Closing Out 2021

As I write to you, listening to the peaceful hymns of Wake Forest University’s Lovefeast, I give thanks for a year of growth.

In January 2021, I made a New Year’s Resolution to pursue the dream God has put into my heart, the dream to write fiction that honors Him. How do you mark progress on a goal like that?

Here’s a list of external steps along the winding path of this year:

  • Listened to dozens of episodes of Andy J. Pizza’s “The Creative Pep Talk” podcast, actually followed the tasks he recommended to identify my tastes, authors I’d like to emulate, etc., and talked my husband’s ears off about all of it, haha
  • Chatted with my accountability writing partner, Jon Kerr, a good friend from church, nearly every Monday at noon this year to encourage his writing, edit his work, and discuss our writing journeys. Yall better get excited for when his work is released; his epic world-building stories are powerful and unpredictable!
  • Joined American Christian Fiction Writers and completed the orientation to join their Scribes national online critique group
  • January and February – outlined and wrote 5,000 words/week on a new novel, Ruah!
  • March – reviewed 6 novels for a novel contest (judges are asked to be anonymous, so I won’t reveal which, but it was a wonderful experience)
  • Edited two obituaries, for my beloved grandmother and aunt who passed this year. An inexpressible honor to help tell the world of their extraordinary lives.
  • Gathered the courage to interview a former NASA scientist over coffee for a book I’m writing – he gave me many ideas and a cool NASA sticker
  • Submitted a short story to The Masters Review and received a painfully honest yet helpful response
  • Tried out two local critique groups and reviewed fellow writers’ submissions
  • Read books and attended webinars on marketing books
  • Added to this blog here and there (thanks for reading, by the way! It’s more encouraging than you know!) and set up a Facebook author page
  • Drafted and published a story on Amazon’s new episodic storytelling platform, Kindle Vella, called “Extinction Isn’t for Everyone”, which actually earned over $100 (despite no one having read it, haha. Thanks, Amazon).
  • Paid a multi-talented editor to review the first third of the novel-in-progress, Ruah – indebted to my cousin William Baker!
  • Participated in all 12 weeks of Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”
  • Submitted pitch ideas that went nowhere to one of my favorite gamified exercise apps, Zombies, Run! (But they were such cool ideas, and it was a great experience!)
  • Participated in National Novel Writing Month in November and was just 2k shy of the 50k goal! Completed the first draft of Ruah!

What can’t be so easily measured is the growth I’ve experienced. I am still finding practical ways to integrate writing into a busy backdrop of being a mother and wife, selling our home and moving, working full-time, and taking care of my health. I am still learning what it means to craft a story and grow realistic characters and plots from seeds of ideas. I am learning my limits and how overambitious my goals tend to be. I’ve learned things generally take longer than I expect. But I know a lot more than I did at the start of this year, and I’m the better for these lessons.

Some of the most significant lessons I’ve learned are to avoid “should”-ing, to play, to recognize that everyone’s journey is different but we are put into community to encourage one another, to acknowledge that my physical and emotional health is essential to creating, and to give myself and others grace, just as God has given me.

God has been so gracious to put people in my life who have encouraged me and who I hope I have encouraged also. All of us are made in His image, and our God is a Maker. Therefore we are makers too, whether you enjoy cooking, writing, making friendships, drawing, growing plants, crocheting, woodwork, making music, building, inventing, or any number of creative outlets He’s gifted us.

As I “rest and digest” this holiday season and prepare to revise Ruah, I give thanks to God and to each of you who have supported me through words and prayer on this journey. I am deeply thankful and eager to see what next year will hold.

I hope you’ll join me in praising God for this year, hard as it’s been, for the growth and love and blessings we’ve experienced.

Extras: Here are some final quotes from the latter chapters of The Artist’s Way which resonated with me.