Under the Sun // the importance of resonance

6:00 AM

There's nothing new under the sun. Can we really contribute to the world? Can we really share anything new?

There's a key point here. Under the sun. That's where we live. We all live under the same sun. We're all the same in some ways, yet we are vastly different.

So if we're all living on this earth, and we all have this in common, and there's nothing new to be had ... that begs the question: why do we write, and what should our writing contain, if not newness?

I will first point out that there is newness to be had. Just not pure originality. But we can take mixtures and combinations and throw them together and make something wild and beautiful. We don't get annoyed with people for not being "new". People are people, and while we all have so much in common, and every trait you have can be found in someone else somewhere on this planet, that doesn't make those people any less unique and interesting. What matters is the combination of known things in an individual person (or story), and how those combine to create something in and of itself, which could be thought of as new.

But I want to focus on the question I mentioned above. Why do we write, and what should our writing contain, if not newness?

The short answer? Truth.

We write to show the truth about the reality we live in. About human nature and conflict and pain and happiness and joy and love and sorrow and grief. We write to explore these concepts that everyone knows and everyone faces at some point in their lives.

We write to explore the deeper meanings of what we already know. Where did this idea come from, anyway, that says our writing has to be full of new things? If we could create something completely new, it wouldn't be as amazing as you might think because people wouldn't even be able to relate to it. They might find it wild and interesting and highly entertaining, but it wouldn't last because they wouldn't be able to connect to it. And if we can't connect, it doesn't really have true meaning.

The best stories are great because they contain the rawest forms of things we know. And those things resonate with us.

That's what story telling is really about. It's about writing relatable stories that touch our hearts. It's about writing the truth to issues we face. It's about doing the opposite of what we often feel we need to do. It's about plunging headlong into what we know and experience every day, and confronting the truth in those things.

Where the newness comes in is with how we approach it. And the opportunities to do that are quite endless. The combination of truths to explore and the ways to explore them are limitless. Don't stress about not being "original" enough. If you have a message pumping through your veins, it'll find a way to make itself heard. Truth has a hard time keeping quiet.

Do you struggle with writing new ideas? What are some common truths that you explore in writing? 


Your Greatest Teacher is You

6:00 AM

I was squished in the back of a seven passenger minivan with my laptop on my legs at 6:45 in the morning, on the way home from our eventful youth trip to Washington DC. Normally I don't function very well at such an early hour, but this morning was different. While everyone else was curling up to sleep for the long drive ahead of us, I remained upright and wide-eyed. My fingers flew across the keyboard, and something in my brain shifted.

Suddenly, without warning, I could edit. 

I've been struggling with editing The Dream Walkers all year. From January to now, I've been a bit unsure of how to tackle edits. I've asked myself stupid, panicked questions in moments of crisis like, "How do you even edit?" and "What is this book even supposed to look like?"

But on this car ride, after this week of broken down buses and stomach bugs and skewed plans, somehow it was after all this that I sat down and-squished legs and all-began to edit like I have never edited before.

Not to say I did it perfectly. Not to say my words were flawless, and that my book is now a perfect masterpiece.

What I'm saying is that something in my mind shifted. I had little to no warning. Only months of endless frustration and irritation. Months of feeling like I was getting nowhere, and making next to no progress in my writing.

Do you want to know a secret?

Even though I wasn't editing, even though I've only edited 20k since January, I wasn't making no progress. That sounds crazy, but it's true. Progress was being made. It was just progress I couldn't see. The brain is an amazing creation, and while I couldn't see what was going on, my mind was working these past three months, trying to solve this puzzle, trying to fix this problem. While I was helpless and beginning to lose confidence and hope, my mind was determined to save the day.

I've read a lot of blog posts over the past three months. I've looked up motivational quotes on Pinterest to try to get me "into writing" again. I've written what I hoped were motivational blog posts, as much a message to myself as it was to you all. I've made to-do lists. I've sat my tushie down and forced myself to stare at my document.

But none of that seemed to work. I didn't make much progress at all, and it was agonizing.

Yet, through all of that, I was learning. Because the best teacher in the world is not your favorite blog. It's not the best selling craft book you just finished reading that changed your life, and it's not your role model's "for writers" page on their website.

No. The best teacher is you. I know that may be hard to believe, but it's true. There are some lessons we must learn, and we are the only ones who can teach them. And do you know why?

Because people are unique. Every person on this planet is different than the other. None of us are the same, and so it only makes sense that we don't all learn the same either. But our brains know how to teach us lessons. They study the world around us, and they think about things even when we're not aware. They do a lot of work for us, helping us come to a better understanding of the world and ourselves.

My brain has finally figured out how I, personally, need to go about editing my book. Not only that, but it's given me the right mindset to do that. Again, I'm not saying I've got everything figured out and that my words are now sparkling and perfect.

I'm saying that I know where to start, and I know how to make progress on my story. I know where I'm going with it, and I know (at least, I think I know) how to get there. I'll still have rough days of staring at the screen of endless black text, but they're no longer the normal. And that's what I want to share with you. It's not just me. We're all teaching ourselves lessons every day, and a lot of those lessons are being learned unconsciously. As crazy as it sounds, you are working out puzzles 24/7. And soon, something is going to click.

If you've been stuck, keep pushing. If you stop trying, you'll never know if you've figured out the answer to your problems. I wouldn't have known if I hadn't pulled out my laptop and started trying to edit again.

Be persistent in your writing journey, and be patient. You learn the most about writing by actually writing. You learn the most about editing by actually editing. The key to writing clicked in my mind about three years after I started writing. The key to editing has taken significantly longer, but I've now reached a point where I think I'll be able to make headway.

Don't give up. Keep editing, and soon your brain will fix the problem, and you'll start making progress again. Just keep pressing on! You've got this.

Have you been in a rut this year, or has your book been going along smoothly? Are you writing or editing? What stage of the process are you in with your WIP, and what have you been learning from it recently? 


First Quarter of 2018 // wrap-up

6:00 AM

Hello friends! *waves wildly* Man, it's been ages. I totally didn't mean to miss ... three? Was it three posts? *counts on fingers* Ouch. I'm sorry guys. Life has been ... well, it's been crazy.

But! I'm getting ahead of myself. This is my quarterly wrap-up post (coming a week late, but alas--it is the best I can achieve) and I like to be weird and spontaneous SO. For each section today we're going to have Story Time and I will share a small anecdote for each given section. 


L I F E 

We were three hours away from home when our bus broke down. Eighty-six sixth through twelveth graders piled into a YMCA and hung out in a half court of a gym for six and a half hours while waiting for the bus to be repaired. When it finally was, we set off again, far behind schedule. At eleven in the night, still a good four hours from our destination, we hit a snowstorm.

I had a seat on the bus all to myself. I was relatively comfortable, curled up with my fuzzy blanket and reading The Two Towers, the noise of the other kids toned out in my mind. But when our youth minister got up, the chatting died down and I snapped away from the great fields of Rohan. I realized we had pulled over and were parked in a Walmart parking lot. Go figure.

"We've made about eleven miles progress in the last two hours," he announced. "And it's one o'clock in the morning. We physically cannot make it to DC tonight. We will not be at Church tomorrow because we physically cannot make it there. We've called ahead and they understand. Everyone is exhausted. We'll be sleeping on the bus tonight. Pull down your window shades and makes yourselves comfortable. Try to get some rest."

I watched as our ever humorous youth minister turned around and walked back to the front of the bus. I sat, not sure what to believe. Was he serious? He rarely told the time of day without messing with us. But the longer we all sat, the shock and disbelief palpable in the air, we began to realize that he was indeed serious. Window shades began to come down. A silence settled over the bus. And so it was that I slept on a bus with my youth group of 84, not to mention the ten or so adults that were chaperoning the trip.

As my cousin later said, at least we know that Walmart will always have our back.

The story doesn't end there, but I'll cut my story time and summarize. We got up that morning and went into the Walmart to get our breakfasts. As we got back on the busses, the bus that had broken down the previous day shut down again as we were leaving the parking lot.

So the eighty-four of us spent half the day in Walmart. We rented minivans and eventually did make it to DC that evening. But the next day, a stomach bug broke out and took down exactly 40% of our group. It was violent vomiting, but thankfully it only lasted about 24 hours before the effected person was better.

Nothing has gone as planned this quarter. It's hard to share just one story, but I think that statement applies to just about everything that's happened. Between the bus breaking down (it broke down again after spending several days in the shop, so we had to leave it and take the minivans back home) and the stomach bug breaking out, forcing us to change our plans, my trip to Washington DC was quite a ride.

*I also went to Guatemala for a week long medical missions trip

(check out the chocolate!)

*I got to see Priscilla Shrier in person and sat in on a talk show she conducted

*I decided at last what college I will be attending in the fall, and what major I will be pursuing

Life has been crazy, and it's impossible to sum everything up here. It's already getting long, so I'll move on, but I will say that I am going to pursue a major in English, and I'm thrilled to see what path God leads me on with that degree!



My little brother trailed along behind me, brows lifted. "Why are you getting three packs of index cards?"

I snagged the packages off the shelf, along with a couple packs of sticky notes, and shot him a grin. "Because I'm a writer."

He said nothing as we headed to checkout, so I went on to explain that I was going to make a massive wall chart. Which I did. I sat on my bed for about three solid evenings and wrote my book down, scene by scene, on index cards and cut them up, taping them to a poster board. This process was very beneficial, as it forced me to go through the book and find a reason for each and every scene there. I discovered many weak ones that could be cut, and even an entire chunk of the book that could be removed with very little change to the rest of the story. 

I've gotten a new story idea that I'm super excited about (and hoping to write for July nano!), and I'm also making good headway on Draft 3 of The Dream Walkers. Though I will mention that after my crazy month of March (both the DC trip and the Guatemala trip were in that month), I was a little frazzled and exhausted when I got home. On April second, I decided to open my email and begin sorting through the literal hundreds I had piled up, and then I saw one from Nano. I sat bold upright in bed and gaped. I had completely forgotten that Camp Nano was this month, and that it had already started. I'm still not sure whether this is really bad or just downright hilarious. 



I sat outside in the thick, humid air of Guatemala. It was a soft moment, and I was reading The Two Towers next to my traveling partner. She was reading through something also, and at one point she said, "Oh look. There's a quote from The Two Towers movie in here."

I had told her earlier about how I have grown up watching the movies. We put them on when we work on a big project, so I've listened to them more than I've watched. 

"It's between Theoden and Aragorn," she said. "I will not risk open war."

It was almost as though someone had reached into my chest and yanked the words out. "Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not."

She blinked and then looked up at me. "That was word for word."

I smiled sheepishly, and she just shook her head. "Goodness."

I've actually been keeping up relatively well with reading this quarter! I've averaged at almost five books a month, and I'm trying really hard to maintain that. 

CONFESSION TIME: until February, I had not read A Wrinkle in Time. I saw the trailer for the new movie and realized I had been missing out on something that looked really good. So I read the book and loved it! I read the first and second books and am eager to finish the series. 

My favorite book so far was probably Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede. I highly recommend the series. I'm on the last book right now and have thoroughly enjoyed all of them. The world building is amazing, and it's been a very pleasant read. 

M U S I C 

The Oh Hellos released a new album which is so good! I love the vibe of the songs and the general mood they put me in. I put together a new playlist for the spring season, and it makes my heart happy.

I've been listening to a lot of those songs, as well as the La La Land soundtrack. My mom also got me the piano sheet music books for Lord of the Rings and for Frozen, so I'm pretty excited to learn them.

F U N   F A C T

You wanna see what chocolate looks like? *grins* 

This is what chocolate looks like. 

They're like beans, and when you suck on them they're kind of sour. They get dried, and then roasted, and we got to taste the roasted beans and they were amazing. They tasted like dark, unsweetened chocolate. Guatemalans sure know how to make chocolate! 

I apologize again for how behind I've gotten in all the blogger things. I'm hoping things will settle down somewhat, or that I'll adjust better into this new rhythm of life. College is in the very near future, and we'll see what changes that brings for Stan!

How have the last three months been for you? Do you have any stories to share? 


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