The Writer’s Life of Insanity

I received the kindest text from a dear friend the other day. One of those texts that you wish you could frame and hang on a wall to read over and over again.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you for MONTHS how proud I am of you and your awesome book-ness and being an Author. Capital A, Author. Like Emily Dickinson, or Charlotte Bronte, or Mary Wollenstonecraft. Minus the crippling insanity, of course. Or maybe with a touch of insanity…it’s all good.”

This text came through at a moment of true insanity, of which I will spare you all the details. I’ll just say that it involved a toddler, an exposed diaper, and flinging excrement.

If that doesn’t define insanity, then…


That well-timed text brought encouragement in more ways than one. Besides simply making me smile after a harrowing mothering experience, it also boosted my confidence at a time when I feel like I’m wavering under the strain of this writerly life.

No one tells you that after you finish a book, all the words flee from your brain for a time. Since I turned my second manuscript in to the publisher in September, I’ve felt completely wordless. Everything I type feels silly, boring, and stale. I’m just out of words.

After speaking with a number of writer friends, however, I’ve come to the realization that this is totally normal. I’m not alone in my word fatigue – it’s a real thing.

I’ve wondered in the last few months what it must have been like to be an author back in the days before social media dictated the industry. Writers were always a bit mysterious back then, weren’t they?

By nature, most writers are introverted and reclusive, so the anonymity of writing works to their benefit. Only nowadays, one can  no longer be reclusive as a writer, and even the introverted has to push herself beyond the boundaries of comfort and engage with the masses.

Social media demands that writers stay out there, constantly reminding the people that they can write. There’s no time for any of us to become insane because we can’t hide behind the walls of our cabins in the woods long enough to give in to insanity.

Okay, so most writers don’t have cabins in the woods. Except for maybe Stephen King, but he’s always been a touch insane, so he doesn’t count.

In this digital age, with an emphasis on “platform building”, however, one can feel quite insane in her efforts to stay current and fresh, and to keep writing. So what is to be done? Here are a three quick tips:

1.) Simply refuse to give in

I decided some time ago, after spending several years making myself blog every day even when I had nothing to say, that I wouldn’t write unless it was authentic. At least not publicly.

Behind the scenes, I do write most every day. But writing for public consumption has changed for me. Pushing content out into the world just so people remember me as a writer isn’t really to my benefit, especially if I end up pushing bad writing out.

I’d rather keep it locked up, and retreat into my metaphorical cabin in the woods, than shoot meaningless words out into an already oversaturated market.

2.) Give yourself some space to breath

Writing is an intense practice. It demands all you have mentally, and sometimes physically. It’s emotionally draining, sending you up and down a roller coaster of euphoria and despair as you try to finish your project. Sometimes, you just need to take a break and breath a little.

And you need to know that’s okay.

3.) You don’t suck

I’ve watched this (poor quality) clip from the show Mike and Molly several times, and I cannot stop laughing, because there’s so much truth behind the humor.

What you do, writer, is hard. You don’t suck, and neither does your writing. You’re just wrestling with words, and it’s an esoteric battle that you’re forced to fight in front of the world. So keep swinging, and cut yourself some slack. Don’t set the manuscript on fire just yet.

If the words aren’t flowing, it’s okay. They’ll come again. New stories will flood your mind. A new message will begin to take shape again when you allow yourself a little time to escape.

There’s a reason most writers are reclusive. It’s easier to write in the silence. But there’s also a reason that writers of old were known to be insane – all that alone time fighting battles with words, and riding the emotional roller coaster in seclusion, is bound to make you a tiny bit crazy.

But then so are children, so the truth is I’m probably destined to end up going insane at some point, no matter what.


Writing Under Pressure

I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop, Christmas carols warbling through the speaker behind my head, and my chai tea offering a relaxing scent to what feels like a very holiday heavy morning. The Florida sky is grey today, the temperature a brisk 60 degrees.

It’s about as Christmasy as our sandy state can muster.


I’ve been staring at a blank screen for thirty minutes, willing brilliance to tap it’s way out of my fingertips. I want to start a new novel. I want to tell a new story.

I’m terrified.

I’ve never really had to look for a story before. My first novel came to me. It was practically gift wrapped and placed in my hands. And with the release date coming up in just six short months, it’s time to start in on the second story. Only, I feel like I’m shooting blanks.

There’s a sense of pressure hanging over me now that wasn’t there before. It was easy to say I was writing a novel the first time around because there was a sense of impending excitement surrounding it. There wasn’t a publisher, so anything was possible. But now? Well, to be honest I’m terrified of becoming a one hit wonder.

All of that assuming that my book will be a hit, of course. (And I am believing big, folks!) 

So I type out story ideas, brief synopses of potential books, and I stare at them with a million questions. Are these too cliche? Are they interesting enough? Will people want to read a story about this subject? Will this fit into my brand as a writer?

What is my brand as a writer?!

The business side of writing can be paralyzing, and almost mind numbing. You’ve got to think of marketing and platform building. You have to keep your name on the forefront so potential readers know who you are. You need to stay engaged in the writing community, and most importantly – you must be predictable.

Any mother knows that the idea of predictability is a laughable concept. I cannot predict my days any more than the weatherman can accurately predict the weather. Which means I generally have a basic idea of how a day will go, but a surprise storm could well up and change a predicted sunny day into a deluge at any moment, leaving me completely surprised at the turns of events.

Maintaining predictability in my online interactions is only one part of the challenge, though. Because I also need to establish myself as a predictable brand. And what does that mean?

It means when people go to the book store to buy my books, they should have a basic idea of what they’re going to get.

I’m working to figure out what exactly this means for me, and how to operate within these parameters. Thankfully, I have smart people on my side who are willing to help me figure this out. I’m grateful for these smart people, because otherwise I think I’d stumble around in the dark until I finally threw my hands up in exasperation and decided to call it quits.

I don’t want to call it quits. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I want to ride this wave of creativity that keeps my soul afloat, even in the midst of all the unpredictability.


And so I will keep returning to the blank screen, tapping out ideas, many of which will probably be erased. I’ll keep scratching at the surface, waiting for inspiration to coming calling again. And I will keep my eyes open for the next story that needs to be told, because it’s waiting out there. I can feel it.

The muse is starting to whisper my name.

What are you up to these days, dear readers? What projects are you working on, and how are you maintain predictability in the midst of this unpredictable life?


Respect the Power

“Hey, Mom. In the new story I’m working on, is it okay if I use a cuss word?”

He asked the question casually, as though he were simply speaking to me about the weather. He didn’t look me in the eye, but rather squinted upward, focused on some invisible speck floating above his head.

“Why do you need to use a cuss word?” I asked.

“It just…feels like it will make the story more effective,” he said, the hint of a smile turning up the corners of his mouth. He’s in 6th grade now, and four letter words fly around him at school every single day. He finds them fascinating, and deeply tempting.

“Well, I’m going to encourage you to try hard not to use any cuss words in your new story.” He opened his mouth in protest, and I held up my hand, shushing him with my best mom-look.

“There are always other words you can use. Sometimes a four letter word is appropriate in writing, but you should try to first come up with other words, because if you can’t think of a way to communicate without using a cuss words, then you’re just not trying hard enough.”

And also, you’re my baby, and you kiss my cheek with that mouth, and you’re supposed to stay sweet and innocent forever and ever…and ever.

I left that last part out.


I’m headed to the middle school today to talk to the kids about the art of writing. It is the Great American Teach In, and many a professional will come in and give these kids a glimpse into their working lives.

Since my working life consists of caffeine, yoga pants, chocolate, and much time staring at a blank screen, I’m having to come up with something more creative. Because to stand up there and tell them that working as a career writer means rejection, emotional exertion, and overall feelings of inadequacy feels a bit like a downer.

Instead, we’re going to talk about the power of the written word, and how with that power comes great responsibility. So basically I’ll be Spiderman in there, only without the skin tight red suit, because my child would disown me.

My sister-in-law recently wrote the most beautiful post about writing. It’s been rolling around in my head since I read it, particularly the last couple of paragraphs.

Before parchment and paper, words meant to last were always cut in with some sort of incision.  The Word was cut in with nail pierced incisions.

If our words are to make a difference today, then how should writers go about the craft?  Sometimes, I throw my hands up in anguish and tell Him that I don’t have enough words to describe Him.  When I try to get Him on paper, I wonder if I’m like a child that’s been locked inside a closet her whole life and yet she is asked to describe the sky.  He is so much more.  There aren’t enough words to contain Him. 

But, if I can offer a piece of my story, then others might get a glimpse of who this beautiful God is.  If I can make an incision into my own heart and let all of the joys and sorrows intermingle out into one grace swirled and bloody mess, then just maybe readers will get a taste of this Good-Good Father who loves deeply.

If we are going to write well, then we must cut into ourselves and bleed out.

Writing with Meaning: The Art of Carving by Becke Stuart

We’re all, writers and non-writers alike, impacted by words, and this is perhaps the message I most long to convey to these young kids.

This generation is growing up in a world full of words. Their entire lives play out in pithy little soundbites, and they’re constantly bombarded with poorly thought through ideas.

[Tweet “It seems we’ve forgotten as a society the weight of the written word.”]

We fling words around like they don’t mean anything, constantly stringing together rants and epithets without any thought for the impact those combined letters leave on lives.

But words matter.

The entirety of our history lives on through writing. Everything we know about the early civilizations is because of storytelling and writing. If mankind hadn’t developed the written language, history would have died long ago, or it would be terribly warped.

Imagine if man had simply decided to preserve history by orally telling the generations behind. It would be like a bad game of telephone in which we all ended up believing that we descended from monkeys or something ridiculous like that.

Oh, wait…

The point is this: A great deal of power resides in the written word, and anyone who chooses to chase words and pen them, whether that be in a book, a blog post, an email, or a status update, should respect that power.

Because words matter.

Words ignite imagination. They initiate conversation, reveal new ideas, new ways of thinking, inventions beyond comprehension. Words were written in the beginning, and they tell us of the many great things this world has to offer.

Words are power, and we would do well to respect that power.

Dear Writers – I Am For You

It’s cold in here. I’m sitting in the corner, bundled up as I stave off the air conditioner that refuses to quit running. Thanks to an unseasonably warm Florida fall, most buildings are keeping their spaces unbearably cool. Perhaps this is our only means for experiencing fall weather here in the Sunshine State.

The cafe is loud, but I don’t mind because I can smell the stories in the air. The scent of imagination mingles with that of my Cinnamon Spice hot tea, and I feel heady with delight.

If I had my choice, I’d hunker down in more intimate location. Barnes and Noble is a chain, and the cookie cutter nature of this space is less delightful. But still…the books.

I love books. I love words. I love imaginative storytelling.


As a new author, I have such a deep appreciation for the work that went into these books. I had no idea. Writing looks romantic on TV. It’s grittier in real life.

Writing isn’t just sitting in front of a typewriter in a quiet, breezy room tapping rhythmically on a typewriter. Mainly because no one uses typewriters anymore.

But also because writing is awful lot of sitting in front of the screen and staring at a blank page until some muse chooses to show. It’s hard, and solitary, and feels an awful lot like bleeding openly for the world to see.

Then you put your book out there, and you ask everyone what they think. And they can choose whether or not to love this work of your heart.

In short, writing is a profession of vulnerability.

Writers pour their hearts and souls into their stories, and then, if they’re willing to wait and fight for their stories, they find a publisher willing to print their words on paper. After all that, they turn their books in to the waiting publisher, and it’s all VICTORY! YOU DID IT!

Now get to work.

Authoring a book is more than just writing pretty words, and finding a publisher. There is marketing and promotion, pulling together a launch team, and finding endorsements.

Writers have to get their books in front of people who are willing to read them.

Launching a book may be the hardest and scariest part of the publishing journey. It is the moment when writers feel the most vulnerable, because this is when others decide is the work is worthy of their endorsement.


In the rocky soil of Texas, there’s a yearly beauty that springs up. Bluebonnets carpet the hot ground each spring, blanketing the state in vibrant color, and they always spring up from the rocks.

In an environment that seems completely unconducive to growth, bluebonnets defy the odds and bring beauty to the landscape.

You writers are doing the same. The terrain is rocky, saturated with others already fulfilling publishing dreams, and it seems that everyone else is springing up, and you wonder if there’s any space for you.

Dear writers – I want you to know that I’m standing in the gap for you. I see more than ever before the fight it takes to get a book to market, and I want you to know I’m on your side.

You’re doing hard things. You’re writing every day, sharing stories and messages with a world that needs to hear them.

You’re facing rejection, fighting to get your words out into a void already full of great works. But you believe you have something to add, so you don’t give up. This is hard, and I admire your tenacity.

You’re putting yourself in vulnerable positions, emailing friends, and perfect strangers, to ask for endorsements. You’re asking people to decide if your words are worthy of a recommendation, and it’s terrifying. I see you, and I’m for you.

You’re sharing your gifts with a small group, but longing to see that message spread to a wiser audience. As you seek to plant yourself in this rocky terrain, I want you to know I see you and you’re doing a good job.

[Tweet “Vulnerability is the precursor to a dream come true.”]

Writer friends – don’t be afraid of the hard things. Keep typing those words and sending those awkward emails. Keep putting yourself out there, because beauty grows in the rocky places, and your dreams are beautiful.

Where the Streets Are Not Marked

“You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. 
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. 
A place you could sprain both you elbow and chin! 
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? 
How much can you lose? How much can you win? 

And IF you go in, should you turn left or right… 
or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? 
Or go around back and sneak in from behind? 
Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, 
for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind. 

You can get so confused 
that you’ll start in to race 
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace 
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, 
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place. 
The Waiting Place… 

…for people just waiting. 
Waiting for a train to go 
or a bus to come, or a plane to go 
or the mail to come, or the rain to go 
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow 
or waiting around for a Yes or a No 
or waiting for their hair to grow. 
Everyone is just waiting. 

Waiting for the fish to bite 
or waiting for wind to fly a kite 
or waiting around for Friday night 
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake 
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break 
or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants 
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. 
Everyone is just waiting. 

That’s not for you!”

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

Dr. Seuss 


Let me tell you a little story about what it’s like to write and launch a book.

It’s a process filled with waiting places – places where you can choose to sit back and hope good fortune stumbles over you, or where you can take matters into your own hands and walk to the good fortune.

The beginning of this journey is filled with excitement. You head down these long wiggled roads at a break necking pace, and it’s exhilarating and terrifying, and you sort of stumble your way through the process until you reach the other side. Finished. A completed manuscript in your hands.

This is when you enter the first Waiting Place.

You hold in your hands a tiny piece of your heart, and you have to decide if you’re going to let anyone read it. So you timidly hand it over to strangers, hoping they like it. And you wait for the “Yes” amidst a whole lot of “No.”

If you’re not content to stay in that waiting place, you persist and push through all the “No.” Because eventually, with a little dedication and refusal to give up, you find your “Yes.” Someone agrees to bind up that piece of your heart, and put a title to it. This, it turns out, is where the real work starts.

Launching a book is like running a marathon in the dark. You sort of stumble along pitch black roads, feeling your way toward the finish line, hoping you don’t peter out and die before you get there. That’s where it’s imperative to have running partners by your side.

Last weekend, I headed up to Greenville, South Carolina for the Allume conference. This is the third time I’ve attended this conference, and it holds a special place in my heart. This is the place where I found my running partners.

There’s a confidence that comes from being with a group of people who understand this crazy journey of publication. They understand the rejection and the fear. They understand the extreme exhaustion that comes from pouring your heart out on the page, and the utter terror that you feel when you must submit those pages to be judged.

The first year I attended Allume, I went all alone. I had the unedited manuscript for my novel tucked away in my bag, and I met with several agents, all of whom loved the concept, but “fiction is a touch sell,” and on they went.

Except for one.

She agreed to at least read the first 50 pages and give feedback. “It’s too long,” she said, and she was right. 150,000 words was a ridiculous length for a debut novel, so I spent the next year editing, and cutting, and shaping it up.

I went back the second year with my edited novel, but I was also joined by Wendy, and together we had a proposal for a new book – a book for creative moms, meeting them right there in the mess of motherhood.

This time, we heard “Yes!”

Then our agent took my novel and said “Yes, again!”

I went to Allume this third year with two books in production, and the weekend was spent trying to learn the ins and outs of marketing and launching. It’s intimidating and overwhelming. I’m running a marathon in the dark.

But at least I’ve got running partners by my side who are cheering me on. Several of them have already walked this path, and so they offer advice and wisdom, lighting the road before me just slightly.

It’s exhausting and overwhelming, this journey I’m on. But I’m glad I pushed myself out of the waiting place and onto this path. Dr. Seuss was right – waiting isn’t for me. The journey is so much more fun when you move forward…even if you’re moving in the dark.

So, what are you waiting on? What’s stopping you from moving forward?

Made for the Light: Part Two

“I just love the way the world looks upside down.”

She said the words with a sigh, her mouth turned up in just the hint of a smile. I glanced at her long enough to see that she wasn’t looking at me, but rather up at the sky. She wasn’t really talking to me at all. She was just stating a fact.

She loves the way the world looks upside down.

As I prepare to head out to a writer’s conference tomorrow, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about platform. What does it mean, and can I really stand on one with any amount of emotional stability?

It dawned on me when Tia spoke those honest words that I feel so much like her. I love the way the world looks upside down. I love the way it looks on my computer screen. I love the tapped out rhythm of life that echoes across the keyboard. I love the way the world looks when I’m writing.

Because stories are my upside down.

It’s a beautiful thing to embrace the world as one was meant to see it; whimsical and bright – the world is a fascinating place when turned upside down.

You see, I am the girl on the platform, spinning her way around the stage, and finally feeling warmed by the Light that illuminates the space in front of me. No longer concerned with the applause of the auditorium, I find myself increasingly fascinated with the world as He created me to see it – all topsy turvy.

It’s not always easy, though. I still forget at times to focus on the Light, and instead I strain my eyes toward the seats, wishing there were more listening. I’m not so secure that I’ve forgotten the desire to be seen and heard.

But when I allow myself to simply love what I do for no other reason than I was made to do it, then the Light fills in the dark places once again. Because I love the way the world looks upside down.

Maybe you’re standing on an empty stage, gazing into an empty auditorium, and you’re feeling lost and confused. Maybe the world is to right side up for you right now.

Can I offer a few words of advice?


1.) Know you have a story to tell

Your story is unique, and it’s a story that only you can tell. Maybe there are others around you telling flashy stories. Maybe they have a bigger stage, and wider audience. But they don’t have your story. They couldn’t. Only you hold that story.

So tell it.

2.) Know how you love to see the world

This is akin to finding your voice. How do you love to see the world? What is upside down for you?

Are you a Bible teacher? Then give us scripture laden wisdom, and make us crave the Word.

Are you a humorist? Then tell us a funny story, and make us laugh out loud.

Are you a story teller? Then tell us a story, and make us long for more. 

Find your voice, and show us the world from your vantage point. Because the world is waiting to hear from you.

3.) Know that you’re there to reveal the Light

I heard a story once of Billy Graham. As he ascended the stairs to the stage at one of his famous rallies, the cheers and applause from the crowd below reached a deafening level. Stepping before the podium, the humble man held up his hand, and a hush fell over the group.

“God shares His Glory with no man,” Mr. Graham said, and then bowed his head to pray.

When you ascend the steps of your platform and you take to the stage, no matter how big or small your audience, remember that you’re there to reveal the Light. You’re there for them to see and feel the warmth of the Light. Because that story you have to tell?

He gave it to you. And He shares His glory with no man.

So, tell me: How do you love to see the world? 

If you missed it, here is Part One.

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