Grow a Story

When stories are starting out, they’re tender and undeveloped, susceptible to any hint of criticism and any suggestion about the path they should travel. An untold story needs to be protected by its author, kept out of the light until it’s strong enough to survive on its own.

During this period, no one has the right to get between an author and their story, to disturb the almost sacred process by which the details of plot and character come into being. Anything can kill a story at this point, and to kill a story before it’s even had a chance is murder. Not only that, but to suck the juice of life from a new story damages the confidence of the author. Who knows how many pages die when one new idea has lost its magic in the eyes of its creator.

I still don’t believe writing can be taught, despite taking numerous writing classes. These help a little, but the meat of writing is learned from reading. Anyway, take a storytelling class. Instruct the students to tell you their story before they write it out, to plan out their plot structure like an architect, to release an unformed blob of ideas dripping with creativity into the hands of an editor. This isn’t the way to write something worth reading.

Good stories drag their authors along as they’re written. They’re not preplanned. (At least, I could never stick to a structure while writing. Plans are for ignoring when characters disagree.) Stories should be hidden and protected like a sprout in a greenhouse, never revealed until they’re fully fleshed out with a strong skeleton and leaves and maybe some flower buds. Only after a full first draft has been written is your story maybe, maybe, ready to see the world.

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‘Course, they say never to show anyone your first draft, because the deserved criticism will crush your soul. I ignored that advice. Had the criticism come any earlier in its development, my story likely never would have seen the light of day. But after a first draft? You can take it.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” -Stephen King

Get writing!

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Sand Through the Hourglass

There’s a habit people fall into when they’ve crammed too many activities into their lives, and that’s to keep their eyes on what’s right ahead of them and forget things as soon as they pass. This is what happens with my schoolwork—I focus on the six projects or so I have going at once and desperately try to remember everything (lock the door, catch the bus, do the homework, bring the homework, communicate with team, be there on time, don’t let them down, have time to help, X6, etc. etc.). I feel like the pinch point in an hourglass, trying to get everything to flow smoothly in the present by looking ahead to the near future and not having even a moment to contemplate the past.

Life’s too short for this.

Human beings aren’t made to be productive. There’s nothing we can do that God hasn’t done for us already. We’re made to celebrate being alive, to observe and rejoice and contemplate. Trying to squeeze as much into a life before the end because you’re afraid of wasting it really is a waste. Look back and see if anything’s there to remember. Maybe you were productive. Super-productive, even. Where does that get you?

It gets you a pile of inanimate projects to call your own, no sweet memories, little human connection, and always too rushed to answer a last-minute call for help.

God didn’t make us to work for him, a Divine Boss who pays us an hourly wage. He gave us more than we can ever earn. It’s not just ok to sit back and wonder, we’re made to sit back and wonder. To enjoy the small moments. To stop running, slow down, and be still.

Hollow World

Sunrise on the highest leaves. Grass, lush and growing, waving in the early morning air. New life sprouting from the soil, reaching for the heavens. An unexplored wilderness to map and conquer, to discover. A million different plants taking root, colors flashing in the sky, and opportunity sailing on the breeze.

All this, and no one to share it with.

Here Comes November

There are only a few days each year when Autumn’s leaves are burning up and still on the trees. Summer is hanging on, but in a month or two, it’s going to be cold and grey and gloomy.

That’s novel weather.

Fellow NaNoWriMo adventurers, whip out your pens (if you’re really actually going to try writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days by hand), keyboards, and thinking caps. It’s time to imagine the possibilities! Not just that, but live them through the characters you bring into existence and tag along with as they live out their lives on your page.

Write your novel.

Intro to Introvert

I’m an introvert. Silence is my mantra. My head is too crowded with thoughts to let any old person invade with conversation.

I keep emotions on the inside. At least I try, and like to think I keep up a good facade. Sometimes it’s hard to take down the walls I’ve built myself.

I like to think I’m tough as a coconut, but even a coconut can be cracked, and it’s got to crack before it can grow into a palm tree.

Take an introvert out of their cozy little comfort zone, sit back, and watch the show. What’s inside will come out eventually. We can’t hide forever.

Loneliness

I once read that the terror of stage fright doesn’t go away with practice. You just get very comfortable with being terrified. Butterflies, sweaty palms, all of it. Practice makes you able to function despite fear.

Loneliness is like that.

Move away for the first time and live alone. Wake up alone. Go to sleep alone. Experience chronic loneliness like never before. And you do get used to it. Eventually you don’t notice it so much. You function despite it. Until, one day, you find your way home, and that’s when you realize how you’ve been aching all along.

Lonely becomes normal. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Welcome to the Green House

There’s a rose in the pathway this morning, pink velvet sparkling in sunshine under indigo sky. There’s a whole crowd of them, singing together, dark leaves shadowing dainty petals.

The shade is cool, almost frosty. Breath puffs from people and chimneys, floating silently to heaven, untouched by any breeze. The first leaves of red fire tap-tap-tap, blown across the pavement with dozens of siblings, finally touching down after drinking sunlight all summer long.

There’s a chill in the air.

Pedestrians walk by, looking through windows from well-kept pathways. One building has plants in each frame, every story. Long leaves, broad, wide, tall, every color, every shape, as unique as human beings. Gardeners in the greenhouse, watering with care. It must be warm in there. Uncomfortably warm. No fresh air. Only a lush, humid jungle, miles north of the equator.

Most folks take a glance and walk on by. Some tap on the windows, let themselves in, and someday wear a gardener’s hat of their own. Someday they’ll be looking out at a world of crystal ice from their patch of Amazon soil, hear a knock on the glass, and open the door.