The Good & Bad of Writing

writer__s_block_by_arzu88-d3hg9efAm I a whiner?  Sometimes I feel like it.

The truth of the matter is that writing is just plain hard.

When I am writing a first draft, I wish I was revising. I tell myself it’s so much harder to make something out of nothing than it is to make something better out of something okay.  In a first draft, I still don’t know my characters very well, so I’m not entirely sure of what they should do or how they should react to people or events. I typically have no idea how the story will actually end, so I’m writing blind and terrified that because I see no ending now I won’t see an ending ever. I have to cast deep into my well of creativity because everything– absolutely everything– is brand new. (It gives me so much appreciation for my God who created ex nihilo [Latin, “out of nothing”].) It’s physically exhausting and mentally draining, and (at least in me) it prompts deep, deep doubts about myself.  In the early days of a first draft, I desperately long for revisions– when I will know my characters well and will be perfecting the story and imagery.

When I am revising, I wish I was writing a first draft. Deep in revisions, I feel bored to death with the process. It feels so stagnant and dull compared to the excited fervor of creation. It feels nit-picky and brutal, a journey to endure as a longsuffering artist.  And everything needs to be moving forward, finding its place.  You have to “kill your darlings.” You can’t keep putting things on the backburner to deal with another day– “another day” has come and the time is here. It’s like finding yourself in the middle of a battle without armor.  I think longingly of the days of freewriting and drafting, how carefree they were, how it didn’t matter if things fit together, how fun it was to be coming up with new adventures for my characters, how exciting it was getting to know them.

I am finding that the old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” is true in my writing life.  I don’t want that to be true, and I want to find ways to love and appreciate whatever stage I’m in.


I don’t know the answer yet, but I suspect it might look something like this:

1) I need to reflect on what I love about writing in general, about words, ideas, stories.
2) I need to count my blessings. I honestly do feel terrifically grateful to be a writer– even with all its woes.
3) I need to remember that every stage has its own merits and to start focusing on those positive parts instead of the negative.
4) I need to respect the creative process.
5) I need to be healthier.

What other suggestions do you have for me?


Image credit: Arzu88 on deviantArt

Dear Diary (March 2014)

DD MARCH 2014March. A month and a command.  MARCH, JACKIE, MARCH!

To be honest, I feel like I spent all of March as a total recluse, ferreted away in my apartment, creating a little cave in the center of my couch.  I was, of course, working on revisions to Truest.  I felt so overwhelmed that most nights I sent myself an email into the future as a way to mentally reach out to a time when my stress level was lower. Let me tell you, I LOVE

My editor was hoping for revisions in six weeks, and I felt confident I could do it, even though I had no idea how.  I kept telling myself that if I just SHOWED UP TO WRITE over and over and over again … then eventually the work would get done.

As an example of how FutureMe works, I sent this email on February 18th and received it on March 19th:

Dear FutureMe,
You woke up at noon. Now its two and you’re lying down for a nap.

It happens.

Oh the introvert’s recovery.

Please have a lot done on the novel. Please. Say you have shown up for the last month. Please. Today you feel so … As if the project looms too large. Overwhelmed. But you have learned to eat an elephant one bite at a time.

You’ll take another bite today.

After this nap. 🙂

Persist, writer.

And that’s exactly what I did. I showed up over and over and over with a spoon to take another bite of elephant, and I finished my revisions a day ahead of schedule.  It was utterly exhausting (I don’t think I can even begin to explain to you just how much– although, as an example, I spent one day writing and then was sick the following day, spending nearly all of it sleeping), but I love the changes to my story– I hope my editor does too!

I didn’t get to hang out with many people simply because I had NO TIME, but I did find a chance to see Eir, Ashley, Desiree, and Elyse in an attempt to stay sane.

mirandasingsDesiree and I also went to a Miranda Sings concert.  She is a comedian we enjoy, and the show was super funny! It always feels good to take advantage of the Twin Cities’ offerings.

I had a week where I worked in the evenings (yuck!), attending college fairs and helping with an on-campus event where I helped promote the Northwestern English department.

divergent2Then, after I turned in my revised manuscript, I ventured back out into the world of social interaction and went to see Divergent in the theater with Eir, Ash, Des, Amanda, and Tim.  It was DELICIOUS and stressful and intense and well-done and THEO JAMES IS SO GORGEOUS I WONDER IF HE IS REALLY HUMAN.

You can read my praises for the book here.

Then, of course, off to DC for a few days!  It was so utterly lovely to spend some time with my beloved friend Cindy, though I admit I’m glad to be back in Minnesota now as– even in four days– I got homesick.

March was overwhelming, and I am sooooooo excited for APRIL!

Why I Believe in God

About a month ago, a co-worker asked why we believed in God.  Obviously faith is a huge, huge part of it, but he wasn’t asking about faith.  He wanted to know what evidence we’d experienced that contributed to our beliefs.

Personal experience, some people said.

Another co-worker cited the teleological argument of the watchmaker: if you come upon a watch on a beach, you asume there was a watchmaker.

Me?  I shared one story and one historical finding.

bowI’m not sure I’m ready to share the story on my blog yet.  It’s such a special, intimate, significant experience in my life that most readers might think is silly, and I’m not ready to subject it to that yet.  I will say, though, that there was a moment in my life when I asked God for something and he gave it to me only seconds later.  Not a physical object but a thought/memory.  There was no other possible explanation for it but God, and it came at a very low time of my life, when OCD was like a railroad spike splintering my faith, and this experience mattered so much that I fell to my knees in awe and gratitude.

As for the historical finding, it comes from a book I read called Humilitas, which was written by Australian historian John Dickson. It examines the historical timeline of the virtue of humility, attempting to locate the turning point in history where humility went from being something people looked down on to being something people admired.

The turning point was the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

There are others things I could add: Can Man Live without God by Ravi Zacharias presents a fascinatingly different kind of apologetics as it examines not whether God is real but whether life has value and meaning if God is not real.  Other personal experiences with God throughout the years, most specifically an evening under the stars I spent with him. The backward nature of Christianity: how people can find joy in suffering, how we can lose our lives to gain them, how the last shall be first.

How about you? Do you believe in God, and if so, why?  

Keep comments civil, peeps.  I know we’re capable of having a mature, intelligent discussion on God.

Image credit: Hungry for God


Being Me with OCD by Alison Dotson

BeingMeWithOCDI first connected with Alison Dotson through the International OCD Foundation blog, where we realized that we were both from Minneapolis and made plans to get coffee.  I can still remember that first in-person meeting at Dunn Bros, one of those lovely times between two obsessive-compulsives finding joy and relief in saying, “Me too, me too!”

Alison’s book– Being Me with OCD— is aimed toward teenagers and young adults, but I think its audience is much wider than that.  It’s incredibly well-written, chock full of helpful information, and– most importantly, I think– it’s like sitting down with a friend.  While reading it, I kept thinking of my first meeting with Alison.  Her comforting, empathetic voice comes through so strongly in the book that you feel like you have a friend, a cheerleader, right beside you.

The book is part-memoir, part self-help, and is sprinkled throughout with personal essays from teens and young adults who offer wonderful insight into a variety of areas.  OCD is a strange beast in that, while it works the same way for most people, it manifests itself differently for each person, and the personal essays help the book touch on areas that haven’t been a part of Alison’s own personal journey with OCD.

I deeply appreciated her approach to medication.  I also loved that she dedicated considerable time discussing exposure and response prevention, even though she never underwent ERP herself.  Alison also spends time talking about overcoming stigma.

All in all, a great book for teens, young adults, or any age!  The best part is finding someone who gets it,
someone brave enough to share, someone on your team.

Read an excerpt. Buy the book on Amazon. Follow Alison’s blog.

The Point of No Return … in Reading

Definitely past the Point of No Return | Image credit: unknown.

Definitely past the Point of No Return | Image credit: unknown.

Picture me in a cheap hotel in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  I’m there to recruit the following day.

But right now it’s a little after midnight, and I’m nearing the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for the very first time. I’m counting horcruxes on my fingers every ten minutes, turning pages like a speedster, heart pounding.

I’d passed the Point of No Return.  I knew that book would be finished before I went to bed, no matter how long it took.  (I think I managed to fall asleep around 2 or 2:30 am.)

I try to be smart about reading at bedtime, but sometimes you just have to MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.  That night.  No matter what.  No matter how few hours of sleep you’ll get or how much it will suck to get up, no matter how much you’ll have to struggle through work or school the next day.

I’ve thought about what constitutes my reading Point of No Return: fewer than 100 pages left (usually), nearing the climax of the book, characters I’m invested in, and probably some kind of fear. 🙂

What’s your Point of No Return in reading?


Let’s Talk about Blurbs

Image credit: Publishing Perspectives | Click image to read their article on blurbs!

Image credit: Publishing Perspectives | Click image to read their article on blurbs!

Blurbs.  You know, the endorsements you see on the front and back of book covers where another author tells you how spectacular the book in yours hands is.

I recently purchased and read a book only because it was blurbed by one of my all-time favorite authors.  The premise of the book, a debut novel, was not of interest to me, but because So-and-So said it was funny and clever and good, I bit the bullet and bought the book. (Oooh, nice alliteration.)

I read it.  It was not really funny or clever or good.  I was really disappointed. It made me wonder just how difficult it was to get a blurb from that particular author.  The novel that was endorsed was nothing like the novel that the blurb-writer writes.

Do you pay attention to blurbs?
Have you ever read a book only because it was endorsed by a favorite author?
If you could have anyone write a blurb for your book, whom would it be?

I choose … John Green, Melina Marchetta, Markus Zusak, Jandy Nelson, and Rainbow Rowell. #InMyDreams

OCD & Faith

I was recently asked how my faith survived 20 years of abuse at the hand of OCD.  This fellow sufferer wondered how I reconciled/justified my continued believe in God after so much hurt and such a sense of betrayal.

It’s a great question.

I am a Christian, that is, I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s only son, that he came to earth to rescue men, died on a cross on a Friday, and rose again to life the following Sunday.  

It’s actually the story of the cross and the resurrection that have allowed me to cling to my faith.

The agony of the cross shows me that Jesus understands my suffering; we identify with one another. And the victory of the resurrection prompts me to have hope in my suffering, knowing that only a weekend separated the worst story from becoming the best; I am filled with hope that, just as I identify with him in his suffering, I will also identify with him in his victory.

The truth is that without the gospel of Christ, it would be difficult for me to justify my continued faith.


For more about my faith, go to
For (lots!) more about OCD and ERP, go to

cross and resurrection

Stop Asking, Start Writing

The more I write, the more I realize how much SHOWING UP matters. Night after night after night of butt-in-seat STILL produces results … and a LOT more results than waiting for inspiration to hit!

writing Young Adult fiction

Sister ship of Titanic--I just like big boats. Sister ship of Titanic–I just like big boats.

You can slump in your office, a coffee shop, the middle of 394 (depending on how desperate it is) asking questions:

What matters most about this story?

Where do I want my main character’s journey to end?

How do I make the reader care?

You can do this until all your hair turns gray, until you kill the story with your worrying, your prodding.


You can write scenes, possibly out of order. Ones you know won’t end up in the book. Ones that might.

You can put characters together in the grocery store, in class, in their bedrooms, and let them talk.

It’s your choice to trust the process of writing—which promises that eventually (with enough words dropped drown onto the blank page) you will find the answers.

Keep writing.

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Fearless Fifteeners

I’m a part of the Fearless Fifteeners now, a group of children’s and YA authors whose novels debut in 2015!

Here’s my profile.  Click the picture to go to the site and learn more about all sorts of awesome-sounding books coming out next year. #pumped

Fearless Jackie

Your turn: what do you fear and not fear?