Secret Spot

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It’s January which means I have a lot of time off from my landscaping job allowing me more time to write.

It’s been delightful having more time to work on my book and my Flash Fiction (and blog posts).

The temperatures were pretty bitterly cold most of last week, meaning I didn’t leave the house much unless I had to, but Thursday warmed up and I decided that it was time to get out and enjoy a bit of the warm weather.

So I hopped in my truck and snuck over to my secret spot.

There’s a small arboretum I go to pretty frequently. It isn’t as beautiful as a lot of the other scenery in my area, but it’ll do in a pinch. Not many people know about it even though it’s just on the edge of town (don’t go spoiling it if you know where it is). And on the rare occasion when I run into other people there, they’re usually just looking for some peace and quiet just like I am.

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I took this time to pray, snapped off a few pictures of the small lake in the middle of it all, and ultimately just enjoyed the beautiful creation around me, exploring the hidden side trails. I even used the lake as the setting for one of my short stories*.

I’ve experienced several captivating moments with God on those trails. On one occasion I decided to run the trail at night in the middle of a thunder storm and ended up hashing out some sending up talking with God and getting a bunch of frustrations off my chest. The whole experience was quite liberating.

Other times I’ve just gone and enjoyed the silence.

I think we’re all hard wired to enjoy this time away our normal trappings. Some place away from people, or at least the people we know. Away from electronics. Away from dishes.

You don’t need to be “super-out-doorsy” to have your own secret spot. Find a playground and go swinging. Read a good book in the privacy of your basement. I won’t name names, but one of my absolute best friends spends time in cemeteries (cause they’re usually pretty quiet).

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Whatever your thing is, find some time and get away from the junk of your life, even if it’s just for a five minute breather.

Do you have your own “secret Spot”? If not you should. When do you know it’s time to go to your secret spot? Where is it (if you don’t mind sharing, that is)? What do you do there? And most important, how do you feel after you’ve been there?

*I never published that story, but I plan on revisiting it sometime this year. 😉

Last Year’s Word

A lot of my writer friends do a thing at the start of the year where they get their “word” for that year from God.

It’s a bit baffling and I can’t say that I’ve ever fully understood it. Maybe this reveals some of my cynicism towards hearing God’s voice confidently. Maybe I’m just afraid of committing to one thing for that whole year. (“But what happens if I want to change my word in the middle June?”)

Regardless of my feelings on the “one word” idea, looking back I can tell you pretty confidently what my word was for 2014.

“Writer”

Blindingly obvious you might think, but I’ve wrestled with this word for a very long time.

Occasionally I’ve been brave enough to tell people that I write, but it usually with some trepidation. I’ve been writing stuff since I was in 6th grade and telling stories since before then, but I’ve never had a whole heck of a lot to show for it.

I’ve always been afraid of being called out as a fraud or just getting a sarcastic remark like “well what have you written?” Or worse, that polite but disinterested smile that people give you when they just don’t care what you’re saying.

When asked about it, I’d usually add a bunch of qualifiers like “I kinda want to write” or “I dabble in it” just to keep a safe distance between me and the label of “writer”.

I’ve even wrestled with God over it.

My first career plan was to get a degree in film and become a screen writer in L.A. or New York, but God took hold of my plans and “altered” them as He does. He kept me in Southern Illinois at my local church here in Carbondale, telling me that His plan was more important than my career path.

That bit about “the plan” always stuck with me. I’d wanted to be a writer as long as I could remember. It was the only career path that I’d had any kind of passion for. And now all that talk of being a screen writer was kind of lost. (Southern Illinois isn’t really the place to be if you want to make connections in the film world.) If I wasn’t supposed to go to L.A., was I supposed to write at all?

I had never really consulted God on what my career path was supposed to look like. I’d always just assumed the writing thing would pan out. Was this writing thing just an idea leftover from childhood that needed to be discarded, along with my old dreams of being a Zoo keeper or playing center for the Chicago Bulls?

For years I lived in that awkward “who-am-I-really” stage, wondering if writing was something I would have to surrender in exchange for something more practical. Even as I checked out writers conferences and got started on my own book, I still squirmed when people asked if I was writing anything.

"There is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend writing and the number of  selfies I take of me drinking coffee."

“There is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend writing and the number of selfies I take of me drinking coffee.” – @WittySwearWords

But then something happened. I don’t know when exactly when. Like so many important things in life, something changed in me when I wasn’t quite paying attention.

Maybe it was when the people in my critique group started asking eagerly when I was going to turn in the next chapter in my book.

Maybe it was after the seventh or eighth successful comedy sketch I wrote for my church’s kids’ program.

But I realized that my staying in Illinois didn’t mean I needed to stop writing. If anything it only improved things by putting my hopes and ambitions in line with everything else God had planned.

My stories weren’t just day dreams, but gifts from God. He is the original Storyteller after all and He was inviting me to join in with the tale that He started telling all those countless centuries back.

So I stopped saying that I wanted to be a writer. Stopped saying that I “dabbled”. I started telling people “I am a writer.”

Now to clarify, God never promised a best selling YA book series. Nor have I gotten any indication that I’ll write that one amazing book that changes peoples’ lives and leads millions to faith. He didn’t even promise publication. My books might end up being bed time stories for my kids.

No matter the result, God has called me a writer. It will never be the most important thing I do with my life, but I’m still supposed to do it.

As for the next part of this “plan”, well that’s my next chapter and the Author hasn’t revealed what happens…not yet.

If you want to read more on God’s invitation toward writers and other creative people, you really should read this post that Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart wrote on the Writer’s Alley on this same subject about a year ago.

His words have encouraged me many times and he is much more eloquent in doing so than I am. You should really check it out.

Link to “Not a Planet”.

Really excited today to share a link to my first published piece of Flash Fiction.

“Not a Planet” is best described as a Scifi Superhero Epic that spans the galaxies…and all in less than 1,000 words.

I’m very excited to be working with the excellent men and women at the Splickety publishing group on this. I’m glad that my first published piece is with such great people, who clearly have a passion for Speculative Fiction.

Read the story. Post a comment. Have a happy Friday!

I Don’t Dance

It happens at every wedding. It’s a blast getting to hang out with friends, eating food, celebrating the happy couple as the have their first dance…then the dance floor opens up to everyone.

No matter how well the evening has gone, the music hits, the beat drops, and I shell up, usually circling the wagons with a handful of bros at a corner table or trying to subtly slip away while the rest of my friends dance the night away.

Dance!

I have nothing personal against dancing or people who enjoy it, but dancing…confuses me. But I have never understood the compulsion to dance for it’s own sake. Maybe if there’s a strong cultural significance to it or on stage by a talented, graceful performer. (Being a white guy who played Football, neither the ‘culture’ angle nor the ‘graceful’ angle apply to me.)

On the rare occasion when I do dance, it’s usually to celebrate something or when the mood suddenly strikes me. Most times it’s when I’m home alone doing the dishes or cleaning house. Suddenly “Hooked on a Feeling” comes up on my playlist and I start dancing like a mad fool.

Even then it’s always a passing phenomenon and doesn’t last much more than a minute or two.

But at these weddings, people dance for hours on end. Meanwhile I’m in the corner nursing my eighth Dr. Pepper, planning an escape route.

It all confused me until a recent talk with one of my friends. She talked about dancing as something that brought her joy. That was her reason. The act itself makes her happy. It never occurred to me that dancing was something you could do just because it was fun. Not showing off. Not to feed one’s ego. Just…because!

It’s like the excitement I feel when I watch E.T. or the buzz I get in my fingers a story is coming together on paper just the way I see it in my head. I still don’t think dancing will ever be my thing. I’ll probably get a little more comfortable with the it as time goes by, but it will be never be something that brings me joy in and of itself.

Me and my dance partner at the last wedding I attended.

Me and my dance partner at the last wedding I attended.

But if I plan to get married someday (which I do) I have to face the real possibility that my wife might be one of those weird people who likes to dance, I will have to learn how to do it without getting self conscious. As a husband it’ll be my job to show her that she’s loved. And if that means I end up having to dance, then I will man up and dance like a fool for her.

And when the day comes, we’ll have to dance at least once on our wedding day. I intend to make it a good one. I don’t want to be worried about looking clumsy. I want to be focused on her and how beautiful she looks in her wedding dress. Something tells me that won’t be a problem.

And after the wedding, when we’re all settled in and “real life” life takes over, we’ll crank up the music on occasion and dance while we do the dishes.

Who knows? It might even be fun.