In Which “Jesus” Works On My Novel

Well, folks. You’re getting a treat today.

Why? Because it’s one of those days.

If you know me in real life at all, you know all too well my penchant for scatterbrainedness. Most of the time, I can focus. Most of the time, I know FAR in advance what I want to do. I don’t necessarily live by a schedule — but I do know how I want my day to progress. And I get squirmy if I plan things and then don’t get them done.

On the other hand, there are days like today.

Today, my darlings, I just can’t focus. I should be writing for you a blog post of beautiful coherence and cohesion, something with a unifying theme. Something that makes sense as a whole.

Regrettably, that’s not going to happen.

Here are three random items instead:

1. Last week, my friend Patricia pointed out that I don’t talk the way I write.

It’s true. I don’t. When you’re engaged in verbal conversation with me, I don’t use phrases like “engaged in verbal conversation.” I don’t start sentences with “regrettably,” and “penchant” is not part of my everyday vocabulary. And I don’t talk so fast that you have to squint at me and tune out the rest of the world in order to keep up.

In verbal conversation, I hesitate a lot. My sentences are shorter. A lot of them don’t get finished. And I say “That’s funny” way more than any human being should.

What’s more, I’m an introvert. So, unless I know you well, or unless we’re among a small group of friends, I won’t talk a lot. I won’t go on half as long as I do on my blog.

I’m a writer, not a talker. Yes, I’m a sucker for great conversation…but with just a few people at a time. Preferably two or three. If I can get an individual to talk to me one-on-one until the late hours of the night, I’m almost in heaven.

YES! Give me that intimate meeting of the minds!

I promise I’ll keep words like “juxtaposed” to a minimum. 😉

2. Jesus reminds us of how important it is to have an actual plot in our stories.

One day, whilst meandering through Facebook, I posted a link to my friend Jessie’s blog.

Jessie had reviewed a book in which the plot was not clear. In my headline above the link, I pointed out that her post was a good reminder of how important plot is in any story. Another Facebook friend commented that at first glance, he thought I’d written “Jesus” instead of “Jessie.”

I kind of like the idea that good storytelling is a divine command. It fits my mantra: Created to create!

3. Once upon a time, Jessie’s brother John admonished me about my habit of self-deprecation.

From 2001 to 2007, the husband and I lived in Germany and worked with a small church there. I could write a whole year’s worth of posts on everything we did, but the short of it is that we helped out however we could (organizing, construction-working, wall-painting, encouraging, mentoring, counseling, etc.) and taught private, conversational English lessons.

Our financial support came mainly from individuals back in the good ol’ USA, so I wrote regular newsletters to all of those fine folks, telling them the whats and wherefores of our lives. And lemme tell ya, those newsletters were long. I had to force myself to condense each one to two pages.

Those pages usually had 0.4-inch margins.

I frequently apologized for the length of those letters.

Then my friend John wrote me an email. In his direct, no-nonsense way, he said,

Don’t apologize for anything you write. If you’ve written a long letter, it’s because you’ve written what you felt was necessary to write. You weaken the message of your letter when you apologize for it.

Well. That made me take a step back.

Long story (ha!) short, I decided that he was right.

I never apologized for a long newsletter again. People kept sending money, so I guess they didn’t miss the apologies.

My friend JT, a university student, has some fascinating ideas for a novel. When we sit and chat about it, he invariably shoots me a warning look and says, “If I wrote this, it would be controversial.”

I tell him what John told me.

Inconsistent vocabulary.

Divine commands for storytelling.


What randomnesses of your own would you like to share? Lemme hear ya!

10 thoughts on “In Which “Jesus” Works On My Novel

  1. Aaron Pogue says:

    I like your first point and, as you already know well, I’m right there with you.

    Same for the third one. I remember when you and I were getting to know each other via email, and we’d send these massive emails back and forth, each of us apologizing at every reply for its length, until we finally realized we were both writers (which was, of course, why we’d started talking in the first place).

    I think it’s the publishers who taught us to be ashamed of our habits as writers. Nobody else cares (except the ones who find it all cool and fascinating, anyway). Maybe it’s time we get them back.

    • First point: Yes, I do know. I also know that the past year brought about some good changes for us both. 🙂

      Third point: Ha! Yes, I well recall those massively long emails with their tortured, wholly superfluous apologies. Good thing we finally got over ourselves.

      And it’s past time we get them back. I think you might have some ideas about that. ; )

      Thanks for the read and the comment!

  2. Patricia says:

    ” If I can get an individual to talk to me one-on-one until the late hours of the night, I’m almost in heaven….”

    ME TOO!!! Hmm, perhaps that’s why we love each other’s company so much!

    Also, one’s spoken vocabulary can vary greatly depending on the surrounding company. (To be able to change one’s speech patterns to closely mirror the said company is a valuable communication skill.) For instance, though I work with some great people, I rarely use words such as “juxtapose” or “penchant” around them, nor do I throw in any foreign phrases. I don’t say this to belittle my coworkers….we just use a different vocabulary and set of jargon at work. Where was I going with this? Oh, just read the first sentence of this paragraph again.

    • I’d say that is definitely one of the main reasons we love each other’s company so much! That and the whole shared-artsy-interests thing, which is pretty important. 😉

      Yes, I agree that one’s company affects how one speaks. My parents were always amused (and sometimes dismayed) when I came home from childhood summers in Oklahoma — and had acquired an Oklahoman twang and a new set of slang phrases. As an adult, I’ve noticed that no matter where I go, I adapt my speech patterns to my host culture fairly quickly.

      I don’t know if it’s a personality thing or a Third Culture Kid thing…but I have to be conscious of it so that I sound like me and don’t get accused of mimcry!

  3. Pamela Davis says:

    No apologies! Best advice anyone could give. The older I get the more sure I am that apologizing is almost always a waste of time. I know I’ve spent far too many words in my life being sorry for just being me.

    • Pam, I don’t think any of us should ever apologize for being who we are. I believe very strongly that we are all beloved by a higher power, loved exactly the way we are. With that in mind, we don’t owe other humans any apologies for our Self — because no human can condemn us.

      I think it’s always right for me to apologize when I have said or done something wrong, something that harms someone else physically or emotionally. But asking forgiveness is a very different thing from apologizing for who I am.

  4. El Edwards says:

    It’s funny, I do try really hard to write how I talk, mainly because I was an oral storyteller first. Plus, if I don’t at least be aware if it, I’m in serious danger of being the voice of someone else. But like you, there’s still a definite writing voice that is different to the random nonsense that can come out when I open my mouth! I laughed though when you said about how you talk much slower that the words on the screen suggest. I’m the opposite. As one of six, I’ve wound up talking very quickly and it’s writing that has slowed me down.

    As for no apologies, I hear you. Your pal is very, very right. 🙂

    • Ah! Dear El, that makes so much sense to me. I’m an only child, so I never had to compete with anyone to get my words out! What’s funny is that my husband is the youngest of four — and he’s even quieter than I am. My theory is that because the rest of his family are extroverts, by the time he came along, he never had a chance to say anything anyway. 😉

      But I have a penchant (ha!) for random nonsense, too — mainly after I’ve had my coffee. Tee hee.

  5. Jennifer says:

    You know, I just love your blog posts. Please don’t apologize, it’s my firm belief that I should never apologize for anything creative, let alone the length of a post, letter, novel…if it is too long they will stop reading. That is definite.

    My randomness is the pull of the psychic, spiritual things of the dreamy state as the writing me, contrasting starkly with my “real life”, the training as a geneticist, scientist, and rather stiff day job in healthcare communications as the working me.

    • “Never apologize for anything creative.” Jennifer, I think that is one of the best thoughts I have ever read. If you cared to write a post about that concept and expand the idea a bit, I would love to read it!

      I can understand the pull between the dreamy and the practical. My artistic life gets the bulk of my attention, and I hate to set it aside in favor of those “real life” activities…and yet, I get an unmistakable sense of satisfaction from calculating our monthly budget and paying the bills!

      Oh, the mind works in mysterious ways. 😉

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