Writing Advice of the Garden Variety


Last month I had a mighty plan for my blog, had an important editorial calendar and everything. Then I took a needed catch-up break. We emptied storage units and worked on our garden. I took up a new little sewing hobby, and Seth and I have dreamed up elaborate schemes to begin hobby farming. All my want-lists have chickens on them. We started eating organic foods, and I’ve turned rather hippy-ish altogether.

We drove to Alabama and took up eating from my daddy’s beautiful garden and then also from my Mama’s banana pudding, which was not organic but incredibly good on the mouth. Mama and Daddy sent us home with about 25 pounds of squash, 50 pounds of potatoes, a serger, a sewing machine, and a huge canning pressure cooker. They sent me home a few pounds heavier, too. They know a little something about giving and sustainability. I think I’m aloud to say that I’m from good people. My sister gave us 3 big boxes of little boy clothes. We expected none of it, and to top it all off, Jesus performed a fish-and-loaves miracle by helping me figure out how to Tetris all that stuff into the van.

a lesson from my Mama

We made it home to the rock house last night and exploded with our suitcases. I’ll make bread this morning and read to the boys. No matter how fancy I try to be, I only really know how to flourish in the simple, to put my voice in this space in the quiet moments God gives me. My editorial calendar now just says “write what you can when you can.”

I have writing advice for you and me both. The pressure ought to be only in the cooker.

Let’s just write, and then if something earth shattering comes out of it, let it sit a while if it must. Let it fuse together. Let it kill off the unclean. Let it do what it does. Sometimes that means writing it and letting it sit so the tone can work itself out. Sometimes with a blog you hit publish and your words will do what they do. Either way, the pressure can’t be while the words are pouring. We can’t work under such conditions. The ingredients of a work come in pure, like a dash of salt or a cup of honey. Let the words not come in already co-mingled with ego, who we wish we were. We’ll never find our voice when we’re so self-aware that we’re thinking about what we’re thinking.

Like for making breakfast, you go into the kitchen and see what you’ve got that day to cook. You take the toast, and you spread it with butter. The boys will come to the table and eat it because that’s what’s there. Now if I stopped to think about what butter best represents me and what toast makes the plate look the best, we’d just never eat. I wouldn’t get anything made.

Right now, this is the only way I know how to enter back into the echoing quiet without putting the pressure on myself to be something other than I am. Right now, we’re simple as honey, as squash piled in a feed sack, and as tomatoes in the window seal. Right now, we may have garden-variety writing, but keeping up with our discipline – with a healthy base – is how we mature, how we learn to add the spices or to tone it down.

Do you have writing advice to share? Tell me how it is that you keep going? How have you found your voice?

amberhaines
About me

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35 Comments

Rae
Reply June 21, 2012

Oh I needed this! I haven't written for ages...and my last post was about diaper bags (mighty inspiring). The wheels have started to turn in my mind again, so, maybe words will follow soon. As always - thanks for yours, when you can.

dearabbyleigh
Reply June 21, 2012

i recently promised myself, or maybe gave myself the permission, to only write when i had something to say. that's not much of late, but i think that may be because things are still in the cooker and if i lifted the lid, i'd lose all that good pressure building up. your words are, to me, the bounty of unexpected gifts you hauled home from the deep south. good advice, good words, good people, indeed!

HopefulLeigh
Reply June 21, 2012

Oh, how I love this, Amber. I've learned not to hit publish on the first draft of anything I write. It needs to be tasted and seasoned and sometimes thrown out all together. I think that's why all of my pieces come together in spurts and waves. I still sit down to do the work most days but I try to let it be what it will be. No pressure, just allowing space for the words to come.

Also, I want to talk sewing with you! And then come visit once this hobby farm of yours is up and running. That makes me smile real big.

Jennifer Bias
Reply June 21, 2012

This speaks to me right where I am at! Thank you.

Jess
Reply June 21, 2012

Yes, I completely agree! There are so many words out there, and only so many summer days. But, it is good to read your words again.

Stacy
Reply June 21, 2012

I love the simple you. Sounds like a great trip back to Alabama, but glad to have you home.

katie
Reply June 21, 2012

So beautiful and timely for me.
Thank you.

Sarah Bessey
Reply June 21, 2012

I'm so glad you're back here. I missed you (but you knew that) and I missed your voice (but you knew that). This right here, though, is for me. I know you may have written it for your own self or for someone else but I'll just claim it right now as mine because it is and was and will be. So now I'll try to memorize a few lines of it so that it's always with me. Thank you.

Addie Zierman
Reply June 21, 2012

Unbelievably beautiful. Your words always speak to me. Thank you.

D.L. Mayfield
Reply June 21, 2012

I used to pride myself on just writing and hitting "post", never once correcting typos or misspelled words. That is ok for awhile, I believe, maybe in the beginning when you just need to find your style. Now when I feel afraid of the words (and I do most of the time) I let them sit, let them "kill off the unclean" as you so aptly put it. Giving space allows the discipline and the art to emerge together, to make something that is reconciling.

Robin Dance
Reply June 21, 2012

S i g h...

Good stuff, friend.

malory
Reply June 21, 2012

oh, how i LOVE this post :) and i must say...just what i needed to hear...er...read :) i'm not the best blogger. not even the most consistent, but i started my blog with a purpose. and i've been thinking the same thing lately...just write. let the thoughts pour out. no overthinking. just letting it pour out and proof-read a lil' and spell check, but not too much. because really our words when just poured right out are usually the words we need ourselves and what someone else may need too :) hope you have a most blessed day :)

Shelly Miller
Reply June 21, 2012

Oh, I was so excited to see you in my inbox and reading this is like letting out a huge sigh of releif and letting the stress of who I think I need to be for the world just slide right off and walk home. I sat on the beach today with my husband (its his birthday) and thought about this post and then read chapter 10&11 of Emily's book Grace for the Good Girl and this post is like saying Jesus, what He did for us, its really enough. We don't need to add to it, make it look better or worse than it is, just walk in freedom and accept it. Just be who He created us to be and let go of all the other stuff that tugs at the soul. It seems you have gone back to who you are, and its a bit unsettling and settling all at the same time. Thanks for sharing glimpses of life through your words, its inspiring . . . even when you don't think it is sometimes.

diana trautwein
Reply June 21, 2012

DEEP sigh here. Of gratitude for you, of 'welcome back,' of 'absolutely - write only when it bubbles up.' And I'll try to do the same. Love to you and to Seth and to those beautiful boys. LOVING my jewelry. :>)

the Blah Blah Blahger
Reply June 21, 2012

This slapped me across the face, a little...and I needed that.

Mary Stuart
Reply June 22, 2012

Hi Amber! I love your way of living now. I also love eating organic foods. In fact, I encourage other people to eat organic foods since these foods are more healthy. I have also small garden at the backyard and I plant eggplants and tomatoes and this day I already harvest them.

    Amanda Baldwin
    Reply July 4, 2012

    Hi, Mary. It is so glad to hear that you love eating organic foods. Me too. I decided to eat more organics foods to get a healthy body. My parents has a garden where we get organic veggies and fruits.

Megan at SortaCrunchy
Reply June 22, 2012

I would like to come and live in this.

Sometimes, writing is work. Hard work. For me, it is anyway. And I have to lean into it and it's like walking uphill against the wind and often, I hate it, but I have to do the work I've been given. But THEN. Sometimes it is not work. Sometimes the words come easily, a surprise while I'm doing the dishes or washing conditioner from my hair. Sometimes I say the words to myself and I know that those are the words that were always meant to be said. And when those moments come, it is nothing shy of magic.

And so I guess my writing advice is to make space for the magical moments and the easy way of words. I feel like maybe you like write like this all the time, Amber. You make it seem so effortless. But for me, I have to really intentionally clear a blank space for writing that is not work.

PS - I LIKE HIPPIE.

Jessica Y
Reply June 22, 2012

I cried when I read this. 'Cause we're friends. My friend sounds good.

Jessica Y
Reply June 22, 2012

and I keep thinking of this that Paul Tripp said

“If God doesn’t rule your mundane, then He doesn’t rule you. Because that’s where you live.”

- Paul David Tripp

Lauren
Reply June 23, 2012

I needed to hear this too, amber. I've been forcing it. Don't know if i just need to leave it alone for a bit. Thank you for your writing and your thoughts..from one alabama girl to another :)

Elizabeth
Reply June 23, 2012

These words that gently point to the simple are a balm. Every word here is tender truth. I am excited to see where your writing takes you in this next season, as I happily subscribe I will walk this journey out on your blog. Thank you for authenticity and for just plain honest. I am wild about honest. Bless your summer with your familiy and your pen.

rhemashope
Reply June 24, 2012

just had to tell you how much i love this. so good.

erika @ the life artist
Reply June 25, 2012

It is good to hear your voice. I truly need whatever you happen to bring to the table for breakfast.

I'm so glad I checked in here, for some reason I'm not getting my email notifications.

Love,
E

imperfect prose
Reply June 25, 2012

for some reason, my blog roll said you hadn't posted in over a month, but i didn't believe it and checked, and am i glad i did! you always write to my heart, dear amber. i want to live off the earth too. this post near made me weep for its simplicity and beauty. i love that you are living truth. and i am honored beyond words that you posted my book on your blog. thank you. thank you. xoxo

melody
Reply June 26, 2012

clicked over here because i remembered that i'm addicted to your writing because it always finds the YES place in my soul, and i'm glad that i did, and i miss a rock house summer and all of y'all, but also i just love you without too much miss, because i know we're kin.

tonia
Reply June 27, 2012

For me, it is a lot of patient waiting...just filling myself up with good resources, waiting for a break in the clouds, a shaft of light illuminating something new. I do mark out time to write - a luxury of having older children, not something I could do in the years before - but I don't always have the emotional and mental attention that is needed to truly *write*. I just get down what I can, trust that these years of distraction are not wasted, that my soul is deepening, wisdom growing, treasures being stored up and somehow God will make use of them in the moments He gives to write them down. I find it hard to navigate the busy writer's world online, so many deadlines and so much advice, so many people want to tell me what writing should look like and what I have to do to be successful. I don't have the emotional or mental energy for that world. I try to put myself in a posture of availability, practicing and paying attention for sure, but not wrung out with the feeling that I am missing out on my chance. If God wants something of my words, He will open the door, He will equip and provide. The rest of the time I am just doing what I am able to do and letting everyone else get spun up and worn out. *smile* Of course, I don't have much to show for myself - no books, nothing published, not much blog traffic - but I am content and I know that every now and then my words find their way to someone's heart and encourage them. I am content with that...it feels like such a gift to be able to serve the body of Christ in that small way...to just send words out into the world over these internet lines and know God can and does use them as He will.
You have such a gift, Amber. All these hours of work and distraction are only enriching that gift, I promise. One day you'll look back and be astonished at what has been growing in you while you weren't looking and then, my goodness, you will have such riches to share with us.

Bless you.

Annie
Reply June 27, 2012

Amber, I love this, so much. After I attending a (lovely) blog conference this fall, I felt the pressure (excitement?) to write more, to press into it all. And it was a worthwhile effort for a season, but I am resting into a rhythm of writing when things are good and ready and sitting and soaking when they're not, and finding such freedom in that. I am a human before I'm a writer, or anything else, for that matter, and I'm learning to rest in the smallness and the goodness of that. Thank you for this, Amber.

Darcy Wiley @ Message in a Mason Jar
Reply June 28, 2012

My good people and I often dream out loud about this family farm idea (with chickens, of course). A lot of my writing themes come to me after some deep conversation with these and other good people, and after some time alone when I've had a chance to let the conversation marinate. After blogging quietly for myself and family for about five years, I started my new blog last year with the intention of interacting more in the blogging world (where I've been an avid reader) and giving myself some incentive to write for an audience and write more consistently...my goal being to post at least once a week. Like Megan mentioned above, while some words let loose on their own and almost write themselves, many times I have to pry out my prose. But the more I write, the less scared I get of it and the less hesitant I feel about hitting the publish button. I, too, keep wondering if I need to do some kind of editorial calendar, but I'm thinking that certain blogs with a more literary/memoir style, like yours (and maybe mine), probably don't need to be quite so controlled, and maybe would wither under too much of it. Organic is good...like your new hippie ways.

Donita
Reply July 3, 2012

I have not found my blog voice. And I believe it's because I don't know my audience. When I write a friend or my in-laws a note I know who they are and what they know and my relationship to them. The unknown of the blog world is sometimes crippling. I've been pondering the wisdom is writing for the Audience of One.
But I agree that letting what is written sit for a while is almost always beneficial. It helps me to work out my ugliness and reframe what I experience. The danger is making my life seem like all is unicorns and rainbows, lacking the real-ness that makes good bloggers relatable.

Kaitlin Curtice
Reply July 9, 2012

"Let’s just write, and then if something earth shattering comes out of it, let it sit a while if it must. Let it fuse together. Let it kill off the unclean. Let it do what it does. Sometimes that means writing it and letting it sit so the tone can work itself out. Sometimes with a blog you hit publish and your words will do what they do. Either way, the pressure can’t be while the words are pouring. We can’t work under such conditions. The ingredients of a work come in pure, like a dash of salt or a cup of honey. Let the words not come in already co-mingled with ego, who we wish we were. We’ll never find our voice when we’re so self-aware that we’re thinking about what we’re thinking."

Sister,
This is so refreshing for me. I've been going through life thinking that I should be writing more, blogging more, reading more, cleaning more, trying more....all the more's one can think of.
You've given me a little freedom and a lot of peace with these words.
I love you so very much.

Jenny Kier
Reply July 11, 2012

I love gardening so I love to eat veggies and fruits. I teach my kids to love eating healthy veggies and fruits.

Ellen Howell
Reply August 15, 2012

I spent my vacant time sewing so I made own clothes for my kids. So, nice to hear that you love sewing also.

Jeremy
Reply October 28, 2012

Incredible! This blog looks exactly like my old one!
It's on a totally different topic but it has pretty much the same page layout and design. Superb choice of colors!

Cheairs
Reply May 29, 2013

I found you blog through my friend Jeneil over at Rhema's Hope. I needed to read this post. Your words a gift and I thank you.

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