Another Year Gone By

Here I am again, another New Year’s Eve, sitting on my bed and wondering why time speeds up the older you get.

I am very much a sentimentalist, and I am also very milestone-oriented. I have certain traditions that I always do on New Year’s Eve. My family always gathers in the living room to watch all the home videos we took over the course of the past year. (That’s always fun, because my dad likes to have a running commentary during ever single video.) Then I settle down for an hour or so of journaling, and I reflect on all the things I’ve done this year, both big and small. I like to outline a list of a things I will accomplish next year, usually very small goals. At the end of my list I write down one big thing I want to do. And of course I stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop. Since there’s no school tomorrow, I’ll probably stay up even later and begin working on my next writing project.

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So what has this year held for me? One the one hand, I set out to publish this year. It didn’t happen. Instead, I’m only barely done with the second draft of the intended book. On the other hand, I’m officially a three-time novelist.

I’ve seen some people choose a word to live by at the beginning of a new year. I’ve never tried that before; instead, I like to look back and choose my word at the end of the year. This year, I think my word was Fire. I like putting fire into all my books as a theme, and it usually happens by accident. This year, God decided to show me what it’s like to lose sight of the fire He’d previously placed on my heart, and then He decided to show me that He is powerful enough to rekindle it again. The Gospel is a fire that burns our hearts, and the desire to share it is like a little flame that grows bigger and hotter the more we ignore the urge to do so.

I always get a little sad when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve. (Not that the clock actually strikes, because we don’t have a grandfather clock. I sure wish we did, though.) In the moment where everyone is cheering and fireworks are going off and the huge numbers of the new year are filling the TV screen, I always just sit there sadly. It’s like I’m staring at a huge open space spread out before me. I liked the year we already had. No need to start a new one. If I think about it long enough, I get overwhelmed by the prospect of an entire blank year of calendar pages staring back at me. It’s so empty. Why can’t I keep living in the one I filled up?

Looking back, this year hasn’t been quite as successful writing-wise as I’d hoped. I wrote one new novel and rewrote another. It’s a far cry from publication, but it’s not failure either. Crafting a brand-new novel over the course of a month? I’d call that a success. Creating a cohesive plot out of the jumble of random events I’d piled together? That was definitely a success. I mean a half-success. I’m still not quite finished with it yet. So, it wasn’t as much as I’d hoped for, but it’s something at least.

So even if your previous resolutions look like failures, look for the ways you have been successful. It’s not called optimism, it’s called honesty. It’s never uplifting to dwell on your shortcomings and failures. It will only push you down farther.

You may be asking, do I have any New Year’s Resolutions? Yes. Yes, I do. My 2018 New Year’s Resolutions is: Don’t publish a book. Here’s the brilliancy of it: I’ll probably have no trouble keeping that resolution. Then I’ll consider myself successful for being able to stick with it. And, well, if I don’t manage to keep it, by that point I won’t care because I will have PUBLISHED A BOOK. This particular resolution will also (hopefully) remind me to slow down and take the time to enjoy writing, rather than making a mad dash to what I think is the finish line (and really, publication is NOT the finish line).

I’ll see you all in 2018! I hope you have a lovely New Year’s Eve celebration, whether you’re staying up by yourself, partying with friends, sleeping, or getting so lost in a good book that you don’t notice when midnight rolls around. Happy New Year!!

What did you accomplish in 2017?

What do you hope to accomplish in 2018?

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Joy to the World

In honor of Christmas, I thought I would write about joy. Joy through trials, that is. I don’t usually write on this topic, but it was kind of a spur-of-the-moment thing, and I feel like I should post it. It has very little to do with writing, actually. And honestly, how am I qualified to even write about such a topic as trials and suffering? I’m sixteen years old; how much have I actually seen in life? Not much. How much have I actually had to endure? Compared to some others, not much.

But I want to write this post to encourage anyone who is going through some sort of trial right now. I want to remind you that God will use whatever you’re going through in truly spectacular ways. I know it’s nearly impossible to see in the midst of trials, but He will bring something out of it.

Let me tell you a story.

advent-wreath-3008858_640Last winter and spring, I went through a period of depression. It lasted for several months. Everything was meaningless, even things that used to mean everything to me. It was hard to get up every morning and keep going. Even my spiritual life was meaningless. I knew I should find joy in Jesus; I knew He could help me find some meaning in this thing called life again. And even though I knew that, the depression and the tears lingered.

And God did eventually help me find meaning. He did help me find joy. But that’s not really the point of going through trials. The end goal isn’t to get out of them. God wouldn’t do that; He wouldn’t put us through hard things and then bring us back out of them without letting us learn something.

I was reading through some of my old journals the other day. About six or seven months ago, in the midst of my depression, I was writing things like this: “That fiery passion I felt for the Gospel? It’s gone…. I’m afraid I’ll never find it again. How can I lose sight of my calling now, after I’ve come so far?”

The Gospel is something that sets me on fire. At least, it used to, before everything turned gray and became devoid of any meaning. The Gospel has been the calling on my life since I was a child. I’ve always felt that nudge from God. But not then. It scared me. I was afraid I’d never be able to experience the Gospel and all of its beauty again.

And guess what happened? It wasn’t an instant change. Some parts of it were, definitely, and sometimes God does bring us out of our trials instantly like that. But not this one. This one was more gradual. I couldn’t really see God’s amazing work until I zoomed out. But His work was truly amazing.

This past summer, I had another opportunity to serve at Camp Attitude. I’ve gone with a group from church for the past few years, and it’s always an amazing experience. You get to volunteer there to serve disabled kids and their families, which sounds like a boring way to spend a week of your life. But while I was there this summer, God showed me what truly living looks like. He showed me what joy really is. After long, rough months of slogging through life, God showed me what it truly means to be alive.

That week at Camp Attitude was kind of like God chuckling to himself and dramatically reversing my vision of my life. But He works in smaller, less obvious ways, too. Just the other day, I realized that the first new book I wrote after being depressed for so long was Inferno’s Melody. The whole point of that book is the fire God places on our hearts. Of course I didn’t plan it that way. God did.

Seeing the way God works is what brings me joy. And when people say “joy through trials,” it’s easy to picture third-year Ron Weasley, trying to predict Harry’s future: “So you’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.” But James 1:2-4 says:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Like I said, I don’t have a lot of life experience. I haven’t been through the kinds of trials some people have. Paul, in Philippians, said he had learned to be content no matter what circumstances he got thrown into. I confess I can’t say that about myself while being honest about it. But this I can say: I have learned that you can have joy through trials, if not during them, then definitely after you see what God has done through them.

And what better time to meditate on it than during Christmas, when Jesus came down to Earth as a human? When he came to face trials for our sake? When he came to suffer so that we’d never have to suffer the eternal wrath of God? It doesn’t mean we won’t ever suffer – in the Gospels, Jesus promised us that we would suffer. But when we do, we can have joy because He has already overcome the world.

I hope this encourages you. If you want to talk, please leave a comment, or send me a private email on my contact page. Merry Christmas!!

Do you have a favorite story about how God has worked through trials (it doesn’t have to be about your own life)?

Are you looking forward to Christmas? How do you plan to spend the holidays?

A Year of Blogging and a Critique Giveaway!

Happy Saturday, everyone! Today marks a milestone for me: I started blogging exactly one year ago! (And yet, WordPress still likes to put a squiggly red line under the word “blog”. I don’t understand it.)

In honor of this milestone, I am hosting my very first giveaway! I will be giving away one (1) free critique of the first five hundred words of whatever you’re writing. I’ve seen so many critique giveaways lately, it’s like everyone’s in on it or something. So I thought I’d join in. You can find more details on how to enter at the bottom of this post. But first…

one year of blogging

After one year of blogging, my three most popular posts are…

My Crazy Writing Life (which, coincidentally, was my very first post)

#NaNoPrep: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome + Giveaway!! (the giveaway has long been over, unfortunately, but you can still read the post!)

Introducing: Inferno’s Melody (which is probably one of my favorite things I’ve ever posted)

And just for fun, I’ll also share my fourth most popular post, because it happens to be one of my personal favorites:

An Analysis of a Story. (I love writing about stuff like this.)

Man, I have learned so much by blogging. You’d think it’s just a fun way to be able to write and share my thoughts with the world, but no. It’s hard. I’m the type of person who doesn’t eagerly share my thoughts with anyone (unless these thoughts involve conspiracy theories about Sherlock or facts about quantum physics).

By blogging, I have gotten way more comfortable with letting other people read my writing and hear my thoughts. I have learned that perfection is an illusion (unless it’s God we’re talking about), and that realization is primarily what made me decide to (finally) let people read that book I wrote over a year ago. Although it may not seem like it, that was a big step for me. In fact, getting to that point was harder than getting to the end of NaNoWriMo, which is saying something if you’ve ever attempted NaNo.

Blogging is also very freeing for me. Writing is the primary way I express myself, but since stories take so long to craft, all of my thoughts build up inside, and blogging is a way to get them out. Here, I can tell you what I’m learning about God. Here, I can tell you about the reason why I write the stories that I do.

The last thing I want to mention is how amazing it feels to be able to inspire others. I’ve had multiple people tell me that certain things I’ve blogged about have inspired them. I can remember so many times when I’ve read other people’s blogs and felt greatly inspired, and I think it’s awesome that I’m able to be that person to somebody else.

And without further ado…

critique giveaway

The entry form for the critique giveaway can be found below! The form you’re filling out is technically a contact form, which was the easiest way for me to do it, so after you hit the “Submit” button, you will see a little notice that the “message has been sent.” This just means that I’ve received an email notification of your entry. Nothing you submit will be published or visible to anyone but me, with the exception of the winner’s name. 

If you win, you get to send me the first 500 words of whatever you’re writing… it can be fiction, nonfiction, poetry, whatever you want. It can even be an essay or something like that. The only limitation is that it must be completely clean and PG- (or better-) rated. If you win and your work doesn’t meet those requirements, I may have to choose another winner.

If your work is less than five hundred words, I’ll critique the whole thing. If it’s ridiculously close to 500 (like 502), that’s fine too. It wouldn’t make sense to leave a couple of words out.

You have until midnight on December 23 to enter. I would appreciate it if some of you spread the word through social media (it’s no fun if only a few people enter), but it’s not required.

The winner will be announced Saturday, December 23.

Good luck!

 

What’s something new you’ve tried this year? What has it taught you?

Introducing: Inferno’s Melody

Happy December, everyone! I don’t know about you, but I always get really excited about Christmas. I love picking out a Christmas tree, and decorating it with my family, and baking Christmas cookies and making a huge mess in the kitchen. It’s the best.

I like to use December to get a break from whatever story I happened to be writing for NaNoWriMo. You really do need that break, even if you don’t feel like it. I desperately want to keep working on it this month, but I’m taking a break anyway. I’ve got a couple of other deadlines I have to keep track of for other stories.

I wanted to write more posts last month, but, you know, NaNo keeps you pretty tied up. But today I thought I would tell you how it went. I thought I’d officially introduce you to my newest novel: Inferno’s Melody. I have never told anyone about a book two days after I finish writing it. Never. I almost didn’t post this today. I feel very vulnerable, baring my heart like this. But I think this is something I need to say.

Inferno (1)NaNoWriMo pretty much never goes the way I expect. This year, I’d expected it to be an epic mad dash of writing day after day and a brand-new story emerging from the smoking ashes. Well, I guess that technically happened, but not in the way I’d expected. You see, this is the third novel I’ve written, and I’ve come to expect the newest one to always be my favorite. I was in love with my first novel until I wrote the second one. And yes, I am in love with the story I wrote last month, but my heart isn’t quite there yet. Ironically, that’s exactly what the story is about.

I’d like to ask you all a question: WHY do you do what you do? Whether it’s writing, playing music, art, or another passion you have, why do you do it? What drives you? Do you do what you do for yourself, or do you do it for someone else? Why do you sit down and work at it day after day, even though it can be extremely frustrating at times? I think all of us have at least something that fits these standards. But what makes us do what we do?

For me, that thing… is not writing. *gasps from audience* I figured that out a few months ago, and, well, I decided to write a story about it. Leave it to me to make my entire life ironic. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I LOVE writing. It IS a passion that I have, and I AM driven to do it every day, no matter how hard it gets. But it is not my greatest passion, and here is how I figured it out:

This passion that you have, would you follow it to the end? Would you live your entire life in dedication to this passion? Would it be worth dying for? Or is it not quite that strong?

Writing, for me, does not meet these standards. Not by a long shot. It’s like trying to compare a candle to a bonfire. It can’t be done. The difference is so great, it just wouldn’t make sense. I found that there is another passion that I have. But I was trying to use writing to satisfy it. It seems to work most of the time, but I think later on, it won’t be enough anymore.

God’s love is perhaps one of the most compelling things I have ever known. And really, I think I’ve always known that. It took three novels for me to be able to say it outright like this, but it’s a theme that’s come up again and again in every single one of my stories:

A man dying for his enemies.

A boy being driven by fear until he finds that love is much stronger.

A girl devoting her entire life to a cause until she realizes that her heart is empty.

They are all the same story, and all of them are about me. No, I have never died for my enemies. But I would, if my passion led me there.

Yes, I have been driven by fear. It’s a terrifying ordeal. The thing that finally set me free was the Truth – and I promise, love is much stronger than fear.

Have I ever devoted my entire life to a cause, then realized my heart was empty?  I’m praying that I won’t.

You see, all of these characters had to discover something. They had to discover their passions. They had to discover love. When I say “love” I hope you aren’t envisioning the sappy, romantic love portrayed in the media – I hope you’re envisioning a desperate madness that extends far beyond the boundaries set up by this world. Yes, I have experienced this kind of love before. I have a Savior who loves me like that, more than I could ever imagine. And He has allowed me a very small taste of what it’s like to love someone or something else like that.

I want to say right now that whatever happens, I will always proclaim God’s name. I will always extend the message of his love to everyone else. Because this is what compels me, and this is what drives me. God’s love is burning inside of me like a blazing inferno, too hot and too bright to keep shut up inside.

Its melody is intoxicating, and I will always sing it for the world to hear.

Inferno’s Melody is not just a story. It is real.

I really want to hear what your passion is. Why is it so compelling to you?