Category Archives: Writing

Feed Yourself First #AdviceForWriters #AdviceForLife

Source: VintageDye on Etsy

Source: VintageDye on Etsy

Long before I was a Writer, I was a doodler, a scribbler, a sketcher, a rhymer, a free-former, an inventor of nonsensical wordicals.

I wrote instinctively, loosely, playfully. I didn’t take myself Too Seriously.

There was no anxiety in my writing, only joy.

Writing was the tool I used to make make sense of my me.

I made a huge mistake when I became a Professional Writer: I made writing into work. I stopped playing. I stopped journaling. I stopped writing just for me. Every word, every post, every tweet, every update was For Others.

Not journaling was a form of self-abandonment, self-starvation, donating blood until I bled myself dry. Things became dire when I tried to write a book. My Professional Writing was coming from a place of personal scarcity. The first two drafts of my book were a messy, meager offering.

I needed more and I didn’t know where to get it.

One year ago I picked up a journal–out of desperation–and wrote a one-line journal entry: 3/2/13: This morning I reworked chapter one for the fourth or fifth time–I’ve lost track.

I’d lost track of everything. Of myself. Of my story. Of my me.

I’d forgotten what I already knew: that before I could feed others, I had to feed myself.

It took me twenty minutes to write one line in my journal. There was a time when I could journal pages and pages. But that morning, I could barely eke out one sentence.

Still, it was a start. A tiny start back to myself. My True Me was trying to surface and she’d been ignored for so very long. The first thing that came out of me was a cry for help. When I re-read that journal entry from a year ago this is what I hear: I’ve been working so hard and nothing is working! I don’t know who I am anymore! I am lost! I feel like giving up!

It’s been a year and I’ve since filled four full journals. All for me. Just for me. I have written my way back to myself. Every day I have fed myself first.

The words that came out surprised me. What? THAT’S what you’re thinking? I had no idea! I didn’t know I had buried so many words until I started writing them.

As a writer, I don’t know who I am until I start writing. I don’t know what I think or feel until I put it down on paper.

In my journal, I made a safe, non-judgmental space for the words that wanted to breathe, the ones that needed to come out and take a little walk in the sunshine. Nobody but me would read the words. There would be no comment boxes weighing in on my words. No tweets. No FB shares. I could talk to myself, to God, to my fears, to whatever mysterious thing that needed to swim up out of my deep subconscious without worrying or thinking about What Others Thought About My Writing.

I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I was shocked by the sheer volume of words that poured out. Apparently, there was a huge backlog of words that needed airing.

Eventually, the torrent eased a bit and I fell into a quieter routine of daily journaling.

For me, the act of journaling is meditative. Pen and paper are the tools I use to sift through the loose rock, gravel and dirt until I come across a golden nugget. A single word. A phrase, perhaps. And when I feel that internal YES! Here it is! That’s when I know I’ve journaled my way Home.

That’s when I know I’ve found myself again.

Rest

IMG_6980

Exhaustion has hit me like a freight train. I need to take a full-stop break. From writing, Internet, email. My brain is frazzled. I wrote a damn fine book, if I do say so myself, but now I need rest. I need to slow down. I need people interaction. This extrovert has been working on her solitary book project for 20 months. I needs community and REAL LIFE. I’ll be taking a break from my blog and stuff for a little bit. I need to putter around in the yard, maybe get some chickens, walk my dogs, smell roses, make soup. Because exhaustion. Oh, wait. I’ve already said this. :) See? You start repeating yourself when you’re exhausted. I’ll see you soon, friends. Hugs and loves and cookie butter.

Jude

Today, around 2:40pm, my son Jude was riding his bike home from school. He rounded a corner and suddenly, blacked out. When he woke up, he’d crashed into a parked car and his forehead was against the handlebars. He broke the tail-light of the car, busted the brakes on his bike, snapped brake line wires. He really hit that car hard. He somehow managed to get home (he was one block from home). He was crying and all disoriented.

I put him in the car and drove to the crash site, took pictures of the busted tail-light and left a note on car door for owner to call us. When I got back in the car, Jude couldn’t put sentences together. He was having trouble staying awake. His eyes kept rolling back in his head. I figured he had a concussion and called the doctor’s office.

They brought him in right away. Jude couldn’t stay awake. We got him into the ER and they ran tests. They did a scan of his head. They drew blood and took urine. Jude was in and out of consciousness. He did not flinch or even move when they poked him with the needle to draw blood. He was lethargic. A nurse asked if he was sedated because he was so still.

Tests came back clear. But we still don’t know why Jude fainted in the first place. Yesterday we noticed that he was especially quiet. He’s usually pretty talkative and makes lots of funny noises, cartoon voices and plays with the dogs really boisterously. But I mentioned to my husband that Jude was very quiet which was especially odd since it was his birthday.

Then today, fainting. I’m still freaking out about the fact that he fainted while riding his bike. ON A STREET. Oh, I can’t think about that. I can’t.

They are keeping Jude overnight in the hospital to run more tests. Neurologist needs to check him out. And other specialists. We will know more tomorrow.

For now, I’m trying to count all the mercies, here. He fainted on a side street–not a busy street. He crashed into a parked car–not a moving car. He wasn’t hit by any other cars while he was blacked out. He made it home. Our doctors’ office saw us immediately. We got into the ER soon after.

I had friends praying for me through the whole thing and I can truly say I felt the prayers. I was calm and focused the whole time. I only cried once they let Jude fall asleep after removing his neck brace. I’m pretty sure I’m in a state of shock. So many tiny things could have gone differently.

I’m trying to focus on the abundant mercies and the goodness of my friends and family during this time. We don’t have answers yet about WHY he fainted. They are checking on possibilities of seizures, etc. I started to Google for answers but that just made me freak out even more.

I’m gonna try to sleep a little now. If you can, say a prayer for our family. Matt is with Jude at the hospital now and I came home to talk with the other kids for awhile. I’ll go back in the morning so Matt can go to work.

In the meantime, thank you for your prayers and support. I would also like to say a very special thank you to the wonderful medical staff, technicians, admittance folks, the Emergency valet guys and everyone at St. Joseph’s CHOC hospital. I am simply amazed by the level of care and love we have received.

I’ll post again soon once I have more answers. I need to try and get some rest now. Thank you for your love and support. More soon. xo. EE.

{please forgive me if this post is jumbled and incoherent, I didn’t proof it, just wrote it straight through after this crazy afternoon. thanks for your grace.}

In defense of floundering {aka, Art Happens}

I’ve been on a schedule since I was born. I’ve been check-marked and chore-charted and to-do-listed and deadlined every single day of my life. This is not all bad. I arrive on time. I hit deadlines before the deadline. I run a tight ship. I’m fit. I’m ready for the apocalypse.

But here’s the thing: you can’t force art.

Art doesn’t happen on schedule.

I’ve learned this the hard way. I can produce, yes. But it won’t be art. If I just churn out a book it will read like a stressed-out, check-marked, to-do list.

Being raised fundamentalist gave me good self-discipline. It also gave me self-abnegation. Which is to say, when the self-discipline doesn’t work anymore, you just try harder. You set more rules. You double your pace.

Art, however, refuses to cooperate with trying harder. Writing a book isn’t just about churning out pages. I can churn, baby. I can churn. But to what end? Sure, I can perform under stress. I’ve been doing that my whole life.

I can’t force inspiration. I can’t force revival. The best ideas I’ve had came almost by accident. There is no formula. I hate that and I love it.

I rarely give myself permission to flounder. I rarely give myself permission to fail.

I’ve been reading through my highschool journals this past week and they are the simply wonderful. Why? Because I was failing all over the place and, for the first time in my life, I was writing it all down without hiding it inside.

Since then, I haven’t let myself be that freely fallen. 

I learn far more from floundering and failing and experimenting and hurting and than I do by following nice little check-lists that keep me out of trouble.

The key to learning, I’ve discovered, is to write it down afterwards. As I write down what I’ve done, I engage in self-reflection and self-awareness. I step outside myself and look at what I’m doing.

The times that got me into the most trouble were NOT when I broke the rules but when I started following an ideal too closely.

I’ve also discovered that my true source of happiness was never found by seeking happiness. It was found by embracing pain.

The odd side-effect of writing this book is that by intentionally embracing my childhood pain, I emerge from writing about it with a sudden, new appreciation for my real life.

I can enter the deepest, darkest places because I know I have a safe place to land when I’m done. Suffering makes me happy.

By allowing myself to flounder a bit through this book-writing process and by simultaneously embracing pain (including hard, morning workouts) I’m finding a true sense of freedom, looseness and creativity.

When I’m feeling blocked, stressed or exhausted, I have to let myself wander, dither, flounder and nap. I might need to do this for a few days. My best ideas come to me in dreams, in the shower, while running, while cooking, sometimes while mopping the floor.

The point is, these ideas wouldn’t come to me if I was strapped to my desk staring at a blank screen.

I need to flail, flounder and fail.

That’s when the words start to flow.

That’s when the art happens.

A Time To Write

I finally let myself feel it. I dressed up and went out to celebrate my book deal.

The twins saw me all dressed up and demanded to know if I was a princess. Also, Mommy, can I smelling you? Jude snapped a picture but not before one of the twins darted in. In the picture, she is asking: “Can you see me, too, Jude? Can you see ME?”

And isn’t that the question we’re all asking? Can you see me, too? Can you see ME? Beneath that question is the hidden fear that we are unseen, invisible. Sometimes we feel like our very existence depends on whether or not someone sees us, acknowledges us, validates us. We carve into trees, graffiti freeways, scribble on public bathroom stalls: I WAS HERE.

The paradox, though, is that sometimes we have to hide away in order to be seen. Some of us must retreat to safe little nests where we create something beautiful to show the world. Which is to say, I am willing to courageously show you my naked heart but first, I have to enter the silence and write it out. This is my little writing corner. This is where I’ll be bleeding out my words for the next three months:

I’ve filled this little space with a few of my favorite things.

This is my Inspiration Bookcase:

It’s filled with some of my favorite books, journals, pictures, artwork, ephemera. Each piece in this bookcase has a story behind it. I’m still piecing it together; need a few more pictures in a frame, I’m trying to track down a particular book of dearly loved poetry.

But I’ve gathered close all the little things that remind me of my journey.

I’m working under deadline now (and, yikes, I have A LOT of work to do!). My entire manuscript is due November 5th. After that, I’ll be doing final edits and then the book will be officially delivered to Random House in early December. It will go into production and we’re expecting a Fall 2013 release date.

My book doesn’t have an official title yet but it’s something along the lines of: How I Left Church To Find God. It follows my journey out of oppressive fundamentalism and into freedom. It’s humorous, heart-breaking, sarcastic, witty, reflective.

I’m writing my heart out and someday soon, you’ll hold it in your hands…

Lessons in social media: Delete sh*t. Stop giving trolls credibility. Write for your TRUE audience.

There was a time when I rarely deleted mean comments. I let them stand. I thought I was being “intellectually honest.” I let people call me names. I let people crap all over my thoughts and feelings because, you know, I thought it was the open-minded thing to do.

I had this one commenter to whom I gave DOZENS of chances to play nice. And every.single.comment was negative. Always finding fault. You know what I finally realized? THIS IS NOT MY PROBLEM because no matter HOW I say something, trolls find fault with anything and everything. These are the people who wear the lenses of “believing the worst” and everything they see, they criticize.

It wasn’t until I started writing my book that I realized how much my writing had been affected by nasty comments. Since I write about religion (a notoriously divisive topic!) I’ve adopted this defensive stance. I’m constantly trying to pre-empt detractors. I’m so worried about saying it THE RIGHT WAY with offending ANYONE that I literally can’t write a sentence without all kinds of equivocations. I realized I was writing FOR the trolls, instead of for my TRUE audience.

I’m done with that. Today, a “fan” on my FB page left one of the most cruel and nasty comments I’ve ever read. And it was a tipping point because it involved my daughter. Yeah, THAT crosses a line. You don’t mess with my babies.

So, from now on, I’m deleting sh*t. Because guess what? I know 99% of my audience loves me–maybe they don’t agree with everything I say, but YOU LOVE ME.

And I want to write to YOU. I don’t want to write from a defensive posture. I don’t want to write from this place of second-guessing.

If I let the trolls silence me or even ruin my happiness, I’m not being true to YOU–those of you who keep reading, those of you who love me, who see me, who GET IT.

If I write for the trolls, I’m not being true to ME.

True, comments are the secret sauce of blogs and I love me a good discussion just as much as the next person. But for far too long, I’ve given trolls WAY too much credibility.

Why did I give trolls so much credibility? Why did I automatically dismiss all the good comments and then focus–with laser-like intensity–on the mean ones? It’s like I gave the nasty commenters PhD’s. It’s like I imagined them sitting in their million-dollar pent houses above Central Park, coming up with all these erudite thoughts. And I was all: YEAH! That person is SO RIGHT! I totally SUCK as a human being!

Hello. In reality, people who leave consistently negative, crappy comments? They ARE, undoubtedly, the most UNHAPPY people in the world. Can you imagine how much energy they spend on critical and negative? Dude! How exhausting! And when I allow their comments to stand, I just enable their toxicity.

Moderating sh*t is ridiculous. I should just be FLUSHING it (or using it to fertilize my vegetable garden–who am i kidding? I don’t have a veggie garden!). Responding to stupidity is a WASTE of my time. From now on, it will be summarily deleted. No explanation. Yes, I will BLOCK YOU FROM MY SITE. With impunity. Without explanation.

Because here’s the thing: I wouldn’t allow someone to treat me like that in real life. And now, I’m done allowing it on my blog.

The rest of you—THE MAJORITY OF YOU–deserve the best of me. And I truly am an open, kind, empathetic, loving, funny, personable human being. I will delete mean-ness because I want to be FREE to give YOU my best, freest and most open-hearted writing. Yes, we can ALL get along!!

DUDE.

***p.s. this has to be the fastest written post in the history of my blog. i literally banged it out in 10 minutes.

***p.p.s. lesson of the day: don’t let the ignorant comments from random strangers ruin your happiness! Enjoy life! Be YOU! Also, the hillllllls are alliiiiiiive with the sound of muuuuusic***

The Battle of Little Smile (one more round, please? pick your favorite Little Smile!)

So, at the risk of boring you with narcissistic tedium, may I kindly beg one final poll from you, dear reader?

The Little Smile head shot was by far the favorite (it’s actually my favorite, too). So, I went back to my set of head shots and pulled a few more Little Smiles for your viewing pleasure. (When my book comes out, I think it will be pretty awesome to say my blog readers helped me pick the head shot for the dust jacket)

Which of these Little Smiles do you like best? Let the Battle of Little Smile begin! (and thank you for your time!!!)

1. Original Little Smile


2. Closeup

3. Blurry

Why literary agents are invaluable to writers (even in the age of DIY, E-book self-publishing)

I met my literary agent, Rachelle Gardner, this past Sunday. We drank mimosas, talked books and shared laughter at a seafood grill overlooking Lido Peninsula’s boating docks.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been dreaming about that day since I was a little girl. I’m happy to report that the real-life experience totally lived up to my dreams.

Because for as much as the publishing industry has changed with the advent of E-books and DIY publishing, having a good, traditional literary agent is still important. Priceless, even.

Sure, I could publish an E-book by myself (and maybe someday I will!), but the honest truth is that a professional literary agent has far more business sense and industry savvy than I do. Which is to say, I’d rather spend my energy writing.

I don’t even have a book deal yet but the professional advice, guidance, knowledge and industry know-how that Rachelle has given me is beyond priceless. I could cry thinking about how incredibly grateful I am to have her working so hard on my behalf.

I’m writing this today to encourage you that if you have dreams of becoming a published author, just start writing. Wherever you are. Right where you’re at. Launch that blog. Write everywhere. Write daily.

I’ve been doing this blogging thing for five and a half years–largely for free. I’ve written guest posts, parenting columns, magazine articles, newspaper articles, essays for collaborative books, forewords. I’ve written for collaborative sites, hosted linkups, tweeted, posted on Facebook, written about Facebook.

What I’m trying to say is that it didn’t happen overnight. I used to think that if I wasn’t a published author by age 30, I’d be a total failure. But this hasn’t been true at all.

I wrote in total obscurity for years. And that was necessary!

Writing is a journey. It’s not about keeping up with anyone else or reaching some kind of goal–although it’s nice when goals are accomplished. But what has brought me the greatest joy is the very act of writing. This has kept me going through multiple rejections and detours.

No matter what I’m writing, I love the process of writing. I love rough drafts and re-writes, I love editing and polishing. I even love teaching writing to others!

Do you love writing? Well, then. You’re a writer! Don’t let anyone smash your dream. Don’t let anyone make you feel less-than because you haven’t accomplished x, y or z. And really, try not to compare yourself to others. You are on your own journey!

Everything I’ve done has led to something else and despite multiple rejections and many detours, all of it has led me to where I am today with a literary agent by my side.

When I started blogging five and a half years ago, my goal was always, always, always to write a book. That has been my dream since childhood. As a little girl, I filled notebooks and journals with writing. I filled drawers and boxes with my stories and poems. I wrote plays and fake commercials. I recorded little “radio shows” on blank tapes and played them for my family.

But my biggest dream was always, always, always to write a book.

I kept the goal of writing a book in mind even as I wandered and wondered my way into finding my authentic writing voice.

The point is: it’s OK to wander. To experiment. To take your time. I have learned (and am still learning!) to enjoy the journey!

We still don’t know when I’ll get a book deal. But I’m not worried about that anymore because I have a GOOD agent and she’s taking care of me. In other words, having an agent lets a writer focus on what’s really important for a writer: the writing. 

On Sunday, Rachelle’s biggest piece of advice for me was to get professional head shots. Well, ack! I don’t have a budget for that. So, I’m back to do-it-yourself! Good thing I have a handy hubby who obligingly shot a few pictures of me in our backyard. And then my beloved dog, Darby, trotted over to see what was going on and she got in the pictures, too.

Whaddya think? Which one is your favorite? Which one would look best on the back cover of my book? (eeek! i can’t even believe I’m writing phrases like “my book”!!!)

 1. Little Smile

2. Medium Smile

3. Big Smile

4. With Darby

5. Big ol’ laugh


Some exciting news!

I officially have a literary agent!

Last week I was contacted by the lovely Rachelle Gardner–she represents other fine like writers Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey. Rachelle had been reading my blog for awhile, told me she loved my writing (insert my gasping-heart-attack-of-joy right here) and was wondering if I still needed an agent.

My reply to her was pretty much ALL-CAPS OMG-IS-THIS-REALLY-HAPPENING-AND-DO-YOU-KNOW-HOW-MUCH-I-LOVE-YOU? Because Rachelle Gardner is the agent I’ve wanted for like 2 1/2 years-ever since I first started working on my book.

Anyway, we talked on the phone the next day and turns out, we attended the same college here in Southern California. She lived in Orange County for many years and still has family here. We hit it off immediately and within a couple of days, she had my sample chapter and book proposal.

This past Thursday afternoon she called me again and we made it official. Rachelle Gardner is now my literary agent! I couldn’t be more thrilled!

If you’re curious about the book publishing process, go read Rachelle’s blog. It’s just full of amazing, helpful information. Start with this: How to Get Published.

And don’t forget to check out her client blogroll! I’m the newest addition to that list! WOOT! You can also find Rachelle on Twitter and subscribe to her Twitter List of current clients–it’s always fun to read her tweets and the tweets of her authors.

Oh, friends! I’m just so happy and thrilled. My dream of writing a book is coming true! Squuuuuueeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Top 15 Posts of 2011

I’ve compiled a list of my best writing from 2011, arranged chronologically. Here be provocative conversation-starters, heartfelt confessions and witty diatribes. It’s humbling for me to realize I’m not as prolific as I thought I was. Generally speaking, I write one excellent post per month. The rest is fiddle-faddle. But perhaps that’s the lesson here: by giving myself permission to write a bunch of fiddle-faddle, I’m rewarded with one decent insight per month. And that’s my piece of advice for all writers: don’t worry about writing your magnum opus every day. Just write your heart out. Here is my heart–broken for you……

1. I can’t go to church anymore

2. Why we left Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

3. Why having many children is a radical act of hope

4. Why Literalists Hate Fairy Tales

5. The Cross & The Crucifix

6. Predestination: my deepest fear

7. In defense of dithering and ENFPs

8. Don’t call me a MILF. Thanks.

9. How the Pornification of Marriage Hurts Real People

10. I’m a slacker for Jesus

11. Apologizing to my gay neighbors

12. Housecleaning for artists, creatives, ADHD’ers and ENFPs!

13. Grace happens in the margins

14. Even God does not break our will

Lastly, the event that changed my life this year was my trip to Bolivia.

Read this: Father, forgive me for I did not know.

And then, how about changing a child’s life in 2012? Sponsor a child in Bolivia.