Monday Morning Confessional

Monday Morning Confessional May 26, 2014

I confess that I’ve begun hitting snooze too often on my 5:30am wake up. I started this schedule in mid-March and until now I have successfully limited myself to one snooze, if any. Last week of school, though… not good. I think I’m at that point in forming a new habit where the novelty is gone, & I’ve begun to take for granted all the benefits of an early wakeup (even though there are so many). It’s a dangerous time in which the new habit can easily fall away. If I’m going to stick with it, I think it might take some serious cognitive restructuring–a new Pavlovian response to the sound of my alarm. Anyone want to take bets on whether or not I can do it?

I confess that my kids have gone to spend the week with the grandparents. Kristin and I spent our first free day working in the yard, going to a movie (Chef–it was a total feel good film), and binge watching Season 2 of The Vikings. We are almost done.

I confess that I am steadily making progress in fighting back the chaos threatening to overtake my yard and garage. Yesterday’s installment was a serious battle with an overgrown boxwood hedge. I’ve been ignoring these bushes for about two years & they have been enjoying their freedom. Since the hedge is situated just below the deck on the back of our house, trimming & cleaning out underneath it also provided me with a snapshot of what our boys think is acceptable to chuck over the side of the deck. Clearly we’ve got some instruction to do there. Next up is another full pickup load of mulch and some weed control.

I confess that I’m listening to the lectures from one of the “Great Courses” called “Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write About Anything.” I have no formal training as a writer, so I’m always a little suspicious of my own work. I’m learning that I instinctively do a few things right: I give a lot of weight to the way writing sounds poetically. I love good words & constantly attempt to expand my vocabulary.  I read a lot, and try to read good writers. I do a ton of revisions on my projects. I write every day. I return to things I’ve already written & published in order to reread them with a critical eye and the benefit of some emotional distance. I Try to respect the rules of grammar, even as I am breaking them. I am constantly working with editors who rip my writing to shreds & force me to grow. In that sense this course has been encouraging. However, the course is also challenging me, teaching me that I make a lot of rookie mistakes. I’m learning that I have a lot of work to do in terms of my technical writing skills. A few things I’m doing wrong are: I do not know grammar well enough. I need to improve my basic sentence structure. I am not intentional enough about constructing an audience before I write. I have not done enough work analyzing other people’s writing. I need to get better at anticipating objections to my arguments and answering them within the argument itself. Mostly, I’m become more aware that I need to better understand the way I write–the things I do by instinct (good or bad). Just understanding and naming what I’m doing will help me to refine those skills, and then to expand/refine them.

I confess that I seem to have a category of friends with whom I am struggling. These are people with whom I am friendly, but I wouldn’t say we are extremely close friends (although we may have been at some point). Usually we have interacted professionally or through school, but are not currently working together. Part of the pattern seems to be that we are involved in similar things professionally (ministry, music, writing, or parenting). My struggle is this: I have begun to notice a pattern. It seems like the only time we interact is when these folks are making some sort of semi-critical dig at me, usually disguised as humor. Personal or online interactions seem to involve an oblique critique of me or my work. They catch a misspelling and point out my mistake with a little joke. I share something about which I am excited, and they respond with a subtle diminishment. They point out that I’m not the first to make an argument, or link to a place someone else said it better (sometimes in their own work). I remember sharing on Facebook how excited I was that one of my heroes was writing a blurb for one of my books. A friend asked if my hero was now a professional blurb writer, as if to say he writes so many blurbs that the one he wrote for me was really no big deal. I confess that I have begun to approach these interactions with a certain amount of dread, anticipating that our time together will really just be an opportunity to put me in my place, to point out my flaws & mistakes & shortcomings. I’m sure these folks have no idea that this is bothering me, and I can’t help wondering if I’m bringing it all upon myself by being braggy or egocentric in some way. I’m trying to be on guard for this, but we don’t know what we don’t know, you know? One aspect of this situation for which I am grateful is that I’ve become more aware of this tendency in myself. I’ve begun to notice the subtle ways in which I do the same thing, often without even realizing it, and I can catch myself before I start. I can find the place within me that is truly excited and proud of my friends, and let myself speak from that place. The upshot is that I have been reminded of how important it is to cheer people on, to encourage one another, and to avoid self-protective postures, jealousy, and scarcity–and for this I am grateful.

Okay friends, that’s my confession for this Monday. Space for your confession has been provided in the comments section below… have at it!

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  • Christopher Heintzelman

    I confess that though I used to consider confessing on MMC to be one of my healthiest and most cathartic disciplines, I have not confessed for over a year.

    I confess that the concept of, even the digits it takes to type, “5:30 AM” make(s) me shiver with revulsion. I do not doubt for one second that getting up at this time would be good for me, but in my world, 5:30 is to the marathon as 6:30 is to the jog (or even walk) around the block, and I’m not even making that trip without a stitch in my side. In other words, I’ll need to get into a little better shape first.

    I confess that the next few years of my life will be punctuated by the battle against natural chaos. We recently moved onto approximately 10 acres of badly neglected land with the intent of creating a small homestead. Fencing, cutting, building, tilling, buying, weeding, watering, and just general tending are all in my future. I confess that I’m excited to get my hands dirty with good old soil.

    I confess that I don’t write enough. I believe the problem is my desire to be profound. I like to write things that are either mentally or emotionally moving. I also have a tendency to never take myself too seriously and this lends a comic, almost cheeky, voice to my writing. Occasionally I can pull off both, but the pressure that I put on myself to be both witty and profound generally winds up smothering more than inspiring me. I am toying around with the idea of writing bedtime stories for my kids. I have found kids to be the most honest and yet forgiving critics. Perhaps I will test this with my writing. I know that the desire to write something, anything, burns in me like an addiction, but I finding the craft more and more inaccessible as I allow the pressure to produce a certain type of work stifle me. Bedtime stories may be right up my alley.

    I confess that I am listening to a Great Courses lecture series on Literature at the same time as I’m listening to a book of short stories by Stephen King. I’m learning about Oedipus, Othello, the works of Moliere, and Brecht. I’m hearing poetry by Shakespeare, Elliot, Whitman, and Dickinson, and there’s much more to come. Whenever I take a break from this 83 hour course, I fill the time with Stephen King. I’m captivated by the skill of King to completely capture me into a short story in the first page or two. I confess that I can’t help but wonder how the Literature teachers will treat guys like Stephen King in a couple hundred years.

    I confess that my work is very stressful right now. I also confess that I need new coping mechanisms for dealing with my stress. Food and games on my phone are not healthy.

  • Tim_Suttle

    love it… and so I say, “Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.”