I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fun when the freak-out's done.

About this time last year I nearly hyperventilated for the first time in my life. Not because Jack Bauer was once again attempting something insanely heroic (or heroically insane?). Though I will admit to clutching a throw pillow 'til my knuckles turned white during my weekly dose of 24 back then. Yeah, 2011 just isn't the same without Jack.

But seriously, my bout of “I think I need to do the paper bag breathing thingy” had nothing to do with television and everything to do with my first writing contest experience. Two contests, actually, with matching deadlines.

I. Freaked. Out.

We're talking epic proportions of losing-it. I was convinced my entries weren't up to snuff. Convinced I wasn't ready. Convinced, in that moment, that everything – my whole just-beginning writing career – hinged on the contest results.

Well, I drank a lot of Diet Coke with lime and ate a couple cookies (or five) and eventually got brave enough to submit my entries. And all was well. (Except for the no more 24 thing.)

But that experience of going all “Meltdown Melissa” on contest deadline day has stuck with me. I learned some stuff about trust and surrender, which I've previously written about. But I also learned something else...something about me. Something, I think, that probably applies to other writers as well.

And that's this: Sometimes we're just waaaaay too serious about our writing. Seriously. :)

Don't get me wrong – writing is a big thing in my life. I want to make a career of it, to excel at it. Which is why I can't get enough of My Book Therapy, am addicted to the MBT retreats, participate in ACFW and a local writing group.

But writing isn't everything. Contests aren't everything. Conferences, networking, retreats aren't everything. And when I get so serious about my writing dream that I lose my joy and peace, then I've made it into something it isn't meant to be.

Writing is so very personal; our stories are close to our hearts. Mix emotions with passion and we're bound to enter heavy territory now and then. Throw in the fact that the publishing biz isn't exactly a whiz to break into, and oh, how easy it becomes for a writing dream to turn into a fun-sucking demand.

But that can't be what God intended when he put a love of stories in our hearts. Sometimes I think we've gotta just relax, close the laptop and remember: This is fun. I love spilling my heart onto the page. I love listening to the voices of my characters. I love crafting a compelling plot.

And when we're tempted to turn all my-whole-life-depends-on-this-serious – when we're edgy about contests, moody about a critique, convinced we'll never see our words printed and bound on a bookstore shelf – maybe that's when it's time to examine our hearts. 

Inevitably, in those take-a-deep-breath moments, I am reminded that joy and peace come from Christ alone. That winning every contest out there, publishing bestseller after bestseller can't compare to the love He has for me. Suddenly, the pressure's off. I can breathe again. The fun is back. 

How about you? Do you ever hit too-serious mode when it comes to writing? What helps you "get your fun back?"

Melissa Tagg


  1. LOVE the pic, & LOVE your fun tone, MTagg. You have a great voice that makes me want to read more and more of your stuff...and I'm sure I and many will have opportunity.

  2. LOVED this post. You spoke right to me. I've been the over emotional, moody, obsessed writer with nails chewed to the nub, and I had no peace and joy.
    God gave me a nice big wake up call. I think we do need to take a breath, enjoy what we do but also enjoy all the other things God has given us. Thanks so much for this post.

  3. Sign I've gone over-the-top freak-out about writing: When I think,"If my family would just leave me alone I could do the important stuff . . . "
    Um, no. My family is important stuff. They're the people in my life--not the stuff.
    So, then I have to push away from my desk with computer with 2 monitors (Hey! I'm an editor!) and walk away from my writing life to focus on real life!
    It's about focus--What am I staring at most? The words on the page--or the faces of the people I love?
    Love your post, Melissa. It's one to read and re-read.

  4. I'd love to have that panic button on my keyboard! Then when I freak out because I'm waaaay behind on where I think I'm supposed to be in my writing, I could pound it instead of my head.
    Great post, Melissa, with a great reminder about what's really important.

  5. Wait- I'm not supposed to be FrEAkInG OUt? So, that's where I've gone wrong. Great post, MTagg. I've been so busy that I just been paranoid about everything on the "list", so great reminder to slow down, thank God, and do what you love for His Glory.

  6. Thank you, Dee! The photo is fun, isn't it...it's the button I need when my plot's not working for me...and in the ideal world, when I press it, it will start playing soothing music - like Coldplay - and make a Diet Coke with lime magically appear on my desk. Ooh, better yet, instead of Coldplay, Susan May Warren's voice will come from my computer and walk me through my story problems! Yes!

    Okay, I've officially had too many cough drops this morning...

  7. Thanks, Jessica! You're so right...God has given us so much to enjoy. How easy it is to become consumed, singularly focused...but then we miss out on so much!

    By the way, I clicked on your name and found your own blog. I LOVED your "10 things you probably don't know about me and may wish you didn't after you read it!" list...:)

  8. I loved what you said about joy and peace coming from Christ alone. So true!

  9. A desk with two computer monitors, TEE! Love it! So do you usually have two projects up at once?

    You're right, real people have to take precedence over our pretend people! Even if sometimes the pretend people feel really, really real... :)

  10. Thanks for the comment, Pat. Yeah, you know, banging your head can't be healthy. Do you remember the Sesame Street character Don Music? He would always get frustrated and bang his head on his piano. Well, some parents council or something raised a fuss about that - they didn't want kids copying Don Music. So, that muppet became Guy Smiley instead.

  11. Hey, Amy! You know, you've got a lot going on what with a potential teaching gig and all. So, can I blame you for freaking out? No, no I can't. BUT, I can offer this encouragement - I co-taught a couple college classes shortly after graduating. No teaching experience. Really nothing to qualify me other than journalism experience. And, as weird as it felt to hand out grades, it was a great experience (and paid for a return trip to England - woohoo!). You can do it! You will rock!

  12. Teri!!!! So fun to see you here!!! I hope you're feeling well these days. So many Ponderer prayers coming you way...we love you!

  13. Melissa, I loved your post. You are right, my perspective sometimes gets waaaay out of whack. I had this optimistic dream of being close to done wtih my story by the end of April. Well, I'm not even half way there now. Sooooo, God is teaching me that my story will be done in His timing, not mine. :) Like Beth mentioned, the real people in my life are the most important gifts I have. The story comes somewhere under them in my daily priorities. :) I am learning to take what writing time I can each day and be okay with that. As for contests, I'm thinking about entering the Frasier (there I said it!), and I'll leave the results to God. My hope is that I'll be receptive for whatever feedback I get, and not overly focused on "winning." I'll win if I learn how to hone my craft, right? :) Thanks, Melissa!
    P.S. You are so fun to read!

  14. Angela Bell2/9/11, 12:54 PM

    I was fine until I saw Miss Teri's picture & comment, and now I'm bawling! Love you, Teri!!! It's so good to "see" you at the Ponderers blog. :-D

    Okay, now I can talk to Melissa.

    Hi, Melissa! ;-) Thank you for this reminder to CHILL OUT. I've been overwhelmed & stressed because I haven't met my self-made "deadlines". I felt like I was letting God down, but your post put everything in perspective.

    It reminded me of Romans 12:3. Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought.

    Ouch. Yeah, I need to stop taking myself too seriously. Thanks again, Melissa. I'm printing this post off! :-)

  15. Hey Jeanne, thanks for the comment. I hope you're getting psyched up for Deep Thinkers!! I know I am...two weeks 'til warmth, two weeks 'til warmth. And yay for entering the Frasier!! I can't gush enough about how awesome the Frasier feedback is.

  16. I know what you mean, Angela. Anytime I see Teri pop up in cyber-land, I am flooded with happiness!

    Those self-made deadlines can be torturous, can't they?! I've been there...uh, am there. Not where I want to be with my current WIP yet. And yet, I seem to be getting reminder after reminder that God's timing trumps mine any day!

    Anyway, glad you found the post encouraging. Especially so, because I wrote it while under the influence...of cough medicine. My head was in a fog! Glad at least some semblance of a meaningful piece broke through the haze. :)

  17. Thanks so much MTagg. I needed the reminder...its supposed to be fun!

  18. You're welcome, Alena! Miss you!

  19. Re: the two monitors: I use them for editing. One monitor has the clean copy on it. The other monitor has the copy with edits that need to be made. It makes my life so much easier! I have a friend who has 3 monitors! THREE!

  20. When I get too serious I find my writing sounds like a dissertation - dull, dry, and extremely b-o-r-i-n-g. Its got to be fun to write, or our readers will not like it.

  21. Beth - Three monitors! :) How does she concentrate!! No, but seriously, your two-monitor system sounds nifty. I need one screen for my writing and one screen where I can have everything I've ever learned through MBT...:)

  22. So true, Jennie. If we fiction writers wanted boring, we'd be writing textbooks instead. If fiction writers wanted boring, well, they'd be reading textbooks. Although, I have it on good authority that some people actually do like reading textbooks (i.e. studying)...it's beyond me, but then, so is chess...and the stock market...and chemistry. So, I guess that's not saying much.

  23. Wait, that third sentence was supposed to say fiction readers, not writers again...obviously I've had too much cough medicine today...or not enough caffeine...it's a toss-up...

  24. Wow MTAGG... awesome post! I thought freaking out was in the job description of a writer. Thank you for clearing that up for me. But now what will I do with all that vallium? :-)

  25. Thanks, Reebs! I don't know what to tell you about the valium...hmm...pondering...:)