Why writing a book is a lot like life

I don’t know if I’ve told you, but I’m writing a book.  I might have mentioned it once or twice…or a hundred times.


The thing is, I really believe in this book.  I’ve been working on it a long time…and by long time I mean more than a decade.  Oy. I have started and stopped, re-written and tossed.  I have had two characters remain at the core of the novel this entire time.  They are my friends…at least I think they are.  They may hate me since I’ve taken so long to tell their story.

How’s that for deflection?  I’ll blame my ficticious characters for my unfinished novel.

This latest draft, however, is The One.  You know how people always say you’ll “just know” when you meet the person you’re going to marry?  Well, I just knew the second I wrote the first sentence of this version that I had finally tapped into the core of who my characters are.

I found them.

Now, the challenge is to keep them moving and flowing forward in a cohesive manner.

Stephen King, my writing guru, says that when writing a novel you need to get it out as fast as you can.  Don’t stop to make edits, don’t get hung up on the details – just write.  You can go back later and fill in the holes.

I am finding this very difficult, Mr. King.  I see the validity of this and want to follow this advice, but the temptation to edit is powerful.  Because, you see, there are some moments in the book that are wonderful.  I love how they read and the imagery is powerful and I was obviously in the zone when writing.

There are other moments in the book, however, that are worthy of no more than kindling for a chilly night.  The rest of the book falls somewhere in between brilliant and suckalicious.

The problem with having worked on a book this long is I know exactly where I want my characters to go.  For the most part.  Some of them have already surprised me a bit.  But it’s the getting there that is slowing me down.  I’m so impatient to get to the exciting part – the part of the story that I know  – that I’m frustrated with the journey the characters are taking to get there.  I am bogged down in the details.

Life in general is full ofsimilar  ups and downs, isn’t it?  We have moments of excitement – first day of school, graduation, college, wedding day, birth of a child and so on…We live for these moments and anticipate them never really realizing the journey we take to get to those moments is every bit as important.  Those important moments are the peaks and after every peak we must descend for a bit before we reach another milestone.

But don’t we so often find ourselves impatient in the valleys and plateaus of life?  We get bored and frustrated.  We lose sight of the good of right now and only long and hope for the joy of the next big moment.  But we need the valleys and the plateaus.  They are, in fact, what builds…character.

It’s the same with writing a book.  The journey to the peak of each character’s story is so important, but in the anticipation of the big moment, I am impatient.  I’m bogged down in the details and the climb to the big moment feels endless and frustrating.

I just want to get to the good part.

But if I’m willing to relax, take a deep breath and enjoy the process of each step these characters take toward their individual peaks, I may actually learn a little something along the way.  And in the end, the story of their lives will reveal so much more beauty through the toil of their climb to the top.

And yes, as I wrote that sentence I totally started singing this song.

*sigh* I’ll bet Stephen King never busts out with Mily Cirus while he’s writing…

The one where Calgon takes me away

I actually just had to consult with Professor Google on what exactly Calgon is.  It’s body fragrancewho knew?!  I always assumed it was some sort of lotion for muscle pain similar to IcyHot or Bengay.

I was way off.

Yesterday was a rough day.  I’ll mercifully spare you the details, but it was a knot in your stomach crazy kind of day.  I really want my house to be the house that all my children’s friends come to.  I like knowing who is here and what they’re saying and doing.  But on knot in your stomach crazy kind of days…it’s just harder.  The noise is louder.  The work feels like work. The kids weren’t bad ( not all of them, anyway – there’s always one trouble maker), but I was tired and didn’t feel well and overwhelmed and the day felt long.

But today?

Today I am on a plane to sunny Northern California where I have the privilege of sitting in the presence of my dear friend Wendy for five whole days.  Wendy and I met  when we were both newlyweds living in the Dallas, Texas area.  I will never forget our first phone conversation.  Lee had come home from a Bible study the night before and told me about this wonderful guy he met whose wife sounded very similar to me.

“She likes to drink tea!” Lee exclaimed.  My sweet new husband who was still baffled by my girly love of tea parties.

The next morning the phone rang.  “I hear you like to take tea,” she said, her voice all warm and buttery and laced with smile.  And that was the beginning of one of the dearest friendships of my life.

Wendy and I have only lived in the same town for just under two years but our hearts were knit tight together through God’s grace..and through our love for writing, tea and wifedom (that should totally be a word).  We spent countless hours those Dallas years talking about our passion for writing and teaching and speaking and learning and loving and growing.  And we drank a lot of tea.

I get to soak up my dear friend for almost an entire week and my soul soars at the thought.  I also get to spend some time alone, releasing the characters in my head.  They’re up there, churning and begging to get out.  Sometimes I’m afraid of it, though.  I’m scared of the story and of letting the characters down.  Because the story in my head is beautiful and what if I mess it up?  What if the trip from my head to my fingertips tarnishes the story and the people?

What if I fail?

These are my honest fears.  I love writing, but I’m sometimes unsure of whether or not I have the gift to pull off the massive story I long to tell.  Realistically, I know I’m not the best writer out there.  I think it’s my lack of inner angst that holds me back…

Whatever the case, I know I’m not the best, but I also know that I have a story to share and I know I have the ability to tell it.  I just really want to tell it well.  This desire is why it’s taken me ten years to complete this book.  I really don’t want to screw this up!

So I will write with full abandon this week.  I will let go and try really hard not to go back and judge my work along the way.  That’s a terrible, terrible habit.  One should never edit her own work before she’s even finished it.   Stephen King said so himself and given the fact that his book is the most inspirational book on writing I’ve ever read, I’m going to submit myself to Mr. King’s urgings and plow forward without looking back.  My soul will rest in friendship (have I mentioned that one of my very dearest friends from here in town is joining us on this writer’s weekend away?  How blessed am I!) and in solitude and in the joy that comes from allowing God to use my gifts and talents to His glory, because that is my deepest desire.

And when I return I will bid adieu to my home and embark on a new adventure.  It is exciting, this tiny little life I lead.

I’ll be back this week.  I have a something fun and special to share with you on Friday.  Stay tuned.