Don’t Let Fear Stop You ~ Dream Big

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If you’ve followed the Water Cooler or my personal blog for a while, you know I’m a glass half-full thinker. I dream big.

I weigh the realities and set goals within reason.

I pray.

I plan.

I strategize.

And then there’s this—

I dream bigger.

Over the years, I’ve often thought about dreams. In fact, I’ve blogged about them, too.

Certainly, as a writer, my pursuit began with the tiny glimmer of a dream.

The dream languished as months slid into years and years into decades. It all but withered away as a long, bone-chilling season blew in and took up residence.

Then life changed.

I shifted careers. I left my area of expertise in favor of sunnier paths.

My kids grew older. No longer did I have one in diapers and another in middle school.

No longer did we live in and out of hospitals and ERs like we once had (more on that here).

At last, the fresh, clean breeze of opportunity seemed to blow my way.

I explored new goals.

I made the most of my time, started new projects, and immersed myself in the writing craft.

I allowed my dream to soar.

Was I scared?

You bet!

Writing’s a risky business.

There’s always the risk of rejection, failure, and loneliness. Add to that the never-ending details and mountains of work—the actual writing, even though we do love it.

In other words—the writing landscape is far from glamorous and ideal. (If you’re a veteran at this, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.)

It’s a day-by-day, put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other process. If we want to realize our publishing dream, writers must stay focused.

We must adopt a big dreamer mindset.

We must adapt to new ways of thinking.

We must set aside our fear and go for broke.

And here’s something to consider—something I wrote several years ago as a reminder.

Goals: What I try to realistically shoot for with God’s help.

Dreams: Something beyond the scope of the tangible, but completely possible with the One who moves mountains.

A guest speaker at our church one Sunday put it another way.

When Jesus began His earthly ministry, he preached the Good News. (Matthew 4:17)

Through a gracious invitation, he called his first disciples to follow Him, acknowledging he would make them fishers of men—evidence that whatever we do—whatever vocation we have, Jesus will use it and transform it.

If we follow Him, we’ll no longer find meaning in other “stuff.” When we chase after Him, our dream is found in His call for us.

Self-made dreams won’t satisfy because Christ has something bigger in store. The kingdom dream.

And when our hopes and dreams align with His will for our lives—wow—all bets are off.

Even when we’re scared. Even when we don’t know how on earth our writing ministry will come to fruition.

Because that’s the thing really—how on earth?

Well, on earth—in the finite realm, it may not.

But given our supernatural Heavenly Father’s charge over our dream, anything can happen.

As a novelist, that thrills me!

***

 

As appeared on my blog.

Original Image Credit: Pexels/Pixabay

What’s your dream?

How do you keep your dream alive?

How would you encourage others to press forward toward their dream?

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Cynthia writes Heartfelt, Homespun Fiction from the beautiful Ozark Mountains. A hopeless romantic at heart, she enjoys penning stories about ordinary people facing extraordinary circumstances. Her debut novel, the first in a three-book series, releases with Mountain Brook Ink July 2019.

“Cindy” has a degree in psychology and a background in social work. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW MozArks, and RWA.

Besides writing, Cindy enjoys spending time with family and friends. She has a fondness for gingerbread men, miniature teapots, and all things apple. She also adores a great cup of coffee and she never met a sticky note she didn’t like.

Cindy loves to connect with friends at her online home. She also hangs out on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

For love, fun, and encouragement ~

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Inspired

As a teacher of writing and a writer myself, I’ve long been in the habit of examining others’ writing for what it has to say about the creative process. Nonfiction, my primary genre, lends itself most naturally to such scrutiny, since the solipsistic Scarecrow--Daniel Schwenwriters who tend to write in this genre love to write about what they’re up to. The writing of memoirists and essayists thus provides valuable glimpses into the process. In nonfiction workshop, Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast is my go-to handbook.

As I blogged last month, I’ve been listening to the Bible on my iPhone while I run. Since I run in five to ten mile chunks, I’ve heard whole books at a time and am making my way quickly, if haphazardly, through the text, following not the order of the Bible’s original organizers but spurious impulse (or, as I like to think, the Holy Spirit). Listening to scripture aloud, I’ve become newly appreciative of the almost constant reverberations between biblical accounts. The echoes of one story in another, of one biblical author’s phrasing in the voices of others, of the words of Hosea and Isaiah in the mouths of John and Paul and Jesus. The Bible is a masterpiece of intertextuality, a tapestry of voices in sentences that mesh and thicken from one chapter to the next.

I don’t know whether it’s because of the biblical writers I’ve happened to choose thus far or because of my new way of “reading” the Bible—that is, hearing the words aloud rather than reading them from a page—or just my old habit of paying special attention when writers mention writing, but I’ve noticed that the biblical writers talk a lot about writing. As such, the Bible offers considerable insight for me and fellow writers about our line of work.

Forgive my foray down a path we Christians like to avoid in considering the Bible—namely, the exact nature of divine inspiration that led to its composition in the first place—but one biblical writer after the next, from Moses to Isaiah to Jeremiah to John, describes the initial inspirational moment pretty much exactly as I’ve experienced it myself. An urgent voice—sometimes identified as God’s, sometimes an angel’s, sometimes unspecified—commands, “Write this down!” For these ancient writers, writing was not a choice—not a career goal or the desire to influence or educate others or even a matter of passion—so much as a dutiful response to that voice. An idea rises like a vision in the mind and the voice says, simply, “Write.”

“A writer,” I tell those who say they want to be writers, “is someone who writes.”

The most common writerly methods in scripture, which several biblical writers go out of their way to explicate, are the same ones I recommend to my students: in the words of Luke, “after investigating everything carefully from the start, to write an orderly account” so that readers “may know the truth” (Luke 1:3-4 NRSV). Careful investigation and organization are what convince.

Regardless of genre—whether they are writing poetry, chronicles, stories, or philosophical treatises—the biblical writers take pains, as Paul assures the recipients of one of his letters, to “write you nothing other than what you can read and also understand” (2 Corinthians 1:13). Nothing show-offy, though the words of scripture are often as artistic as they are true. No erudition for erudition’s sake.

And though their accounts and rhetorical goals are diverse, the biblical writers share, it seems to me, one essential writerly skill: they tell what they actually see and hear and smell and taste and feel. Unlike my students, who would rather explain their thoughts, the biblical writers are, to a person, concrete. Here’s Jeremiah (whose repetitive ranting could be boring, were it not so vivid) showing, not merely telling, how ridiculous it is to worship idols:

Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
nor is it in them to do good.

(Jeremiah 10.5 NRSV)

Wow. Like scarecrows in a cucumber field. I wish I had written that!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy students typically define creative writing as writing that doesn’t have to follow any rules. Grammar rules, especially, are irrelevant. When I talk about sentence-level problems in their writing, they roll their eyes. In poetry workshop, many abandon the sentence altogether, writing instead in fragments. Creativity, in their view, constitutes the opposite of order.

The biblical writers, by contrast, seem to model their creativity on that of God himself. The creation, as described in Genesis, is a work of separation and sorting, of repeating and omitting, of drafting and considering before declaring anything “good.” Again and again, the biblical writers are selective in what they opt to tell. They keep only the best episodes of a given narrative—key conflicts, the rising action—and leaving the rest mysteriously, sometimes frustratingly, elliptical, in this way to engaging the reader’s own imagination and mental processing. There’s never a pat moral to the story. As hard as we Bible-readers try, we can never read the Bible as a straightforward primer or even a narrative account of holy living, cleansed of all confusing or upsetting or unholy details. Rather, it portrays real life—convincing in its familiarity—and real characters, the holiest of whom, as we ourselves, struggle and fail and fail again.

For writing instruction, I’m learning, the Bible is unsurpassable. Even better than Hemingway.

My Friend Jane Kirkpatrick and Feeding the Lake

Jane-1-EE (3)One of my most meaningful evenings as a writer had nothing to do with me and everything to with my friend, workshop partner and fellow writer Jane Kirkpatick.

It was 2005 and Willamette Writers, our state’s largest literary organization, presented Kirkpatrick with its Distinguished Northwest Writer Award. Among recipients of the past: Ken Kesey and Ursula Le Guin.

In accepting the award, Kirkpatrick, then 59, quoted author Jean Rhys to 400 people: “All of life is like a lake made up of many stories, fed by many streams. Some of the streams are long and mighty, like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and some are small, like me. The size of the stream doesn’t matter. All that matters is the lake. Feed the lake.”

Kirkpatrick, who then lived on the John Day River in north-central Oregon, told how, at age 36, she first tested the literary waters. Head of a social service agency, she took a writing class through a community college adult education program. “I was terrified,” she told me. “I thought: I don’t belong here.”

The teacher, she later learned, felt the same way about himself. But, neophyte that he was, he still recognized good writing, once choosing a piece by Kirkpatrick to read aloud.

“My heart was pounding so hard I could hardly hear the reading,” she said. When he handed back her paper, it said at the bottom: “You have a gift.”

At the time, she and husband Jerry were still reeling from the loss of Jerry’s son, murdered at 21. She was suffering from a serious gluten intolerance. They needed a change.

The two decided to sell everything, leave secure jobs and homestead on the John Day River, where Jane would write.

At a place called Starvation Point, the home would be known as their “Rural 7-Eleven” — seven miles from their mailbox, eleven miles from pavement. They built it. Dug a well. Battled rattlesnakes. And ran seven miles of underground phone wire.

Once semi-settled, Jane began writing and sending stories to magazines. Rejection. Rejection. Rejection. Then it happened: One sold. Sports Afield, for $75, bought a piece she wrote on repairing fishing poles with pine tar. Then Northwest magazine bought the story her teacher had read aloud in the class.

She began wondering: Could I?

Jane began working as a mental health counselor at Warm Springs Indian Reservation. On Tuesdays, she would make the nearly three-hour drive — longer during snow and ice — and on Thursdays, return.

Then she would start writing, disciplining herself to get up at 4 a.m. Her first book, Homestead (1991), was about her experience on the John Day. More than two dozen have followed — fictional stories of the human heart, based on real events, and often involving women, pioneers, and Native Americans.

At least some of her empathy for those overcoming odds comes from her own experiences. She and Jerry were badly hurt when their small airplane crashed. They took in a granddaughter whose drug-hampered parents weren’t able to raise her. She lost a sister to disease in 1997. In the last year Jerry, 82, has battled numerous physical challenges.

“It’s the obstacles in life that carve out our character,” says Kirkpatrick. “Character comes from the Greek word `to chisel.’ It’s what’s left after you’ve been `gouged out.’ ”

What some of her colleagues were applauding on the night she won the award — none perhaps more enthusiastically than I — was the never-quit spirit that she writes of. And lives.

While working on a book of my own, for instance, I will often hear the “get-up-and-write” alarm at 5 a.m. and think: no, no, no. But then I rise, remembering that my ex-student Jane has already been up for an hour, feeding the lake.