The Work Awaits, Part Two

Almost exactly two years ago, I made my Good Letters debut with a post titled “The Work Awaits,” in which I wrote about my vocational insecurities and obstacles, and how living out my life as a writer hasn’t felt the way I expected it to.

This sequel is long in coming, and it’s my last post as a regular contributor.

The two years that have marked my tenure here happened to coincide with one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’ve used this space to work through many of the puzzles I found myself facing at midlife.

I’ve written about my father, depression, diabetes, not being a mother, Jazzercise, John Mayer, and Peanut M&Ms. Mostly I’ve wondered: Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing, in the way I’m meant to be doing it?

And also: Is this all there is? [Read more...]

Make Your Life an Altar

I recently came across a short devotional on the Abraham and Isaac story. You know the one:

God tells Abraham to take his only son up a mountain and burn him on an altar. God ultimately spares Isaac and never intended him to actually die. It’s a harrowing scene nonetheless, and one that many unbelievers cite as a reason for rejecting God.

I’m not going to attempt an apologetic here. What I want to explore has to do with the concluding thought from that devotional:

“So make your life an altar to God. Not to get what you want, not to spare something sacred, but to experience the faithfulness of God each day.”

“Make your life an altar” is easy to say and sounds so delightfully simple. But really, how do you do that? Is it an incantation? Say the words “make my life an altar, Lord” and sit back and assume it’s happening? [Read more...]

My Mother’s Lullabies

My mother used to sing us to sleep. Her lullabies weren’t choruses of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” repeated just until she could tell we were out. No, she brought her guitar into the room my sister and I shared, sat close in the dark, and as far as we knew, had nowhere else to go and nothing more important to do. In those moments, she was all ours.

Our favorite songs were the sad ones. Like “Summertime,” that great ode to longing for what never was. We also loved “All the Pretty Horses,” and others I’ve struggled to remember. Even a nonsense song like “B-A-Bay” could sound melancholy in her lovely alto, sung at a volume meant to lull.

Her lullabies were a gift, one way that she could comfort us during a time when our father’s drinking and all that came with it caused so many things in our life to go wrong. [Read more...]

John Mayer’s Born and Raised

Close your eyes and clone yourself
Build your heart an army
To defend your innocence
While you do everything wrong

So opens “The Age of Worry,” the second track from John Mayer’s latest album, Born and Raised. I’ve been obsessively listening to that song and the majority of the album all summer. It’s almost become my personal soundtrack for 2012.

That feels strange for me to type because I’ve never been what you could call a fan of Mayer’s. I’ve had a vague and often annoyed awareness of him and his music for the last decade. It’s been impossible not to. [Read more...]

Writing on Empty

Last week, I finished the fifth revision of my fifth novel, and got notice from my editor that it’s ready to go into production. I didn’t feel much like celebrating, and didn’t feel satisfaction at a job completed. Most of what I felt was relief, because this book has been something of an ordeal.

Though the book itself did present certain creative challenges, the ordeal, the battle, was not the book itself. Writing is always hard. The real issue these last two years has been creative burnout.

By the time this book comes out, I will have published five books in seven years. Before I submitted the book proposal to my publisher, I wrote in my journal (and I remember this distinctly—can still see the words on the page) that I should not take on another novel project until I got some rest. But I did. With no one twisting my arm, I submitted and sold the novel in proposal form. [Read more...]