How Not to Suck at Writing

  •   Try Grammarly‘s plagiarism checker free of charge because your teacher definitely will.
  •  Think about what you are writing before you write it.  This seems obvious, doesn’t it?  But all the time I see students coming in for help with papers who have just sat down and started writing and then been mad that the ideas didn’t come.  Ideas are kind of like beautiful women- rare is the writer that can get one in bed without putting some thought into courting it.
  • Try something different.  Okay, I get it: writers can be superstitious.  You wrote an amazing poem in that red shirt, but today you have that red shirt on and it’s not working.  Try something different.  It isn’t that hard.  Sometimes ideas get stuck on things, and you have to tease them loose.  Take a walk, eat some chocolate, do jumping jacks, kiss someone, do a headstand, talk it out with a friend, take a shower… do something.  The longer you sit in frustration at the keyboard, the more reluctant your ideas will be to show their face.
  • Ask why.  Is it something you’re writing for personal reasons?  Ask why you’re writing it, that will motivate you to work through your frustration.  Is it something you’re writing for an assignment?  Ask why it was assigned, it will help you understand what is expected of you.  Without the “why”, any work of writing can end up seeming directionless and confused.  Don’t do that to your work.
  • Write anyway.  Write the worst, most pointless, most meaningless and painful drivel you can.  Write through the wall and then look at it and ask, “what can I do to make this better?”  No matter how bad it is, it’s better than nothing.  You will have gotten a start.
  • Use art.  Writing an essay about sharks?  Draw the outline as pictures of sharks.  Use a graphic organizer, like an idea cloud or a Venn diagram.  Find some way to visualize the ideas you want on the paper, and you’ll find the shape of the written work starting to form in your head.  For some people who are more visual than verbal, writing can feel like surgery without anesthesia.  Finding a way to bring the visual into the writing process can ease the way.
  • Tell yourself what you are doing.  “I’m sitting down at the computer.”  “I’m going to write a paragraph now.”  By verbalizing your goals you cement them in your head, and make it a little easier to follow through.
  • Set short, manageable goals and reward yourself.  A Fun-Size Snickers for each bullet point?  Awesome.  I’ll go ahead and make more bullet points.  (Yes, this really does work.)
  • Treat it like a game.  We get the idea from the Hemingways of the world that writing is a tragic thing full of pain and best managed drunk.  It doesn’t have to be so dire, it can be fun.  Find ways to play with what you’re writing.  Hide a little joke in there.  Don’t take it so seriously.  Even if it is a paper for a grade, your teacher can sense if you hated it, and that will color their opinion.  I know I can tell the difference between a paper where the writer was engaged and happy and one where the writer hated it ever having been assigned:  one is far more likely to garner an A than the other.
  • Realize it is a moment in time, and will pass.  You aren’t going to spend the rest of your life in front of the computer screen.  Do what you must to get through it, and then go out and realize the sun still shines and the birds still sing.  The longer you spend at the keyboard resenting your writing, the longer you remove yourself from the things that make you happy.
  • Just type.  Nonsense if you have to.  Get your fingers moving, and get it done.

(this blog post is totally sponsored.)

Free Advice Friday: how not to suck at writing

Take my advice with a grain of salt, because I mostly learned it through sucking and then trying desperately not to.

  1. Write Things Down.  I know, right?  Writers should write things.  But here’s the thing:  Sometimes you spend hours agonizing over a character’s motivation.  Or thinking about what season the story takes place in.  Or wondering what will end up happening to this or that guy.  Or thinking about where you want the story to go.  And you need to use the toilet, or make yourself a sandwich, or move on with the day.  You think, “oh, I’ll remember.”  NO YOU WON’T.  Write it down.  The best writers leave behind notebooks, sometimes banker’s boxes, sometimes MULTIPLE banker’s boxes full of their notes to themselves.  You wouldn’t believe how quickly even a monumental plot decision leaves your head when you stop writing and start living your daily life.
  2. Write Daily.  Do not write when the muse strikes you, because the muse is a fickle wench who will run you on a bender for weeks and then leave you high and dry twenty pages from finishing your novel.  Write daily.  Even if it’s just opening the document and tweaking a few words here and there and patting yourself on the back for not completely sucking, write daily.  If you don’t, you will grow away from your story.  Every day our lives change us, even our brain chemistry changes by fractions.  We continue to evolve.  If we don’t write, we evolve away from our own words.  Trust me, I know.  Shelve your writing for a few months, come back to it, and you won’t pick up where the last sentence left off.  You’ll stare at the horrid thing wondering what self-congratulating hatchet man wrote that inane drivel and then you’ll want to drink until you forget that it was you.  Trust me.  And it’s not just that- details like people’s eye color, what kind of sweater they were wearing, what they were going to say next, how you wanted the story to end, they will all leave you faster than the proverbial Hollywood film producer upgrading to a fresher model of trophy wife.  Write daily, or write crap.  BELIEVE ME.
  3. Read.  Read good things and read bad things, but read.  The best writers are also ferocious readers.  Why?  Because when we read we learn what we do and don’t love about writing.  We, as writers, can take that and improve our own writing by knowing what is good and what isn’t.  You know that one writer whose settings always draw you in?  That author whose quirky characters always steal your heart?  That wordsmith who smacks you down with the opening paragraph and drags you kicking and screaming to the gruesome climax every time?  Don’t you want to be that guy?  I know, I know, stealing other author’s ideas is plagiarism.  But stealing their methodology isn’t, and by reading you can start to internalize those things you love most and recognize writing that you hate.  You’ll start to think, “are my characters as endearing as Rowlings?  Are my settings as breathtaking as Dickens’s?  Is my pacing as nervewracking as King’s?”  Whether you realize it or don’t, you are learning to teach yourself to write by reading.
  4. Know your characters.  Have you ever read a book where the entire time you just couldn’t make yourself like the characters?  Where they felt hollow and unpredictable?  Where they read almost more like caricatures or stereotypes than three-dimensional people with wants and needs?  Yeah, don’t write crap like that, enough other writers already do.  Before you start writing, and as you write, ask yourself a lot of why questions.  Why would he say that?  Why would he wear that?  Why would he want that?  Why would he do that?  Also, ask yourself a lot of “hows” and “whens”.  And (point one) WRITE IT DOWN.  Don’t be afraid to go through, line by line, and ask yourself, “why?  how?  when?” realizing that as you get more familiar with the process of thinking about your characters, it will become more and more second nature.  There will come a point in writing when the words just leak out of you (in an overflowing pitcher sort of way, not an incontinent bowels sort of way) and you won’t have to think and think and think.  Although there will still be times, even several novels in, where you still do have to sit there and write pages and pages about your characters in a notebook somewhere just to say “hi” and get to know them.  Think of it as a shortcut to saving a lot of time later, when you’d have to spend months editing a manuscript just to fix problems that could’ve been avoided by asking yourself important questions before writing the story.
  5. Write about the human condition.  Whether you’re a farmer in the midwest or a banker on Wall Street or a hunter-gatherer in the bush of Southern Africa, you want the same basic things as the rest of us.  You want a safe place to sleep.  You want to be loved by someone.  You want a good meal.  You want to feel like the work you do with your hands pays off.  You want to leave a good inheritance for the next generation.  You want to experience beauty.  That is what makes you human.  If you want your story to instantly speak to anyone who would ever pick it up, write about those things.  The best stories are the stories where the protagonist just wants a decent cup of tea.  Or, just wants to curl up with her boyfriend but an apocalypse keeps happening.  Maybe he’s a servant who can’t seem to even wash the dishes right, but once the adventure starts you think, “maybe he’s going to save the world.”  Even if the plot line is nearly unbelievable, if your story has those elements people will put themselves in it.  They’ll commit.  And if the payoff is good enough, they’ll be loyal to you as a writer, because they’ll feel like in some small way you wrote about them.  And you did, because you wrote about all of us.
  6. Torment your audience, at least a little.  If your protagonist just wants a good cup of tea, make sure he doesn’t get one until the end of the story.  If she just wants to smooch with her honey make sure a really good apocalypse interrupts them.  If he just wants someone to appreciate him, make sure the person he wants that appreciation from the most doesn’t look twice at him and he has to prove himself over, and over, and over.  Believe me, no one wants to read the story that goes like this:  “Susy never had any good luck in her life ever.  But when she woke up that morning, she made the best pot of coffee.  Her bacon was just crispy enough without being burnt or soggy, and for once the pancakes didn’t have any lumps.  On her way to work she met the cutest guy and gave him her number.  Her boss didn’t yell at her once, and then as she was leaving the cute guy called and they met for drinks.  They hit it off and eloped and then made sweet, passionate, just-kinky-enough love.  The end.”  YAWN.  NO.  Make sure Susy burns her toast.  She is too shy to give the guy her number.  Her boss is a major suckwad.  She’s miserable.  She hopes to see the guy at the bar but she doesn’t, but THEN…  You get the point.  People want to see their characters tested because it gives them something to hope for.  Maybe, just maybe, things will work out for Susy.  (And if they work out for Susy, there’s hope for all of us.)  Ah, that’s better.
  7. Torment your audience maybe a lot.  People say things like, “don’t kill off your most sympathetic character or the audience will hate you.”  Then authors like JK Rowling and George RR Martin have a good laugh, because isn’t that how the game is played?  Sometimes there is nothing better than holding your breath while you’re reading, starting to feel that sense of dread, your pulse banging in your ears, thinking, “oh man oh man oh man…” and then, WHEW, the protagonist dodges a bullet.  You put the book down and you think, “woah.”  And then you fall in love with the author and read the rest.  Or, once in a blue moon, the character dies gruesomely, and you throw the book across the room and cuss and cry and swear you’ll never read another word by that author, and you start to pen them a horrid note and then change your mind and read the rest of the book and adore them.  (I’m not the only one who does this, right?)  Because you realize that they were writing about life, and sometimes life takes a turn.  Sometimes it’s brutal and short and mean and the good ones die.  Sometimes by dealing with death we see people to be who they truly are.  Imagine if Harry Potter’s parents had lived; or, if certain other characters had survived in other books.  Would it have been the same tale?  Would Harry have risen up to be the man he was by the turn of the final page?  What if a certain beheading didn’t happen in A Game of Thrones?  Doesn’t the torment the characters experience refine them like coal into diamonds?  So don’t be afraid to torment your audience, because each time a reader feels their pulse change and their throat catch they feel their whole body commit to a story, and that’s good for everyone.
  8. Picture the whole story in your head.  Some writers talk about being inspired by a few scenes, images, or quirks of characters.  (William Goldman and NK Jemisin come to mind.)  That has led to some amazing tales, but don’t think for a moment that when William Goldman first dreamed up the Princess Bride he didn’t sit down and write the sword fight and pirate tale that he first envisioned and then magically end up with that classic novel.  No, he had to work out the story to give those few scenes breadth and depth and meaning.  So if you have a conversation in your head, or one quirk about a character, or a few disconnected images, don’t imagine that by writing them down you will suddenly find your muse and become the next great novelist.  Work your story out.  Picture the whole thing.  If you have to, be like Kurt Vonnegut and get a roll of paper and map the entire thing from start to finish in crayon.  Think about things like pacing and how stories have rolled out as you’ve read them, and make deliberate choices about where you will take your reader and why.  You know this muse that writers long for?  You’ve got to woo her, and you’ve got to pay your dues.  To put the figurative ring on her finger and take her home, you’ve got to know her story.  Unlike the floozies you may find at the bar in the bottom of a bottle (you know the ones, the ones you would NEVER tell your parents about) she’s not going to give it up the first time you sit down at the keyboard.  Work for it.

There’s more advice, of course, but this is the basic stuff.  The big stuff.  The game changing stuff.  The stuff I banged my head against for years and years.  It all boils down to the same thing- don’t expect the writing process to be magic.  It’s called a process for a reason.  It takes a journey to get to a good story, even a short one.  Even a good paragraph means thought, planning, and work.

So work it.

 

Free Advice Friday: how to win respect even if you lose the argument.

I missed writing Free Advice Fridays almost more than writing my huge rhetorical blurgs about the church. Today we’re going to discuss a skill that takes a long time to cultivate: arguing well. No one wants to relate to someone who is a jerk in an argument. Even more than that, no one wants to listen to someone who doesn’t debate well, so if you want your views to be heard and respected it is absolutely imperative that you know how to debate without taking the offense.

So, here’s some free advice:

  1. Don’t call in the forces. This means you should say, “I believe this” or “I think that”, not “everybody knows.” If you are, for instance, debating politics and say “everybody knows that the Democratic party bribes poor people into voting for them through increasing welfare programs”, and the person you’re arguing with either doesn’t know that or disagrees, they will resent you for it. Or, even worse, you could be totally wrong and then not only lose points for yourself but the “everybody” you’re calling in for backup. But wait, there’s more! What if you say “any Christian would agree”, and the person you are talking to turns out to be a Christian who disagrees? Either you’re wrong, or they’ll think you don’t believe they are a Christian. So don’t speak for more than yourself unless you’ve got cold hard data at your fingertips to show you are right. And if you have that data, relay the data and let it speak for itself. You speak for yourself, plain and simple.
  2. Ask a lot of questions. If someone says something you disagree with, don’t say, “well dude you’re wrong.” Ask, “why do you believe that?” You may find that you learn something you didn’t know. Or, if you still disagree, you may find that you better know how to defend and explain your position.
  3. Listen, carefully, and repeat things back. So the person you’re talking to says, “you need to understand that people in poverty don’t have the options you do. There are a lot of hidden costs to being poor.” Repeat it back, say, “so there are costs to poverty that you think I don’t know about?” Give them time to clarify. Otherwise, you run the risk of misunderstanding what is being said. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen two people debating where one is missing huge parts of the point that the other is trying to make. A lot of times this is due to zealousness in wanting to defend their own point. But, here’s the rub; if you are so busy trying to make your own point that you don’t take the time to understand the other person’s argument, even if you win the argument in your own mind you lose it in theirs.
  4. Don’t use talking points. You know what someone thinks of when you give a talking point that has been bandied around all over the place? They think you can’t think for yourself, they think you just repeat what other people said, and they think, “for the love of all things cool and shiny I’ve HEARD THIS BEFORE and I didn’t agree with it THEN.” You may agree with what you’ve heard, you may think it’s a good point. GOOD! So instead of repeating it verbatim, explain it. For example: “By giving poor people handouts you encourage them to stay in poverty.” Compare that to: “I wonder if people in poverty would be able to come up with better solutions for themselves if they didn’t have government handouts allowing them to continue in the same patterns.” (Note: This is just an example. I believe poverty is WAY more complicated than that, and predates government handouts by a couple of thousand years.)
  5. Be nice. No one will respect you if you insult them, or their views, or subject you’re debating. Use polite language, and use tact and forethought with how you word things. There’s a big difference between saying, “you’re an idiot”, or “that is illogical” or “have you considered things from this other point of view?” One way of speaking is unecessarily confrontational. The other invites a positive response- and a positive response can set the tone of the debate in your favor.

Even if you don’t win the argument, you will go down as someone who welcomes debate and does so with respect. If people respect you, it’s more likely that they’ll seek you out for discussion in the future. And who knows- the more you go around an issue with someone, the more likely it is that they’ll come to respect not only you but your point of view.

So, on this lovely Friday, don’t fear arguments. Just remember that your words are only one part of what people listen to: your attitude and tone also convey a loud message. If you want to win in life you need to win more than just the debate, you need to win respect.

Learn Tolerance, or Die Alone.

(For Kelly.)

Ever had a conversation like this?

Man:  Tolerance is a destructive force.  It erodes true belief.

Girl:  If you never tolerate the other side’s point of view, how can you expect to have an honest debate about the issues?

Man:  I’m not going to tolerate false beliefs. How can you ask me to debate the truth?  The truth harbors no debate.

So…  Maybe I’m watering down the true content and exaggerating the real words said for dramatic effect- but the principle remains true to form.  One person takes deep offense at tolerance because in their mind it means allowing an offense to the truth to continue.  Yet, simultaneously he is asking that his own views be tolerated and accepted.  (Or even affirmed.)

Here is the question to ask that man:  Would you rather be right and alone, or tolerant in the company of others?  Because to be so unnassailably intolerant means a life of isolation.  Why?  Because when we go to the grocery store, we are practicing tolerance.  We are offering up money to corporations who do not necessarily support our point of view.  (If you are conservative, check the amount of stores who offer money to left-wing political lobbies- if you are left-wing, check the amount of stores who offer money to right wing political lobbies.  Most corporations do both.)  It is nigh near impossible to live in the United States of America without corporately endorsing tolerance.  Paying our taxes is also an act of tolerance- as I can guarantee that no matter your affiliation, politically or religiously, our government acts on behalf of those you disagree with.

You may say, okay, this kind of tolerance-by-six-degrees-of-separation is impossible to avoid and thus must be accepted.  But let’s take this a step further.  Let’s look at humanity as a whole.  Have you ever (even once) met someone with whom you fully agreed?  We can all find people who agree with our most closely held beliefs, but at some point every relationship experiences differences.  My spouse is someone who I agree with eighty percent of the time- but don’t for a second  believe that the other twenty percent is insignificant.  When it’s things like how to best make eggs, you can roll your eyes and let go.  But sometimes in even the best relationship there is serious disagreement.  What do you do then?  Demand the other person agree with your point of view?  Tear them down until they are forced to capitulate?  Scrape away at them day after day, trying to win them to your side by hook or crook no matter what the cost?

At some point, isn’t the cost of relationship tolerance?  Don’t we all have to love and accept each other despite disagreement, or never know love and acceptance at all?

Know who you really are.

I have a theory.  You’ll never find happiness and fulfillment if you don’t know who you really are.  You may be married to an amazing person, raising good kids, working a decent job, able to have time to relax and pursue other interests…  but if you don’t really know yourself, you’ll always hunger.

Our physical bodies have this amazing capacity to know what they lack.  That’s why we have an appetite. You may suddenly crave fresh fruit, or fish, or a cheeseburger.  And you may think, “ah, I’m hungry” and eat potato chips or a handful of vegetables or a couple of chocolates from your snack drawer.  Yet, you will continue to crave, even when your tummy is full.  Why?  Because you don’t really understand what your body is hungry for.  It may be telling you “more vitamins!” or “more fibre!” or “more iron!” and you are filling it up with the wrong things.  So even when it has an excess of calories, it still has a lack of the things it needs to be healthy.

Our daily lives are the same.  Our soul aches, and from that ache comes greed and jealousy and depression, or exhaustion.  We think that the answer is to work harder, to have more, to divorce the spouse that doesn’t content us, to sink money into hobbies that waste time but don’t fulfill.  We search and we ache and we feed our days with all of these things, but still go to bed feeling like something is missing.

Why?

We don’t really know who we are.  Like with our appetite, we lack the ability to listen to our soul and give ourselves the right priorities.  If you want to paint a painting that reflects your spirit and you settle for “practical” scrapbooking, you could spend a fortune in money and time and still feel unfulfilled.  If you’re working at a firm because you chose a profession that offers you stability and all your heart wants is to stand on the stage saying “that this too too sullied flesh would melt” (while rocking awesome tights), you’re going to go home every day feeling like a failure no matter how successful your career is.  You may be married to an incredible person, with wonderful kids- but if every day you carry wounds you are ignoring and never healing, your relationships will suffer.  The answer isn’t finding someone else who abrades you less- it’s dealing with why the abrasions are there.  And here’s the secret: your hurts, while perhaps incurred in the process of dealing with one person or another, may not be their fault.

The problem may be a kink in your own spirit which you simply ignore.

So what is the answer to better interpersonal relationships?  It’s not know other people better, or to choose better people to know.  It’s to know yourself, to heal yourself, to feed yourself the right foods.  Once you are strong and happy, you’ll be able to have a great relationship with even the most abrasive of people.  Why?  Because when you come from a place of strength, your strong heart bleeds happiness into everything you touch- even other people.  A weak heart saps energy and turns everything into dust.

So know your heart.  Feed it what it needs to be fed.  Once that happens, you will be indomitable.

Being honest about sex (without bringing God into it)

I’m a Christian.  (Shocking, I know.)  I waited a long time to have sex, in fact I waited for my husband.  I realize that in some circles this makes me seem uptight and prudish and irrelevant.  Understand:  I didn’t wait to have sex because I was scared,  I didn’t save my sexuality as a precious gift, I didn’t sign a promise card when I was a teen and hold myself to it as if breaking my promise would mean immediately burning in the pits of hell.  I’m a practical person, and thus I had practical reasons.  Today I will share those with you instead of my regularly scheduled programming.

It’s a big issue- it’s important- and it deserves more frank conversing than just saying “save yourself.  Because.  Or else.”

  1. Sex may be “earth shattering”, but that’s not always a good thing. Having sex is about more than just physical pleasure- it’s about boundaries and knowledge.  It’s about revealing yourself wholly to another person, it’s about allowing them complete and uninhibited access to yourself.  The first time you go on this journey is a pulse-racing experience- not because it feels awesome, but because it can be absolutely terrifying.  What if he/she laughs at my birth mark, thinks I’m too fat, is repulsed by my private areas… do I have an odor?  Should I have an odor?  Is everything working the way it ought to?  And it’s not just about the things that are potentially embarrassing, it’s about (hopefully) the first time someone sees you as you are, and embraces you.  This first journey should be taken with someone worthy  of being that first person- because if you’re going to climb Everest you want to have the right guide.  Your memories of those moments will never be able to be altered.  Your first sexual experience could very well color every subsequent one- whether it is with fear, embarrassment, shame, or pleasure.  Set yourself up for success- for a sexual life that is full of grace and hope, pleasure and fulfillment.  It probably goes without saying that giving (or getting) a handjob in the car while terrified of someone you know finding and exposing you is not the best way to go.
  2. Your first  sexual experiences will look nothing like what sex will be like in the future. It seems contradictory, doesn’t it?  In order to illustrate my point, let’s talk about learning how to knit.  When you first start learning how to knit (or any new craft) first you have to take little steps.  You have to learn the broad strokes of terminology and craft.  You have to make something stunningly stupid, like a flat scarf you’ll likely never wear.  And you have to keep making dull and unimpressive things until you get good enough at it to do something really amazing.  Sex is the same way- your first time will be clumsy and awkward.  Your second and third time will be, too.  For some women it takes years of learning their body’s language before sex consistently has a “mind blowing” effect.  It also takes a partner who listens to you, communicates openly, and is willing to set aside their own pleasure in an effort to find yours.  Good sex requires a level of maturity, compassion, and respect for others that isn’t commonly found.
  3. Sex is a privilege, not a responsibility. Overheard at a local mall:  “I’ve been dating him for like a year, I feel like I kind of owe him sex.”  Sorry, sister, but no. You don’t ever *owe* someone else the privilege of seeing you fully, of being given total access to your body and heart, the honor of receiving you completely.  Anyone who pressures you into giving yourself before you are ready doesn’t deserve you.  Sex isn’t something that is earned by buying you dinners, giving you gifts, or sitting through a certain amount of dates or phone conversations.  It’s not a “stage” of a relationship that is reached after climbing steps in the proper order.  It doesn’t go, “proper amount of dates, kissing, meeting each other’s family, sex”, or any other order.  If relationships are built on a “pyramid” model like dietary suggestions, sex doesn’t even appear on the pyramid.  It exists on it’s own plane, separate from every other stage of a relationship.  (<sarcasm> It doesn’t even have to come prior to having kids- you could always adopt! </sarcasm>)  What I’m saying is that sex is not something your partner earns- it is something you choose to offer based off of nothing other than your desire to have complete intimacy.  Any partner worth sleeping with will understand this, and will wait for you.
  4. Sex isn’t just about physical pleasure, it’s about intimacy. You will likely never hear a preacher say this from the pulpit, but:  If what you want is an orgasm, masturbate.  Sex is not just about achieving orgasms.  Sex is about so many other things.  It’s about power and submission, it’s about requests and obedience, it’s about sacrifice and acceptance.  It’s about forging a bond with another human being, about creating a world that exists nowhere other than between two people.  It’s about learning to love, about being loved, about offering and accepting love.  If all you want is to feel good, you can do that on your own.  If what you want is someone else adoring you- let them by you flowers and write you a sonnet.  If what you want is to have them show their commitment to you (or for you to show your commitment to them) get married.  Sex is something far too important, too precious, to waste on a relationship that won’t last.  Trust me on this one- the sex you have with someone who you’ve been married to for seven years, someone you’ve suffered with and rejoiced with and loved and hated, makes all sex that came before seem not worth having had.
  5. Having sex means taking responsibility for your life. The world of sex is a world that has a lot of pitfalls.  I’m not going to exaggerate the failure rate of condoms or other birth control, but let’s be honest.  If you’re not having sex you don’t have to worry about pregnancy.  You don’t have to worry about STDs.  You don’t have to wonder when in a relationship you need to disclose your sexual past or tell the person you’re interested in that you have had genital warts.  Having sex complicates things- and life is already complicated enough.  Waiting to have sex means having one less thing you need to be concerned with.  I know precious few people who did have sex as teenagers who don’t confess that the sex they had as teens wasn’t worth the extra worries.  Before you have sex, you have to ask yourself if you’re ready to deal with the risk of disease.  If you know what you would do should you happen to get pregnant.  If the person you are considering having sex with is the kind of person who will be forthright with you about their own health and sexual past.  If this relationship ends- are you ready to be honest with your next significant other about the sex you’re thinking about having now?  It’s not as if you can have sex, go to your local church, sign a new promise card and pretend you’re still a virgin.  Some people do this, but it’s dishonest and petty and shows just how unprepared for sex they really were.
  6. Having sex means doing your homework. I’m not talking about vocabulary or biology- except inasmuch as learning about birth control and your own biological rhythms is about biology.  Sex may be as simple as stripping naked and inserting A into B, but there’s a whole lot of background information that needs to be absorbed.  Like, what kind of birth control will work for you?  Condoms are an easy first choice, but some men don’t like the way they feel and they can cause discomfort for women (especially those first few times).  A girl can always go on the pill, but it won’t protect you against disease.  That means there are a lot of choices to be made, choices that absolutely should not be made in the heat of the moment.
  7. Sex is like glue. It is.  It’s one thing to look at another person and think, “I like them.”  Or, “they matter to me.” Or, “I want to have them in my life.”  It’s another thing entirely when the night before that person was completing you, was giving you pleasure, was seeing you naked and accepting you fully.  The intimacy sex brings makes it harder to part from your partner.  In a marriage this is a good thing.  It means that you’ll be quicker to try to resolve a fight before nightfall because you want to go to bed happy.  It means that compassion comes easier, belonging is more desirable, intimacy more refreshing.  But outside of marriage?  It can make you want to blind yourself to flaws that you ought to be more concerned with.  Don’t glue yourself to someone unless you’re sure you want to be stuck to them.

That’s all I have to say.

Note:  I realize that everything written here is rhetorical and based off of only my observations.  I never pretended this blog was about more than just one girl’s opinions.

(not) sharing convictions

I’m going to talk about myself for a minute.

I’m a twenty-six year old blond-haired blue-eyed girl who has been blessed with wonderful genes.  I’m naturally thin, I have a great metabolism, I’m generally healthy and energetic.  I do have a strong conviction that part of my obedience to God is taking care of my body, so I try to watch what I eat and exercise regularly.  I am, in fact, the kind of freak who gets a little crazy if she doesn’t get a workout in.

I’m telling you all of this in the purpose of illustrating a point, not bragging.  So, following that, let’s assume that I have friends who are overweight and generally not as healthy as me.  Let’s assume that at least some of those friends are Christians.  Let’s say that I took what I feel as a very strong conviction (that God wants me to be healthy, and caring for my body is Worshipping Him in that regard) and applied it to my friends.

I can imagine a conversation like this:

ME:  Friend A, why aren’t you worshipping God?

A:  excuse me?

ME:  You’re kind of… fat.  That’s an affront to God and His will for your life.

A:  Says who?  You?

ME:  Well, I’ve had these personal struggles with body identity, and I’ve heard God’s voice really strongly in this area.

A: You are totally bent.

ME: You’re rejecting God’s word for you.

A:  Yeah, sweetie, I’m rejecting YOUR word for me.

And in this totally imaginary conversation, I’d actually take Friend A’s side.  Why?  Because who knows what is going on in her life.  Maybe she’s been struggling for years with some other sin, and is desperately trying to lead a life pleasing to God.  And by coming out of left field with a commandment that I do NOT know is meant for A, I could cause her incredible frustration and maybe even a loss of faith.

Which is why I keep my convictions to myself.  Because not every girl on this planet is a blond-haired blue-eyed genetically blessed fitness nut.  And I don’t think that every one was meant to be, either, or else God would have made us a little more alike.  By following God’s heart for my own life I worship him, just as by following God’s word for YOUR life YOU worship him.  And I may be called to be a wife and mother and writer and yoga fanatic, and you may be called to be something very different.  And part of God’s will for you may even be that you don’t get stir crazy if you miss your morning Pilates or that you do indulge in a few extra brownies from time to time.

I think God enjoys our uniqueness.  I think that he loves the fact that we are so different.  I think he designed it that way for a reason.  I don’t think he wants us to be able to write down our personal revelations and mass market them and take the mystery and excitement out of seeking his will.  He wants us to each be completely devoted, hearing his voice, changing ourselves.

He really does not want me to corner Friend A and accuse her of not loving him- I can promise you that.