It Takes A Village

“It takes a village.”

I’ve heard this phrase my whole life, though I never put too much stock into it. It was just a thing that people say. However, over the past few months, I’ve had to come to grips with the absolute truth of this old saying – which was not an easy thing for me to do.

Here’s why.

I’m a performance-based person. I place my worth in how well I perform in this area or that (God and I are working on it, but it’s slow going). If I need something done, I need to do it myself and it needs to be done to perfection if that’s what is expected of me.

There’s one problem with that. I am not a perfect person. In fact, I’m very bad with my hands and prone to accidents. Give me a paintbrush and I MIGHT give you a painting that rivals my pre-k fingerprinting masterpiece. Give me a hammer and a nail, I’ll give you a bruised thumb. Give me a bunch of flowers and a vase, I’ll give you an arrangement that looks like something akin nature vomit.

So you can imagine the root of a lot of my anxiety in life. I’m a perfectionist who has poor motor skills. However, give me a pen and paper with a chance to use my mind, and I’ll be a happy girl. My books are where I find a lot of my validation (not a good source, might I add), because I created them all by myself. They may not be great, but from start to finish, they’re products of my imagination. Mine mine mine!

However, you cannot create, edit, market, and publish a book all by yourself. I’m learning this more and more with each Beta reader that sends a report back to me. Because on my own I’m not all that great at proper grammar, character consistency, and a host of other things. It’s damaged my pride a good bit, but it’s opened my eyes to one universal truth.

It takes a village. It always has. Even in the days before I posted stories online, my mother was there to painfully read through my binders full of scribbled stories.

Lindsey has been by my side since the very beginning. We’re talking those Wattpad days before I believed in editing or character arcs.

Sefa was there to make sure I was properly equipped when it came to arguing with the critics… who were probably right but I won those arguments, anyway.

Lydia and Hannah were my cheerleaders and I’d be remiss if I didn’t give them a shoutout for how often they read my manuscripts.

Mrs. Julie gave me the tough love I needed when it came to grammar – she still does and I love her to death for it. No one has invested more time into my writing skills than Mrs. Julie!

All the time, these ladies were beside me putting in some hard work while I trotted about pretending I did something all by myself. But we never do anything alone.

Let me tell you this, ever since I opened up and started accepting help with open arms, things have gone so much more smoothly. While it sends a bit of a pang through my performance-based heart, I am beginning to see the uncertainty and anxiety about my abilities chip away. Because for whatever reason, knowing I have a village around me makes me feel more invincible than trying to stand alone.

Do you have a village? Tell them how thankful you are for them, and don’t let them go unnoticed! Learn how to receive help – even if it hurts your pride a bit.

Signed,

A Recovering Perfectionist.

Making Room

It’s been a while! But I’m back. Here we are, almost two weeks into 2019. These first few days have been full of change and new beginnings. In good ways and less-than-fun ways. But, I’m thankful for every day that God’s mercies are new and His love overflows into all the cracks and crannies of my heart. I’m especially thankful for grace to cover all the brand spanking new screw-ups.

… Moving on.

I love new year resolutions. I understand all you cool people who are anti-resolutions, but I love the meaning behind the tradition. The whole idea that it’s a fresh start, a new beginning, a time to make meaningful changes. It makes me happy to see all the hopes people have for the new year. I can’t help but think, as I write down all my goals, that every day is the same new start. With the Lord, we have the privilege to start over every month, week, day, even every hour. We have the chance to start over and keep pressing toward the mark.

Which is the thought I’m carrying into this first month of the new year. We tend to overwhelm ourselves with new resolutions. We add to our schedule without making room for new things. We say “I’m gonna work out three times a week.” Yet, we pile that onto our existing schedule and overwhelm ourselves two weeks in because we don’t have the time for our new goals.

Full disclosure: I overwhelmed myself toward the end of last year. I decided to tackle growing my social media platform (trying to, anyway), blogging, starting a newsletter, finish my manuscript and editing, get involved in more real-life ministries, read more, and get a new puppy. All at once. It was too much and toward the end of the year I was in despair.

Who has the time to perfectly schedule our days in order to fit all those obligations?

So, going into 2019, I’m working on making room for the priorities. Clearing out the excess, the toxic habits, the time wasters that don’t add to my life.

( Special shoutout to Apple’s update that allows you to limit how much time you spend on your apps. It was exactly what I needed going into this new year. )

– I’ve vowed to make more time for reading, which requires me sacrificing the time I want to spend binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine and engaging on Instagram.

– In order to make my mornings more quiet and peaceful, I have to set my writing aside until at least 10:00 until I’ve prepared my heart and mind for the day. << That’s a hard thing to do when I get an idea late at night and can’t wait to start on it!

I’m still failing and learning along the way that I can’t do it all. In order to fit in the new goals, sometimes you have to clear out the old ones. Sometimes you just have to tackle one day at a time and pace yourself.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll never “arrive” in this life or achieve perfection, so why don’t we give ourselves some grace? (Rich words coming from a perfectionist like myself.)

At 21 years old, this is the biggest lesson I’m having to learn – it’s okay to not know what you’re doing. A friend told me the other day, “you don’t have to have your life figured out. You’re 21. And it’s okay. It’s just a season of life.”

You can’t do it all. You can only do what you can, so pace yourself.

Make room.

It’s Okay To Be Tired

Dear Struggling Writer,

It’s okay to be tired.

It’s okay to feel spent.

It’s okay to go to bed early.

It’s okay to know your limits.

Like me, you have probably felt the pressure to be “okay” even though you feel mentally drained. You’ve probably been told that writing was easy and you shouldn’t feel worn out. After all, you’re not doing any physical labor.

But we both know that’s not true. To someone who is not in the thick of it, writing is just a matter of writing one word after another. It’s just telling a story. It’s just simple.

But it’s not. We know it’s not.

It’s spending half an hour debating a single sentence. It’s spending another half an hour wondering if you said it right. It’s searching your mind to find the right way to get what’s in your head to the page. You don’t sit down and automatically know what to say. You have to find what to say.

It’s hard.

It’s not physically hard, but it’s mentally exhausting. That’s difficult for others to understand, but that’s okay. You don’t need them to understand. Take care of your mind and your heart.

Stop pushing yourself so hard. If you need a minute, take one. Make some tea. Go for a walk. Take a drive.

I took a week from social media this last week. It was supposed to be a month, but that didn’t work out so instead I’ve decided to take a week a month to detox from media. Not because I struggle with comparison or dissatisfaction (we all wish we were who we say we are on Instagram), but because of the time it consumes. Trying to interact and grow a platform is very time consuming and – frankly – exhausting.

So I took a week. In that week, I got really excited to get texts/messages from my friends, read a book, notice how the light flickers on the pond out behind my house when the noonday sun hits it. I was in a group chat and actually got to keep up with it. It was refreshing to be completely present in my life for these few days. I wasn’t glued to my phone as much (although when the group chat got crazy, I just had to sit and watch it unfold).

It was a good time to reflect, pray, rest, and come back refreshed. Last night when I got back on Instagram and began scrolling, I was surprised at how people-focused I was. They weren’t just pictures beneath my fingers. They were representatives of people with lives and hopes and dreams. It took stepping away and coming back to put the humanity back in social media, and it made me smile.

So, I say all of that to say this. Take a break when you need it. It’s worth it.

My Favorite Bookstagram Accounts

If you know me, you know Instagram is my preferred social media platform. I love the adorable pictures and the sweet community I have there. So, I thought I would clue y’all in on my favorites! (Just click on the pictures to go to the account!)

To start off, let me introduce you to the SWEETEST #bookstagram girl out there. Madilyn is an absolute darling and I’m pretty sure we were twins separated at birth. I love her happy little Christian feed. It gives me joy!

I love a good magical aesthetic. Is Expelliendsey not the cutest little Harry Potteresque Instagram? I’m not a fantasy writer, but I love her creative vibes!

How lovely is this color scheme? Can you imagine all the work that goes into this feed? Whew! Props to this girl for her top-notch abilities. I’m in love.

I’m a meme girl. Call me tacky if you want, there’s no shame in my game. That one on the top left just gets me – because it’s true and if I don’t laugh I’ll cry. Hahahahamovingon.

I want to be Kim when I grow up. Traveling AND writing books? Yes, please, and thank you. I love her heart for the Lord and her positivity. It’s contagious!!

Another Fantasy author – and another Kim! I found Kim Chance on YouTube and fell in love with her content, so you can imagine my excitement when I found her Instagram… with a PINK theme! It makes me so happy. Also, her writing advice is LEGIT.

These is just a fraction of the accounts that inspire me on the daily. If you have any favorites, leave them in the comments and I will check them out!

And, of course, follow me!

Are Romance Novels Unhealthy?

If you write romance novels, you’re plagued with these questions sometimes. Do my stories cause wives to be dissatisfied with their husbands? Do young girls have unrealistic expectations of their future boyfriends/husband because of my story?

Recently, one of my all-time favorite bloggers came out and bashed all romance novels – even Christian ones – because they foster unrealistic expectations and dissatisfaction. She spoke from personal experience, so I’m assuming she felt she had the authority to condemn all romance novels as someone who doesn’t really like fiction to begin with. I’ll not say her name, because I respect this lady and her wisdom in so many other areas. However, this is a topic I feel like we need to speak into with grace. Not a blanket-statement that condemns an entire demographic of people regardless of heart motive.

A few years ago, I gave up writing because of this very thing. My books seemed to have no eternal consequence and I was discouraged because of the people and statements listed above. I felt like I was creating problems instead of offering solutions. My INFP self couldn’t cope with that.

However, after working through my doubts and concerns with the Lord, I’m back to writing love stories. I have complete peace about it now, even after wrestling doubt for close to three years.

Here are 4 things that I had to realize as I came back into writing Christian Romance Novels.

Know Your Heart.

I’ve said this before on this website, and I’ll say it again. Heart motive always bleeds through to your readers. Whether you are writing for the money, for yourself, for the market, or out of love. It shows.

Ask yourself, why are you writing love stories? What is your motive? Is it to cope with the loneliness and dissatisfaction in your own life? In that case, you may need to prayerfully seek out God’s guidance with your writing. Anything done out of selfish ambition is wrong. If you aren’t writing for God, then you will ultimately be dissatisfied in whatever you do. True peace and fulfillment comes from the One who bought us, and Him alone.

I write love stories because I love writing about love. True, Christ-centered love. Telling the stories of two people who genuinely care for one another instead of the hookup culture I’m plagued with on a daily basis… it gives me hope and reminds me of the higher standard we are called to by the Lord. In a world where the social norm is to sleep together and “hope love comes along”, we need the reminder that God has called us to a much more abundant life than that! From a young age, kids are pressured to give more than they should in exchange for love, but that is a lie straight from the lips of Satan. It’s an absolute shame that we have trained our minds to accept less than God’s design for love. Men and women alike are under intense pressure in this sex-driven world, and it’s exhausting to live in purity sometimes.

I write about love because it’s a heart-warming reminder. The pursuit, the winning of the heart, and eventually marriage… it’s a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us. It represents the relationship that we have with Him, and that’s what I try to convey in my stories. He is our Groom, we are His Bride, and we wait for Him until the day he comes to marry us.

I guess stories are my way of offering hope. Encouraging others that we don’t have to settle for our culture’s “norm”, that God has called us beyond our culture to live in the abundance that He offers (along with grace for past mistakes).

We should seek to read – and write – about men and women who represent Him well. That’s my “why”, and that’s what keeps me writing even when the doubt tries to sneak in.

Realize the Individual Decision.

Some people may struggle with dissatisfaction in their lives because of the romance novels they read. If this is a struggle for you, then you need to take that to the Lord as you would any other struggle. For this same reason, a person may also opt to not watch certain movies or unfollow certain social media accounts or – if you’re like me – not listen to certain music because it either makes me dissatisfied with my current season, or causes my mind to wander. We have to realize our weaknesses and act accordingly.

We also have to refrain from judging others who may not have this struggle. I have to constantly remind myself of this when someone watches a movie I would not, listens to music I stay way from, or reads books I keep out of my bookshelf. We serve a God who offers freedom!

I would like to draw your attention to some verses in Matthew 17, verses 17+18.

“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart: and they defile the man.”

Do you see where I’m going with this? It’s not the books, the movies, the music, or anything else that brings us into sin. It’s our own sinful heart that does that.

So protect your walk with God, weed out the things that cause your heart to stumble. But also, allow others to walk in their God-given freedom.

Write Honest Characters.

I love writing my heroes. Why? Because I believe girls need to start expecting a little bit more from these lazy dudes (please don’t stop reading, I have a point!) , but also because I enjoy making him flawed. I love writing about men who actually put in the work – who go beyond a DM that says nothing but “hey”, who are interested in knowing my heroine’s heart instead of what he can get out of her. (No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?) We have lost the art of actually pursuing one another’s heart.

However, I also get this small measure of maniacal pleasure in making him mess up and my heroine getting mad – then vice versa. I love the arguments, the communicating, the words that seem unforgivable and cruel.

Why?

Because I’m a psychopath.

But also because real people have these arguments. They say mean things to one another and they annoy one another and do awful things when they’re upset. That’s humanity. It’s not right, but it’s part of the human condition that we have to fight against.

My characters mess up, then they handle their mistakes badly, but in the end they work through it, because that’s what I want every girl to take away from my stories. When someone else screws up – even if it’s really badly – there is always forgiveness and communication to help us through the confusion and hurt feelings.

There is always grace.

My point is, write honest characters with realistic actions. Then, perhaps, we can avoid this whole debacle. Probably wishful thinking, but one can hope.

Pray About It.

Finally, pray. Pray about your character and how they can represent the Lord well. Yes, God cares about your novel. I did a post on that here. I believe that the Lord thinks stories are important. Even when Jesus walked the earth, he ministered to people by telling parables – stories – so many times. Stories that change lives to this very day. God knows their power and He uses them to reach others every day.

That being said, don’t take your story lightly. Pray over it. Ask God to lead the way so you can write a story that honors Him and His purpose. We have a responsibility to our Savior to represent Him well. Let Him have a part in your story… no, beyond that, let Him take over. Let Him guide the words and the characters until His very heart is weaved into every thread.

Before we go:

I now have a newsletter! You should have seen a pop-up when you got on the website. If not, shoot me an email and I will add you to it! (A newsletter is a mailing list – it’s not the same as being subscribed to the blog!)

In the newsletter:

-Monthly encouragement.

-Short stories.

-Writing updates.

-Tips from amazing authors.

All delivered to YOUR inbox!

Okay, I’m actually done now.

Leave me a comment about what you think we need to guard our hearts against when it comes to entertainment. I’m always interested in your opinion!

Thanks for reading – talk to you soon!