Be Authentic

Be Authentic

be-yourself

The fake girlfriend of Manti Te’o reminds me of the reality show Catfish. The host of this show tracks down a culprit in an online dating relationship to see if he or she is the person they are portraying in an online dating relationship. The show is a hit because apparently there are a lot of people in the world who would do or say anything to convince others that they are someone they are not.

It’s amazing in a day where many of the people who are singing and proclaiming, ‘They are born this way’, ‘Love the skin you’re in’ are spending most of their lives squirming restlessly in that same skin. There is often so much we don’t like about ourselves that by the time we are finished regrouping and redoing we resemble someone else altogether.

Years ago, when I first started writing I wanted so badly to write like Frank Peretti. He is an amazing Christian author, novelist who writes about demons and angels with the clarity and excitement of the vampire series. He struck gold with it and became an internationally best- selling author.

My first novel-to-be was much like his (or so I thought). It was one of the first full-length pieces I had ever written and it rambled on into eternity; basically I was saying a lot of nothing because the story took off on a life of its own and I didn’t have the courage or strength to chase it. Well as it turns out the best way to write like Peretti is to actually be Peretti.

Years later after much writing and some good ole fashion soul examination I came into my own. This kind of authenticity was far reaching because it meant getting to know myself and figuring out what I wanted to say and saying it as authentically as possible. There was no stilted dialogue or elaborate symbolism. It was just me.

The problem was learning to like who I am and remembering that we are all constantly evolving. This may be the problem with so many of us—the process of just learning to love us. We don’t like ourselves and are sure others will feel the same. We continually readjust to fit or to at least look the part. This gets to be exhausting. I know because I did it for a long time.

I am sure when God created us he knew a lot of us would possess this kind of self-loathing. But it’s only when we connect with him that we realize we are in possession of the perfect tools to get the job done (whatever that may be). Once we adjust to this we can begin loving and living in our own skin. We can begin to write, speak, dance with an authentic voice that shines and gives the observer, the admirer…the chills.

The original paperback cover of The Oath.

There is certain kind of attractiveness a person has when they are walking in the fullness of their true self. It’s kind of like that guy you meet, that short, odd looking dude who keeps staring at you from across the room and everything in you tells you he is not your type until he walks over and begins a conversation. He is funny and cool with his height and isn’t bent on trying to be the tall, dark, handsome one. He understands he is not tall and that handsome is in the eye of the beholder. Suddenly this guy you’d written off is holding your phone number (not the fake one this time) and you’re glad he had the courage to be himself. There’s something about being authentic that brings out the best because being our best really is good enough.

  • God Leaves the Light On (dimlyburning.com)
Live the moment; it’s all you really have

Live the moment; it’s all you really have

Living-in-the-momentWhen I first started writing my book back in 2007 it seemed like a process with no end. I was working fulltime as a night auditor; days were for sleeping and nights, after my work was done, were for writing. Perfect. A couple pages a night was all I could manage. I remember thinking how happy I would be once it was done and ready to send to a publisher.

A year later I was finished yah! Now on to a publisher. I would finally feel happy once I found a publisher or agent (I was seeking both). I knew the process would take time, additionally, my novel although one of inspiration was quite edgy. I was delving into places that were kind of taboo in Christendom. But I was determined not to change it. But no one was biting. In fact I couldn’t keep up with the rejection letters. One agent who accepted queries via email sent me a flat ‘no’, the morning after I submitted my query online; it seemed as if she couldn’t reject it fast enough. Sigh.

If only they would request to read it all they would see how good it was and then I could rest easy and finally be at peace that this portion of the process was over. I could finally proclaim that I was a legitimate writer.

Meanwhile I was generally unhappy and restless and prayed to God to just get me published…geez. I walked around with my proverbial head hung, feeling kinda forgotten.

And then, finally, a response from a small independent publisher who liked the three chapters I’d sent and wanted to read the entire manuscript. I was thrilled. This was it. And then it seemed to me that she was taking her own sweet time getting back to me. So what she had other clients? I was the most important one (tears)! I thought; once I hear from her I’ll rest easy.

Months later they made me an offer. They wanted to publish the book. Yah! Now I know you’re thinking this is the part where I was thrilled out of my mind singing and dancing in the rain, putting Fred Astaire to shame. Well, this isn’t that part. I honestly waited to feel it– that peace that would settle upon me like warm rays of sunlight. It didn’t come. Instead there was this kind of melancholy, a sadness of which I couldn’t find the source. And then the fretting kicked in as I worried about, how long it would take to publish, book sales, whether or not it good was enough and on and on.

It wasn’t until months later that I took time to reflect on how far I had come. I realized I hadn’t lived any of those moments; the peace that comes from putting it on paper, the joy of having a couple of close friends read my work and getting great feedback, the thrill that someone wanted to publish it. I had pushed those moments aside each time, seeking future satisfaction.

Most of our lives are spent seeking and searching; it seems what surrounds us at the moment is trivial, brings no peace to our lives because something bigger, more significant is not too far away. We live for tomorrow because surely it has to be better than this. We will be happy when…

I realized often we fail to enjoy the moments that make life so great and that peace isn’t suddenly brought on by an event, a place or even a person. It’s internal. We already possess it. Everything you truly need or desire is in you, now. Today. Find it and be happy now. Love the one you’re with just as they are. Kiss and hug your babies before they start behaving. Live the moment. It’s really all you have.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use the N* Word

It has such negative connotations. People cringe when you say it and tend to view you differently when you use it regularly. But sometimes you just have to be bold and use it anyway; they will get it later and you may be better off for it. Yes, we all know what that dreaded n* word is. Yep, it’s exactly what you think, the word, no.

‘No’ seems to be an ugly word, especially among women because much of our self-worth is tied into doing for others. We tend to be interminable givers. To say that we can’t or won’t deems us less valuable or lacking in our ability to fulfill our duties as loving, giving human beings. Well, let’s squash that myth.

It seems we’re inundated with opportunities and someone is always after our time. Everyone has a seminar, a new group or an invention and apparently we would be absolutely foolish not to delve into it, right now. Today. They need our help planning an event or writing something up quickly. It’ll be a breeze for you. You’re a writer. It would take me far too long.

Sigh.

Understand that I love helping people. I love to give. I gain great pleasure from both. We all have causes close to our heart, we all want to give when and where we can. But when it is time to say ‘no’ or take a pass we must do it with the same confidence in which we say ‘yes’.

People tend to put no more value on your time than you do. It’s not a slam to others, it’s simply human nature. We are by nature selfish beings. We want our way.

Sometimes, simply saying ‘no, I don’t think I’ll be able to do it’ or ‘I’ll pass this time’ is sufficient. Those on the receiving end of this may take it as personal rejection. They probably won’t look at you with pride and admire you for being so upfront. Nope. But that’s O.K. as long as we are kind in the way we say it.

Now I know some of the goodwill police are ready to arrest me and I could readily defend myself, but I will simply say there have been many occasions where I have stayed up until daybreak working on other people’s projects because they needed me and how could I possibly turn them away? I’ve come home exhausted and frustrated after giving everything and feeling as though I’d lost my place. Kind of like when you digress while telling a story and then can’t seem to find your way back to where you left off. It was the hubby who told me to cut it out. The world would not (contrary to my imaginative thinking) end if I didn’t do it.

I said, “Well, I just can’t tell them no!”

Could I? Really? Well, dang, it seemed I could!

As a freelancer writer, wife and mother of three it is up to me to prioritize in order to effectively use the 24 hours I’ve been given. I know if I always make myself available to everyone and everything I will cease to be a good steward of my 24.

Saying ‘no’ sometimes is just as necessary as saying ‘yes’. It gives us time to concentrate on working effectively on projects we are skilled to do. It allows us to give to causes close to our hearts and provides gateways for others to step up and discover their gifts, talents and avenues of contribution, as we step aside.

So go ahead, say it…I dare you.

Sometimes we get a second chance, but why wait?

I used to work a job as a counselor for a group of delinquent teenagers at a day camp. Many days I felt like a beacon showing them the way. Other days I was searching for a beacon. These were the chaotic days. Depending on what they had for breakfast, how much sleep they’d gotten the night before or for no reason at all, they would often be angry, depressed or just plain ornery.

I had to pick them up from home at dawn and return them at dusk. The ride was long but I didn’t mind because it gave me time to think. I blasted Tupac or Biggie or something brazen on the radio because apparently the beat blasting in their ears as if they were at a concert front and center calmed them down. Better for me.

I would think entire novels in my head; dialogue would flow as if God himself were dictating. The characters were vivid like holograms and I knew I had a good book or books…in my head. Many centered on kids just like them, who’d fallen into a bad place. Unfortunately in my head is where they stayed because between working this job and taking care of my own little tikes I never took the time to write down my thoughts. Months went by. I would get to it. After all, it’s in my head where’s it going?

Going…going…gone.

The months got by me and then it was a year or so later. And when I sat to write it was as if someone had ciphered every idea, thought and inspiration I possessed. Nothing came. The well was dry and dusty.

There is always someone else willing to get the job done…

Meanwhile, those who would have been my contemporaries, emerged around me. Terry McMillan was shaking up the literary community with her honest depictions of middle class African American life. Her stories were bold, the dialogue fierce and on point. Those who hadn’t read a book since high school English had their head buried in her novels because she wrote our stories truthfully and without apologies. Connie Briscoe and Mary Monroe were doing the same. Victoria Christopher Murray and Reshonda Tate Billingsley were doing it as well using their faith to inspire and enlighten. Meantime I had all but disappeared somewhere between ‘I will’ and ‘When I get some time.’ Now I’m not a person who lives in regret and I’m not belting some Raging Bull speech announcing I could’ve been a contender.

What I’m saying is that if you have an idea, a story, a plan, get it out of you. If the pangs won’t let up, it may be a sign that you’re in labor. And we know that a woman in labor must be taken seriously. Do it. Say it. If you can’t get it out in one fell swoop, do it in brief sentences, blurbs.

Do we get second chances?  Yes most of the time we do. But there’s nothing like the richness and purity of the first time. Who will you inspire or bless with what you have to say or do right now?

I waited for more favorable circumstances, I waited to be inspired. But I had to realize that life is a constantly moving thing, with perpetual ebbs and flows. Sometimes we have to jump in and catch the current. It may be bumpy and scary, risky and uncertain, but we have to ride it regardless. We have to ride as if we only get one shot.

This is Your Year!

This is Your Year!

2638sunrise_geeseThere is so much that can get in the way of writing; children, jobs, husbands, aging parents, small critters and I could go on but I won’t. Now I’m not saying that you should write above all else or that the world must take a back burner to it. You have your own life structure. Good. But if you feel it necessary to tell your story, then do it.

Let’s face it, no one gets anything done simply by thinking about it (believe me I’ve tried). On the other hand, many of us do not have chunks of time to sit in front of our computer and pour out a sweeping novel, with the warmth of the sun on our skin and soft music inspiring us. But there is time. Take it little by little, or in the words of Anne Lamott, bird by bird. Take small chunks, sometimes the writing may be scattered like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; a description of an event here, a characterization there. Whatever the case, just be consistent. Write whether or not inspiration comes; sometimes it just doesn’t show up. But once you sit in that space, something will come. But your brain must know that this is the hour or half hour you have designated as writing time.

If you are a writer, that gift is as much a part of you as your smile, lips or eyes. (I hate to sound mushy but all of this is true.) It is a calling, unique and significant. Will the sun plummet to earth if you don’t write? Will the birds stop singing? Will the earth refuse to turn on its axis? No of course not. But not doing what God has placed in your heart to do, in some way will diminish you.

Finish that novel or short story. Push past the boredom and the pain. Push in spite of the self-doubt and loneliness. We all go through it.

Don’t worry now about being famous or seeing your name on the NYT list. Don’t think about who on God’s green earth is going to read your stuff. You’re thinking too far ahead. For now, go on…get started, or get finished so He can return his attention to sunrises and mockingbirds.