Attempting Authenticity

pursuing an authentic life
November 26th, 2014 by africanstardust

Day 26 and Things Get Deep

The madness is slowly but surely nearing its end. And being a reflective person, I thought this would be a good time to do so.

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Why do I write? This NaNo has reminded me. I’m not sure exactly when I forgot this, but the important thing is that I’m going to do my best not to forget it again. I write because, quite simply, I must. Writing is It. Not It as in “all I need,” but It as in “the thing I have to do.” I have said this in the past, but through all my many phases of life and changing and growing and what not (and there have been many phases), the two things that have always stayed with me are God and writing. There have been rough patches, of course, with both of them, but I’ve never managed to get away from either. I’m not an expert with either, and I make mistakes with both, but there it is. So I hope that after November ends, I will remember this and not neglect my writing again, no matter how busy things might get next year.

hiloniqueThings have also gotten deep in the actual story. Scenes that I have been unsure about, struggling with, and changing for eleven years have fallen into place. Plot holes have been filled in – well, the important ones, at least. And I have stayed true to that book that I wrote in Estes Park, Colorado when I was twelve and busy chasing after fairies and hobbits with my lovely friend and fellow writer, Hilary. This book is so sentimental and nostalgic to me; it’s the first thing I wrote, the thing that opened up this whole world of writing…so I guess it’s fitting that it’s this book that has reminded me of the things I mentioned just now.

Anyway, enough of that…NaNo victories so far!
1. This is the first NaNo where I have not relied on extensive battle scenes for word count.
2. I’ve written almost every day of the month, except for two days when I intentionally gave myself a break. Usually I only write on 10-15 of the days, so this is big.
3. So far I’ve written over 40,000 words more than I ever have in a month before.
4. My typing speed has increased, which is always a plus and helpful for more things than writing fiction.

NaNo non-victories:
1. I am now drinking more coffee than I was drinking even during exam time. I’m not entirely sure why, but I’m going to blame it on NaNo.
2. That’s really the only negative here, and I’m not sure I’m really counting it as a negative :)

We’re seriously almost there! Let’s do this, people.

November 23rd, 2014 by africanstardust

Day 23…and…Yeah

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So it’s Day 23. A lot of the past week’s writing has consisted of me staring at my laptop clicking between scenes and trying to figure out how on earth to proceed. The silly thing is that I know what needs to happen next, but the words aren’t flowing. Ah, well, it’s week 3 and that is usually par for the course around this time of November! The important thing is to keep pushing through, even if I know that I’m going to have to seriously rework these scenes later on. And a little candlelight doesn’t hurt to get the inspiration going again :)

On the bright side, I know that what comes after this next part is going to be incredibly fun to write and I’m stoked for that, and I should get there by tomorrow! NaNo, after all, is all about pushing through and getting the story out. With that said, I’m going to keep this short and just say that we can all do this! It’s the home stretch. So here are some snippets and I’m off to write a bit more for the day.

Snippet 1

The man ran as fast as he could, and the messenger trailed along after him, more out of terror of what was behind than out of obligation. And the man knew, he knew in his heart that it did not help how fast he ran or how soon he arrived, they were not ready. This might well be the last time he could see the light of day, and he could not even see it, for it was smothered in the smoke of hatred and evil and greed, and now perhaps he would die without having seen the sun one last time. But he tried to push these things from his mind, as he had had to do for weeks and weeks now, because it was too painful to think of how things had once been and how they were so terribly and unalterably changed now. He missed the clear skies and open seas and lush meadows and thick, quiet forests with only the sound of streams trickling through the undergrowth to disturb the silence. He missed the smell of fresh air. But he could not think of those things; not now. They were coming.

Snippet 2

“The warrior is here,” she said.
“We know that,” I said, “but how do you?”
Cahmeelle looked at me, her own expression now very somber and grave. “We found out through our own spies. But the important thing is that we found this out from Tsifira’s people, and that means that she knows. She may be here.”
Instinctively Anaru, Goulius, and I placed our hands on the hilts of our swords. It was second nature by now. “So you mean she could be here? In the Cape?”
“Yes. I have been here myself for weeks, waiting for you, since I did not know where you would be. I have laid low and tried not to make myself stand out, but I have been keeping an eye out for her and for the warrior. I have not seen either, but I can tell you that some of her servants are here. And Tsifira has no concern for secrecy; if she has sent some of her more powerful servants, they will not hesitate to use their powers if need be, and then the whole colony will be on us. We must be very, very careful and not draw attention to ourselves.”
Adyah and I exchanged guilty glances.
“What is it?” Cahmeelle asked anxiously. “What have you done?”

November 18th, 2014 by africanstardust

Day 18 and Thoughts

my writing buddy extraordinaire

Guys, it’s the 18th! We’re over halfway there! My writing companion Aragorn (look at that face) has now finally realized that he can’t actually type, so thankfully he is now content to simply watch me.

So, even though I’m way behind on my personal goal for the month and will probably not make it, that’s okay because a) I’ve now written 31,000 more words than I ever have in a month’s time, and b) I’ve actually been writing every day, even if it’s only 727 words like yesterday. The discipline of writing daily has always been a struggle for me, even during NaNoWriMo, so this is kind of a big deal. My recent search history also includes such fascinating tidbits as the Mary Celeste, black spiced rum recipes, pub crawl (I forgot to add the ‘wordcount‘ part to it), and how to make bumbo. Things always get interesting in November, and Google possibly now thinks that I’m an alcoholic who lives in a shack on the beach and sees sea monsters and pirates on a regular basis. My friend sent this to me on Pinterest and I find it rather fitting:

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I’m sure we can all relate! Anyway, my tip for the next portion of NaNo is this: Do not be afraid to write badly. Because, really, it might end up not being bad after all, or at the very least it might end up being salvageable. So don’t not write because you’re afraid it isn’t going to be pretty. Just write.

And now for some snippets.

Snippet 1: A man receives a message from Cahmeelle.

Just then the cry of a hawk lifted him out of the mire of this dark thoughts and he looked up to see the bird descending from the sky. He recognized it; the bird was Cahmeelle’s, and she used it often to send messages, especially urgent ones she did not want anyone else reading. The hawk landed on his shoulder and the two exchanged pleasantries, and then the man took the message from the hawk’s foot.
“Going,” it read in elegant script. “Danger.”
He frowned. What on earth did that mean? What sort of danger? He knew short messages were necessary, but for the love of all things, could she not embellish a little? “What does she mean?” he asked the bird.
“She would not say, my lord. She simply rolled up the message and told me I was to stay with you for a time.”
The man sighed. “Typical,” he muttered, increasing his pace. “And I suppose I am to simply guess, then? She must know that in these times she cannot be so vague.”
“Perhaps,” said the hawk very cautiously, “she was afraid.”
“Of what?”
“On my last flight back to her, I was nearly captured by one of Tsifira’s griffins. They patrol the skies looking for me. Perhaps she thought that Tsifira might get hold of the message somehow and did not want to divulge more than necessary.”
The man looked with some admiration at the bird. “You do not seem afraid.”
“Neither do you, my lord.”
The man smiled sadly and stroked the bird’s head. “Fools who hope against hope have no time for fear,” he replied.
“Quite so,” the bird agreed and then busied himself picking at his feathers.

Snippet 2: Elizabeth’s nightmares.

“It took you long enough,” said the horse.
Surprised, I stared at him. Had he spoken? Impossible.
“There is blood on your hands,” he remarked.
I looked down and saw that he was right; both of my hands were soaked in blood, dripping with it, and the ground soaked it up thirstily. Where was it coming from? I did not feel pain or appear to be wounded. But there seemed to be an endless supply of it.
Come back, the wind whispered, and the hair on the back of my neck raised as goosebumps covered my body. Come back. Come back, it begged mournfully. I gripped my sword more tightly instinctively and felt its power roll through my body, as though it were alive in and of itself. I looked down at it, frowning. It grew warm beneath my hand. Come back. What once was lost is restored. What once was stolen has been returned. Come back. Blood was bubbling up from the ground now, and it was as though veins beneath the earth had been opened up and they were bleeding profusely. I jumped to my feet and tried to get clear of it, but soon there were streams of it everywhere, flooding the clearing and rushing off into the forest with a sickening gurgling noise. Come back. Come back. I raised my sword and looked into the forest. Steeling myself, and ready for anything, I plunged ahead into the darkness, while the gentle wind grew ever more insistent. Come back. Come back…

November 15th, 2014 by africanstardust

A Well-Worn Traveler

This morning, I woke up and had kind of a radical realization. I was reading my Bible and praying, as I try and do every morning, when suddenly it hit me. I am not afraid. (Pardon the long post, but this is something I have to write down, especially since fear and dealing with it has been a huge theme on this blog).

Those of you who know me and who regularly read my blog will know that the past year or so has been very intense. Job, David, and I became good friends. Not that I lost everything physically, but God certainly had plans for some major, major pruning. And just when I would relax and think, “Okay, this has to be it. I can rest now,” something else would happen. I mentioned in a post long ago that I had somehow managed to convince myself that because I am a Christian, nothing bad will happen to me, which of course is the opposite of truth. We have only to read the Bible to know that this is not the case. But when we are afraid of things, we will subconsciously twist words to mean what we want them to mean so that we can be falsely comforted. But I was wrong: something bad did happen. And it rocked my world view for months, and then more bad things happened, and they seemed to never stop.

You know those people who you look at and go, “He/she is weathered but they’re still here.” The well-worn travelers of the world, those people who have suffered and come out of it and they’re still standing. They are not afraid, because they know that no matter what happens, they will come out of it. They will be okay. God is sovereign. Life will go on; maybe not immediately, or even soon, but eventually, one day, life will go on, even if it is only in eternity.

I was not one of those people. I was afraid. Because, if I’m being honest, I was missing the point. If I live for myself and my own comfort, of course I’m going to be afraid. I have everything to lose. If my happiness, contentment, strength, and identity lie in the things I do, or the people around me, or what I own, or any circumstances around me, then of course I’m going to be afraid. Losing something of that, or, say, almost being mugged on my way home from campus, will shatter everything.

But I’m not here for me. I’m here for Him. And this morning I realized that I know that. That I can honestly say, as Job did, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” (13:15). Because, quite simply, I’m not the point. HE is the point. And quite easily and suddenly, my fear seemed to simply melt away and a brilliant peace took its place.

November 12th, 2014 by africanstardust

We’ve Been Here Before (I Recognize That Tree)

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The number of posts I have written that have something to do with learning to love yourself, or becoming free, or letting yourself grow and breathe and create, are insane. You would think that by now I would have it down…that I would be an amateur expert on this sort of thing. From my posts it might seem as though I have it all figured out and know exactly what I’m doing. I Have Arrived.

Sadly, no. I wish I had arrived. I wish I knew how to do this every day, consistently, regardless of circumstances. I wish I knew by now how to love myself and let God love me and never hit a bump in the road. But what can I say? I am human and humans struggle with this. In fact this is probably one of our biggest struggles, because if we can’t love ourselves or let God love us, we’re paralyzed. Perfect love drives out fear, and lots of other things, so if that is neutralized, then we are neutralized. There are moments of freedom – it’s getting better. But it’s not where it should be.

At the end of every semester, after the chaos ends and I am left alone with my thoughts in the quiet of my room, I find myself having to re-re-learn. Because despite what I might believe and know in my head, I sometimes do still find my identity in the marks I earn. I do still compare myself to others, in academics and in every other part of life. I do still, sometimes, catch myself thinking that I can’t do this, or that I’m not good enough, or not intelligent enough, not pretty enough, not creative enough, not interesting enough, not academic enough, not <insert every positive adjective here> enough.

What is that, even? How dare I tell myself those things? I would never tell my friends that they’re not enough and I would never think that about them. I would have to restrain myself from breaking the face of whoever said that about anyone. So why do I treat myself so badly? I think that most of us do this, and I think it should stop. I think we should decide, once and for all, to believe what God says. Because we believe the other things He says, but when it comes to our identities – when it comes to passages like Psalm 139 – it suddenly becomes difficult to believe Him. But let’s just decide, shall we?

All I know is I don’t want to be 50 before I figure this out. So this is me, deciding.

Have no fear, you will
find your way.
It’s in your bones.
It’s in your soul.

Mark Z. Danielewski

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