On Tuesday night, I had the honor to attend my first book release party. With a rain and thunder storm percolating over Athens, Georgia, my dearest friend and I car pooled to our favorite college town for this exciting event. Having worked together for the past ten years, that car ride was not filled with the tink, tink, tink of rain drops on a car hood but instead with a stream of consciousness conversation that bounced around like a tennis ball in a dryer. From health and healing (she just had her gallbladder out, a surgery I know all too well), current colleagues, former colleagues, former students, books we’re reading, books we’re wanting to read, her kids, our pups, and of course, full analysis of season seven of Game of Thrones, and just like that, we were in Athens.
We arrived just in time for the sun to part the clouds leaving us dry in a surreal September breeze. My friend parallel parked (like a champ!), and we hopped out for a quick walk down the street to a hipster vegetarian joint where I stuffed myself with a crispy chickpea falafel, all the while continuing to catch up on what we’ve missed in each other’s lives.
After a long day on the road in Stephens County, I almost backed out of attending this event. I was tired. I had tons of work to do just from my two meetings that day, and Jason was at home sprawled out on the sectional under a down comforter with a cold. Clearly, I had excuses. But excuses are the enemy to whimsy. Not supporting your friends is the enemy to whimsy. Choosing work over hipster eateries, independently owned bookstores, and book launch parties is clearly, again, the enemy to whimsy.
By the time we were walking back to the event, I had this renewed sense of energy. Maybe it was the chickpeas. Maybe it was the conversation. But I think it was truly the excitement around the birth of this life. This book that my debut author friend carried around inside of her, first as a dream. Now that dream had come to life. This moment was so inspiring, so hope-filled.
When we turned the corner to enter the shop, there was already a line of people spilling onto the street. The inside of the shop was like a family reunion and a wedding processional all at once. More hugs. More friends to see. More lives to catch up on. And one incredibly long line to congratulate the bride, this new “book mom”, our talented friend, a legitimately, reputably published debut author.
When the event began, every folding chair was filled. Every nook and cranny, corner, and wall had someone propped against, eager to listen in.
Having already read the Advanced Reader Copy (I know people, just saying), I already knew the plot, was proud of the character development, and had heard the back story that lead to this birth. But yet, I couldn’t help but physically lean in as she spoke. It was like we had all gathered to witness a miracle. Out of the millions of authors, out of the millions of manuscripts, this one was chosen, painstakingly edited, meticulously picked apart till perfection (I’m sure she’ll argue that point). Yes, it was because of her talent. Yes, it was because of her cleverness and imagination. But yes, it was also because of her perseverance and grit.
In the middle of the launch interview, the interviewee, another Young Adult recently published author, asked about plotting and vision.
“Well, I’m a plotter,” my friend said. “You’re either a plotter or a pantser.” I had heard this before but for non-writers this is basically speak for how you go about your writing. Plotters come to the table (or laptop as it may be) with a vision, an outline, a set of rules and expectations for their work. Pantsers literally fly by the seat of their pants and just sit and write. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever comes, comes.
The two authors continued talking and interviewing but this thought persistented to mull over in my mind in the background. I immediately knew what kind of writer I was. I’m a pantser. When I sit, I just write. Sometimes with a topic, most times without. My titles always come last but pretty much every blog post I’ve written has come from one sitting. Some posted and published in that one sitting without much editing or reflection. When I give myself time to write, to have a voice outside my own headspace, the words come. I always pray those are His words.
I have a dozen or so blogs started, some fully finished that just don’t quite feel timely. I made myself a commitment a few months back that I refused to post, just to post. I want God’s words to be real time, real life, with real purpose.
Ok, so as a writer, I’m a pantser. My 20,000-word who-knows-if-it-will-ever-be-published (or finished) memoir with antidotes all over the place, proves this. But who am I in real life? Well, if you’ve ever known me for a half a second, you know I’m a full-on life plotter. I have been plotting my life for the past two decades. Go ahead and ask. Has any of it followed my plot outline? That’s a big fat, hell no.
Let’s face it. A lot of which I’ve plotted I’m so incredibly grateful that God did not allow those plots to be developed. I didn’t marry who I thought I would at sixteen. I didn’t go to college where I thought I would at eighteen. I didn’t get the job I thought I would at twenty-two (remember, I wanted to be Barbra Walters). I don’t live where I thought I would. And I’ve done countless things that I never, ever thought I would. God is so incredibly good to not allow bad plots to happen.
But then why do I continue to plot out my life? Why am I so incredibly disappointed in so many undeveloped plot lines (and I’m not just talking about season seven Game of Thrones plot lines)?
One word. HOPE.
I’m thirty-three years old. I have “unexplainable infertility” (thanks doc for that specific diagnosis).
Yet, I have hope!
I know that motherhood is not the end all, be all of life. I used to secretly mock people who were “mother women.” You know, those women who introduce themselves as mothers before anything else. Like their entire identity was all wrapped up in that one title. These one-dimensional women used to annoy me. Didn’t they have dreams? Didn’t they have desires? Where was their sense of adventure? Accomplishment? Whimsy? Did motherhood really fulfill all of that? I clearly don’t have the answers to any of those questions. Maybe they don’t either.
But aside from all of my sinful judgmental attitudes, I totally get it. I totally get the desire to want to have a tiny little version of the best parts of you and your husband. I totally get to want to hold that life and dream of what their life will be. I totally get the desire to coach them, cheer for them, champion them through all of life’s trials. I have the most incredible relationship with my parents (and miraculously now my in-laws) and my greatest fear is that I will never get to experience that relationship from the flip side. I will never have a thirty-three-year-old son or daughter who shares what I get to share with my parents on a daily basis.
I could go on and on about my fears. But as I wrote a few weeks back (Fear and Confirmation), “God desires us to recycle our adversity and turn it into a ministry. We are all shaped, for better or for worse, by a handful of experiences.” God has gifted me so much through these experiences of adventure, restoration, and whimsy. The greatest of all these gifts, I could have never plotted. I could have never plotted this deeply emotional relationship with God. I could have never plotted to have married my best friend. I could have never plotted to find my voice, to have the courage to speak that voice, or the ability and audience to express that voice.
Like my debut author friend spoke earlier this week, Emily Dickinson knew a thing or two about hope.
“Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops --- at all.”
Oh friends, I don’t care how old I am (well, at least I’m trying not to). I don’t care that my plotter lifestyle has redirected me in about a million different directions. And I don’t believe that whimsy dictates that I fly by the seat of my pants and allow life to happen as it unfolds.
I serve a God of adventure.
I serve a God of restoration.
I serve a God of whimsy.
And I serve a God of hope.
I am so incredibly grateful that hope is for both plotters and pantsers.
Hope has no age limit.
Hope has no restrictions.
Hope is boundless and limitless and “never stops, at all.”
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