so you won’t miss it? Today was one of those days. A Facebook friend shared this photo today and I broke down crying.
There’s progress being made toward publishing Full of Days, my debut novel. Steps on this mountain climb of a dream coming true. Writing the first draft nine years ago was hard. Revisions ever since have been hard. Setting it aside when it was not top priority for a few years was hard. Rededicating myself to it this year with a level of commitment I had not employed since writing the first draft has been hard.
It’s all been hard and I have done it all. I have done it and every single bit has been worth it. That’s what I keep reminding myself as I acknowledge the intimidation I feel right now. There’s something no one ever told me about drawing close to fulfilling the dearest dream of your heart: it can be scary. Not pursuing the dream or giving up on it when you hit the inevitable bumps, those things are scary in their own crushing way. This is a different sort of scary. It’s not crushing. It’s not terrifying. It is simply intimidating.
The repeated question running through my head is, “what will I do if this falls apart because I can’t do it?” Sometimes the gist of that question is self-doubt, wondering if I am capable. Other times it is a panicked query of myself, at a loss for how I would handle this dream coming to an end so I’d better do everything possible to not let that happen.
I can do the hard things. As I’ve been doing and will continue to do until this novel is in the hands of every possible person willing to read it, I will do the hard things.
Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Almost

You know that tremendous weight of something being nearly finished but not quite? It is not a burden, this weight. It is thick with anticipation and heavy with significance. The matter paces the circuit of your brain, refusing to step off your mental homestead even while you focus elsewhere. It is always there, always present in the shadows, biding its time. It waits for that break in the day when you’ll pull it back into the light. It looks forward to those end of the evening hours when, despite the tiredness, you can’t bring yourself to be so cruel as to make it wait until tomorrow. It knows you’ll come for it if it simply holds its ground.

The book proposals are almost finished.

Full of Days, The Hidden Legacy, Writing

Completing Our Masterpieces

Oh, my friends. My dear reader friends. I am inching ever closer to the end of my intensive revisions of the manuscript. Every week I add another stack of pages to the “finished” pile and watch the “to-do” pile shrink. I can see the end. It’s out there; up a few small hills, hugging the horizon, waiting to greet me. Not that it’s the true end. It’s only another necessary phase of the work. Next up: an out loud reading of my novel to find mistakes and weaknesses overlooked by the eye but noticeable to the ear. Still, it is an end. It is a finish line I’ve been striving for since the start of 2016.

There are times I tell myself to calm down about it all. I fill my brain with warnings about expectations and hopes and dreams. They’re dangerous.

Wasted warnings; it can’t be helped. This manuscript is my masterpiece and I have to treat it as such. I don’t know if it will be a masterpiece in anyone else’s eyes but it is in mine. That fact means it needs to be offered to others. That’s the latest lesson I’ve learned.

My almost three year old son often returns from the sitter’s house with a new piece of artwork. He is invariably proud of them. This includes those that are purely his, that don’t show evidence of how much the sitter helped him but rather look, plain and simple, like the work of a toddler. I arrive home from my workday and he hands them to me with his head held high and a hint of wonder in his voice as he announces, “I made that!” They are his masterpieces. Even when I have to ask him to interpret the picture before I can see the train or the truck or the dog, they are his masterpieces.

Masterpieces aren’t meant for the maker alone. They are meant to be held up for anyone to see. At risk of rejection and criticism, indifference and even cruelty, they are to be offered. Because maybe my masterpiece might make another person’s day better; maybe it could plant a seed of faith in what is good and true and beautiful; maybe it could edify the heart and mind of a person brought low by lesser things. It could make someone laugh deep in their gut like we all love to laugh. It could bring joy or insight or inspiration. You never know. You never know.

We’re all capable of masterpieces. We were designed to provide masterpieces to the rest of our human family. Each unique; each requiring vulnerability and courage. When we create them, we know it. As we are filled with the urgent need to show it to someone, risks be damned, we know what we have created. Want to know why Facebook and YouTube and Instagram are so absurdly successful? Because we long to share our masterpieces with the rest of world. That’s not what we are doing most of the time in those mediums but it’s a large part of what drives us to use them at all.

My masterpiece might end up only being a masterpiece in my eyes. Or, at most, the eyes of those who love me dearly, much like a toddler’s indecipherable depiction of a train. In the end, that’s not what matters. What matters is the completion of the masterpiece and it simply is not complete until it is offered to others.