Waiting for the words

7008333501_f599f8f4aa_mI’m waiting for the words to come.

They haven’t shown up.

It’s been a week. A week when I should be writing a book. I should be a quarter of the way through. I have a deadline. I had a plan. Write fast and intensely. Bang out a first draft as quickly as possible. Use the pressure of the deadline to kick start the creativity. It worked before. I’m sure it will work again. It just hasn’t yet.

I’m just sitting here with my hands near the key board. These are the characters that I love. I know everything about them. They have their own Facebook pages. I know what they eat for breakfast.

But right now, I don’t know what they do next.

Except I do know. I have a nicely planned out chart, with columns for each character and another for the major action in each chapter. Chapter by chapter I have the story planned out with the appropriate buildup in tension.

It’s a great plot. I lie awake at night thinking about how awesome it’s going to be. The last book in the series. The big finale. In my head, it’s amazing with epic fight scenes, passionate love and the neat resolution of all outstanding themes.

But it’s still in my head.

Every time I go to start writing, there’s a wall between me and the page. Giant concrete slabs separating my story from the page. I feel the words spinning inside me but they whirl nervously around my legs instead of flowing neatly through my fingers.

I’ve tried switching music, working out of my house, working at home, changing rooms, changing chairs, sitting on cushions, throwing the cushions on the floor. I’ve drunk coffee, then water to flush out the toxins. I’ve been to the bathroom, promised myself chocolate as soon as I finish a chapter, then eaten the chocolate anyway because ‘the sugar will help.’

Every day I pray that the words will flow. That they will be good words, the right words, His words.

I know that the words are there, trying as hard to get to me as I am to get to them.

Right now I’m just hoping that if I sit here long enough eventually they will come.


Photo credit:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/7008333501/

Writing a book in three weeks, and other miracles.

6919745953_a06d9b46fb_mI thought it would kill me.

It seemed like a great idea when I started…. No scratch that. It seemed like a great idea before I started.

Back in July, I looked at a calendar and wondered by when I’d be finished the first draft of Written in the Sky, the fourth book in my YA fantasy series. Then it was a fantastic idea. I looked at the weeks, counted out from when school started after the summer vacation, added a few extra weeks for emergencies, and picked a date.

I told my editor the date. She wrote it in her calendar and planned her work schedule around my date. Refused other clients because my book was arriving on that day.

January 5th. A Monday. It was a great date. And in July it gave me a long time in which to write a book.

Then life happened.

My father in law came to visit so I was busy until he left. Then I was working on this other project I thought I’d finish first. Then I didn’t finish it so I stopped in the middle, again. Then I planned out the book I was supposed to be writing.

Then it was November. November sucked for me. I blogged about it. Talked about it in therapy. Made it through by the skin of my teeth and the Grace of God. But I did not write a book.

Then came December, the holidays, my kids off school and very little time to write a book.

I was faced with two main options.

  1. Tell the editor I’d be late. Mess up her whole schedule and risk her not working with me again. Good editors are worth their weight in gold. This was not an option.
  2. Tell God that I needed a miracle.

The conversation went something like this:

“Hi God? You know how You can do anything because You run the world? Could you please make me write a book in three weeks?”

When I wasn’t struck down by a lightning bolt for my audacity, I kept going.

“I know that we are helped in this world according to our level of faith. I have a poor track record in writing this book. But You rock, so I’m going to believe in You. And I have total faith that You’re going to make it happen.”

So I put my faith in the Lord….and wrote like a crazy person. I stopped answering my phone. Almost disappeared from Facebook. Switched off Twitter. I wrote in every spare minute. I wrote in the evenings until my eyes blurred.

When it got to Friday January 2nd, there were three days to go. I emailed the editor if she’d mind if I took a couple of extra days. She’s a nice lady, so she said sure. I didn’t tell her that I still had a quarter of the book to write.

I wondered if I’d lost my mind. I probably had. But I knew that God was bigger than me, and bigger than my book. Every time I started to get stressed, I passed it straight on to Him.

On the last day, my kids had a snow day. I told them if they played nicely I’d be available to talk to them tomorrow. They actually listened. Proof of Divine intervention.

I finished the book at 3.40pm on Friday January 9th. Taking out time for the holidays, I wrote a full length novel in just over 3 weeks.

I sent it to the editor. Then I sat down, opened up to Psalm 100 and thanked the Lord for sending me a miracle.

(You might wonder why I’m blogging now about something that happened two weeks ago. It’s taken me this long to recover.)


Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/oliverquinlan/6919745953

It takes Grace

15075036832_e74fa36ceb_mI wrote earlier this year about the darkness that skips behind me and what happens when it reaches me. When I was underwater, surrounded by darkness last month, it was not the time to be blogging about the experience. But I needed to share this one with you.

This was the worst day. My brain felt like it was filled with burning cotton wool. Moving felt like dragging my body through molasses. I stayed in bed. Normally I will do anything I can to avoid giving up and getting under the covers. If I can just stay moving, fake normal for long enough then maybe it will pass. Maybe I’ll fool everyone into thinking that I’m just like them. Fool my kids into thinking that they have a regular mother.

But sometimes all you can do is stage a tactical surrender. On this very worst, blackest day, I surrendered to bed. If I had been tired, it might have helped. Had I been laid up with the flu, then rest and drinking liquids would have set me back on the path to health. When you get into bed because the darkness has swallowed you alive, no amount of rest will put you back together again. Grace is what it takes. So I sat around waiting for the Grace to kick in.

The trouble was that I promised to help make a sit down dinner for our community. I had to make roast vegetables for forty people. My fridge was overflowing with vegetables waiting to be sliced.

People were counting on me, even if I couldn’t count on myself. The whole day I’m lying in bed, hoping that any minute I’ll feel better. And the minutes are ticking by, until I have no choice but to get out of that bed and chop those vegetables.

I would have done anything to find another way but there was no one else to ask. I dragged myself downstairs and looked those vegetables face on. I started chopping and tears are rolling down my face. I want to be anywhere, doing anything else. And mostly feeling any other way than the way I feel right then.

I finish the onions and I keep on crying even though I’ve run out of any viable excuse if someone come to the door. The tears are streaming down my face and I’m wiping them away so that they don’t get into the vegetables.

There is nowhere else to turn. I say:

“God? Are You listening to me? Glennon Doyle says that you have to show up before you’re ready. Do you see me here? I am totally not ready.”

I look at myself, a puffy eyed, drippy, exhausted, manically chopping mess.

“I am so very, very not ready. But here I am. I am showing up.

“But, listen God, if I’m showing up, then You have to show up too.”

I made it through the vegetables. They were served to forty people who ate them happily, never knowing that they were prepared with buckets a tears, and a giant serving of Grace.

 

 


Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/personalcreations/15075036832

 

Finding God on the holidays

2311239344_fc221b76b6_mI always find God in the holidays.

That might appear self-evident, but it’s not. In the middle of the cooking, cleaning, gift buying, child entertaining marathon, God can easily get stuffed on the back burner.

This year I forgot the brisket. We always have brisket and I just didn’t buy it. Instead we had the chicken I did buy. My husband bought enough donuts to feed an army and my kids decided that they didn’t like donuts anymore. I gave the extra fancy donuts to the neighbor.

Every year, every season there are the things that happen. There the ones the make that year memorable. I still remember the year my mother failed to defrost the turkey. We might have eaten chicken then too.

We give our children very few presents. Enough for them to feel like they weren’t cheated when their friends are getting but not enough to make them think it’s the reason we celebrate. (We give extra big gifts at other times during the year to ‘make up.’)

I don’t think that it’s the commercialism that puts us at risk of losing God during the holiday rush. It’s the sheer busyness. When our lives are full of noise and movement, it’s hard to hear the still small voice.

So in the midst of craziness, I look for God in the space in between. Standing on line in the grocery store, feeling the buzz in the air. Watching the kids rush home from school, carrying handmade decorations. In my own home when everyone is crying and the only way to peel those potatoes and make it through bed time is to throw my hands up and ask for mercy.

The mercy always comes. Because God is with us in our happiness. Taking delight in our joy. Smoothing out the edges of our struggles. And laughing with us when all our children drop to the floor and inexplicably pretend to be cats.

May it be a season of light and triumph for all us.


Photo from : https://www.flickr.com/photos/joaomoura/2311239344

When good things happen

Camp in the Shadow - 3DIt’s like when I met my husband. It was wonderful, a whirlwind, full of frantic joy, and slight trepidation. When the big moment came and he looked me in the eyes and asked if I’d marry him, I was totally ready to smile in mock surprise and accept. (Because, honestly, it was a done deal well before he came out and asked.)

Then I planned a wedding. And was consumed with dresses, halls, photographers, bands and all the other things that seems desperately important but mean nothing. I was blissfully happy.

Then we were married, and bought a house, and had a baby, then we had another baby, and still more babies. Sometimes I was happy, sometimes I was sad, mostly I was living.

Then my kids pulled out my wedding photos and I remembered how happy I’d been in my big white dress with the bouquet that wasn’t the one I’d ordered.

I wasn’t just happy, I was grateful.

Before life got busy with other blessings, I was grateful to have that one. And I stopped in the middle of my messy living room with torn photo albums strewn around, to take a moment to be grateful.

Unless you hold onto that moment, the moment of gratitude, it’s easy to hurry off to chase the next rainbow. You have to train yourself to stop and feel the blessing. Thank God for His bounty. Remember the look in his eyes when he popped the question. Smell the roses that didn’t come with ferns. Hear your children’s laughter as they spot people they know in the pictures, even as you gather up the torn pages.

Yesterday, the long awaited third book, Camp in the Shadow, in my YA fantasy series came out. Long awaited by me, and by my fans who, in a wondrous blessing, are more than just my mother. Real people who’ve never met me, wrote to me asking where book 3 was.

Finally it’s right here on sale on Amazon.

And I’m taking a moment to be grateful, before I go back to writing book 4 and chasing the next rainbow.

Wait is the hardest answer

5040199394_8886bb3fb7_m My mother always says that God has three answers; Yes, No and Wait. Wait is the hardest.

And I’ve been waiting, and waiting and waiting, for the third book in my YA fantasy series (The Palace Saga) to come out.

First I wrote it. That part is a bit like giving birth, at first you think you can pace yourself and be in control of your creative process, but the closer it gets to the end, it all disintegrates into one mad push.

Then I send it to my wonderful editor, Amy Maddox. She looks over my baby and then sends it back to me nicely telling me all the things I did wrong.

So I look at my baby that took me months to create and willfully take an scalpel and amputate parts, a leg from here, a little of bit off the nose. Sometimes I hide the lost words in secret files on my laptop so I can feel that they weren’t lost forever. And I write new parts to fill in the gaps.

Finally when it is more perfect than I could imagine, I send it back to the editor. She polishes it further, finding all the places where my thoughts went faster than my ability to produce accurate typing.

When it’s so good and clean that I’m afraid to open the file in case I mess something up, I print it out and send it to the proofreader, who had some super human ability to find missed commas.

What comes back to me is a work of art. I send it to the only people I trust to make a cover worthy and to layout my story to be a beautifully formatted book.

Then I wait and eat my fingernails until it comes back to me, a butterfly brought forth from the caterpillar I originally wrote. I upload it to Amazon, and then squeal with joy as it comes online.

Camp in the Shadow will the fourth book I’ve published this year. It’s not a very complicated process but in every possible stage I’ve been delayed. This is the book I was hoping would be out in September. But God said No, not yet.

At each setback, I’ve said ‘Now Lord?”

And He said “No, not yet.”

I’ve gone back to biting my fingernails, apologizing to my readers for the delay, and hoping tomorrow will be the day.

I do know that this “No” is really a “Wait.” But my goodness, wait is the hardest answer.

 

 


Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/calleephoto/504019939

Outrunning the tide

beach stormPeople ask me how God is so real to me. It’s because sometimes He’s all I’ve got.

You see, the darkness chases me.

Sometimes I skip ahead of it, like jumping out of the path of waves on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The sand is in my toes, not a cloud in the sky and my warm skin is cooled by a gentle breeze. Then the waves bring the picture into focus. And I can be fooled into thinking that the tide of darkness is my friend.

But the tide waits for no man.

When it starts to rise, I pull on my jacket, wrap myself up to compensate for the loss of warmth. And I keep going, hoping all the time that the water will recede and the light will come back.

Usually it works. I keep moving, working, caring for my babies. Go to bed early at night. Take long walks to boost my serotonin levels. I have a safety net. I do yoga, play my favorite music, practice piano and put that diet on hold. I don’t look at the darkness. I’ll do anything to pretend it isn’t there. If I don’t give it validation then it’s not part of my life. I tell God my troubles and hope that none of them cause the waters to rise.

Sometimes it’s touch and go. I feel the water lapping at my feet. I try to jump out, to run faster, just to keep moving, to see if I can outrun the flood that is coming. Sometimes it works and I walk back into the sunshine breathing a sigh of relief.

And sometimes nothing is enough. The tsunami covers me. Then there’s no more running, no more hoping, no more beaches. Just me alone in my kitchen with a life that doesn’t always belong to me.

Then I pull up a chair, sit myself down and say “Oh God, is this what you want me to do?” And yes, in these moments it’s as much a curse as it is a plea to my Lord and maker. I slip on my baggy grey cardigan, then I put myself into bed and I pray for the Ark.

Because under the water there’s only me and Him.

Because I know as surely as He sends the darkness, He’ll send me a way out.

Even if He has to split the sea.

And every time I go under, I get to know Him a little better. So that even when the sun is shining, we’re walking hand in hand.

 

 

 


Photo from : https://www.flickr.com/photos/ben124/6761361801/in/photolist-fFnxUt-bitKit-bUYFGQ-fJjWPN-nQNxRs-bmS8UQ-dFwTJ2-dFwjk8-dFwjrr-9x3web-9x3wqW-oKPhe-9x35ph-9x3z3G-dXqDhj-bUYFSW-CcKhW-dsc3qQ-pdLHLT-k8xxtk-dNtz1a-b8WayB-h4TK5K-dCbVmu-qvxJy-bD8ZRn-JGavA-pADWwk-2J3UNg-7yppnw-7hbLic-p6aBCs-dThPhz-4pYJ3T-csoMDh-4q3NSE-6pStu1-2fjPs-nmX5M6-26VURy-5pKsJn-d94ADU-k9fM9x-4sY7vD-3Y9Y4A-2Qvwap-hhQ84f-4iUJya-6xCcRi-2QzX9Y

 

 

Making the team

God is running the world. We have a tendency to remember when someone’s ill, when we buy a lottery ticket and when we’re hoping that cute guy in the gym will notice us. But what’s He doing when He’s not managing life and death, dispensing serious cash and running the course of true love?

He’s still running the world. It’s a 24/7 sort of job.

God’s a bit like the ER ward, there’s no such thing as a quiet day. And like the ER ward, we tend to forget He’s there until we need Him. Then we arrive at God’s door step dripping blood and demanding immediate service. And like the ER ward He gives it to us. Sometimes it’s all Band-Aids, extra kisses and a plaster cast for our friends to sign. But sometimes God has to pump our stomach. Then we complain bitterly and forget that we only got that treatment because we stupid enough to give ourselves alcohol poisoning.

The real goal is to get ourselves onto the staff at the heavenly ER. This is worth it for multiple reasons. God is awesome and well worth hanging around. And like a member of the ER staff, when you’re on the God team you’re part of something that matters, you become part of the solution.

The less altruistic part of being on the staff, is that then you get the fast track to heavenly assistance. Getting on the team is easy, all you have to do is remember who’s running the show and send all your problems over to the Boss.

Case in point: I’d been trying to get ahold of someone for weeks. I tried all the regular email, messaging, phoning type options and nothing was working. All I got was bland responses to try again later. This morning, I woke up and took a good hard look at the situation.

I said to God: “Listen You’re running the world. I need to see this chick. Can You just hook me up?”

So instead of going to work in my usual location, I went half an hour in the other direction and went to knock on this chick’s door. On the way over, I whipped out the Psalms to make quite sure I knew who was running the show. I wasn’t relying on the power of the internet, or peer pressure, or even common curtesy. I knew I was going to get my stuff taken care of because the Master of the World had my back.

I got to the door. Read the little plaque twice to make sure I was in the right place.

“It’ s only You,” I reminded myself in case I’d forgotten in the two minutes it had taken me to walk down the street.

I knocked.

No one answered.

I tried knocking again.

Still no one answered.

I tried peeking through the window. It was suspiciously dark inside. This was someone who should have been happily at work in the morning.

I looked up at heaven. “I know that You are running the world,” I said to God. “So if she’s not in there, when this is where she should be at 10am, then I accept that it’s by Your Grace and today is not the day this problem is getting sorted.”

I headed out of the building and went to find a coffee shop to get some work done.

A large soya latte later, the words were flowing nicely, so the morning wasn’t wasted. I was just finishing off the scene, when I glanced up at the line of people waiting to buy coffee.

And there she was!

The very chick who had the power to resolve my ongoing issue. She looked at me. I was staring like a preteen who just spotted Justin Bieber. I saw recognition dawn in her eyes.

She walked over to my table, and smiled. We confirmed that we both were who we thought we were. Then she sat down. And talked to me for half an hour, until my issue was solved.

I was ready to do a victory dance right then and there.

You could call it coincidence but I know better. Because when you remember who is the Boss then you put yourself on the team. And once you’re on the team, miracles happen.

And the Lord said…..

I was sitting staring out of the bus window, because I live in a place where public transport is easier than owning a car (so not LA.) The scenery was passing by and my mind was blank. And then it came…. The voice of God.

It was moderately surprising.

But, as it was not the first time that happened to me, it was less surprising that it could have been. Of course when I say ‘the voice of God’ I don’t mean a big booming declaration accompanied by choirs of angels. (And clearly an actual audible message would have sent me checking into the nearest outpatient clinic.) I mean a deep intuition, a fundamental knowledge bubbling up from my soul to my conscious mind.

I felt it come up, rising like a shining from the watery depths. As it bubbled up, I felt it become solid, as my mind clothed this precious truth in words. And so it came –

“Cat, cut the cr*p.”

Now, that was surprising.

I don’t use profanity in my regular life. Neither do my friends. In my books, the characters only swear when I feel that there was nothing else they could have possibly said. In fact, no one has spoken to me like that since I left high school and overhauled my life to let God in.

I sat for a minute and tried to work out why my mind would have delivered the Divine command in the voice of my high school best friend. High school BFF had many wonderful qualities, (like an unprecedented capacity to get nightclub bouncers to ‘forget’ to check our ID.) The most significant was her capacity to get me to see sense when all else failed (like right before I bleached my hair.) If God was talking to me in her voice then there was something I seriously needed to do.

I waited to see if anything else floated through my mind. Surely God wouldn’t leave me knowing I had to get over myself and go do something without telling me what.

I saw myself watching YouTube.

“God? You want me to pay more attention to YouTube?”

I could almost feel God giving me that face I give my kids when they say they want candy as the side dish at dinner. Nice try, but let’s do that again.

I saw myself watching Glennon Doyle Melton on the Oprah channel saying that wise women ‘show up before they’re ready.’ They don’t think, I’ll write that book when I get my house organized, or take that dance class after I’ve lost 20 pounds. They just see what they have to do in life and go do it, or it will never get done.

When I watched the clip on YouTube, I remember thinking ‘like that blog I keep wanting to write about living and writing with God. The one I’m waiting until my books are international best-sellers before I start.’

God didn’t need to say anything else. I got the message.

I hung my head in submission, “Yes, Lord. I’ll start the blog today. And next time, I’ll try to listen the first twenty times You tell me something, so that no one has to resort to swearing.”

Welcome to my new blog, writingtheword.com. It’s about me trying to make my way into heaven; writing, living and hoping I’m listening.