The Text Message That Saved Me (Let My Blog-Processing of Jeff’s Surgery Begin…)

Tuesday night I was sitting in the waiting room of Kennestone Hospital, well…waiting…to hear how my husband was, how his surgery went, what the verdict was and what was next for him and our family. I was doing what I do in moments like this – writing, thinking, praying. And not necessarily in that order. The three intricately weave together in the working out of my faith in ways even I don’t fully understand. It was into this complicated moment, where my faith was intersecting my fear that I got a text message.

“Are you alone?”

I stopped what I was doing as I suddenly realized that “yes”, I was alone. Of course, the Sunday School answer is that Jesus was with me and I am never really alone…but please…we all know what the question was asking. “Is there someone with skin on them, who knows and loves you, sharing the same physical and emotional space with you right now? Is there someone there who can hug you and listen to you and go get a coke for you if you need it?”

And the answer was no. There wasn’t anyone with me. I was all by myself.

I wasn’t really surprised that I was alone. Since we are relatively new in our area, our ‘old’ friends were far away and our ‘new friends’ were still a bit too new to feel comfortable in calling. Family members were taking care of the kids so I could be where I was. I didn’t think there was anyone to call.

In my defense, I am a natural introvert who easily disappears into my inner world, often for long periods of time before coming up for daylight. I am fully capable of being alone without being lonely. Much of my last year was spent holed up in solitary and I guess it has become something of my “normal”. Historically, in difficult circumstances, my family of origin would also circle the wagons, so I was just following my internal programming. And in a moment like this, not being sure of how I was going to react or what exactly the news was going to be, I sort of wanted to be by myself.

What startled me wasn’t that I was sitting alone in a hospital waiting room. It was that I hadn’t even noticed.  The room was half full while I was there and as I looked around, I saw that everyone else was rather noisily sitting in their groups. Couples. Families. Crazy cousins. Grandkids. Friends. Church folk. And me in the corner. Alone.

What does this say about me? In a moment where most people reach out to others, I shut down. I found an emotional cave and was setting up camp. Once I was aware, even I realized that what I was in the process of doing wasn’t healthy.

And as I probed a little deeper, I realized that several dangerous lies had begun covertly swirling around the edges, whispering to me just under my consciousness. “Asking for help will only confirm to you how little you matter and how little they care.” “Surely others are too busy for me.” And, “I can do this on my own.”

Pressure on the outside has a profound way of surfacing what is on the inside.

And not being aware…not slowing down long enough to realize what is happening around and inside of me…I could have gone to a very dangerous place very quickly. That text message saved me.

It was a wake-up call to awareness. Of where I was. Of how I was. Of where I was heading.

I was vividly reminded of why I need friends who know and love me, who can draw my attention to what I cannot see on my own. Especially in the midst of a season where my attention is occupied.

As soon as I named those lies however, I started feeling profoundly lonely…and sad…and a host of other things that began making their way up out of my inner places, asking for some of my time. Naming and becoming aware of those emotions prompted me to do a few things. The next morning, I made some phone calls. I asked my friend to come and be with me. I connected via email with some important-to-me-but-not-nearby people. And I took note of where a few land mines are located in my heart. Because I’m not exactly looking down at my feet right now while I’m walking this particular path.

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Blogging and Writing 302 – Parting Thoughts

On this blog, I write about intersections, those places where roads meet, choices are made, collisions happen and directions change. I write about pain, nature, ideas, culture, choices, emotions, creativity, relationships, the scriptures, significant conversations. These are the places where

Go! Spend time in your happy place and write, write, write!!!

ordinary intersects supernatural. It can be a bit of a challenge, addressing issues with layers and levels of complexity – and trying to do it well and winsomely in packages under 500 words. (Ok, more like 800 most days.) But I keep at it. And I keep at it knowing that not every reader who wanders by here will get what I’m trying to do or want to come along for the journey. I realize that this is not a blog for the masses. There are some however, who understand. The topics I address here resonate and ring their hearts like a bell. I know because sometimes they write and tell me. Knowing I’m not alone… and knowing my thoughts here have stirred divine interactions in the hearts of others – both have been some of the greatest blessings I’ve gained from blogging.

So, as I bring this series on blogging and writing to a close, I wanted to write a few words from my heart. My parting thoughts, those things I would say to you if we were face to face over coffee and winding down our delightfully stimulating conversation on the topic of blogging and writing.

Write from who you are, where you are – Please, don’t go into this business (using that word loosely…) to try and please anyone but yourself. There are too many of us out here (who don’t know and love you) for you to put the definition of success for yourself in our hands. And the point of writing is that we hear from the writer. Give your heart some attention and figure out what it is you want to say for where you are in life. It doesn’t have to be overly serious. I love cooking blogs. I love photo blogs. I love review blogs. I follow many family story blogs. They are average people who are writing from who they are, where they are. And they write well. Stories are powerful. You know this. Some of you however, have big thoughts to share with us.  Truly significant topics to write about – you know things we need to know. You want to create a body of work so that others may be able to learn from it, that you may be able to use one day in a professional/personal/powerful context. We are waiting.

Be willing to learn and change and grow – a blog isn’t a lifetime commitment. They have life spans. And when they are over, let them go. Take a hiatus if needed. Be willing to change your topics, your writing style, your writing schedule… or walk away from the computer and spend sometimes outdoors – whatever it takes to evolve and grow as a person and communicator. I would hope, unless you are the rare freak of literary nature who manages excellence right out of the gate, that who you are as a writer today is vastly different from who you will be in five years. We can all get better. This is as it should be.

Find a group of friends to bounce ideas off of. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself as a writer is to find a few trusted folks and invite them to give feedback. Engage them in conversation about what you are doing with your blog or manuscript or ideas and listen to how your words sound and how they receive them. If you can say it clearly and get understood, you can write it. Writing and speaking are strongly related methods of communication. Having another set of eyes, another opinion of what works and doesn’t… that is not only incredibly valuable, but it can be a tremendous springboard for improvement. And be sure to toughen up your skin and lower the defenses when they speak honestly. Make it easy for them to speak truth to you and really listen to what they are saying. Yes, I know your writing is your baby and no one likes to hear their baby doesn’t smell fresh. But if the truth leads to progress…then get yourself to the place where you actively seek and welcome truth. (Um, that was a very big statement right there, about life, not just about writing…Jn. 8:32)

Thanks for following along these last few weeks as I’ve explored some of the why’s and how’s of my writing/creativity process. I hope it has stirred some constructive thoughts for you about your own. I believe that times of introspection, of slowing down long enough to really give some attention to why and how we do things, can be not only inwardly refreshing, but outwardly practical. I hope this has been helpful. I would love to hear from you if you’ve been following along and enjoyed or gotten something out of this series.

Blogging 302 – What Makes One A Writer?

As  I continue to interact with people who are ‘writers’ I am finding that this term isn’t exclusively a profession. In fact, I would wager that the staggering majority of writers out there don’t get paid for what they write. Instead, the term writer is a descriptive one. Like how people can be educators, artists or leaders without that also being their day job.

So what makes one a writer then? Here are some of my thoughts on it:

Compulsion – Some people just HAVE to write. They have to communicate. They have to get out what is inside of them in a form others can understand and receive. They have to connect. (More on this below.) They are compelled to write. How else to explain the blogosphere and the proliferation of folks who spend so much time and energy creating? Some people just ARE writers. I suspect if they were transplanted to an illiterate culture where writing did not exist, the thing inside of them that compels them to write in our culture would make them storytellers, artists, actors or some other form of creative. Creatives are those people who must create something. Writing is just the medium some people use. I couldn’t not write at this point in my life. I am compelled. I am sure I am not alone either.

Consistency – Lots of folks start things, maybe go strong for a while, and then…eh…not so much. The blogosphere is filled with blogs whose last entries were months, even years ago. Then, there are those people who have proven over the years, through consistent production, that they are writers. I would suggest that writers show themselves over time by following the same path. It may take different forms over the years and may produce different levels of work in different seasons of life, but writers…consistently write.

Connectivity – Writers, like other creatives, long to connect with others. Even though I have said repeatedly on the blog that even if no one ever read what I write, I would still write and it would still be a worthwhile endeavor, (and this is completely true) – I am pretty sure that every writer longs for someone to read their work. Why? Because writers are striving to connect with others. To find that common ground that unites us. The stereotype of a serious writer is that of an introvert, hermit, hunched over their typewriter/macbook in their pajamas and unkempt hair because they don’t have anywhere to go or friends in the outside world. They may also own cats with whom they talk to way too much. While there may be a ring of truth to this (I have been known to write in my pi’s, but I promise, I am currently fully dressed with makeup on even! And I’ve got friends! And I go outside. Often!) I suspect that many writers defy this mold. Instead, they long deeply to be where people are, even if the connecting point is the written word. Even if their meeting place is online.

Blogging and Writing 301 – The Great Crimes Of Blogging

The greatest crime in blogging isn’t bad writing. If it were, yikes! Many of us (me included!) would be locked up with the key thrown away. No, the greatest crimes in blogging are much more annoying and sometimes dangerous. Here are some offenses I’ve chronically seen (and unfortunately participated in)

1. TMI – too much information! There is a peculiar tension at play here. The best writers are those who are honest. As a spiritual writer, this is my bread and butter, channeling my inner angst in the hopes of connecting with those who can’t quite put words to their similar circumstances. Yet there is a line out there, crossing from honest expression to sharing publicly what belongs in private. And unfortunately, we usually only find it by stepping over it. Please remember, the blogosphere isn’t Vegas. What you write here doesn’t stay here. It goes out there forever! So if you are tempted to share how much you drank, details of your last sexual dalliance, your divorce, job loss, bodily functions, details of someone else’s issue or the depths of your anger or pain, please remember, we are all sitting right here. So is your future employer. Since you can’t take it back once you put it out there, be sure you will be ok with it when you come to your senses next week or next year.

2. Going On and On And On – This one is related to tmi. There are some bloggers who have no restraint and no discipline when writing. When they go to tell a story, my goodness…the agonizing detail…the endless play by play…the mind-numbing, endurance-testing numbers of words…I recognize that as many writers as there are, there are twice as many writing styles out there. Some folks may need lots of words speak their hearts and truth. If your writing forms are longer, by all means, knock yourself out. I’m not telling anyone how to write. However, I heard a public speaking teacher say once, “If you can’t say it in 20 minutes, go away and write a book.” I would suggest that blogging follows similar rules. Ours is a brief medium. And the reality of modern reading is that it is done with lots of skimming. (This is why I write in series – to allow enough space to cover my thoughts, but to package it in accessible bites.) I would suggest that as you write, ask yourself, “Is there a way to edit this down?” The longer your writing, the less people are willing to invest time in following you.

3. Destroying without building – One of the chief criticisms of the blogosphere is that it is a bunch of crybabies who criticize just about everything out there, without taking the chance of doing anything potentially criticize-worthy themselves. Unfortunately, this is a well-earned reputation. There are indeed writers whose primary mission is to tear down others work. I recognize that many blogs offer reviews of something. Others specialize in critical analysis and constructive criticism. There is most definitely a place for people to offer their personal opinions – this is the blogosphere. It all goes. But I think you know this line I am talking about and most of us recognize it when it is crossed. When someone’s rants are nothing more than the literary equivalent of someone putting on a striped shirt and blowing a whistle like a referee, when no one asked them to take on the role. Sure, we need referees to keep things in line, but the athletes who actually play should get the glory.  These types of blogs might get a visit from me once. And rarely again. It is why I have chosen with my blog to be a builder – a creator of ideas, content, words – and not a destroyer.

4. Writing Like You Talk – I know in a previous entry in this series I said that I think some great writers manage to write exactly like they talk. Let me clarify… Writing with a recognizable style that mimics spoken rhythms is great – and very fun to read. (See The Very Worst Missionary, link on the right, for a classic example.) Writing with ,”Um…yeah…so…you know what I mean?…Dude…” or lazy grammar, haphazard sentence construction or thought progression…please…You can cover many mistakes when speaking with someone face to face through enthusiasm, emotion, facial expressions, hand motions, eye contact, tonal intent and emphasis, body contact, trying again and again in different ways to make your point, etc. None of those are available through the written medium. You get one shot to state or to mis-state what you mean. Writers should learn to be precise and tighten up the edges. Dude, well, it may seem sort of cool and all, to, you know, write kind of sort of like you were sitting in the same room with me and all… know what I mean? But really, the rest of us sort of, you know, have a hard time taking you seriously when you do that.

5. Not Blogging At All – Pr. 22:13 states, “The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!” 

This describes what I think is the greatest crime in blogging. The verse says that lazy people give excuses for why they don’t get out and do something. “I can’t start a blog! What if no one reads? What if it isn’t very good? I don’t really know how to do this. A lion might eat me!” I feel most sorry for those people who think they might want to blog, who might want to create a body of work… and instead listen to voices of fear, or get too busy piddling away their time – consuming rather than creating something. I know I am repeating myself here, but the greatest crime in blogging isn’t tmi, going on and on, writing poorly or begin too critical. (People can learn to correct all of these things.) The greatest crime is in not attempting at all something you are capable of.

So if you are thinking about blogging – get out there and do it! The rest of us await your contribution!!!