21 Days of Posts – Day 11 – Journaling is Hard

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

This is day eleven of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Part of my 21 day fast includes entering thoughts into a journal every day. I’ve tried to journal in the past, but never did very well. I figured the best way to get into some kind of habit would be to make it part of my fast. So here I am, and I’ve discovered why I haven’t succeeded in the past with journaling.

Journaling is hard.

Part of the difficulty is the format I’ve selected to journal in. I have very specific items to record for every day.

      • My mood.
      • A verse of the day.
      • A daily affirmation.
      • A single thought for the day.
      • What would make today great?
      • What I am grateful for.
      • An amazing thing that happened.
      • How could the day have been better?

All of this, along with a free form section for actual thoughts is…daunting.

My mood usually changes throughout the day. I tend to only record how I feel at the moment I journal, unless there was a particularly sad, exciting, confusing or frustrating event during the day.

For my verse of the day, I usually fall back to a verse from my devotion or even just the verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app. Unfortunately, there is not enough of the Bible in my head for me to simply choose a pertinent or appropriate verse. I’ll sometimes drop a partial verse into the search on the Bible.com webpage to find a good verse.

I pretty much despise daily affirmations and trying to come up with a single thought for the day. Most of my affirmations are silly, nonsensical, and apply only to a specific issue for that day. Narrowing down my thoughts, plural, to one single thought for the day is maddening. I usually put something related to my affirmation or maybe the verse of the day.

I usually have no idea what’s going to make my day great, which is good and bad. Bad, because I’m supposed to at least attempt to predict this, and good, because sometimes it is simply the surprise or novelty of an event during the day that makes it “what makes my day great”. I also usually have no idea what I am grateful for, or can’t narrow it down. This item gets the short straw a lot, as I am glad for all the things I have and some of the answers that come to mind seem either petty or trite.

Sometimes, nothing amazing happens. It’s just a fact of life. Miracles happen every day, but not always around me. My amazing thing is sometimes…pithy. Just as I don’t know what will make my day great, I also don’t usually know what would have made the day better. I have plenty of pat answers, like “didn’t have to go to work”, or “won a million dollars”, or some other thing that is just NOT going to happen. Truly knowing or deciding what might have made the day better is…an art, rather than a science.

After I have agonized over all of these items on my journal page, I then have the big blank space in the middle where I am supposed to fill in my thoughts, my observations, my stream of consciousness, or my rant. This is where the real journaling part comes in. This is what most people call journaling, especially if it is in some expensive notebook with an equally expensive pen. “Now that’s journaling,” they would say. They are not wrong. Filling this blank space with thoughts, usually fairly random thoughts at that, is hard. Everything or nothing tumbles out onto the page. As my typing skills are rough, when everything spills out, I am unable to keep up, so things get forgotten before they are recorded. It is what it is.

Hard. Journaling is hard. I’m sure some of you reading this are nodding your head. At least, I hope some of you are. I don’t want to be the only writer out there who can’t journal. I want to be able to pour out my thoughts, organized or random, and record them for my future self.

King David had no problem pouring out his thoughts in his psalms. Time after time you can see psalms that start out with him agonizing over some threat to him, but the end of the psalm displays his triumphant faith in God. The reverse is also true. Even better are the psalms that start out with beautiful language, praising God, but by the end of the psalm, the tone and tenor of the psalm turns dark and violent.

One of the best examples of this is psalm 63. David’s declaration that God’s “…love is better than life” is nestled among vivid pictures of how much he longs for God. Yet in the ninth verse of the eleven verse psalm, he is declaring that “those who want to kill me will be destroyed” and “given over to the sword”. Quite the change, but it is no more discordant than my thoughts in some of my journal entries.

Regardless, journaling is hard. Thoughts tumble out, or don’t. It’s kind of like when you are asked to pray in a group setting, right? You hope you don’t sound ridiculous, but the key to it all is to realize that God knows what you need to pray for.

Lord, thank you for knowing my thoughts, especially those that I need to pray about. Help me to order and express my thoughts with eloquence and coherence.

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21 Days of Posts – Day 8 – Character Development is Hard

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesThis is day eight of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Creating characters for my books is hard. That is obvious to anyone who has tried, but even if you have never tried to write a book, you have an idea of the difficulty of this process. We are all characters in development. We grow and change based on our experiences, our environment, and our interaction with others. How we change may be strongly dictated by traits we were born with, passed on to us from our parents.

I’m not talking about eye color, hair color, general build, or anything physical, but mental and emotional tendencies. Physical traits are part of the bargain, but they are not the aspects of our “character” I am talking about. I believe we receive a base emotional and mental “shape” from our parents. Everything after birth modifies that shape, good or bad. Bad situations don’t necessarily mean that shape will be detrimentally affected; it all depends on how we learn to adapt and overcome.

But back to fictional characters. Humans are complex beings. Our intelligence and sentience allow us to defy our baser instincts. Trying to create a person and provide form to their character is difficult. You have to decide how the situations you place that character in, and the other characters around them, affects them. Do they tend to run? Do they tend to fight? Do they tend to make peace?

The big question is – What drives them? This is a critical component of the character, especially the main character of a story, and it will have a pivotal  influence on how they develop, because characters should develop. Just as we, as real people, should grow and evolve, so should fictional lead characters, otherwise readers aren’t interested in them. If the hero of a story learns nothing, doesn’t change, adapt, or overcome, there is no story.

That’s why it is critical to develop characters, and develop them realistically. If the main character gets to the end of their quest and does something completely out of character, at least, the character you have developed in them over the course of the story, the reader will know it and they won’t like it. Character development must be consistent and remain believable over the course of the story.

Putting all those puzzle pieces together properly is a taxing affair. The character must be exposed to difficult, sometimes terrible circumstances to become the hero they are meant to be in the story. Character development has to be well-paced. The character can’t abruptly learn what they need to know deep into the final act of the story. They have to begin experiencing and learning from page one, or at least whatever page they first show up on.

Subtly weaving these experiences into the narrative to build a character as you would have them to be is hard. It takes planning. It may require lots of editing. As an author, you may finish the entire book, go back and read it, and not believe it. If so, you must awaken your inner editor and get to work on fixing the problem with your character. If not, again, there is no story. No author wants to crank out 150,000 words or so, just to realize that they have no story, just a series of events that happened to someone.

As I already mentioned, we are all characters in progress. The events we experience in this world and the situations and people we encounter all work to shape us, some for good and some for bad. One thing we must realize, as Christians, is that there are aspects of our life we cannot fix. We cannot be good enough. We cannot do enough. We cannot turn our heart of stone into a heart of flesh. Only God, as the supreme author of our fate, can do that. We must allow him to do so.

Lord, help me to realize that You are the supreme author of my life. Only with Your help can I hope to be redeemed, reborn, and reclaimed by You as Your child. Help me to look to You to do this for me, to believe that You can, instead of trying to “behave” without Your help.

Thanks for reading!

 

Feature Image: Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 5 – Worldbuilding is Hard!

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesThis is day five of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read previous days, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

I mentioned back on Day 2 of this series that I was currently working on my fantasy novel and how I was a bit overwhelmed by the freedom to worldbuild for it. I talked a little about what other authors had done as far as worldbuilding and how it contributed to their stories.

I desire that same effect on my story. I want the elements that I change and the elements that I leave the same as the real world to have impact on the story. If I change how things are measured, I want that to contribute to the story. If I change how time is delineated, I want that to make an impact on the story. I confess-this is hard!

How hard? I’ve been adding things like plants, elements, metals, minerals, units of measure, and other items into my story from the very first page. The central conflict of the story revolves around the impact of a creature that doesn’t exist in the real world (to my knowledge). I’ve spent over sixty days of writing (two November NaNoWriMo challenges) developing this world that doesn’t even have a name yet.

It does have a totally different calendar from the real world. It has animals that would be very familiar to anyone who has been to a zoo. Some of them have the same names in my fantasy world that they have here, some don’t. There are creatures in this world that do not exist in ours, with strange names and specific purposes within the narrative.

Worldbuilding is hard, but it is fun. There are no rules, as I mentioned in my previous post. The fewer rules and standards I follow, the greater my job is in regards to devising, describing, and naming the things that don’t exist in the real world. That takes painstaking, detail-oriented work, and it would help if I were able to draw more than stick figures. Sometimes the words for a new creature or plant aren’t adequate and a drawing is the best way to present them to the reader. Characters, particularly those who are “human” in the fantasy world are invariably based on people in the real world. They are amalgamated out of acquaintances, teachers, parents, movie stars, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses, or enemies. In my mind’s eye, my characters look a certain way. They have specific hair color, eye color, defects, build, clothing, accessories, and voices. Their motivations are determined first by my imagination, then by the events I relate in the story.

As I said, a LOT of work, and this is just a small portion of the fantasy world. It is not the world in its entirety. There are parts of this world that will never come into the story, as they are not pertinent. There are aspects that are best left up to the imagination of the reader, to allow them to put their own mark on the world as they read the story. Either way, this is just a portion of a world, not an entire world from massive blue whales to microscopic bacteria. That is worldbuilding on another level entirely.

That is God worldbuilding. Building our world, in six days. Stating what he wanted to happen, and it happened. Saying what he wanted created, and it would appear. Taking into account EVERYTHING that ever was, is, or will be. Trying to build my fantasy world has given me a new appreciation of what it took to build the real world. This planet alone is overwhelmingly large, complex, and interdependent. Now, think about the billions of stars with billions of planets around them in the universe. Yeah, all that.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Wow…

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21 Days of Posts – Day 2 – My Current Writing Project

Est. Reading Time: 4 minutesThis is day two of twenty-one days of posts between January 10th and January 30th of 2021. Hello again to those who read Day 1, and hello to those of you who may have stumbled across this post “out of order”. You should go back and read from Day 1, for a few reasons. It explains why I am doing this. It is the first one, and I may make reference to something in it in this post or a later one. It also has a list with each day’s post (once they are available) and you can jump to whatever topic you are interested in. Thanks for reading!

Welcome to day two! Today’s topic is under the main topic of writing, but specifically about my active project, my fantasy novel.

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month happens every year in November, and I participated again this year. I decided to be a NaNoWriMo rebel this year and continue to write on an existing work in progress. I picked my fantasy novel, which had a solid 50,000 words already from two years ago. After adding another 50,000 words to it this past November, I realize it will take yet another 50,000, minimum, to finish it.

A fantasy novel is an ambitious project, depending upon how much fantasy you want to infuse into the story. Do you want to build a whole new world? Then you have some work to do. Fantasy worlds have their own rules, elements, measurements, things, races, natural laws, seasons, calendars, languages and more. How much will you copy from the real world to simplify the process? How bound to the real world’s natural laws, time, flora, fauna, natural cycles, seasons, and other aspects do you want to be?

You don’t have to remake everything, as successful authors have proven. Look at George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. There were seasons we knew, summer, spring and winter, but how long each lasted was unique to the world of Westeros. J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings cycle infused a somewhat familiar world as far as flora and even fauna, with fantastic races of orcs, elves, hobbits, dwarves and even wizards. Even with these exotic races, perhaps the most significant creation in Tolkien’s world was language. Every race had their own, and each language was deeply developed. I would wager that Tolkien spent as much or more time developing the languages for his books as writing the books themselves.

I’ve attempted to strike a balance in my fantasy world. Humans exist and are the dominant species, with no other sentient beings to compete with. Most animals are the same, but with different names. There are some plants carried from the real world into my world, but there are also several completely new plants. Measurements are different, as is time in general. Politics are…well, politics are interesting. The rules of the metaphysical are quite different. I’ll talk more specifically about these and other differences in a future post. Just these changes are proving to be daunting to conceive and to make consistent, as well as difficult to make sure they are…interesting.

Why tackle such a huge project? Part of it is the freedom to make all new rules, new plants, new animals, new metaphysical realities. Do I want ghostly spirits wandering around my fantasy world? Fine, create them and write the rules. Do I want time to flow differently? What if I didn’t want to count time in weeks, just days, months, and years? Sure. It’s my world. I can do what I want. The very challenge to decide what gets carried over from the real world to the fantasy world is exciting. It is a chance for a mere mortal to create life, time, worlds, people, animals, plants, minerals and elements.

Because in the real world, I don’t get to make the rules. I am bound by gravity, government, resources, time and more. There is no changing some aspects of my reality. I must do with what I have as I strive to get more. I am mortal. I can’t stop time, or the progression of the seasons. I don’t know everything, I can’t be everywhere, or see everything. Only in the fantasy world of my book can I do that.

However, God can see everything. Hebrews 4:13 says this:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Amazing, isn’t it? Consider the idea of knowing everything, even what others desperately try to hide. The idea of God knowing everything and seeing everything should make me pause and think about my actions, or even just think more carefully about my thoughts. I am known by God. I have been from before I was conceived. This world I call the real world is known by God. He even knows more about my fantasy world than I do. That’s something to think about.

So my reaction to this fact is this:

Lord, help me to remember that You know everything and I will someday have to give account of everything that I do or fail to do. Help me to focus on that fact and let it motivate me to not only make sure I draw closer to You, but that I help others to do the same.

Thanks for reading!

 

Featured Image: Photo by Andres Iga on Unsplash

21 Days of Posts – Day 1 – Give Me Patience…Now!

Est. Reading Time: 3 minutesI’m serious. I want patience now.

Now!

Alright, I won’t get patience now, I get it. Before I discuss that, let me welcome you to 21 days of posts, 2021 edition. I did this last year in January as part of my annual fast. The experience was good, so I decided to do it again this year, with a couple of twists.

I covered a variety of topics last year, from faith discussions to my favorite bands. This year, I am limiting my main topics to these three – faith, writing, and music. Under these main topics, I will have seven subtopics each for a total of twenty-one topics, one for each of the twenty-one days. I’ll rotate through the topics, starting with faith, then writing, then music, then back to faith, and so on.

The big twist, if you want to call it that, is that I will end each of the twenty-one days, including the days covering writing and music by maneuvering the topic into some aspect of faith. My faith is the entire point of this process, this refraining from certain things for twenty-one days. As I heard today, if I don’t increase my time of connection with God, I will have completely wasted my time. I don’t want to waste time. So every post will contain some aspect of faith, even if I have to do mental and literary gymnastics to make it happen.

Now, back to patience. We are commanded to be patient repeatedly in the Bible. We are reminded that patience is a part of the fruit of the Spirit. We are told that love is patient. We are told that patience will be rewarded, whether here or in heaven. Patience is better than pride. We are reminded that God is patient with us, so we must be patient with others.

Proverbs 19:11 tells us that wisdom yields patience. I have to admit, I must not be very wise, as I have little patience. Yet James tells us in the fifth verse of his eponymous New Testament book-

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV)

So, is the trick asking for wisdom, as Solomon did? Maybe, but Solomon did have the advantage of being asked directly by the Lord (1 Kings 3). We also have the ability to speak directly to the Lord via the Holy Spirit, so maybe this does apply to us. If we believe as Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, that God is able to “do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine”, it follows we should be able to ask for wisdom, which we now understand leads to patience.

That’s easy to say and write, but not so easy to do. We ask things of God all the time probably, but I have to assume that asking for wisdom is a step farther than the daily ask. However, Hebrews 4:16 says we are to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence”. The verse continues “so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

How bad do I need patience? In 2020, I needed patience badly. From February until well into the fall, I was on the shortest fuse imaginable. Everything bothered me, everything rubbed me raw, everything distracted, frustrated, and confounded me. The smallest slight, the most innocent comment by another, the most inconsequential infraction of traffic laws by drivers around me on the road would raise my hackles, activate my fight or flight instinct, with fight vehemently attempting to come out on top.

As restrictions loosened, as some inkling of normalcy crept back into my life, I got better, but then all of the issues ramped up again. Mask mandates and restrictions on gatherings and businesses closing down all tried to wear on me once again. I fought against the overwhelming riptide of resentment, impatience, and anger with admittedly mixed success.

So my prayer for this first day of the fast is as follows.

God, give me the wisdom to understand and discern, so that I can be patient with others, patient with myself, and patient with You, as You are with me. I understand that this may have to be my prayer every day for a while, so please keep me committed and consistent.

Patience. I want it now, and the only way to get it is to be patient and persevere.

As I add each day’s post over the next three weeks, I will link it here so you can jump right to it.

  1. Jan 10th – Give me patience…Now! – You are here…
  2. Jan 11th – My Current Writing Project
  3. Jan 12th – My Driving Music
  4. Jan 13th – Give Me Mercy or Else…
  5. Jan 14th – Worldbuilding is Hard!
  6. Jan 15th – My Calming Music
  7. Jan 16th – Give Me Peace and Help Me Pass It On
  8. Jan 17th – Character Development Is Hard
  9. Jan 18th –My Moody Music
  10. Jan 19th – Give Me Faith…and Some Proof!
  11. Jan 20th –
  12. Jan 21st –
  13. Jan 22nd –
  14. Jan 23rd –
  15. Jan 24th –
  16. Jan 25th –
  17. Jan 26th –
  18. Jan 27th –
  19. Jan 28th –
  20. Jan 29th –
  21. Jan 30th –

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