When You Don't Know What to Write // tips for beginners

Monday, March 14, 2016

I spend half my life writing, hence the name of my blog, and I've lost inspiration more often than not. A million and one negative thoughts swim through my subconscious. What's the point of writing something no one will ever read? What if my writing is dry and incomplete? What do I do about all my plot-holes? What if I'm made fun of for my ideas? What if I'm not good enough? Or the alternative: My novel will sell three billion copies an be printed in every language. By the end of the day, I've either convinced myself that I'm too good for everyone or that I've fallen miserably short and will never catch up.

It's human nature: we're either over confident or under confident, and neither is good. You can go into a project thinking it'll be easy-peasy, that you'll never even have to think, and you're miserably disappointed. You can also shoot yourself down before you've even begun. In both scenarios you're left utterly helpless.
wise words, y'all.

There is one piece of advice that nearly every writing blog will tell you. In order to learn the basics of novel-writing and writing in general, there is one ever-true anthem that can never fail you:

Ugh, I know you think your life is boring -- mine is, too. I don't intend to write a novel about my own life. You'd be asleep by the third page and would probably end up more confused than you already were. My point is that you must know your characters, your setting, your purpose, and your plot better than you know yourself. You can't go into a novel with absolutely no idea who or what you're writing about. You have to have a plan. And, coming from me, that means something, because I hate plans. I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal. I've tried to write a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants novels, and they don't work. The result is always a completely under developed character with a completely under developed plot and a really boring story.

You don't have to write about your home town or your high school or your best friend. Writing what you know is dependent upon two things: research  and creativity. What time period do you want you story to take place in? What was the culture like? Type of government? What place?  Research it  Why is your character the way she is? What are her motives to reach the resolution? What are her strengths and weaknesses? What is her one fatal flaw? Is your novel story taking place in a self- created fantasy world? Create it.

Are you discouraged? Don't be! I've found a list of 440 books set in high school. Whether you're in elementary school, middle school, high school, or college, your voice should be heard. You have a right to write, so exercise is wisely. Whatever you choose to research and create, do it, and do it well. Don't scare yourself into giving up. You can  and you will do this. I believe in you.

Are you totally inspired to create something amazing? Comment below if you are and let me know what bestseller you're cooking up so I can add it to my TBR list

Creating is a beautiful thing, isn't it?        

The Height of Life

Thursday, March 10, 2016

I don't know why I've never thought of it before. For years, since the day I was born, really, I've been searching for life. I've looked in every nook and cranny in the entire city of Clemson, and I've always known that true life comes in Jesus Christ. Why, then, do I discount the privileges I have as a child of God? Why do I keep telling myself that I'm on my own? Why do I keep enduring instead of living?

When you're accepted into God's kingdom, when you let Jesus into your heart, a whole new way of life becomes available to you. You are no longer bound by the chains of society's discontentment. You no longer have to search far and wide to find life because you've already found it. In Jesus Christ we find the purest, truest form of joy and contentment. We indeed find the height of life. And if you're all of a sudden bored by the thought of God's word, if you think you'll find something better out there, it's not because Jesus is no longer satisfying; it's because you're not searching hard enough.

Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." God knows when we're only seeking him half-heartedly. And when you're only half-way seeking, you're not really seeking at all. With God, you're either for him or against him. There is no in-between faith. It's all or nothin', baby -- if you're not in, you're out.

Jesus isn't Santa Claus. You cannot simply pray, Make me a good person, please, and poof! you're a saint. The very design of God's grace that is given so freely is that we'll be motivated to seek the Lord and to live for him, because God's grace is not only saving grace but transforming grace. Every day of our Christian lives we are being transformed and sanctified. Every day God helps us overcome sin a little more, love him a little more, and exhibit godly traits a little better. And when we stop seeking, we stop finding. So, Christian, if you all of a sudden find yourself discontent with God, do not blame him. The problem, I believe, is that you've stopped seeking him, so, naturally, you're not finding him.

It was with this very thought that I decided to try and really seek God. So on Monday afternoon I pulled up a podcast episode (basically just a free sermon from apple), and what God chose to reveal to me that day was so amazing. See, I thought that I'd get the nourishment I'd need from this podcast, that this guy could tell me everything I needed to know, and I'd have to put in no effort whatsoever. And, as usual, I was wrong

Francis Chan was speaking to some Filipinos, basically telling them that he was about to preach the gospel to them. Before he did, though, he told them this: one day, everyone will see God, Christian or not, so you better know what you believe and why you believe it. Don't just take someone's word for it -- dig deep. Look into the word for yourself and study it like there's no tomorrow. He used the example of the Bereans in Acts 17: "Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so." Your very life depends upon the gospel you believe, so make sure you know what you believe and why you believe it.

And this, I've found, is the height of life. When we're pursuing God, his word, and the life he has for us, we find the most fulfillment and purpose. Yes, the world will look down on us, but our reward is an eternal one. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says, "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,  as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

That is our goal, y'all: the eternal weight of glory waiting for us, the voice of Jesus when he says, "Well done, my good and faithful servant." Keep searching, and I promise, you'll find him, and in him true life and love.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

HEY Y'ALL GUESS WHAT?! THE VLOG IS HERE. SO without further ado, here ya go :)


Again, thank y'all for all of your amazing questions. I felt so loved to have so many to answer :) I told Lauren I'd leave a list of devotional books I like, so here they are (they're not really devotional per se, but they all focus around the gospel and its impact.)

The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges
Do Hard Things, Alex and Brett Harris
Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman
Counter Culture, David Platt

I'm currently reading Redefining Beautiful, and it has space to write in. Also, Who I am in Christ by Natalie Durso leaves space to write. Those use more of a hands on approach if you're looking for that.

And -- in case you were wondering -- the book I kept obsessing over is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It's based off Hosea (a book of the Bible), and, as many times as I said it in the video, it is so good.

And anonymous commenter said, "1 John 5:16-17 talks about how there are sins that lead to death and notes that there are sins that do not. How would you interpret this passage? "

Thank you, Anonymous, for the challenging question!! I didn't have time to talk about it in the vlog (it was originally forty minutes, y'all. FORTY minutes. *eye roll emoji*), so I decided to write about it instead.

At first I read the verses indicated, but I decided it was easier to understand with the surrouding context, like all bible verses are. Here is the passage in ESV:

"13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.

19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols" (1 John 5:13-21).

This passage, as you may have noticed, is a little bit challenging (especially to a sixteen year old girl, i.e. me). To make it a little more clear, I decided to look up the Message version. The message isn't a direct translation, so it's not appropriate at all times, like in sermons, but when trying to gain an understanding it can be okay to use. So I'll quote the same passage using the message text:

"13-15 My purpose in writing is simply this: that you who believe in God’s Son will know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have eternal life, the reality and not the illusion. And how bold and free we then become in his presence, freely asking according to his will, sure that he’s listening. And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours.

16-17 For instance, if we see a Christian believer sinning (clearly I’m not talking about those who make a practice of sin in a way that is “fatal,” leading to eternal death), we ask for God’s help and he gladly gives it, gives life to the sinner whose sin is not fatal. There is such a thing as a fatal sin, and I’m not urging you to pray about that. Everything we do wrong is sin, but not all sin is fatal.

18-21 We know that none of the God-begotten makes a practice of sin—fatal sin. The God-begotten are also the God-protected. The Evil One can’t lay a hand on them. We know that we are held firm by God; it’s only the people of the world who continue in the grip of the Evil One. And we know that the Son of God came so we could recognize and understand the truth of God—what a gift!—and we are living in the Truth itself, in God’s Son, Jesus Christ. This Jesus is both True God and Real Life. Dear children, be on guard against all clever facsimiles."

I think we find the key text in the last paragraph above. John is simply saying that true Christians do not take part in certain sins. You may catch them lying and maybe even cheating on a test, but a true Christian will come to repentance because of the power of the Holy Spirit inside of him/her. If a man has willingly, with a clear conscience, murdered someone, for instance, then there is a chance that, even if he claims to be in Christ, he is not a Christian at all.

Now, I want to point out that it is not our place to judge whether or not someone is saved. That can be dangerous for us as Christians and will cause a spirit of pride to grow inside us. I've been there before:

"Well, that guy just cursed, and I've never cursed in my life, so he can't be a Christian" or "She just lied through her teeth but claims to be a Christian. There's no way she can actually be one."

Those are actual thoughts I've had, y'all. It's dangerous -- very dangerous -- to start thinking that you have the authority to judge what's inside someone's heart. You don't; only God does.

Back to the point: In verses 19 and 20 of the ESV text, John notes that the "evil one," i.e. Satan, does not have a grip on those who are in Christ. We are possessed  by the Holy Spirit -- God Almighty lives inside of us -- so, of course, He will give us strength to resist the devil.

John's main point, I think, is that we can pray for strength to resist temptations, such as lying, lusting, or even things like not having confidence in God (aka doubt). And in making that point he has to note that you can't pray for an unbeliever to resist sin and expect it to work. In other words, you can't pray someone out of hell. But, if we are in Christ, and we have the confidence that He will give us the strength to resist temptation, He will.

James 4:7 says, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee." Verse 8 holds and amazing promise: "Draw  near to God, and he will draw near to you."

In a way, I think John is pretty much saying the same thing in this passage that we looked at today. I can't say much more without studying it a whole lot, so I'm not trying to sound scholarly. For this post, just remember this: Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. He will, and He does. It's the kind of thing that you really have to experience for yourself to understand just how amazing it is.

Did you like the vlog?! comment below if you have any questions about the passage above, and let me know if you'd like for me to do another one in the future!! 

ONE MORE THING!!! I'm planning on doing a review of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, so stay tuned for that!