I’m writing a book. A book that used to be a novel. I’ve been writing this novel for three years, and am just crossing the halfway point. And now I have to rewrite it.
When I started writing this book, my goal was to see it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble. My goal now is to tell the story with as much honesty, grace and humor as I can muster.
When l last left my writing, there were twenty-something thousand words and I hated all of them. I struggled with the story. I had loud and angry and despondent voices in my head arguing against each other.
“It’s perfect chick-lit!” shouted a voice, the one hanging out beside the Jennifer Weiner and Lauren Weisberger stacks.
“No, it’s obviously YA, the protag is so young!” hurled another voice, hiding behind the John Green and Stephanie Perkins display.
“Can’t you plainly see this is a Christian fiction work?” squeaked a meek but endearing voice near the shelf filled with Charles Martin and Karen Kingsbury.
“It would be a great series of essays, if you could just get your crap together already,” offered an almost-snarky voice next to a collection of Nora Ephron and Jen Lancaster.
"Why isn't it meaningful literary fiction?" whined another voice. (Who let the Jonathan Franzen apologists in here?)
“SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU! IT WON’T BE ANY ANYTHING IF YOU DON’T ALL SHUT UP!” yelled the most familiar voice.
And then I heard one beautiful, clear voice above the rest:
"Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you're conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader." ~Anne Lamott, Bird by BirdI finally got so twirled up in what my book should be- what goals it should accomplish, what audience it would reach- that I stopped writing it altogether.
And then I prayed. Because when I can’t come up with an answer on my own, I go back to the One with all the answers. The One I should’ve consulted to begin with. The One who never yells at me.
“DearsweetholyGodinheaven, I want to write this book. I want to tell this story, but I don’t know how. I want to do it to Your honor and glory and I want it to be so so so good. HALP.”
And then… I got nothing. No answer. No inspiration. No sign on the side of the road saying, “TURN HERE.” Not a word. For months.
The file sat on my computer’s desktop unopened. The cute little robot-shaped flashdrive went unupdated. The printed-out version stayed unedited. My red pen was totally unused. And I was miserable every day of it.
Three days ago, having pushed the book as far away from me as physically and mentally possible, I heard another voice. I was in the shower, thinking of absolutely nothing other than how sweet my shampoo smelled, I heard it.
“It’s a memoir.”
“Uh, no it’s not.”
“It’s a memoir.”
“No, really, you must be mistaken. Just tell me, is it a Christian YA novel? Is it chick-lit? You know I love chick-lit. In the most non-demeaning, super-empowering sense of the word. Is it chick-lit?”
“It’s a memoir.”
I don't play lightly with the words "I heard from God." But I do feel strongly that the Holy Spirit still moves in and through people. There have been only two other times in my twenty-seven years that I have literally felt the Spirit write words on my heart, and I am not one to argue when the most mysterious one-third of the Trinity tells me what to do.
It is my story, it is my truth. It is a fall from grace, a redemption, an example of true love, and True Love. It is a mystery, a thriller, a romance, a coming-of-age story, a comedy, a tragedy, a love letter and a remarkable journey. So I will write it as its bare-bones truth: my story.
I will change the names to protect the innocent and the so-guilty-you-won’t-believe-it. I will pour out the whole of my overflowing heart. I will try my hardest to stay in one tense. I will get frustrated and walk away, only to walk back and do more work. I will write a whole bunch of crap and maybe a little bit of something good. I will throw the lights on.