Speaking of beginnings and endings

I can’t quite believe I’m doing this. And yet here I go.

(I think it’s rather ironic that this is my 601st post here.)

I’m moving blogs. There’s a ton of reasons, some of which I discuss over on the other blog. Mostly, I’m wanting a new space for some new things in me and I want to move back to blogger because they offer more flexibility in design and in what you can add to your blog.

I know this is a pain for some of you as you have to resubscribe through your reader or change your links. Thanks for taking the time to follow me around this world o’blog.

Right now, I plan to leave this blog up, though I’ll delete the link to the new blog after a while. So come on over. It’ll be fun…I promise.

Oh…and I’m still tinkering with the code a bit, so bear with me while things move around.

Update: I’ve removed the link. If you want it, please email me.

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Beginnings and endings

I finished the second first draft of the novel at about 12:15 and I’m sad.

I’m surprised that I’m sad. I mean, I hope to work on it again here in a few months. But there was something so fierce and wildly beautiful of this whole initial making process that I don’t think revising will quite recapture. And I have this crazy fear that it will never happen again, that I’m a one-novel wonder and I’ve drank my full share of this cup. Like I said, it’s crazy. I’m fairly sure there are other novels inside of me, waiting to be born.

You know, I feel like I’ve suddenly been thrust into withdrawal. Creating this was intoxicating and addictive and I don’t think I’ll ever have enough. It wasn’t like you might think, with flurries of impassioned, frenzied writing. It was more like slow and steady drops of something wild and awesome and wonderful that drip, drip, dripped into my veins for the last 9 or 10 months and that I’m cut off from now. Though I don’t think I’d just inject it if I could…then I wouldn’t have the final product, just the feeling, and I don’t think it would be the same.

So what do I think of this, my 88,111 word baby?

In some ways, it’s very much a first novel. I don’t exactly know the words to describe those ways, but it sounds a lot like the descriptions I’ve heard of other people’s first novels. I try to remind myself that that isn’t good or bad, it’s just true. Since it is, in fact, my first novel, I probably should be too upset that it seems to act like one.

I also know my project was ambitious. That excites me; I don’t think I’d have finished it if it weren’t big and gangly and interesting. But I do wonder if the writing and the structure and all of that would be better if it were smaller and easier to tie up. Again, it’s not good or bad, just true. The novel that came to me was ambitious in scope.

There are some technical things in it that I’m fairly sure need work. I think that will always be true. The fact that I’m aware of at least some of them probably gives me a leg up for revising when I do a technical rewrite.

I used “really” a lot. And “said.” And started lost of sentences with “I.” And I’m not sure I chose the best point of view.

In my deepest, darkest heart, I’m not sure it holds together. Do the several stories really work together in the end? Should I focus on one? What if none of them make sense without the others?

So I guess I have more questions than answers. Though whatever happens with the novel isn’t so important as that there is a novel and that I wrote it. I’d love for people to find love and God and themselves and beauty through it, but even if they never get the chance, it’s still there, doing it’s darndest to pulsate with all those things.

What’s next?

I’m taking a couple of months, at least, away from it. I need some time and space to get a little perspective so I can go back and jump into the serious task of editing and revising what I’ve got.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to have at least a few people read it.

Speaking of that, I know that at least a couple of you out there are interested in reading it. You told me, once. Unfortunately, I don’t entirely remember who you are. So if you told me you’re interested in reading or if you’re newly interested, I’d love to have your opinion. Leave a comment or send me an email. I’m not sure when I’ll be getting back to you (depends on how I decide to timeline all of this, if I want everyone to read it at once, etc.), but I’ll definitely put you on my list.

I know this is a caveat, but if you want to read, know that I give it to you with full permission to dislike it, to find it boring, to think I’m not a good writer and I’ll never make it in that world. I want truly honest responses, so you can feel free to be yourself in what you tell me. And it won’t change the fact that I care about you and want God’s best for you.

Anyway, I’m going to have a few people read it while I take a break. While I’m on break, I’ll be studying various people’s ideas about what makes good fiction. Once I’ve assimilated people’s responses and the information on technique, I’ll go back to it and see what I can do.

After that, I have no idea. I suppose it depends on where things are then.

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Notes to myself

One day, while I was surfing the internet at my old job (they didn’t mind, when we didn’t have anything else to do), I came across a random blog post that touched my heart. I long ago lost the original post, but its message has stayed with me: Be BOLD! It stayed with me because I wrote “BOLD!” on a little yellow post-it note and stuck it on my computer.

I didn’t know it then, but I’d started something that really works for me. As it turns out, when I look at something every day, even when I only glance at it from time to time, it sticks with me. I remember it and mull on it and find myself pulling it out in situations away from my desk where I need it. It’s like my own special form of meditation.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten quite a collection of these little posties around my computer screen. The original “BOLD!” is still there (well, it isn’t the original…that postie lost its stick a long time ago). It reminds me that there are little ways to be bold everyday, that these matter to me and in my heart and who knows what they’re doing for the people around me. As I’ve tumbled the concept of boldness around in my head, I’ve realized that fear is only the beginning of the journey. It’s never the end. So fear is the beginning of boldness, in Christ, in life, in everything.

Next to that, I have a couple of scripture references that have meant a lot to me. One is, “The Lord will fight for you; you have only to be still,” which is what God says to Moses right before the parting of the Red Sea. Can you imagine that? I’d be hopping up and down saying, “Still!!! You want me to be still??!!? If I stay still, WE’LL ALL DIE!!” And yet, that’s what Moses does, and they walk across on dry land. Methinks there’s something to it.

The other scripture-postie says “Rise, and have no fear,” which is what Jesus says to the disciples who see the Transfiguration, right after Moses and Elijah have risen back up into the sky. Um…yeah. Right. “Jesus, pardon this fear, but I just saw FLYING PEOPLE. And you were talking to them.” And yet, they stand, dust themselves off, look around, and realize he’s telling the truth. Some days, when I struggle to feel like I’m standing at all, I look at this and have courage, because he is there and he is inviting me on.

More recently, I’ve started making more of these little notes, to the point that I’m retiring some of them today (not tossing them, just putting them somewhere else), because, for some reason, they want me to be able to see my computer screen at work. One of these recent ones says, “Beloved,” which is a concept I (and the rest of Christendom) picked up from Brennan Manning. Some days, it takes more than I have to believe this is true, so it’s nice when I read it from outside. That little note is like someone else’s voice reminding me that, no matter how I feel, I am his Beloved. Another more recent note says, “Let it Be,” from this video that Di posted a while back. Sometimes, it’s time to just stop churning inside and leave things alone for a while. And other times, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve said my say, done what was mine to do, and I have to leave things in someone else’s hands. It’s part of being human and living this life that things aren’t always ideal, or even ok, and I can either worry about them anyway or let them be.

I have another Manning quote (and my longest postie ever!) that says, “Trust yourself as one entrusted by God with everything you need to live life to the full.” When I first read that in…Ruthless Trust, I think…it blew my mind. Really? In him I have everything I need? To live life to the full? What? But it’s true…so true. And so I keep it there, to remind myself that it’s true but also to remind myself of my own marvel that it’s true. God’s gifts are so good, and when he’s in me I can truly live as I was meant to.

My silliest postie says, “Nourish the world with your words, yo,” from Ariel Gore’s book on writing. I think most of you know that writing is one of the things I’m about, and nourishing the world is what I’d love for my words to do. The postie reminds me of my dreams, that they’re not too far off, and that I’m working towards them every day, whether I know it or not. God is taking me somewhere, and that place has to do with my words. Yo.

I’ve added two more posties just this morning. That’s unusual. If you do the math, I’ve had the posties for roughly two years and I have nine of them, which comes to a postie every 2 2/3 months. One of this morning’s posties I’ve been meaning to make for while, and when I had the pen out it seemed as good a time as any. It says, “Strength will rise…we will wait.” It’s from that worship song, and it feels so close to where I am right now. There are so many things that I want, things that I feel like God is offering me, but the accepting of them feels like it takes more strength than I have. So I’ll accept what I can, wait, and accept more when he gives the strength. This reminds me that life with God is a combination of activity and passivity, that we wait, move, wait, move, etc., until, together with him, we walk into life everlasting.

My last postie, also made this morning, says, “Follow the wild goose.” Christianne mentioned to me that, in Celtic Christian thought, the Holy Spirit is like a wild goose. He goes wherever he wants, and you never know where he’s going to show up next. You chase, or wait, and eventually find him in new and surprising ways. I like this because life so often feels like a wild goose chase. I wonder if I’m really going somewhere, or simply running hither and thither. According to this image, a wild goose chase isn’t something pointless, silly, and painful, but something real. I’m chasing after the Holy Spirit, wherever he may go!

May you all chase after him today, and may you find him! Walk on.

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A site change

I’m making some changes as far as my identity on the internet goes, and as such I’ve decided to stop direction my personal domain (http://sarahgracewinfrey.com) to this blog. It will still totally be accessible via the wordpress domain (http://iamsarahgrace.wordpress.com). I’ll make the change this weekend, to give all of you a chance to change your links if you need to.

I know this is a pain–I totally appreciate your understanding and cooperation. There may be some more changes around here in the near future–we’ll see!!

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Authentics Anonymous

I’ve been pondering the topic of authenticity for a while now. The more I think about it, the more convinced I’ve become that “authentic”* has come to mean something that, if lived out, might very well produce inauthentic living in some.

What our society says, and what I feel like I see and hear from so many places, is that being authentic means being fully yourself, not being afraid to go against a stereotype, and discounting others’ opinions when making important decisions. This seems like a great way to live, at least on first glance. Living this version of authenticity means that I trust myself and God-in-me to figure out what I want to do and how I want to live. It seems like it would produce people who truly care about what they’re doing, and who do their best to live as closely to God’s design for them as possible.

The problems start when I hit an area where I don’t know what I want. We all have them. In our world of many choices, how could we not? It seems impossible to have a sense of identity in every area, or even in most of them. And this is where the questions start. Do I have to know whether or not I like running in order to be authentic there? If I don’t know, is it more authentic for me to pretend one way or another, or to say, “I don’t know?”

My gut reaction is to say that it’s more authentic to admit that I don’t know or, to complicate matters more, that while there are days when I like running, there are also days when I hate it, and days when I feel pretty much neutral towards it. And yet, those statements seem to go against our cultural ideas of authenticity. They make me sound muddled and tepid, not strong and vibrant and alive. Any uncertainty or ambiguity is not allowed. It’s not authentic to not know, or to sometimes feel one way and other times feel another.

I know that there are times when I give into the temptation to try to be something I’m not so that I know how I stand on an issue. I don’t really like running, but I like the idea of being a runner so I keep trying. That’s just true. It’s not pretty and it doesn’t come out of the dryer all nice and crisp, but there it is. If I say that I like running, it’s because I want to like it and because I feel pressure to either like it or hate it and not waver around somewhere in the middle.

And then there are further complications. What if someone actually fits a stereotype and doesn’t mind? What if that person is truly satisfied being average? What if God calls someone to live a life that looks a lot like the lives of others around then? Are they inauthentic because they’re not breaking down stereotypes or because they’re satisfied to live like a lot of other people do?

Again, my gut reaction is, “No!” If a person examines herself and that’s what’s truly in her heart, then she’s authentic if she lives out that life, even if her best friend is called to a life that looks very similar. This isn’t something that I actually struggle with a lot, because the life I want doesn’t look like very many that I see. My not struggling with it, however, does not mean that it isn’t a valid question.

The final problem that I want to point out is that, sometimes, it seems both wise and authentic to trust someone else’s opinion. If I’m buy a car anytime soon, it would be really good for me to look to someone else because I don’t know very much about cars. If I invite Dave to come with me, and listen to what he has to say, then I’m being true to myself on two levels (by admitting that I don’t know which car to buy and by admitting that having the help of someone more knowledgeable is the only way I’ll buy one wisely).

I guess what I’m getting at here is that true authenticity seems to be something different than our culture says it is. Instead of emphasizing difference, individuality, and independence, it should emphasize, quite simply, truth.

As I think about it, authenticity simply means telling the truth. It means the horrorifying, soaring willingness to show the world whatever is true about yourself in the moment. Sometimes, rather ironically, it means hiding, not showing your whole soul, because you feel like that’s appropriate or because you don’t feel safe. Other times, it means admitting that you feel seemingly contrary feelings about something. Even other times, it means admitting that you’re satisfied with the status quo, that you’re fine with normalcy, or that you’re happy with your life the way it is.

Beyond all of this, it seems like being authentic means that we tolerate the disparity of truth about ourselves. There are often so many things that are true about each of us at any given time, and trying to narrow that down and focus on one or two things results in a complete denial of the rest. Instead, it seems better to admit that there’s a lot there, that we need to sort through it all, and that the sorting may take an unspecified amount of time.

I’m struck by how much incorrect ideas about authenticity can hurt people. I think particularly of grief, where we feel so many different things at once. How much would it hurt to feel like that meant failure, or to shut down on that when we feel the mess must indicate inauthenticity? And there’s so much pressure to be authentic. What about the pressures of daily life? If I want to build skyscrapers but I must live and support my family in the middle of Nebraska, what pain will I feel when I’m forced to do something else and thus fail at authenticity?

I feel like this is all still pretty jumbled. I’d hoped that writing it out would help me figure it out, and it has, at least to a point. But the ideas still feel big and gangly in my mind that I can’t quite wrap myself around it. So this post will be a work-in-progress, maybe to be clarified later as God and insight leads.

Please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t pursue the things that God has put in their hearts. I’m not saying that we’re all the same, or championing over-dependence. What I am saying is that those things don’t an authentic person make. I’m saying that all a person has to be to be authentic is to be honest, and that we put so much pressure on people to fit into a certain definition of “authentic”* that we hurt them and try to make them bend into postions that don’t work for them. And don’t get me started on our cultural desire for people to be both authentic and productive in certain ways. AARGH!!!

*For those who care, please note the correct utilization of quotation marks. ;)

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Priviledged, Tired, and Weepy

Wow, so I just got back from spending a long weekend with Christin, Kirsten, and Christianne (yes, you can sing the “One of these things is not like the others,” song now ;) ). And, wow. I don’t have very many words yet. Lots of tears, and I don’t really know where they’re coming from.

We shared so much…the songs and phrases and words that tie a group together, some experiences with God, some deep longings and desires. And we shared some crap, some of the stupid things that Satan brings along when he doesn’t want times like this to happen. In the end, we all walked away, not only standing but standing tall, centered and true even though the world spins madly on.

I think the pic below sums it up the best I can do for now. I found it on the bathroom stall in the airport on my way home. All y’all made me feel beautiful this weekend, even when I truly wasn’t. And together we were beautiful.

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Of The Words

It’s hard for me to blog right now. I just can’t find the words.

I have most of a post written about how much I love the Olympics. And it’s true. I do love them. They bring back fuzzy memories of sitting with my mom on the couch and cheering away. And there are so many awesome sports out there. Modern pentathalon, anyone?

In fact, I love the Olympics so much that my excuse for not blogging is that I’ve been too busy watching our gymnasts get their hearts broken, and how can you think of blogging at a time like this.

But really, my heart has seasons. There are times to share, and times to refrain from sharing, times for words and times when they’re not the way to make something significant.

I always knew there was a reason that the book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorites. Seriously, no one just tells it like it is like The Prophet in Ecclesiastes. What has value? Oh, right, NOT A WHOLE LOT. I like people who are honest with me, even when it’s hard.

I’m not just struggling to blog lately, I’m struggling to write at all. The Novel is more than 3/4 of the way re-written, but I haven’t been able to do much on it in the last few days. I’d hoped to finish the rewrite before school starts (next Wednesday) but that looks more dubious as the days go by.

You know, that might be the key. Last week, I pushed to get a lot done on The Novel and worked more intensely than I would have otherwise (which isn’t very intense, given The Job and The Husband, not to mention The Olympics and The Gymnasts). I felt fine while I was doing it, but now I feel like the words wore out. This happened before, the last time I tried to do a push on The Novel.

So maybe that’s the lesson, that I only have so many words, at least of the ones that are close to my heart, per week or month or year. If I use them up, it’s fine, but I have to wait for the well to fill again.

Fill, well, fill.

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