Write Through It

God has shown up in my life in a very big way recently, and so today I want to share more of a personal story with you.

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I’ve been dealing with eye issues for ten years now. It started with just dry eyes in high school, but for the last several years, in the fall through the winter my left eye has been giving me trouble. Each year it got worse, with pain and blurriness and light sensitivity. I’ve been seeing a cornea specialist, but we were never able to pinpoint what exactly was causing the pain, and thus never came up with a longterm solution.

These past several months have been some of the worst physical pain I’ve experienced. I’ve had to sit in the dark at home with most of the lights turned off and the brightness turned down on every screen. I’ve had to take a nap every day or my eye wouldn’t make it through the evening. It was nearly impossible to write.

A few weeks ago I went to Disney World with my mom and sister, and I’ll never forget watching the fireworks the first night of our visit. I was tempted to not even go on the trip because of how bad my eye had been, but with a hat and two pairs of sunglasses, I managed to get by even though it was extremely painful. But as we watched the fireworks, I just started crying. Not because of how amazing the show was, but because even with two pairs of sunglasses on I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch the show. And I love fireworks. I think they’re so beautiful and they’re one of my favorite things to look at. But that night I was crying because I thought this was just going to be my life from now on. The pain had gotten worse every year, and multiple doctors couldn’t figure out what to do about it.

Just before I left for my trip to Disney, God had answered my prayers about what to write. I know I told you I was outlining a dystopian trilogy, but that story never felt like the right story to write right now. And so I prayed for months until God gave me a new story to tell. And he finally did, with a story I am unbelievable exited about.

A few days after my eye got worse than it ever had before.

And then we left on our trip, and I cried all through the fireworks.

A visit to my eye doctor just after we got back left me with no answers, again. And that weekend I had to skip a concert I was really looking forward to because I was in so much pain.

I had another concert to go to that following week. A worship concert that I would be attending with my fellow lead team ladies from my church. My favorite worship bands were going to be there, along with a speaker I was dying to hear. I prayed each day that my eye would get better. I asked God to take away the pain. And I complained that I couldn’t work on this amazing story he gave me to tell because my eye hurt too much.

I spent the morning of the concert crying. I wanted to go, but I remembered how bad the fireworks had felt just a week before. I didn’t want it to hurt. I couldn’t even drive to meet up with the other ladies who were going. But I felt a little nudge, like I just had to go, and I asked if someone could pick me up.

This concert changed my life.

A woman from Bethel Music shared a testimony that I will never forget. She told a story of dealing with chronic pain for twenty years. She said she kept asking God to lift the pain because she didn’t want it. But then he told her she had to sing through it.

As I stood there in the tenth row with my two pairs of sunglasses on and tears stinging at my already burning eyes, I heard God speak to me.

“That’s why you needed to come tonight. I know it hurts, but you needed to hear this. She had to sing through it. You have to write through it.

Bethel Music then performed the song “Catch the Wind” and I knew what I had to do.

My whole life I’ve dealt with pain. If it wasn’t the crushing weight of depression and anxiety, then it was various forms of physical pain: a broken jaw, bad knees, a bad foot arch, asthma, horrible colds, allergies, stomach pain, mono which lasted half a year, and now incredible eye pain.

I kept complaining to God and asking him to lift this pain because I didn’t want it. I was done. I was tired of hurting.

But I have to write through it. I have a story to tell, a story of finding hope despite pain. God needs me to tell it. I have to write through it.

That was two weeks ago.

I had another doctors appointment one week ago. And instead of switching between trying to read in the waiting room and rubbing my painful eye, I decided to pray. I prayed that we’d finally find an answer because though I was determined to write anyway, it sure would be nice for my eye to get a little better.

And then my doctor suggested that I try a new eye drop. Doctors have told me over the years that preservatives in my eye drops could build up over time, but they never said they thought that was what was causing my problem. I’d avoided using the preservative-free drops because I’ve sampled every eye drop there was and this one bottled drop always felt the best to me. Plus preservative-free drops cost a ton more. But my eye doctor suggested I use them instead, and I listened this time and bought a box even though they cost a lot.

My eye was better the next day.

It’s been a week now, I’ve been able to work all day without naps, keep the curtains open, and turn the brightness up on my screens. I can even write this very long blog post without putting in a single eye drop.

God just keeps showing up when I need him most. He gave me a story, and now he healed my eye. And I’m going to write through whatever pain I face in the future, because that’s what God put me here to do.

My Favorite Genres

Last week I talked about the genres I don’t like to read, so this week I want to tell you the genres I do! There’s a few genres I don’t read because they don’t resonate with me and I don’t get a lot out of reading them. Because time is precious and I want to be spending my time on books that I get a lot out of, these are the genres I usually turn to:

Young Adult
Pretty much everything I read is YA. I don’t know if it’s because these books meant so much to me growing up or because I love a good coming-of-age story or because I make up stories for a living and don’t quite feel like an adult, but YA books have always been my favorites. When I go into a bookstore or library, you can find me heading straight to the teen section.

Science Fiction and Dystopian
I’ve always been fascinated with the future and with space, and so that’s why I’ve always loved science fiction books. I love the dystopian subgenre in particular because even though these stories depict negative futures, they’re usually full of so much hope.

Fantasy
I don’t read fantasy books as much because they’re usually so long and I have trouble sitting still long enough to read them, but I love fantasy books because of the amazing world building. Because I write a lot of stories set in the future, world building is a big part of my writing process. Fantasy books are a great addition to science fiction to read and be inspired about world building

Christian Nonfiction
My faith is the most important part of my life, and so I love reading Christian living books and devotionals. These books help me to focus on God and grow in my faith, which I always want to be doing.

Romance
I only recently got into the romance genre, but because I read a lot of heavy and dystopian books, romance novels are light and fun to take a break with.These are some of my favorite books in these genres.

These are some of my favorite books in these genres.

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You can definitely see the influence of my favorite genres to read on what I write. I primarily write young adult contemporary and science fiction because those stories have always resonated with me the most. What are your favorite genres to read and write?

Why I Love Writing, Sometimes

Today I had planned out in my blog calendar that I was going to write a post called “Why I Love Writing.” I tried writing a draft of this post, but, like everything I’ve tried to write lately, it just wasn’t working. And I had to stop myself because I wasn’t being honest.

I do love writing. When I know where a story is going, the words seem to flow out of my fingers and I can write stories quickly and easily. I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember. Growing up, stories were where I found comfort and friends. Books helped me to see and understand the world. And since I am a creative person, writing stories of my own was the next step to reading them. I’ve also always found it easier to communicate in writing than in person, so writing is the best way for me to say what I have to say to the world.

But writing is really hard sometimes. And when I don’t know what’s next in a story or what story to write in the first place I just feel stuck. And I hate everything I try to write. And then I forget why I even like writing in the first place.

Winter is hard for me. I don’t like the cold and dark days. I’ve been dealing with health issues. And I’ve been stuck for months with my writing—wanting to write desperately, but not knowing how to get started on any of my ideas.

But it’s March now and today the sun is shining (even though it’s still cold outside). And so I’m taking a step back and reminding myself why I love writing. If you don’t remind yourself how amazing writing can be, then you could give up and let yourself stay stuck until you stop writing at all.

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I have the best job in the world. Every day I feel grateful and blessed that I get to stay home and write. I get to hang out with my puppy, surround myself with books, and create stories. So even when I feel stuck and am having trouble getting going on a new book, I just have to remind myself how awesome writing is and how wonderful my job can be.

How to Get Ideas: What If?

One of the most common questions a writer gets asked is how do you come up with your ideas? And one of the most common answers writers give is I don’t know.

For writers, ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and you might not always be conscious of where exactly an idea comes from. And sometimes ideas come to you when you’re not even trying. However, for those who are newer to writing or for those who don’t know what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you sometimes have to force yourself to come up with them. So I wanted to start a new series on my blog about how to get ideas and about how to develop stories from those ideas.

The first method of getting ideas I want to write about are what if questions.

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What if questions are my favorite way to come up with ideas for stories. Writers are naturally curious, and they ask and attempt to answer questions about the world with their writing. Fictional words and stories allow writers to explore different questions and situations. What if is what writing fiction is all about.

My current work-in-progress came from a what if question—what if written language was taken away? This question popped into my head one day, probably prompted from a love of linguistics and written language, and I couldn’t forget it. I pondered the question for a while, and eventually a girl came into my mind. She wasn’t a writer, but an artist, and the story idea exploded from there to become a dystopian trilogy.

What are some what if questions you have about the world? What sorts of situations or possibilities could you explore by asking what if? For me, my question came from something I was interested in—linguistics. There could be a million what if questions about linguistics, just as there could be any number of questions you could ask of all topics.

When trying to come up with a story idea, look towards things and topics you’re interested in and ask your own what if questions. Interested in music? What if there was a magical world where the music you played were spells? Interested in art? What if a teenage girl’s drawings came to life?

What if questions don’t only work for science fiction and fantasy. Those are just the examples I came up with because those are my favorite kind of stories and you can be so imaginative with them. You can just as easily ask what if questions about the real world, whether contemporary or in the past.

Once you have your what if question, try to come up a character who would be involved with the question. I usually have to come up with stories this way—I take a general concept and then find a character to base the story around. After you have your character, let your creativity take over. Ask more what if questions to find out about your story, its world, and what could happen to your character.

Asking what if could unlock any number of story ideas. See for yourself what’s possible.

My Writing Goals for 2018

I last wrote about how to define success as a writer and the importance of goals. Without goals, I feel completely lost as a writer. Because I work alone most of the time, I need goals to guide me. I need smaller things to work towards that add up to the big things.

To help guide me, I make weekly and daily to do lists. Having my tasks broken up into smaller chunks helps me to focus (my word for the year) on what needs to get done and only that. If I try to take on more than what’s on my list for just that day, I feel overwhelmed and usually come to a stop.

However, even though I need to focus on the daily tasks to get things done, it is important to take a step back at the beginning of the year and think about what you want to accomplish in the bigger picture. Once you’ve decided what you want, then you can dive in and break things up into smaller, more achievable tasks.

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So today I wanted to share my big picture goals for 2018. When I make these goals I make sure to push myself while still being realistic. If you make a goal too hard you might just end up frustrated by setting too high of a standard. But if you make a goal too easy then you never end up growing.

With that in mind, I have three main goals for 2018:

  • Write my secret work-in-progress. I am almost done with my outline for this series, and I want to write the first book this year.
  • Prepare a query letter for this work-in-progress. Query letters are very difficult to write and take a lot of time. So I want to have one finished by the end of this year so that in 2019 I can be looking for an agent.
  • Read at least 45 books. In 2017 I read 40 books—34 fiction and 6 nonfiction books—so I want to read a little bit more than that. I’d also like 10 of those books to be nonfiction because I’d like to read more nonfiction books.

What are your writing goals for this year? How do you go about setting goals?

One Word—My 2018 New Year’s Resolution

Last year I wrote about what I do instead of making traditional new year’s resolutions. I choose one word to guide me for the year, and I make an inspiration board that I can look at each day to remind me of my word. For my boards, I decorate a 12in by 12in piece of scrapbook paper with quotes, images, Bible verses, and song lyrics that relate to the word. I’ve done this for three years now, and my previous words have been Change, Grow, and Joy.

Only choosing one word seems like a small resolution, but I’ve noticed such a difference in my life by focusing on these words each year. Every day I see my word board next to my mirror and read something off of it, and then I feel ready for the day with my goals fresh in my mind. Last year especially, as I worked on Joy, I definitely learned to rely a lot more on God and find my joy in him. This is a great tool to increase your faith.

For 2018, I’ve felt God speaking one word on my heart for a while now: Focus.

I have a hard time focusing some of the time. I think part of that is because I work from home so I’m surrounded by distractions: my dog, housework, and all of the books I have out from the library. Another reason is because I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed, and when I see the long list of things that have to be done, I often end up sitting and staring at the list rather than doing something on the list.

But another big reason I have trouble focusing is that I always feel lost between book projects. Over the last six years I’ve written three manuscripts, usually spending one year working on it and one year staring at my computer, hating everything, and getting nothing done. 2017 was one of the off years, and I’ll be honest and say that I wrote almost nothing last year.

So that’s why Focus has become my word for 2018. But it isn’t just for my writing work. Throughout 2017 my husband and I became more and more involved in our church, and I definitely feel called by God to do even more. But I need to focus on him if I’m going to do anything important.

So this year I’m gong to Focus on my writing work, on my kingdom work, and on God. Here’s my board for 2018:

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Happy Birthday, Somewhere Only We Know!

Tomorrow is Somewhere Only We Know’s first birthday!

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I can’t believe that my book has already been out in the world for a whole year. I’m so proud of my debut novel and I love how it turned out. My family and friends helped me celebrate my book’s birthday last November with an incredible launch party. I’ll never forget how amazing that cake was with an edible image of my cover.

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This has been a really fun year being a published author. I love talking about my book and sharing its story of hope. I hope that the books I write going forward continue to inspire people as much as Somewhere Only We Know has.

Thank you all for sharing my publication journey with me. This is just the first of many years to come of being a published author, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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Happy birthday, Somewhere Only We Know!

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