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Sarah Moon and the Writer’s Block Redemption

Trapped by writer's block! AHH!

I wish they made ex-lax for your brain because I have writer’s block.

Yup. I’ve been trying to write something for days and…nothing. I’ve got nothing.

So, I’m going to write about my failure to write, and what I’m doing about it. We’ll see within the next few days whether or not my efforts pay off. If you see another blog post by me, that means they’ve worked and maybe they’ll work for you too!

I’m reading Rob Bell: Say what you want about Rob Bell, but the man is good at making you think. He’s vague and says things that are a little “out there” sometimes. And he leaves lots of blank space. And I don’t mean

This

Kind

Of

Blank

Space.

I mean, he asks questions and leaves you to ponder them. So I’m reading his writing and hoping I’ll be inspired to fill in some of the blanks.

 

I’m having adventures!: I have this bad habit – I like to live like a hermit. I like to lock myself in my room with my books and my internet. It’s peaceful and relaxing, and because I’m an extreme introvert, it’s where I feel most comfortable.

But it’s good to get out of my hobbit hole now and then. It’s good to have fun and go out and explore the world…or, explore small town Ohio at least!

I guarantee this game will be the subject of a blog post someday.

So, today, I went on a tour of an old prison (the one they filmed “The Shawshank Redemption” in). I went thrift store shopping, bought a random old board game (“The Game of Happiness”- you have to collect the keys to happiness -love, money, friendship, faith, knowledge, and health-, and use them to build a ladder to the rainbow of happiness. I couldn’t make this up, people). I went to a drive-in movie for the first time.

I didn’t have to travel to Mirkwood and slay goblins or anything. I just had to leave my house and try some new things. ‘Cause how can I expect to write about life if I’m not out there living it?

 

I’m writing anyway…damn it!: Over the past few days, I’ve started about 20 drafts. Some of them had titles but no body. Others had about two words. Some looked a bit like this:

“GAH! MUST…write things!!! Jaklsdfjaowie!”

But I wrote! I did it. And I’m going to keep writing if it kills me. Eventually something coherent is going to come out, right?

Oh, hey, look at that!

Insert "Shawshank Redemption" pose here

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The problem with generalization

I have been unable to avoid thinking about the issue of gender roles in our society and in the church.

A few days ago, a famous pastor posted a facebook status calling people to mock “anatomically effeminate males,” and reactions to this brought up some interesting discussion in the blogging world. “What gives us the right to call a man effeminate?” people wondered. Where do our standards come from?

Inspired by others (especially Tyler L. Clark and Dianna E. Anderson) who were frustrated with the church’s traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity, I began to explore the issue myself.

I began a few discussions on facebook, and wrote a blog post myself, and some good conversation resulted.  However, I was left with unanswered questions.

The Bible doesn't lay it all out for us like this (fortunately)

“God, not society, defines gender,” was one criticism I received on Facebook, and several people “liked” it. But this simple answer ignores the fact that the Bible gives no such simple answer. The is no one way given to be masculine and one way given to be feminine.

So, do we follow the example of bold female leaders like Deborah, Esther and Phoebe? Or do we assume that Paul’s advice to the Corinthians about women keeping silent in the church is God’s wish for all women of all time?

Should men be rough and tough war heroes like David or gentle peacemakers like Jesus?

Should the church treat women as property, like Old Testament law did by enforcing a “you break it, you buy it” policy for men who rape virgins? Or should the church treat them as Jesus treated them- as friends and as people?

Should men be the leaders and breadwinners while women stay at home? Or should women follow the example in Proverbs 31 and be the ones providing food for the household?

Some of these questions seem to have more obvious answers then others. But all of these questions are based on Biblical accounts. Which accounts should bring us to our conclusions about gender roles (as Rachel Held Evans points out, we ALL pick and choose when it comes to the Bible. It’s not about whether we pick or choose. It’s about what we pick and choose)?

I’m sure God does define gender. But I think the diverse accounts in the Bible make it clear that gender does not place a person in one of two boxes.

“People are too complex to generalize,” said one friend of mine. I couldn’t agree more.

Humans aren’t commodities.

There isn’t a man factory and a woman factory in heaven. We don’t come off of one of two assembly lines. We were created, not manufactured.

NOT how the female brain works.

I am a woman. But that doesn’t put me in a box with all the other women in the world. My womanhood doesn’t require me to have specific character traits, abilities, or desires.

I am happy to accept my femaleness as part of my identity. But I will not let my femaleness detract from the other details that God has painted me with.

I am a work of art. And God is no minimalist. My femaleness is just one brush stroke of who I am.

What about you, readers? Do you ever feel like a single aspect of the work of art that is you gets more attention than it deserves? Perhaps you share my frustration with gender roles. Perhaps a physical or mental “handicap” prevents people from seeing the other details that God has given you. Perhaps people attempt to limit you based on your race, social status, or orientation. I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts!


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Why I Shouldn’t Write (According to Me)

Writing is hard work sometimes…

Like right now, for instance.

I’ve always felt called by God to write. That’s my part right now in this race that we call the Christian life. But I must admit that I’ve spent most of my life on the sidelines. Why?

Because I made too many excuses.

But lately, as I’ve been pondering these excuses, and as I’ve been reading advice from writers that I look up to, I’ve been learning something. Most excuses aren’t legitimate.

These are my 5 most commonly used ones, and why they are not, as the kids are saying , “legit:”

1. I don’t have time: Now, in my defense, I did spend the last year of my life working full time and going to school full time. But now that I’ve quit my job and am home for the summer, this excuse makes like a penguin and doesn’t fly. I’m pretty sure I’ve played Resident Evil for 15 consecutive hours on more than one occasion this month (remember the episode of Spaced where Simon Pegg plays Resident Evil 2 so much that he hallucinates that everyone he sees is a zombie? I can sort of relate). So, it’s not that I don’t have time. It’s that I waste time.

2. No creative ideas have come to me: I’m not sure why I take such a passive approach when it comes to writing. Sitting on my couch watching PBS and eating Combos, hoping that Creativity shows up on my doorstep isn’t going to help. For one thing, my doorbell is broken. But, seriously, if I want to fill my creative energy gauge, I should go out and do it. It’s not like creative energy costs $4 a gallon. I know exactly what inspires me- a Harry Potter novel, a Queen music video, a Beethoven symphony, a Serious Wednesday post at Stuff Christians Like…Inspiration is all around me. I just have to turn off Elmo’s World and go get it!

3. I can’t write too often. I’ll use up all my good ideas: It’s funny. I’ve never heard a pianist say, “I can’t practice too often. I might learn all the best sonatas.” I’ve never heard a baseball player say, “I can’t play too well. I might run out of home-runs to hit.” Why do I think that writing more is going to make me less creative?

4. It’s not going to make a difference: I wrote my first blog post in August of 2010. It got 2 views. But, one of those two original readers sent me a message telling me how much my post had helped her. I thought, “Every person is worth it. If I help just one person, that’s more than enough.” Now-a-days, my blog usually gets about 200 views a month. I get messages similar to that first message on a regular basis. You’d think I’d be happy. But then I look at these other blogs that get thousands of views a week and think, “Why am I even bothering?” Silly me. I answered my own question months ago: Because each person is worth it. If I help just one person, that’s more than enough.

5. I’m afraid: This one’s usually the killer. See, God could have asked me to blog about movies or video games or other, more impersonal topics. But he didn’t. He wants me to write because he wants me to be transparent. He wants me to get people to think differently. He wants me to be discerning. He wants me to give the gift of going second. Sometimes those things offend people. Sometimes those things kick my pride in the kidneys. Sometimes they make me feel vulnerable. Writing is scary. And it’s hard to crush the excuse of fear.

But writing is not a job for the faint of heart. We have to face, not only our own excuses as to why we should not write, but other people’s opinions on our writing ability. It takes courage.

And furthermore, following Christ is not a job for the faint of heart. Taking up a cross takes courage too. If I want to follow Christ with my writing, I need to put my excuses down and face my fears.

Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

I won’t be alone.



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When Stephen King Punched Me in the Face (figuratively speaking)

For the past four days, I have been blogging daily. I know that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but if you’ll take a look at the dates of my other blog posts, you’ll notice that this is a new record for me. My previous record for most consecutive days in which I blogged is probably a whopping 1.

But, a couple weeks ago, I finished reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing (which is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a writer, by the way). It inspired me, encouraged me, but most of all, it whipped my lazy butt into shape. Stephen King doesn’t use fluffy, inspirational phrases that make you believe in yourself as a writer. The man tells you like it is:

“If you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well. Settle back into competency and be grateful you have that much to fall back on.”

Ouch.

That hurt.

But it was exactly what I needed.

And since then, I’ve been writing every day. It’s taken me awhile to actually work up the courage to publish something everyday, but I’m hoping I can make it a habit.

So, tune in tomorrow! I’ll be writing about some of the excuses that we make for not creating! I know I have a few of my own, but if you’d like to share your own excuse of choice, do so in the comments section. I’d love your imput!


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The Art of Making Tacos (or, Think Outside the Bun!)

Two weeks ago, I blew a fuse on my creative energy. A series of painful events produced entirely too much of an emotional charge for me to be able to channel all the feelings into enlightening works of art.  Bright ideas would flare up and then short-circuit (I really hope my electrical analogies make sense…or that no electricians read this. I have not bothered do to any research).

In the midst of my emotional brown-out, I have been longing for time recharge my creative energy. If I just had time to sit and color a picture, or make a collage, or finger-paint, or write a four-chord song, or even just to stay in bed all day and dream, then maybe I could power my creativity enough to pursue prose again. As is typical of any college student, however, work and school prevented me from doing so. Work was the worst. The job I had once enjoyed had begun to plague me like a dementor. The late nights at Taco Bell, doing monotonous, yet mentally stressful tasks, were starting to suck my soul away, making me wish to God that I could just do a Patronus charm. But, alas, I have not yet convinced God to make Harry Potter real (…and believe me, I am trying), so I had to trudge on, feeling thin and nearly soulless.

Yesterday, after staying in bed all day in hopes of having some inspirational dreams (and coming up with only nightmares), I got up with the aid of my new best friend, Five Hour Energy. I put on my work uniform (which had, at this point, begun to spark images of Atlas, or John Bunyan’s Christian), and headed to the place that my subconcious had begun to refer to as Taco Hell. My mind shut out all thoughts that didn’t have to do with tortillas and taco meat filling as soon as I walked in the door. However, somewhere in the down time between dinner rush and bar rush, the proverbial fog lifted.

Somewhere, during a conversation about who-knows-what, one of  my managers referred to taco making as an “art.” I laughed, and he replied with, “What’s so funny? Why can’t making tacos be an art?” He then began to explain that the ancient Greek gods, like  “Jupiter and Pluto,” were skilled taco makers, and that he was a taco making demi-god that was the offspring of Zeus and a human. Normally, I would have taken the time to explain to him that he had just confused Greek mythology with its Roman imitation, but I was too caught up in what he had said before: “Why can’t making tacos be an art?”

Suddenly, I began to look at the food I was making in a very different way. I began to notice the comforting golds and browns on a regular taco. I began to notice the exciting way sour cream contrasted with the bright green lettuce and shiny red tomatoes on a burrito supreme. I began to love sprinking red nacho strips on a previously bland volcano burrito. The bright yellow nacho cheese, the blue Baja Sauce, the green guacamole, and the perfect canvas of a tortilla. Why had I not noticed the beauty here before? And all this time, the motto of my place of employment has been to “think outside the bun!” One would think I would have allowed myself a change of perspective long ago. There really is no reason why taco making can’t be art.

So, bored with your job? You don’t have to be. Wish you were an artist? You can be. Think you’re not creative? You are. It’s time for a change in perspective. See the beauty in the things that you do everyday, and pretty soon, the creative energy you get will allow you to pursue “higher” (though, who determines which arts are higher, really?) art forms. Inspiration is everywhere. You just have to “think outside the bun” sometimes.