#12Months12Books

I’ve started a personal campaign to write and publish 12 books in 12 months this year. Yikes, right? I would invite anyone else to join me, if they wish. Or take it as a challenge too. Much of this decision had to do with a desire to share my work more. And do so on a consistent basis. The rest came during some reflections over the past year.

In 2014, I did a lot of writing behind closed doors. Rather, I did a lot of experimenting. I started about 20 short stories, finished nearly half of them, and by year’s end, I published one of those of short stories. By the numbers, that’s not incredibly bad. But, if I were to continue this way – following through once every 20 times I began – it wouldn’t bode well for me in the long run. I’ve recognized I need greater discipline, specifically in bringing things to completion. This challenge will help me become better in that arena, I feel.

Or cause me to have a nervous breakdown by August.

No matter – I’ve started off 2015 on the right track. As I’m typing this, my January story is done and released –  The Color of Soul – and February’s title, A Dinner with Titans, is on its way to a final edit. Here’s my hope and prayer to stay the course as I head into March, April, and beyond.

Good to luck to those who are facing their own challenges this year. #12Months12Books, here we go.

Persistence – Bold Moves

Talking about persistence is one thing and actually being persistent is another. Some people get caught up in the notion that being persistent means holding onto a certain thought or idea. And if they hold tightly to that idea – that thought forever circulating in their minds – then something will eventually happen to make that thought a reality. Obviously, this is not the case. Thoughts require action to become tangible. They (thoughts) need more than inner-mindedness; in other words, they need you to do something other than keep that idea a prisoner in your head.

Growing up, I was always more of a cautious soul. I didn’t like getting in trouble or disobeying my parents or even getting less than an A- on my tests. I’ve never liked the idea of letting people down and that attitude has permeated every facet of my existence for nearly 30 years. The danger in that thinking, however, is a stark and very dangerous desire for absolute perfection. Perfection in work, perfection in relationships, and perfection in every endeavor I take on. It increases expectations; it makes them – the expectations – practically impossible to ever reach and instead of embracing a good risk in life, you become paralyzed; afraid to ruin that perfect record of endless success. It’s maddening, to say the least.

But, I’m not here to appeal to all you other Type A’s out there who can’t stand when another person takes the driver’s seat or to say that it’s “okay” to demand perfection of yourself and others – no, the meaning of this message is to redefine what is considered bold behavior. What does that look like and what does it mean? To the cautious soul – like myself – bold behavior could be seen as intolerable actions. Breaking the law, rebellious acts, challenging an authority, even violence – may be among what many would consider “bold” moves. But, none of those behaviors are boldness in action or boldness in its truest form. It’s actually immaturity or a lack of understanding – not being bold.

I’ve wrestled with the courage to be bold for a good portion of my life so I know how complicated the first steps of acting bold can appear to be. Especially if you’re someone like me. It’s maddening, as I said, but it doesn’t have to be. When I felt the call on my life to pursue this professional writer business, I was racked with “analysis paralysis”; just like I’d always been. And when that familiar feeling arose, I wanted to back off and think it too much to handle. But, the shift happened when I stopped trying to appease that perfect image of who I wanted myself to be in other people’s eyes, and changed that view to who I really was inside – and who God had desired me to be.

A pursuit of perfection isn’t as much about the person as it is about the people around that person’s life. Who are you trying to appease? Who is it you are trying to gain approval from? If it’s not yourself or God, then who is it? There must be someone you’re trying desperately to impress and if that person has a name, then break free from that. It’ll be one of the first bold moves you make as an individual.

As for me, my next bold move will be releasing some of my unpublished short stories. Again, I’ll be attacked with “analysis paralysis,” but I don’t fear it as much as I used to. It’s just another bold step towards the wholeness I’m meant to pursue, not the perfection I thought I deserved.

Some remarks… on Part 10

Pacing is a crucial element in storytelling. You can’t throw everything at an audience at once. Imagine telling a friend about your entire day. You’d start with when you woke up, gradually leading into breakfast (if you eat breakfast, and by all accounts, you should), then onto work or school, then off to lunch, then the afternoon, then evening, then whatever is beyond that. That’s a ton of information to regurgitate. And you don’t want to bombard the listener with everything you’ve experienced at one time. For one, it’s boring. Two, it’s anti-climatic if you’re trying to keep interest, and three, there’s no sense of relief. You’re smothering the person you’re trying to connect with.

And yes, that’s bad.

I find that with Spirit Run, there’s plenty of instances where I need to address my pacing. If I’m always charging forward with no sign of slowing down, then the reader is properly getting exhausted. As a writer – or a storyteller – telling a tangent thought may feel like a great opportunity to “wow” the reader. But in reality, that “wow” is only exciting to me. The reader/listener has no semblance of what’s going on in my head. If my message is jumbled, then they’ll be jumbled. So I have to give what I have in small chunks. I have to slowly build my case, release small tidbits, and gain momentum until I’m fully able to unveil the climax of a story.

It’s as simple as that. In practice? Not always so easy. Ever been at the brunt of a really long, really exhausting story a friend is telling you? Well, that’s a writer’s worst nightmare as it relates to storytelling. Stories need good pacing or else they become nothing more than poorly crafted run-on sentences; rehashed by the author out of some need to fulfill some storyteller’s buzz. I get that sentiment at times. But as much as I look to my own writing as being therapeutic, I am not in a position to keep my work to myself. Nor do I want to. It’s meant for sharing. And to be shared at a good pace.

Thoughts on “Spirit Run” – part 9

I hope it’s no secret by now that Spirit Run is a story dedicated to the unseen. A place that’s invisible and open to interpretation dependent on the individual. Where he is in life, where he’s going, and where he’s been. And we all get to experience the “invisible” in different ways. For instance, I was reading a Twitter post this morning via National Geographic that said something like this (and I’ll paraphrase): “Science allows us to see what cannot be seen otherwise.”

I would agree with this statement. Science certainly does permit access to a realm that cannot be witnessed by the naked eye. Who knew that every single thing is made up of tiny particles called ‘atoms’? And how else might we learn what lies on the surface of the moon and beyond? The human ability to create, dissect, and analyze the most minute and far places of the universe is really astounding if you think about it. No other creature in the known world can do that – only us.

*pause for effect*

I was fortunate to hear a speech this weekend that covered topics related to human science and discovery. The speaker talked on what the world must have been like when we discovered how the Earth was not the center of the universe. It was our planet that was moving, not the sun. People’s brains must have been turned inside out. And when our atom smashers discovered protons, neutrons, and electrons – well, you get the picture. Scientific ventures continue to unlock more of our universe, but in the 21st century, we know that the Earth rotates the sun and we are made up of atoms. This is common knowledge. These may not seem as exciting to the seasoned scientist, but they are scientific fact all the same. And as we move forward, only the new and the undiscovered will pique our interests as adventurers. That much is also true. In other words, we are delighted for what we know, but we are driven even more to find out what we have yet to understand.

This story is teaching me a lot about this human reality. As much as I want to have a handle on everything I encounter, I am reminded how I cannot get all the answers at once. What’s unseen is intriguing enough though, so I do what I can to unveil those yet-to-be-revealed parts of my life. But first, I must simply be open to the idea of not knowing. In that way, I can find what it is I am looking for. Philosophical? Sure, it absolutely is, but it’s also a truth, I feel. Spirit Run‘s latest section, 9, delves deeper into this concept. My characters might have thought they were guarding a male spirit, a “Son”, but in reality, it was a “Daughter” the whole time. Their willingness to see through the journey made that revelation possible though; a revelation that’s amazing to them. I feel like science and faith find themselves in the same boat on that one. Sometimes our pursuits of one thing lead to the discovery of another. And it happens when we least expect it.

And I’ll be honest, I like having a good surprise in my story too.

Some thoughts on “Spirit Run” – 1

I started this story shortly after taking a week-long break from writing. The time spent away from the daily grind was a relief, but it also made me all the more eager to return to my laptop. I’ve had a ton of “big” ideas lately, ones I’d really like to complete but the enormity of those projects can make me feel like I’ll never finish them. Or that I’m running in place. That feeling, “running in place”, can be a good metaphor to help explain how we see ourselves at times – stuck, stagnate, and isolated in our work. Since I’d been struggling with that, I started to dig into why I was feeling that way. And that’s where the idea came to mind – what might that look like in a spiritual sense? I got the notion of a spirit doing something similar – running in place, but rather than be stuck where it was, it was running towards something at the same time.

But where was it going? And for what purpose? Gears turned, light bulbs went off, and I began to write. Funny how asking questions can lead to more questions, but if you are asking specific ones, you tend to get some specific answers too. I wanted a clear vision of what to do, but the most important step was just beginning. Once that happened, things really started to take shape.

For example, were there dangers? I thought of what might be required to have a safe passage for my character. What about being covered in the light of a few guardian angels? Ok, that works. And have the story told from their perspective? Sure, that sounds exciting too. I mean, what kind of conversations might angels be having when they look down at a human spirit? I’ve often wondered what that might look like. So why not write about it? And away we go.

The manner in which I first present the angels was also very important. Our general knowledge depicts angels with robes, relatively long hair, and most importantly – wings of some kind. I don’t disagree with this type of visage – there are other types, mind you – but do they always start out in this fashion? These are beings made in light, after all. So why not have them communicate through the use of said light? I wanted to establish this early on; that angels aren’t just the wispy, toga-wearing creations we usually view them as. They are diverse creations, complete with their own personalities and characteristics. The three in this story are no exception.

Going forward, I’ll continue to expound on this concept of “transparent becoming apparent”; specifically when angels are engulfed in the light of a spirit. I like that idea and it makes for a fun visual within the context of the story.

Part 2 to follow later this evening.

Till later,
J.C.L.