I Do Declare: Most days I aim for humble and modest, but today is not one of those days

There are moments in one’s life when it is entirely acceptable to set aside efforts toward humility and restraint and to take up ownership of bragging rights with a flourish. Placing high in a prestigious screenwriting competition is one of those moments.

As I mentioned in my breaking news on Friday, I am 2nd runner up in the Kairos competition for my screenplay, The Bridge.

The logline (as I entered it in the competition) is:

A church shooting reopens old wounds for a family – and it takes the community coming together to heal them.

It takes place in the days after the Charleston Nine shooting. The main characters are fictional, though the setting and backdrop are real.

The Bridge is a faith-based story, which is not an easy thing to market in today’s entertainment landscape. I’m not whining; I’m highlighting a fact of life. And I said: “not easy,” not “impossible.” It takes a little more work to find the right avenue to get my screenplay noticed and hopefully made into a movie. Because there are film and production companies looking for such material, and there are audiences (more and more every day) that want to watch it.

The Kairos competition is one of those avenues for faith-based works. In fact, the full name of the competition is: The Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays. And if that doesn’t clearly outline their mission, the description (from the website) reads: “Established by Movieguide in 2005, the primary purpose of the Kairos Prize is to further the influence of moral and spiritual values within the film and television industries. Seeking to promote a spiritually uplifting, redemptive worldview, the prize was founded to inspire first-time and beginning screenwriters to produce compelling, entertaining, spiritually uplifting scripts that result in a greater increase in either man’s love or understanding of God.”

I am grateful that Movieguide had the vision to create this competition, and I am grateful that my script was judged in the top three. And while a high placement in a prestigious competition like Kairos doesn’t guarantee a contract, a bit of recognition certainly doesn’t hurt.

At very least, it’s a huge boost to my creativity.

A comment from one of the contest organizers was most kind and quite flattering: “I want to congratulate you on an exceptional script. … This year’s contest was exceptionally tight, and your submission was highly rated. … It is an incredibly moving story, and the judges agree that is has great potential.”

I can go a whole year on a compliment like that. It certainly propels me back into my seat and gets my fingers on the keyboard, ready to generate more “compelling, entertaining, spiritually uplifting” works.

And as I do, I return to my “natural” state – humble, modest, and fully aware that I am on a mission and that only through God am I able to accomplish anything of worth.

Right Now: Want to uncover your superpowers? Take a nap.

Not long ago I spotted articles here, here, and here that led me to one conclusion:

Science is finally catching up with me. When it comes to my philosophy on naps, I mean.

I believe in naps. Every day. More than once a day, if possible. That’s not laziness talking. That’s proper energy maintenance.

You see, our energy ebbs and floods throughout the day. Sometimes the energy is high, sometimes it’s low, and it has nothing to do with how many “energy drinks” are consumed. (By the way, I’m not a huge fan of those “energy drinks” – which is why I put it in quotes – but I’ll go into all of my reasons in a future post.)

Back to the peaks and valleys of energy. My high-energy time is first thing in the morning. After a good rest, I bounce out of bed and am ready to get the day going. (The one exception, of course, is if I’m sick – and that requires a completely different system of energy management.)

So if my energy is high when I wake up, then taking a nap means I get two mornings out of one day, effectively doubling my high-energy output.

And no, it’s not that simple. I won’t automatically be able to do twice the creative work. But taking that break in the middle of the day (at a time when my energy level has ebbed down to its lowest) has three distinct benefits:

  • A reboot. Sometimes there’s a lot going on, and the day gets busy and frantic and occasionally overwhelming. Those are the days when a nap is like a mental reboot. Shut down and start back up. Most of the time I reawaken from a nap in a much calmer state than my initial morning wake-up.
  • Possible inspiration. Naps are great for solving perplexing problems, even the heavy emotional ones where you can’t see a way out, over, under, or through. It doesn’t necessarily work every time, but more often than not, my subconscious will sort through the tangled mess and come up with a doozy of a dream. Then, depending on how sharp my dream analysis skills are at the moment, some things will start to make sense.
  • Off-the-grid. Many studies (again, topic for a future post) point to how harmful it is to our bodies to be constantly plugged in. And honestly, most of us don’t need a study to tell us that it’s not okay to carry your phone everywhere or check email all the time. Getting away from the electronic connection to Every.Single.Thing.In.The.World is mental health must. And the fastest, most efficient way to do that is to take a nap. Get unconscious for 20 or 30 minutes, and there’s no way you can check your email. Fact.

Just like the energy grids that bring light, heat, and A/C into our homes, proper energy management for the body means working with the body’s own efficiencies.

Instead of pushing through the low energy periods with caffeine or chocolate or a brisk walk around the block – things I often did in the past – why not give your body some respect? Take a nap. Your body will thank you for it later.

I Do Declare: Rabbit holes are cozy little places and I want to live there

Back in November, I got a book contract – Yes, you may applaud! I’m excited about it too! – and ever since I signed, I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into the subject matter.

Without going into too much detail (not yet … not while I’m in the research/writing phase), it has to do with historical events, and I am not exaggerating when I say this is the happiest place on Earth for me.

Some of the digging is online, at least for initial information, and everyone knows what a rabbit hole the online search can be. You start in one place and before you know it you’ve hyperlinked over to the other side of the world and a century or two back in time. I love every minute of it.

But an even better rabbit hole to fall down is digging into original sources at places like the historical society and the special sections in the libraries. It’s such a thrill to discover tidbits about a person or a place. Like a sentence in someone’s diary that sheds new light on a famous incident. Or finding a guest list that uncovers connections that weren’t known before.

They’re cozy places, these historical research rabbit holes. And they’re magical. I snuggle down into them, transported to another time, where I can, for a moment, bring people to life again and relive it with them.

Though that’s only half the magic. The other half is coming up out of the hole and seeing present-day with new eyes.

Spend enough time in yesterday, and today will have a sense of timelessness about it. Tomorrow too. As if everything has already happened before, and the contemporary is just a repeat, as the future will be.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, one of the major English Romantic poets, said it far better than I: “History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man.”

It may sound strange, but that’s actually an encouraging thought. No need to worry about the current state of affairs in the world. Similar – and worse – things happened years ago, and we lived through them. Well, maybe not “we,” but someone did. (Unless you’re doing the research, and then you get to live through it too.)

When I started this project, I thought it was a fabulous writing opportunity. I had no idea the research phase would bring with it such a sense of peace and comfort. What a fabulous discovery. Something I can use to decorate my rabbit hole. I might stay a while.

Right Now: A tale of two projects – or, there are reasons why some things take longer than you think

I recently worked on two similar projects – both journal books about the same size, both self-published (laid out and produced by me), both going up on Kindle/Amazon.

And I was equally excited about working on both.

One is a guided journal for the season of Lent. The other is a morning-and-evening guided journal about gratitude.

Logic says both should have taken about the same amount of time.

They didn’t. I have a few ideas why.

Firm Deadline. The Lent journal had an unmovable deadline of the week before Ash Wednesday. The prayer journal had no deadline. For me, a hard deadline is necessary. If the project has no deadline, I’m more likely to meander my way to completion. In cases where there isn’t an external or calendar-related deadline, I might need to set an agreement with a colleague to finish by a certain time.

Clear Focus. The Lent journal, obviously, is focused on disciplines, study, and introspection. The morning/evening journal went through several iterations because I had to find the precise way to invite the reader into the pages. Taking time to get the words right isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that the Lent journal already had a pre-defined focus, whereas the other journal had more of a blank-page beginning to the project.

Certainty About Audience. In both cases, the audience consists of those who like devotional books, introspective journaling, and writing prompts that lead to contemplation. The difference is that the Lent journal is aimed toward those who are familiar with the church seasons, and the other journal can be useful for a wider audience, including those who have no experience with churches or any religions. The second took longer in part because I wanted to be sure the book was engaging and valuable for the wider audience, which meant getting feedback from several people. Again, not a bad thing, just a different set of factors that determined completion time.

Have you noticed similar comparisons in your own work? Did discovering the differences help with future project planning? Tell me about it in the comments.

I Do Declare: Every Lent, it seems the question is “Where is God in all this?”

My guided journal for Lent is available in Kindle/Amazon (click here). And until Thursday, 2/18, it’s FREE. (If you have Kindle Unlimited, it’s free anyway.)

On any given day, we can find ourselves preoccupied with financial or relational challenges, physical or emotional trials, or vocational or social issues – sometimes several at once. Such concerns can sidetrack us and keep us from enjoying a fulfilling relationship with God and with each other.

Each week in this guided journal, the focus is on a different area where we tend to encounter distractions. The aim is to help you become aware so you can deal with them and turn your attention to God.

This booklet is designed to be a prompt to get you into the Word and into a conversation with God to explore your relationship more deeply.

Only the Bible verse is given (rather than the entire passage) so you can get into the Word yourself and see what God wants to tell you.

Here are a few sample prompts: