So I’d like to share some of the things I learned about this project. For those of you who haven’t been following my blog, here’s the lowdown. Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to DO something for Lent. The act of doing, rather than sacrificing seemed to align with my thought process a little better. So the assignment was to randomly select a Bible verse (accomplished via this site), and write about my thoughts, feelings concerning the scripture verse. I don’t pretend to have any formal knowledge or Biblical training. My only education related to the Bible would be the Old and New Testament class I had to take at Carson-Newman college–and we won’t discuss the grades I got there. Let’s just say I’m glad we are saved by grace and not acts.
After I started the process, I realized that in fact, I still was giving up something for Lent: my time. And for a working mother with three kids, that is a sacrifice. Wanting to go to bed, wanting to knit, wanting to watch a show and instead writing on some scripture that I had NO idea what I was supposed to say, was a sacrifice.
I’m one of those people who has an opinion on everything and is willing to share it with everyone. But some of these scriptures were really hard. There were times I really wanted to hit the refresh button and get a new “random” scripture. But that would have been cheating. I had to believe that there was something about the verse that I got each time that was either supposed to teach me or my readers (all six of them since Viagra and I broke it off ).
Some of the verses really made me think (Oh, NO! Don’t mix thinking and faith–that just isn’t right!). Some verses that on first glance, made me think I wouldn’t have ANYTHING to say, turned out to be the most interesting and prolific entries. Others that I thought would be a piece of cake, left me speechless (I know, that’s hard).
The other thing I learned is that I can’t count. Somehow, I always seemed to be ahead (rarely) or behind (usually) of where I thought I should be. Don’t ask me; ask the Tennessee Public School system.
The process was frustrating. There is nothing more inspiring that having a million really important things that have to be done immediately, that cause a writer to have a million and one enlightening ideas that can’t be acted upon. There is nothing more uninspiring that having nothing on your plate– no children, commitments or obligation, and nothing but an empty screen and open keyboard to suck every creative thought from your brain. Let the phone right with a new deadline and the creative juices flow. I never did (and probably never will) solve that process but I certainly got to practice.
Someone, I think it was Rick Warren, or maybe my grandmother, said that if you pray to be a certain way–more patient, a better writer, a better parent, that God doesn’t give you the skill or trait. He puts you in situations to develop that skill or trait. So when I pray to be more patient, I’m put in situations that require me to practice patience. If I want to be a better writer, He gives me assignments that require me to stretch. When I prayed to be a better parent, He gave me challenging children. And as frustrating as it is–it works. I am infinitely more patient in my thirties than I was in my twenties. I’m sure I’ll be even more patient when I turn forty (okay, I might have already seen 40–more than once). I am a much better parent with The Baby at 2 than I was with The Boy and The Girl when they were two.
Practice makes perfect. Having a topic and assignment forced me to write or admit that I wasn’t writing. Every year (and by that I mean the last 4 years) I participate in Nanowrimo. Every November, writers from around the world (yes the whole world) get together to encourage, bribe and cajole each other into writing a 50,000 word novel. I completed the assignment 3 of the 4 years. Where the novels good? Hell no. Of the 50K words, I’ll probably end up keeping about 1500 of them. Actually, I’ll probably keep all the words, I just have to put all of them in an entirely new order. The whole roomful of monkeys writing Shakespeare idea.
The point of Nanowrimo and my Lent assignment is that a writer doesn’t need plot, structure, characters or dialog to write a novel. What a writer needs is a deadline. For twenty years, I stopped writing because, well, I could. I didn’t have a deadline. And it isn’t just writers that are prone to this trait. Do you need to lose weight? So do you carefully monitor your food intake and calorie output all year long or only three months before swimsuit season or the important reunion? Do you look for jobs with better pay, benefits and opportunities while you are employed or after you are laid off? Do you pay your bills as soon as they arrive or right before they are due? We need deadlines to accomplish things.
As Christians–and people in general–we have an ultimate deadline: death. Hollywood has cashed in on our end of life deadline by making The Bucket List. Web sites, self-help gurus and groups are springing up all over, encouraging all of us to create and complete the items on our personal bucket list.
Even before I started my Lenten project, I tried to give myself self-imposed deadlines in order to keep writing. It is much easier to accomplish something when you have to do it everyday. Habits need consistency. Studies have shown it takes approximately 12 weeks to start or stop a habit. And it is most successful when it is practiced everyday. Can you really quit smoking by only smoking every other day? Do you lose weight eating healthy 4 days a week and eating whatever the other three? Can an alcoholic be sober every other week? So my self-imposed deadline was to write everyday–even if it was only 15 minutes. I really REALLY try to do it here because it provides a record and accountability. While I do write many (many, many) words for my job, I don’t feel like they “count” because…well, just because. I wanted to say, “because they are boring” but that isn’t always true. Some of my stuff is very interesting (I hope) to my audience. I wanted to say, “because I’m doing it for someone else” but that also isn’t true. My work writing is, to some extent, done for me. More importantly, my personal writing–this blog my short stories, novels and non-fiction works are to some extent, written for you (you being the global you of society as a whole). I think I want my blog to be what “counts” because it is my Hebrews 11:1 NKJV. I particularly like the New King James Version of this verse–maybe because it is the format I first found the scripture. My writing is faith in action. My entries are the substance of things hoped for– the evidence of things unseen.