What Lies Within Us

One of the best things about simplifying my life has been re-discovering my love for writing.

As many of you know, I have been furiously working away on writing a novel.

But a few weeks ago, and quite by accident, I stumbled upon a short story contest. I’ve been thinking for awhile now that I wanted to write some short stories and submit them somewhere. I think it will be a good experience and great practice – to learn formatting, get used to rejection, and just maybe, get published and know what it feels like to have your writing ripped to shreds by professionals.

All of that was reason enough for me to enter the contest. But there was more. This was “The Rehoboth Beach Reads Short Story Contest,” with a theme of “Beach Life” that had

Rehoboth Beach Reads
Picture borrowed from: http://catandmousepress.com/contest/

to have strong ties to the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware area. It just so happens, a good chunk of my Mom’s family is from that area, and I spent a lot of time there as a kid when my grandparents were still alive.

It felt serendipitous.

I was allowed to submit up to 3 stories, fiction or non-fiction, for a chance to be one of 20-25 stories published into a collection of short stories, and one of 3 monetary prize winners.

I got to work writing immediately – I found the contest VERY late, and only had a couple of weeks to write and polish my submissions. I ended up with 2 pieces to submit, one fiction and one non-fiction.

As I was researching some quotes to use in my fictional story, I came across this one from Henry David Thoreau:

What lies before us and what lies behind us are all small matters compared to what lies within us. And when you bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen.

As I continued weaving my story together, the importance of the quote grew – to the point that I used it to name the story (and this blog), as well.

I love how it can mean something different for everyone; we each have something unique inside of us. While it can be scary to bring it out into the world for all to see, just think about the possibilities if you do.

I can tell you, these last weeks of writing frantically, editing, re-writing, editing and re-writing some more have been a roller coaster. There were moments I loved what I wrote, and moments I was sure it was all utter crap.

And hitting SUBMIT on my two stories was one of the most terrifying and exciting moments of my life. But man, am I glad I did it.

Now, I have a little experience writing as a deadline looms. I’ve put what is within me -my heart and my very best effort – into this, and now I’ve sent my short stories out to strangers who will decide if they’re worthy of publication.

So now, I wait. August 7th-ish can’t come soon enough. Wish me luck!!

Writing is Hard.

Anyone who is a writer, or who is attempting to write consistently will tell you it’s hard. It’s hard for different reasons, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Back when I was working for my Dad’s small HR & Benefits Consulting Firm, I wrote all the time. I was writing newsletter articles, blog posts and drafting powerpoint presentations. And it was always a challenge to work with a small amount of space and dissect “insurance lingo” into easily understandable bits. Oftentimes, we’d attempt creative ways to avoid horribly dry and boring pieces – a near impossible task when you consider the subject matter. But I enjoyed those challenges, and I suppose that’s one of the things I love about writing.

Keeping up with this blog has been hard at times, too. When I was de-cluttering our home, going category by category, writing it was easier; more inspired. I had a formula of sorts, a purpose and specific thing to blog about.

Now, it’s just not as often that what I’d consider “blog-worthy” inspiration hits. Either that, or I’m just not always brave enough to share the deep, dark recesses of my mind with the interwebs! Nonetheless, when I do come back here, I always feel a little more accomplished, a little closer to being the writer I want to be, and a little more inspired to keep going.

Working on this novel has been hard. It’s overwhelming when you begin to see the magnitude of that which you do not know. You might say, well, you have a story and a general plot line – just write it!

But me, friends, I’m a planner. I like to be prepared. I don’t usually just dive into things without serious thought or research. (When I do, that’s called Jesus.) So that’s why I’ve read a book, countless articles and blog posts about being a writer, downloaded multiple character creation worksheets to help me through the research process, and have at least 3 sets of interview questions to deliver to various friends and family.

So yes, I have my story. I’ve named most of my characters, and I know who is related to who and how. But when I sit down to write, there’s a lot to be strategic about. It’s not flowing just yet.

I have to make sure I decide whose point of view I’m writing from in each chapter/scene/section, and I cannot violate that point of view. For example, If I’m writing from Jenny’s point of view, she might see a look on Jimmy’s face, but she cannot know what he is thinking.

I have to write and re-write dialogue between characters, because it has to sound the way actual human beings talk. Further, I have to make sure the dialogue of different characters SOUNDS different and memorable, so my reader can easily identify who is talking, even before I write, “Jenny said”. Do you know how hard it is to NOT make every character just sound like…you? I have to consider their professions, education levels, accents and emotional state – all things I’ve had to make up (and keep track of!) along the way. It’s hard.

I must do my best to “show” my reader who my characters are and why they are the way they are. I can’t just “tell” those things in long, drawn out paragraphs that put a stop to the action of the story. How do I let my readers know, in an organic way, that my character is a control freak who has trouble trusting people without just saying it? I have to find creative ways to SHOW these things, through dialogues, scene descriptions, and other character’s points of view.

The time it takes to plan out and write a book is daunting. I’ve done so much, and yet I’ve barely begun, barely scratched the surface of all there is to know. Established writers have “a process”. I don’t yet. But I’m trying to. I’m trying to

dont give up on dreams
Photo Taken: Mountain Park, GA

write every day, add more structure to my writing sessions and set new writing goals for myself.

After all, the only way this thing will ever get done is if I keep chipping away at it; keep working on it a little bit at a time. Perhaps I need to let go of my strategic writing and just let it flow some days. They’re just words typed on a screen – I can go back and change them a million times if I so desire.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t already felt fear creep in and suggest that I stop. But fear is like that, it comes quietly and plants little doubts in your mind. And over time, if you don’t replace those doubts with affirmations, they snowball into something bigger, something harder to dispose of.

One of the things I love about writing is that it keeps me accountable. Declaring that the fears have come, and calling those fears out here has already made me feel lighter and more determined.

After all, dreams don’t typically manifest themselves from nothing and fall into your lap. No; you must work for them, chase them, and fight for them. Sometimes, you let them go and sometimes, you rediscover them. And there will always be reasons NOT to do something your heart wants to pursue. But you should always believe that what lies deep in your heart is worth the fear you must overcome to be true to it.