Full-Circle: On Breathe and Gratitude

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Once upon a time not that long ago in a land not that far away, a sixteen year old girl walked into a writing conference not knowing a soul except for an author friend who would be speaking.
She and her little memo pad settled into a chair near the back of the room for her first breakout session, heart-hammering wondering why on earth she thought it was a good idea to sign up for this thing.
I mean who was going to take this kid seriously, writing manuscripts in her parents basement because she was bored with what the library had to offer. What did she have to offer? Who cared what she had to say?
But that little girl didn’t know that this was exactly where she needed to be. Because there were people there that weren’t going to accept her as a punk-kid, but as a real-life writer. A real-life, blood-sweat-and-tears writer who had things to say and they wanted to read them.

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It was either add to the Instagram story or curl up in the fettle position…

Flashforward seven years later and someone decided it would be a good idea to put that little girl in front of a stage in front of potentially two hundred people and have her talk. And no, she didn’t die (but believe me, the potential was there! I felt it!) and people actually cared what she had to say.

I walk away from this year’s Breathe Conference deeply humbled and deeply grateful. Not only for the small ways God used some of my flippant decisions for his glory, but also for the sweet sweet encouragement from this weekend and the sense that things had come full circle.

If you were to ask me what decision has changed my life the most, I would first say that it was a decision to get on a boat (different story, different time.) But that decision led me to my first Breathe conference and God has used that to open up doors in so many situations in life. It is the reason I chose the school I did, it’s the reason I have the dear dear friends that I do, it is the reason I have had so many great (and not-so-great, but still valuable) professional experiences.

Saturday night, after everyone had cleared out from the conference, I found myself at a table surrounded by all the people who have influenced the woman and writer I have become and I was totally overcome by a deep wave of gratitude for how far God has not only carried Breathe, but has carried me. (And yeah, I ugly cried in front of God and everybody. You totally missed out.)

So what does this have to do with you?

No a lot, but I do have one challenge for you:

Say ‘Yes.’

If God is poking at you to take a step, take it. Even if it scares the crap out of you. Even if you feel you are unworthy, unqualified, or unequipped. Because guess what? You don’t get to decide that. Your creator does.

How different things would look if I had shoved down my desire at sixteen to go to this little writers conference. And how different my weekend would have looked if I had turned down the opportunity to speak. (My mental stability probably would have looked a lot different as well, but that’s neither here nor there…)

God takes our stale bread and smelly fish and makes a meal out of it for people we’ve never even met. He takes my little bit of experience and ability to rant for an hour and uses that to bring maybe a little bit of encouragement. He takes my scared-out-of-its-mind sixteen year old butt and sits it down at a conference in order to connect me to his plan and his people in a way I’ve never experienced before.

All because of timid, doubting yeses.

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Celebrate Your Story

A photo by Thomas Kelley. unsplash.com/photos/hHL08lF7Ikc

I’ve been a writer for eleven years now. (Don’t do the math. It’s embarrassing.)┬áIn those eleven years, I have learned many things. Among them:

  • You should not send your entire manuscript to an award-winning author even if they have befriended your high school self and gave you their email address. That’s not why they gave it to you.
  • Sometimes those with more experience are wrong about your work. (Most of the time they are probably right, but sometimes their not.)
  • Read the classics. If you don’t want to do that, it is because you live under a rock where you’ve believed they are boring your entire life. You’re wrong. They are not boring.
  • Liking boys just because they said they like to read is an okay thing to do. Believing you will one day marry a boy just because he says that is an ill-informed belief.
  • Sometimes you will like your made-up people better than your real-life people. That’s okay for a couple hours, but don’t make that a permanent state of being.
  • You should send your first three chapters to the kid in your fiction workshop class who is unexplainably excited about what you’ve written.
  • You should also ask the girl who sits next to you in that workshop about her opinions on your characters, especially since she’ll still talk to you after reading what you’ve written. They are both good eggs and will be some great cheerleaders.
  • Don’t get discouraged when older writers get published when they’ve been doing this a shorter time than you. You’re 18 and you’ve got time.
  • Go to the conference your professor recommends. It’s going to change your whole perspective on the calling you’ve been given.
  • Don’t let the guy who doesn’t think art is a valid life calling get you down. But also stop dating him. First boyfriends aren’t supposed to be last boyfriends anyway. There are plenty of other mistakes to make once college is over.
  • Someone’s opinion on Oxford commas is a good litmus test for starting a friendship (namely, if they have one.)
  • Writing is hard and sometimes the time isn’t there and sometimes the words aren’t there. Don’t freak out. It will not always be hard. You will learn to make the time. The words will return. Breathe in, breathe out. That’s all you’re in control of.

These are just a few of the pitfalls and strange lessons of my writing journey that I’m celebrating. I owe a lot of these lessons to the Breathe Conference and the community I have come to know and love through it.
We celebrate the conference’s tenth anniversary this year and I want to invite you in to that. If you are on a writing journey, let’s celebrate it on October 7 & 8. James Scott Bell will be there as will a whole other host of great writers.
Register today and I’ll see you there!

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