Thoughts on Becoming an Author

I figured I only have a few more days before I won’t be able to write a post about what it’s like to almost be a published author, so I might as well write this now for my future self. A significant event in my life is about to happen, and I want to begin processing it.

Tonight, I ordered a proof copy of A Prayer Book for Writers. This is the first book I will have ever officially published, whether traditionally or self-published. I might feel like it’s more official if it had been traditionally published, but I felt much more peace about going the self-publishing route this time.

Once the proof comes in the mail, if it is a good copy and everything looks okay, that is when I will click the button that will make the book go live on Amazon.

It is surreal.

I remember being about five years old and having made up stories and put together a little stapled book about a princess being rescued by a hero and giving it to someone for Christmas. A tall adult leaned down and said something like, “Oh, will you be a famous author one day?” And I didn’t know what to say so I looked at my shoes and said something like, “I don’t know.” I wished he would leave me alone, because I think deep down, I knew my value had nothing to do with whether or not I was famous, and I didn’t want to be labeled.

I wish I had kept that attitude about writing–in a way, I have. Writing was just something I did, and began doing, because I wanted to. Now I take it seriously because I feel like it is something that helps draw me closer to God. I want it to be important. Writing helps me lay out what I believe so I can look at it and think, “Is that the truth? Should I believe that?” All my unconscious biases thrown on me from modern day US culture and society, how much of that stuck with me, whether or not I meant for it to stick? Writing helps me self-reflect, become self-aware, and become more mature.

I want to keep a good perspective about writing. I want to think of it not as something that has given me value, but something I do because I have value as a human being.

I don’t want to view my writing projects as “work” to earn money but as journeys to go on, uncharted lands to explore, riddles to ponder, and all this with God’s presence and guidance. I hope I never stop writing. I hope I never run out of things to write.

This project, A Prayer Book for Writers, is so significant to me that it is hard to write about. It is significant in such a sensitive way to me because of the time in my life that I began working on it, though I don’t actually feel emotions about it all the time. It’s almost like I have to force myself to feel emotions about it. “Oh, yeah, that book is important. So what?” my emotions are like. Or maybe I don’t want to be emotional about the book simply because I am passionate about it? It feels like an inevitable book, that it was inevitable that I would write it and that it would flow out of a difficult time in my life, and that it would be my first book. I feel strange calling it “my” book–or maybe I’m just saying that because I think that’s what I’m supposed to say. I think I’m supposed to say that it’s really God’s book because He gave it to me. And I believe that He gave it to me, because my soul needed this book. My soul still needs this book to exist.

Part of me wants to shrug my shoulders. “Yeah. It’s important. Let’s move on now to other things.” I’m not sure why–is part of me embarrassed about this book? It is as good as I could have made it and better with the help of other people and much prayer over it–God has been very helpful.

Or maybe that’s my new way of respecting the book without making something out of it that it isn’t. It’s not going to take away all the suffering in the world. But if it makes a few people feel less alone, if it helps a few people feel like they can hold on just another day, another week, another year, it will be worth it.

I notice that I keep changing, especially since that summer of 2018. Metaphorical masks were dismantled, my raw flesh exposed with all the wounds, I gave myself new self-protective coverings which would later need to be discarded as well, and I needed a journey. This prayer book gave me the start of that journey. But it’s not finished–it’s only the beginning. There are more prayer books coming. There are more books for writers and Christians coming. There are fantasy books, many books coming.

This is the first step.

Just now I thought of a quote from an anime–Ozpin from RWBY saying, “Knowledge will only take you so far. It is up to you to take the first step.” That anime was one I first started watching in summer 2018, along with Violet Evergarden.

I don’t want to take any credit for this book, because it was all God. He deserves all the glory. Without Him, I wouldn’t even be here. I would feel horrible if I didn’t say that God helped me write this book, because He did. We live in a culture that celebrates pride in self-accomplishment and self-reliance as though it were a virtue. People in the media sometimes forbid that God be mentioned as someone who helped, as though God exists, as though God speaks to humans today, as though God actually wants relationship with us. All that is treated as taboo, as a politically incorrect nursery rhyme to be smiled uncomfortably at and dismissed.

God wants you to know His love. If that’s not shocking enough, he sent His son to die for you to remove your shame and bring eternal life. This interrupts life. This is uncomfortable. This interrupts busyness. This threatens to interrupt the steady flow of distraction that is infested in this society, what is called normal, what is called reasonable. There is this unspoken feeling that everyone is allowed to believe whatever they want, but they should not take anything seriously or let it affect the way they live. Don’t “rock the boat.”

My God will not be silent about this. He’s about to rock far more than a boat, and I’m not even talking about the prayer book.

“He is jealous for me

Love is like a hurricane, I am a tree

Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.”

Thoughts: Daily Blogging

I’ve been thinking about the idea of daily blogging, lately. A few different bloggers–Seth Godin and the author of Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon–have written on the value of making daily blog posts, even short ones.

What’s interesting to me is that their reasoning was different from the reasoning I would expect, though of course, I had never even thought of daily blogging before this.

One of their reasons had nothing to do with audience and everything to do with organizing your own thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. Blogging regularly forces you to think about things and formulate an opinion on them.

Another reason was to change the way we think about blogging. Yes, blogging isn’t the most effective medium anymore. I think the top two mediums right now are Youtube and Instagram, but I don’t know the statistics.

Even so, blogging for yourself can be rewarding. You can write about noteworthy things that have happened. Your blog can become a treasure trove of quotes you have discovered, things you have learned, and experiences you want to keep.

Almost like a journal, but one you know will be public.

For me, I used to journal a lot, but in recent years, it’s been harder to allow myself the luxury of using up so much paper. I have so many filled journals that I don’t know what to do with, anymore. Having a place on the internet to, not so much process the more private, emotional things, but to process the contemplative things, sounds nice.

Something else this idea reminds me of: the “morning pages” in the book The Artist’s Way (has a lot of helpful exercises for creative people who want to heal their creative soul, though there is a bit of New Age thinking when it comes to mentioning God). The morning pages are an exercise the author of The Artist’s Way suggests the reader write every day over the course of several weeks. The idea is that writing whatever pops into your head down onto paper helps free up your imagination and once you’ve written down all the worries of the day and gotten all the emotions and burdens out of your system, you will begin to be more open to creative ideas for projects. For a while, I did write these, though after a little while I noticed that it helped for me to not write down every intrusive thought that came into my head, as those are awful and writing them down, for me, increased anxiety instead of decreasing it.

One thing that helped to combat the intrusive thoughts was writing down alternative, more positive, healthy, true thoughts instead, which helped me get my mind off of the intrusive thoughts.

Now, morning pages is different because it is completely private–you are writing only for yourself and you are not allowed to share your morning pages with anyone, except perhaps a trusted, close friend after several weeks of letting the pages sit.

They do work. I noticed that after several weeks of doing them, I got more story ideas and was able to get into writing my stories more. There might be some debate about whether writing by hand or typing is more helpful–I did a mix of both.

Back to the daily blogging idea: It is becoming very tempting for me to try. We’ll see what happens.

~~~~~

Side note: This beautiful blog has been neglected for a year and several months because of adventures that have been happening in my life. There has been danger, recovery, miracles, and trials, to be vague and mysterious. I can say now though that I feel stronger and healthier emotionally now than I have been in a long time, and still climbing upward with periodic rest stops.

Rereading the first blog posts on this website has been a wonderful experience for me, because even now, I’m intrigued by the questions I posed in them. Perhaps they are questions I will be seeking answers to for the rest of my life. At some point, I do aim to return and write about them.

~~~~~

What I’ve been reading lately:

In nonfiction, I have been getting into a wonderful book called The Invisible War by Chip Ingram. So far, it is the most practical, helpful, balanced, grounded, and biblical approach to spiritual warfare I have yet found, and I’m so glad I bought a copy. It’s well-organized, easy to read, and empowering. I would definitely recommend it if you’re interested in better understanding the passage in the New Testament about putting on the armor of God and how to apply it.

In fiction, I finished reading the Fellowship of the Ring for the first time, by audiobook, a few weeks ago. It was wonderful.

I want to get back to reading Watership Downs, as I’ve heard it’s a classic.

Excellence Part 1: Spiritual Excellence

In my previous post here, I asked what Jesus being Truth, Word, and the Way to abundant life had to do with making good art. The thing is, I don’t know the whole answer yet. That’s why I’m making this post. There will be questions and possible answers. What I do know, I will share. This post will be more about the fundamentals of my faith as a nondenominational Christian, though it informs my worldview on art–I know many of my audience are already Christians, but this is just as much for my sake as it is for yours. I want to research the scriptures and assemble a strong worldview built on the Bible as a whole and not built from the scripture verses that I do not understand the context of yet. Doing this will strengthen my faith, lead me closer to God, and perhaps help me to hear and recognize God’s voice better when He speaks to me about writing. I hope and pray that it helps you as well. If you have the time for a few in-depth Bible studies over the course of this week, look up and read the scriptures mentioned in this post in multiple translations so you can get a better understanding of them. The New Living Translation, the New King James, and the Message translation are my three personal favorites because they help me keep a balanced perspective; none of the translations are perfect by themselves.

Here is some of what I have learned about my faith over the past twenty years of my life:

In the Bible it says God’s law from the Old Testament required moral perfection that boils down to the two laws: Love the Lord your God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is where the first one comes from, Leviticus 19:9-18 is where the second one comes from, and Mark 12:30-31 is where Jesus quotes the scriptures to say they are the two most important laws. Part of the reason for the complete law God gave to Moses to give to the Israelites in the Old Testament was to prove that we could not be perfect on our own and that we needed a savior (Romans 3:20).

Here is a fun fact about the law: God gave it to His people in the form of poetry. It rhymes in Hebrew so that it would be easier for the Israelites to memorize. It sounds gorgeous, and it also uses a form of poetry called parallelism, which is not lost in translation. More on that in a future post, but if you’re interested, you should look it up! And read C S Lewis’ Reflections on the Psalms, though it is more about the poetry of Psalms than about the law.

The religious leaders believed they could be perfect on earth from their own striving and careful words, but Jesus told them that following the law was not about external works; it was about the state of the heart (Matthew 15:18. The Bible has multiple verses that mention the heart–Disney was not the first). Even those who were called right with God were not perfect–David committed all sorts of acts of violence; the difference was that he always came back to God, trusting in God’s everlasting love and mercy made available to him. Psalm 56:3 is where David says to God, “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”

Before Jesus came, God said He would make a new covenant stating that we would no longer have to try so hard to be perfect, for Jesus would be our perfection, and the Holy Spirit would live inside of us. Jeremiah 31:31-37 is where God says He will make a new covenant, and Hebrews 8 both quotes from it and explains some of it. Hebrews 9 explains the reason for animal sacrifices in the Old Testament and why Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, after whom there will never be a need for another sacrifice for our sins. John 3 is where Jesus explains to Nicodemus what it means to be saved, that anyone who believes in Jesus’ identity as Son of God and relies on him for salvation will be ransomed from hell and live forever in heaven with inconceivable joy. John 10:1-18 is where Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd who protects and keeps his sheep. Here, we see an example of Jesus using metaphor and allegory in order to express truth, though not everyone understands him. John 14 and 15 are where Jesus talks more about how life works when we live in him as believers. Many times in the gospels, Jesus says that he himself cannot do anything except what he sees his Father doing and he cannot say anything unless God tells him to say it. In John 15, he says to his disciples that they also cannot do anything of value without relying on Jesus and remaining in him by loving everyone and relying on Jesus to make them more like him. Isaiah 64:6 says that “our own righteousness is as filthy rags.”

So God desires close relationship with us. God is righteous and perfect beyond compare, and He is also the source of truest love itself. What we care about, He cares about. Even what seems to us like a little thing is important to God. Excellence in writing, art in general, and life are important to me. Even though life is short, what we do while we’re alive makes a difference in the world or lack thereof. Whenever we believe something, we are taking a conscious action.

I’m deciding to trust God to lead me into the truth about excellence when it comes to making good art and writing well. The Bible’s main points from beginning to end are Jesus saving us, what life looks like when we seek and rely on and trust God, and what life looks like when we turn away from God’s love. God does desire excellence in our spiritual life. That excellence is multi-faceted, extending into every area of our lives, so I must conclude that God does have an opinion about creative and artistic excellence.

Welcome!

The first blog post of a website is like the prologue to a chronicle. If it’s interesting, people may return for more and new readers in the future may search all the way back to the beginning just to see what the very first post was about.

I want this post to be a foundation that I will build off of in the future like uncut stones used to make a structure. Perhaps it will be a quirky, precarious building with as many wings as possible, or maybe it will be a simple, short one with many rooms. In any case, this blog is a chapter in my life journey and I’m thankful for you, reader, for journeying with me. I invite you to get your Bible (or go to your Bible app or Bible website) and read some of the passages I mention here and in the future, because I will be referencing quite a few here and there and they are well worth studying.

I will begin with this statement found in the Bible (1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16):

God is Love.

Following that are a few more statements from the gospel of John (John 1, John 10:10, and John 14:6):

Christ is the Word. Christ is Truth. Christ is the way to life more abundant.

The question I have is this:

What does that mean when it comes to making good art?

My goal for this blog is to meet God in the process of writing stories and to encourage you in your own journey, whether you are writing stories or painting or dancing or writing music.