Box Jumps in the Writing Life

This is a traditional box jump, and this is not me. The box jump at my gym is a platform design, and I’ve yet to conquer level 4. One day!

When my husband and I joined a gym together, he introduced me to the box jump. In theory, it’s simple, a metal platform that you jump on with both feet at the same time. You can move to higher levels as you advance in ability. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work.

In theory, publishing is simple too. You have a great idea. You write it down on paper. You publish it, and it becomes a New York Times’ best seller.

And you laugh. Of course, publishing doesn’t work that way. Mastering the box jump isn’t so easy either. In fact, it has many parallels with the writing life.

Mental Hurdle: Fear

When I first step up to the box jump, all I can envision is catching my foot on the bottom and losing my front teeth. So, I stretch, procrastinate, and then finally step toward it. Deep breath. Swing arms. Grit teeth. And … freeze.

James gently reminds me, “It’s all in your head, you know.”

Mostly, he’s right. There are my physical limitations, but what’s really holding me back is my fear of getting hurt.

We writers have our share of fears, don’t we? Sometimes, we call them “writer’s block” where try as we might, we can’t find the next word of our project. We stress that we’ll never be able to finish, and our paralysis freezes up the wheels of our imaginations.

Other times, we face the fear of rejection from agents and editors. Although refusals are a realistic part of the writer’s life, that doesn’t mean they sting any less. Perhaps even more unnerving is the day we do publish something, and we fear no one will read it or like it.

However, as Scripture reminds us, fear is not supposed to be our focus. 2 Timothy 1:7 states:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (NKJV).

Although this truth doesn’t discount our very real fears, it does redirect our attention to think on what is true and what we can do through the power of Christ.

To read the full post, visit The Write Conversation. I’m grateful to Edie Melson for sharing this two-part series on her award-winning blog for writers. 

Even if you’re not a writer, you can probably relate. What are some personal “box jumps” you’ve had to overcome?

~ Kristen

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Revolutionary Love

Love perseveres in spite of obstacles. Love gives without any guarantee of receiving. Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

If I told you those themes are part of my latest novel, you might guess I’m a romance writer, right? Well, they are, but guess again. The Revolutionary is a dystopia.

Wait. Dystopia? You mean one of those futuristic novels so dark they make the problems of our own world look like a walk in the park? Yes and no. Though dystopian novels have certain bleak characteristics, I think that setting paints the perfect contrast to the hope characters are fighting (and sometimes dying) to gain.

How can a dystopia present an accurate view of love? I’m glad you asked.

#1 – Love perseveres in spite of obstacles.

Obstacles are everywhere in dystopian novels, and The Revolutionary is no exception. The first chapter in this sequel to The Revisionary opens with my heroine Portia in a satellite slave camp where prisoners die like rabbits, and no one cares—no one but Portia’s protector Gath. Whether he’s trying to shield her from the freezing wind or take a lash for her, he selflessly destroys his own health to preserve hers.

As a result, Portia struggles with guilt. Surely, he has already done enough for her. How can she ever repay him? But then, there are those horrible rumors about Gath. Does he feel he owes her a debt because the accusations are true?

But that’s the thing. Love doesn’t keep score. Whether or not Gath is as guilty as people say, Portia resolves to rescue him and the other prisoners.

#2 – Love gives without any guarantee of receiving.

When a spy ringmaster helps her escape the satellite, Portia could try to run and get her life back. But the reality is that without her new role as a plant inside the capital of Crystal, her brother and friends won’t have any chance of learning why the ruling Dome wants to execute prisoners in mass.

Plus, unless she takes this job, she’ll never learn if her long-time friend Luther is on her side and cares about her the way she does for him. But when she sees him again for the first time in months, her blood curdles. He keeps company with the ruling echelons, the very people who want her dead.

They seem stuck on two different ends of a pendulum, never knowing when their paths will cross and if they have the same motives. Yet they desire the other’s good, even when they don’t know what that will mean for them.

#3 – Love sacrifices until it hurts and then sacrifices some more.

When God reaches into someone’s life, He can transform even the cruelest person into a new creation. In Acts 9, the Bible tells the true story of the transformation of persecutor Saul into the Apostle Paul.

Gath’s character arc in some ways parallels that of Paul. His faith enables him to love others—even his tormentors—in a way few people understand.

And though he’s merely a shell of his old self, he volunteers for a one-way mission, even when he finally has a chance at his own happy ending.

True love is sacrificial, not thinking of its own interests but of “the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4 ESV).

Closing thought

Whew, heavy stuff, right? I didn’t say dystopias are all sunshine and roses, but even they can present a beautiful, though battered, representation of what true love looks like.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s all well and good for make-believe, but that’s not real life.” If fiction doesn’t mirror real life, then there’s no point in reading it.

Besides, real life offers its own examples. Just look through the Bible for story after story of sacrificial love in action.

  • Jonathan willingly gave up his right to the throne for his friend David.
  • Ruth turned her back on her own people to care for her mother-in-law.
  • Esther faced the king on behalf of her people at the risk of her own life.
  • The Apostle Paul endured unspeakable torture for the gospel’s sake.
  • Then, there is the ultimate example, Jesus, who died on the cross for thankless sinners.

Sure, there are many failures in Scripture as well, but I find those examples encouraging, too. (And trust me, my characters make their fair share of mistakes.) However, through mistakes, we can discover second chances. In spite of past hurts, we can learn to love well.

Now that’s a revolutionary view of love.

~ Kristen

I’m grateful that this post first appeared on Christi Perry’s blog Not Born Fearless, which offers an honest, transparent look at dealing with fear and uncertainty in everyday life. 

 

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3 Ways to Shred Fear on Life’s Slopes

Recently, this Florida girl left her state behind to experience snow and skis for the first time. And. I. Loved. It. All.

Yes, I’m not too proud to say the white stuff stole my breath and claimed a space in my heart. That said, I wasn’t an instant star on the slopes. I wiped out hard and often, but by the end of the trip, I truly enjoyed skiing, despite my ungraceful moments.

I learned so much on the slopes and realized that some of those same principles apply to our Christian lives. We can’t let fear keep us from growing; instead, we can intelligently channel that emotion to discover new potential.

#1: Abandon the Bunnies

There’s a difference between caution and fear. Caution kept my unskilled self off the icy black slopes, but fear would have kept me on the bunnies.

It didn’t. Instead, I abandoned the training slope on day one and went for the green. In the process, I mastered my trademark 360 wipe-out move and discovered I have speed/control problems. However, I wouldn’t have improved my slowing techniques with the pizza move and side-to-side method if I hadn’t had a place to experience speed.

The same is true in life. Sometimes, we’d rather stay in our comfort zones, but we can’t grow if we don’t encounter steep places and challenges. As James says, it’s the “testing” of our faith, not the sheltering of it, that develops patience (James 1:3). Only in the middle of the slopes do we identify our weaknesses and practice mastering them.

#2: Don’t Ride Lifts Alone

If you’re a pro skier, you’re more than welcome to go solo. But a newbie should always have someone go with her the first time.

I’m thankful I did. I was so eager to get off successfully that I actually jumped off the lift. (You’re not supposed to do that.) Thankfully, my friend was right there, grabbed my arm, and helped me up from my awkward split in the snow.

Sometimes, we think we can handle life solo (pride), but the fact is that we need people alongside us to pray with us (James 5:16), sharpen us (Prov. 27:17), and fellowship with us (Hebrews 10:25).

#3: Wipe-Out and Recover

As I tell my students, we can’t be afraid to fall. Though sometimes painful and embarrassing, failure is often the best teacher.

If a new skier is scared to wipe out, she will never learn to ski. Truth is, eating the snow taught me more than caution would have.

  • I learned how to get back up. The bottom line is that if you can’t get yourself back upright, you can’t get off the bunnies.
  • Wiping out gave me motivation to improve my slowing techniques, because I very much wanted to get down the green without falling. (That only happened two or three times, but the sense of achievement was sweet.)
  • I learned to laugh at myself. Everyone wipes out at some point (some people harder than others). The key is to shake it off and keep smiling.

Those are good reminders for life. Uncomfortable or embarrassing places allow God the opportunity to work His good through our mistakes and mess (Romans 8:28). How we respond to those situations gives us a chance to model His grace at work in our lives.

Happy Shredding

I can’t wait to go back to the slopes one day and hone my skills, but until then, I want to remember what I learned.

Don’t let fear keep you from discovering new places and hidden potential. Remember 2 Timothy 1:7? We are not to approach any part of this life with fear but with God’s power, love, and fortitude.

~ Kristen

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Cone of Uncertainty and Giving Up Control

Last week, I had a hard time focusing, and this week started much the same. If you live in Florida, you may have shared the same problem.

When I stared at Hurricane Irma’s cone of uncertainty, I wondered how the storm’s path might impact me. Not having owned my home for even a year, I found myself wanting to hold tightly onto what I had little control to protect.

Though I’m grateful the storm didn’t damage my home, the experience made me realize I need to hold more loosely, not only to the things of this life, but also to choices and circumstances whose results I can’t control.

Because at the end of the day, control can be a struggle for many of us.

A good friend of mine kindly reminded me of my problem. She pointed out that I like to plan and prepare, and when I can’t, I tend to stress.

However, life presents many scenarios that blast at our insecurities. Maybe we’re faced with a choice, and we don’t know if it’s the right one or not. Maybe we don’t know which job to accept or which decision will be best for our family.

Recently, I read Lysa TerKeurst’s The Best Yes. It’s an amazing book on priorities, the power of the “small no,” and how to save your “best yes” for the calling God’s given you. If you’re a young adult or adult wanting guidance in decision-making, I’d encourage you to add it to your reading list.

TerKeurst covers all the bases of praying, exploring our options, and talking to wise mentors and family when making choices. However, there comes a point when we can’t let “analysis paralysis” keep us from moving forward.

Here’s what she says about taking that next step:

I don’t think we should fear stepping out of God’s will. But if you desire to please God with the decision you make and afterward it proves to be a mistake, it’s an error not an end.

An error, not an end. I love that.

We can’t control storms, nor can we control the outcomes of all the choices we make. But we can trust that if we suffer wind damage or disappointment, neither is an end in itself. By God’s grace, we rebuild and move on.

Praying for all those affected by Hurricane Irma.

~ Kristen

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The Pixelated Lens of Fear

Fear isn’t just something that plagues children. Although we might laugh about monsters in the closet now, the truth is that we all struggle or have struggled with fear at some point. Only, our fears morph into more subtle villains, masked with titles like rejection, self-doubt, and failure.

Or, they may even be seemingly laughable “little” things that tempt us not to trust God … like my somewhat irrational fear of needles. (I say “somewhat” because trypanophobia is a word in the dictionary, which makes me guess I’m not alone.)

Today, I’m honored to be a guest on author Jerusha Agen’s The Fear Warrior Blog. There, I’m sharing a challenge about fear. When fear blurs our vision, how can we shift our focus back to where it needs to be?

Click here to read the post. I’d love to hear your comments!

~ Kristen