Category Archives: Writing

MOP April 7: Making the Most of the Life Stage You’re Currently In

A picture of Jenny just because she’s pretty.


Right now, I want to write another book. I know exactly what I want to write. I sit and daydream about pulling out my pencils and digging into a stack of old notebooks and organizing my ideas. I research how to write book proposals.

But.

I am not at a life stage where I can write a book.

It took me a while to come to terms with this. I’ve tried for years to be a writer and a college student at the same time, and it worked, to some extent. I wrote things. Just not things like whole entire books.

I know that I’ll be done with college eventually and can write a book then. But will I? Deep down I have a fear that if I don’t find time to write a book now, I will never find time to write a book.

After my last blog post about the perks of having married friends, someone commented saying it was nice that I’m secure in my singlehood, because many people can’t view singleness as a gift. My first thought was this: It would be much easier to view singleness as a gift if I knew for sure that I would eventually get married.

There are many, many perks to the life I currently live. A young mother recently told me that I need to appreciate my long interrupted hours of reading while I still can. As a college student I get to spend the majority of my time learning, thinking over the complex and beautiful issues of the world. Very little in my life could be described as “mundane.” There is a carefree independence to being single, and college offers a way to make friends with an ease that will probably never again be replicated in my life.

However, neither one is a stage I want to stay in forever.

There are some stages of life that we just survive. Seasons of illness and times of grief, for instance. If you want to know how to make the most of those stages of life, don’t look here, I haven’t got a clue. But singleness isn’t like that, and neither is college, and neither is the stage of having wild young children, or grown children that haven’t gotten married yet. These are all stages we will one day be nostalgic for, and yet our enjoyment of them, right now, is hampered by our longing to be in the next stage and fears that it will  never happen.

I don’t exactly know how to change that feeling. It’s one thing to say, “appreciate the stage  you’re at now,” but what are some practical steps to actually doing it?

Then again, this isn’t Buzzfeed. I don’t need a list of “ten practical ways to appreciate the single college student stage of life (number 14 will surprise you).” Tonight I will celebrate my singleness by staying up past midnight chatting with an old friend, and tomorrow I will make the most of my studenthood by talking to Garrett who sits next to me in class. I don’t know why I don’t talk to him. He seems like a nice enough guy, albeit kinda quiet.

What stage of life are you struggling to appreciate? Any tips to offer?

Read Jenny’s April 6 MOP post here. Stay tuned for a post tomorrow on Mom’s blog.

Writing is Just Hard

Uggghhhhhh writing is so haaaaaaaarrrrrrd.

Why? Shouldn’t it be easy, so long as you learned how to type in high school? Just put your fingers on the keys, and, “beep beep boop!” Transfer your thoughts to the electronic equivalent of paper.

Right? I mean, come on, fingers. You haven’t posted in a month and a half. Do your thing.

My friend Esta recently read two books about writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and On Writing by Stephen King.

“I love On Writing!” I told her, sipping tea in her living room while her toddler napped, a fan whirring to muffle our voices. “I started Bird by Bird and didn’t finish it.”

“See, you’re like Justin,” she said referencing her husband. “He also liked On Writing but not Bird by Bird. Anne Lamott is always second-guessing herself, and writing is so difficult and painful for her, and Justin just had a really hard time getting through it. But I told him he has to read it to understand how I think as a writer.”

I was actually really surprised to hear that writing was so hard for her. Listening to her talk about the painful dramatic tug-of-war in her head made me think, “wow, writing comes easy for me.”

But it doesn’t. I mean, it does when I write in my diary, it does when I’m inspired and feel like writing, but the easy writing is never enough to turn me into the type of writer I want to be.

I read On Writing in a Journalism class, and loved the humor and practicality, even though Stephen King is not an author I would normally read. I think this is because I have a very practical approach to writing, one that is more stereotypically male than female. So when it comes to things like “writer’s block,” I always think there must be a practical solution.

Like, “Outline more.”

Or, “Make yourself write for an hour each day.”

Or, “trick yourself into doing it.” That was the solution I came up with today, powering off my iphone and telling myself that it’s staying off until I post a post.

But that doesn’t change the fact that writing is just hard.

The other day I inexplicably found myself alone in the house. In the morning, no less. Mom rushed out the door and left a steaming pot of tea behind, and I sat at the table and gazed across the brilliantly green fields and felt like writing.

So I got out a story that I should have finished months ago, but for some ridiculous reason I’ve been putting off for FOREVER. I opened the notebook, set my pretty tea cup on top of it, and snapped a picture for Instagram.

Yeah…so much for diving into the writing.

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I realized, after I posted it, that this is more of a universal struggle than I thought it was.

I asked Mom, “why is writing so hard?”

“Because,” she said, “your thoughts are a jumbled mass of emotion, visual, impressions, whatever. They’re not in orderly words and sentences in your head. So they have to be squeeeeeeezed through this cake-decorator tube that shapes them into words and sentences.”

The fact that she can articulate it that well shows that she has mastered the craft, in my opinion. But writing, for her, is still so, so difficult.

This is one of those posts where I want to hear your thoughts. Writing is hard. But why? What do you think?

Words of an Educated Amishman

Gmpa

I’ve been spending a LOT of time at school recently, since Ben and I ended up with widely different schedules, yet only bought one parking pass to share between us. Some days it’s dark when I get up and dark when I leave school.

As a way to productively fill some of the extra hours, I’ve been typing up my Grandpa’s handwritten memoirs. My Grandpa, who is almost 99, has the extremely unique distinction of having gotten his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while still old order Amish. Since I am also interested in education, this is an area where I like to pick his brain.

Yesterday I began typing the education section of his memoir, which began like this:

“On the subject of education I hardly know where to begin or where to end. Some of it was gained in a small creek, where there were minnows and tadpoles and crawdads, and some of it in university halls. It began at the cradle and it continues until now.”

What a nice sentiment. I quite like the idea of still continuing my education at the age of 99.

When I reached the section where Grandpa described his motivation for going to college, I was surprised.

Context: Grandpa was in a CPS camp, as a conscientious objector during WWII. As the war was ending, he was trying to figure out what to do next. He wrote this about what led him toward thinking about college:

“I still had the desire to return to farming sometime, but I also saw some needs in our Amish church. I felt that our people were too uneducated. They were too poorly acquainted with our faith and practices. I was backed into a corner time and again trying to explain my faith. Should I try going to college? Could I help the situation if I went to college?”

It fascinated me that college came (at least partially) out of a desire to be able to explain his faith. Now, in conservative Anabaptist circles, the fear is that college will destroy your faith.

For me, though, college has vastly strengthened my faith. If nothing else, I saw just how many people did not actually have peace in their hearts. It astounded me, and I saw that the Holy Spirit had indeed given me peace that passed all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Galatians 5:22)

Furthermore I’ve noticed, like my Grandpa before me, that many Christians/Mennonites have a hard time adequately explaining their faith to people who don’t speak Christianese.

I haven’t finished transcribing Grandpa’s memoirs, but already I’m completely fascinated by what he has to say. It’s hard to have a conversation with him, as he is nearly deaf, but the stories give me a glimpse of what goes on in his still-sharp mind.

About Last Blog Post, and Other Things

Okay, I have a few topics to cover today. I have homework to do but I feel like doing a blog post instead, so I’ll indulge myself. 🙂

Topic #1: My Latest Blog Post

First let me say that yes, I am aware that I misspelled “obsession” as “obession” in the title of my blog post. I found it humorous and ironic, but I was kind of annoyed that, even when I fixed it on my blog, the misspelling lived a long un-fixable life on Facebook. I imagined that everyone saw it but couldn’t point it out for fear of coming across as a fake intellectual. 😀

The blog post had one of the most interesting responses I have ever received. Some of the response was expected, and some was quite unexpected.

My post perched on the edge of devaluing education and intelligence in general. I toyed with the idea of putting in lots of disclaimers about how important education is, and how I think intelligence is a worthy thing to aspire to, but in the end I didn’t because that wasn’t what the blog post was about.

I expected this to slightly bother some people who really do value intelligence, and like to read and share things that make them think. I thought I might make them paranoid that their very real aspirations to learn more would be perceived as “fake.” And I did get a little of that, though not as much as I was afraid I might.

So maybe I’ll add one disclaimer: I you are a “fake intellectual” at heart but are sharing things that are actually interesting and bring more information to the world as a whole, while being respectful to those who disagree with you, then great. I don’t like “fakeness,” but I do think good things can come from a place of fakeness. For instance, being kind to someone you don’t like.

However, things that establish your intelligence primarily by labeling an entire group of people as “stupid” have got to go.

There were, however, two very unexpected responses that pleased me immensely.

First, several people admitted that the post hit really close to home for them. I don’t think you guys understand how rare this is. We have a tendency to construct a reality around ourselves, applaud the things that fit this reality, and squirm away silently from the things that don’t. I don’t think I have EVER written something that said, essentially, “you’re doing something wrong,” and had the response be, “oh, you’re right, I am.”

In fact, I don’t know if I have ever responded this way to something I read. The things that actually change my mind usually happen from a slow chipping away at existing ideas. Or, if I do suddenly realize that I’m wrong, I don’t usually have the guts to advertise it.

The other thing that surprised/pleased me was that I got a few private messages about the post.

I’ve often wondered about how the dynamics of blogging (especially blogging about controversy) would change if the only “commenting” option were to message the author directly. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “You should just try it! Disable comments! Tell people not to comment!”

Well, the thing is, many people depend on Facebook to see my posts, and if no one comments on Facebook not nearly as many of my friends will see that I’ve even posted. Yeah, stupid Facebook algorithms. Oh well. I really do like comments, so I don’t mind.

However, private messages are also very nice. So, if you have something to say about my post that you don’t necessarily want to make open to general discussion, feel free to message me on Facebook or send me an email. But also, comment. Either one works. (Or both.)

Topic #2: Contact Information

I added a “contact” tab for that exact reason. My email address has always lurked somewhere around the blog, but I decided to lodge it in an easy-to-find location.

Topic #3: About Me

I keep clicking on the blog links of people who comment on or like my posts, and then being disappointed to find that they have little-to-no “about me” information.

Well hello kettle, my name is pot, because I also have little-to-no “about me” information. You’d think that if I’m narcissistic enough to blog about myself I’d take pleasure in constructing a lengthy essay about who I am. But it still feels weird.

Any help from you on this matter would be appreciated. How do you decide how to describe yourself? When you read the “about me” page of bloggers, what info are you hoping to find?

Writers who Don’t Care

I’ve decided that there are two types of writers: writers who care, and writers who don’t care.

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Writers who care write in order to be heard. They post Facebook status updates about the bickering matches they’re writing for their characters. They spend hours pounding away at the keyboard, and go to writer’s conferences, and endlessly promote themselves. They keep stacks of rejection slips, knowing that all the great writers had to deal with rejection slips too.

Writers who don’t care write just to write. They may compose funny stories for their little sisters, or letters to their grandparents, or extensive diary entries.

They don’t care if the world hears them or not. They just write, because they can.

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Fun Fact: The year I was 16 I wrote over 90,000 words in my diary. For comparison, my book was about 30,000 words. So in one year I wrote three books worth of words about my feelings and a social life that consisted of roughly fifteen people.

I don’t know why I wrote that much.

When people ask me why I write, I have no good answer. I just do.

Some writers who don’t care have become very successful. Jane Austin comes to mind. But usually it’s the writers who care who become successful, because they put in the time.

Writing a whole book takes time, you know, and dedication to one project instead of whatever strikes your fancy at the moment.

The world is big, and in most cases, if you want it to notice your work, you have to care enough to hand it over.

That it why I would like to become a writer who cares.

But at the same time…

When I come across unpublished works by writers who care, I find myself gasping and flinching and seeing every error. It may have potential, and it may end up a best seller, but between every line is written, “trying, trying so hard,” and reading those unwritten words over and over again drives me batty.

But when I come across unpublished works by writers who don’t care, I devour them. Old diaries at garage sales. Handwritten letters from my cousin. Family newspapers. Funny essays by my students.

Words that were written, not to be heard by the world, but just because.

I guess I would like to be a writer who cares, but still write like I don’t care.

I don’t know if that is possible.