What a month! After three years of blogging and writing about God’s intervention in my messy life, the uncut version of my story is out there for the world to read. And I’m at home, four weeks postpartum, wearing sweatpants and trying to keep up with dishes. Somehow, I thought this moment would feel more climactic. But hey, I’m four weeks postpartum and not depressed, even after a history of life-threatening depression (the topic of my book), so I’ll go ahead and say life is great!
If there’s one malady I’m suffering from, it’s postpartum brain failure, or what I’m calling “Mommy brain.” I’m not sure what the technical term is, I just know my mind is scattered these days–I’m forgetful, absentminded, and spacey–and I don’t like how that feels. I think I read in some pregnancy book that this is normal; and I suppose it’s probably worse because I’m currently preoccupied with not only my new son, but also with the release of my new book. So it’s not a tragic condition, just annoying. As long as I can keep my kids, my husband, and myself cared for in this season, I suppose we’re good.
Needless to say, I don’t have much time, energy, or brain capacity to promote my book. And at first this distressed me. (Because doesn’t everything written about book publishing stress “promotion, promotion, promotion”?). But then I decided maybe the timing of this book release was for the best. If I had more available brain matter right now, I think I’d be stressing over book promotion a lot. And I’d be tempted to forget one of the main lessons I wrote about in my memoir: learning that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness.
So here I am, bedecked in stretchy pants, hands full of babies, sink full of dishes…just stealing a moment away from momming to tell you my book has been published, and I’m leaving the rest up to God (and you, dear reader!).
And with that book announcement made (a week late, nonetheless), I’m getting back to my two tiny tots–they will never be this little again–to try to embrace a life that continues to be messy…but now, messy in a wonderful sort of way.
My heart is a bit heavy today. I got news that the publisher who had been evaluating my manuscript for the past seven months–and who gave me reason to believe they wanted it–doesn’t actually want it.
My heart is not heavy because this specific publisher rejected me. It’s heavy because I got my hopes up…and because I don’t have anything left to give this project right now.
I know the typical course of action would be to reread, revise, and re-submit. And I’m sure I’ll do that eventually. But right now, as a stay-at-home mom of a very active toddler, that thought exhausts me. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually.
There are also a number of signs telling me my time for a published memoir has not yet come. Chief most, I’ve realized I’m “stupid in love”–stupid in motherhood and wifehood and homemaking (I will post on that next time–and maybe write a second memoir about that one day)–and I don’t have the time and energy both to correct those faults and to build a platform, an audience, a website, and otherwise handle the activity that a published book demands.
Did I mention that we’re trying for a second baby?
Yes, my cup runneth over with good and challenging things right now; I don’t need a published memoir to add more to-do’s.
I just have to get over the disappointment of this rejection, which was a very nice rejection, by the way. (The editor who notified me said the editorial board liked my manuscript, but they just weren’t sure it would sell.)
So, given my exhaustion and my full plate, my strategy right now is not to rush revisions, but to rest and pray until I next feel God telling me to move. In the meantime, I will tend to other good things on my plate, like The Love Dare, a planned family picture wall (so Sam doesn’t forget his relatives), and a stack of books on raising toddlers. But first, if you’ll excuse me, I might just cry for awhile.
This post may be my last for the rest of July. I need to take care of those neglected areas of life that I referenced in my last post. But I wanted to say goodbye; I will miss connecting with my readers until I get back. Here’s what I’ll be doing the rest of the month.
Facing my Fears of Technology
I’ve put off two things I need to do, just because I don’t really know how to do them: making prints of Sam’s first six months so I can start photo albums and give relatives baby pictures, and turning this blog into a website. The longer I wait, the bigger, hairier, and scarier these things seem, and it’s ridiculous.
I’m a bit embarrassed, especially of my failure to print baby pictures. Shouldn’t I know how to do this? (The issue is getting them from my iphone—which I don’t know how to use very well—to the computer, to Wal-mart’s printing center, then deciding which ones I want to frame and give away. It would have been a lot easier with only one or two months of photos—six months is burying me). I’ve often said I would have fit in a lot better in Victorian culture—you know, the Jane Austen picture of women sitting around reading books, playing piano, writing letters. I would be awesome at this life! But alas, I live in the twenty-first century, and I must adapt.
As for my website, I’m going to start by purchasing the domain name “Lindsey Gendke” from WordPress. Beyond that, I have sketched out what I want my website to look like, but I don’t know how to get there yet. This will require some hours spent studying the resources put out by the friendly WordPress staff. It’s a very doable task, judging by the wealth of resources available, and I’m a pretty good student; I just don’t like doing research of this nature. However, as an author, it will be a good investment of my time now to be able to maintain my site later, hopefully when I have a book or two published. On that note…
Wrapping up My Book Projects
In anticipation of the soon release of The Hidden Half of the Gospel: How His Suffering Can Heal Yours, I am helping Paul Coneff write promotional material, like our author bios (for the book website) and a “super article” conveying the book’s thesis. I have been working with this project for two years and am more than eager to see The Hidden Half in its final form—as is Paul. This is definitely a priority right now!
Now that I’ve proposed my own book, my memoir, to a certain publisher God led me to, I want to ready the rest of the manuscript, should they ask to see it. Whether or not this publisher buys the thing, I’m determined to place it somewhere, so it needs to get done one way or the other. I know my husband, for one, wants me to finally get this book out of my bones, because I’ve been “talking his ears off” about it for years! I’m ready to release it, too.
Celebrating Thirty Years
This month I am celebrating thirty years of life, an accomplishment I am pretty proud of, considering I tried to depart this life round about a decade ago. Five years ago I made it a personal goal to do two, maybe three, things before I turned thirty: I wanted to get my master’s degree—check; I wanted to publish a book—my hopes are on the Hidden Half making the cutoff; and I maybe, kinda, sorta, considered having a kid—check! All in all, it has been a successful past half decade, and I am very happy with my life overall. I continue to marvel everyday at the “spacious place” into which God has brought me, and I look forward to telling others about that for the rest of my life.
To celebrate my thirty years, we have planned a birthday party at my church that will include playing volleyball and eating a Dairy Queen cake—two good memories from childhood. Yippee! I also, with mixed emotions, lined up my mother-in-law to babysit Sam for three days while my hubby and I get away to a little cabin in the woods. I will miss the little squirt, but I know I will REALLY enjoy the down time, and the quiet time.
So that’s what’s in the works for me this month. It’s probably enough to do without trying to maintain a blog. Please wish me luck with my technology goals, and please send up a prayer for my book projects if you’re into those sorts of things (prayer and books starring God, I mean). Thanks so much, and happy July!
I started blogging because I needed an audience. After journaling for no one but myself for fourteen years, I needed to start thinking about writing for others, especially since I wanted to write and publish my memoir. I realized I had been self-centered, or writer-based, all those years. What’s more, I realized my previous education (even though I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English), had not helped me with the transition to writing for meaningful audiences. But now that I was serious about publishing a book, I had to become more reader-based.
If you’ve done any research on the publishing market, you know that being reader-based is essential to (traditional) publishing. If you’ve done that same research and you had an English education like mine, you might have concluded that many English teachers must not be writers—in the sense of trying to publish their writing.
Most of my English teachers gave me dead assignments, or what my thesis advisor called “orphaned texts” to write: papers that were not meant to go anywhere beyond their desk. My advisor also termed these assignments “autonomous texts”—texts that had no communicative element, no audience, and no purpose. This was in opposition to a superior type of writing situation: the rhetorical situation.
Last week I introduced my composition students to the rhetorical triangle—a way of thinking about writing that places a text in context of a specific speaker, audience, and topic. The major lesson is that if any element of the triangle changes, the text must also change.
Learning to think of writing this way—as a communicative act—has been changing my own writing dramatically. And it has tested me. First, on this blog, I have been forced to confront the self-pitying nature of so much of my past writing—and with that, the uselessness and counter-productivity of said writing. Considering my writing through the lens of a prospective audience has forced me to look in a mirror, as it were, and has helped me clear away the dross of my thoughts for current and future projects. The benefits of blogging have included even more healing for myself while looking in that “mirror,” and a push toward meeting my real goal of book publication.
Incidentally, I’ve just received my editor comments back on my memoir manuscript, which are further propelling me to write for an audience. I’m glad I had the training of eight months of blogging to prepare me to think about meeting the needs of book readers.
Trish Ryan’s assessment was great, pushing me to make some difficult changes I sensed I might need to make, but that I wasn’t emotionally ready to make earlier. I hope I am ready now. Time will tell as I enter the revision stage. Providentially, Trish told me I sent her the manuscript at just the right time to get feedback and intervention. I was glad to read that. I knew I wasn’t done with this project at first draft’s end, but I was at a point where I needed an experienced reader and writer to coach me to stretch limits for my intended audience.
Some of her best advice relating to audience was to lay out my story chronologically. Touché, as I had tried to bury or bypass some hard emotional scenes. I needed her to tell me that the audience needs more facts of my background to understand all the feelings I divulge throughout. She also urged me to err on the side of action versus reflection to keep things moving for readers. She said setting up a more complete background to my story in the beginning would help diminish the need for so much reflection later—readers would better understand my actions with the appropriate lead-up.
With her feedback, I am better equipped to revise my book for my audience, which will mean cutting out some material that was personally revelatory but not globally relevant. Though this may be hard, having had an audience of one see and validate those parts of my story has heartened me to the task of cutting them from the final draft. (The tougher job now will be revisiting and writing those difficult parts of my past that need to be in the book).
So the final takeaway for this post? We writers, if we want to be published, and even if we just need to heal, need various audiences to push us to self-reflect on what we’re really accomplishing with our writing—and push us to take sometimes difficult steps. In the end, I believe writing for an audience is making me both a better person and a better writer, and it can do the same for you.
Today is my 29th birthday, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than sitting here at my favorite breakfast place writing, reflecting, and thanking God for the blessings of the past year. Here’s a recap of how my personal and professional lives have converged (and diverged) over the past twelve months—showing me how God takes a very personal interest in the mundane details of my life.
I was fretting over what I saw as conflicting desires, including the desire to write, teach, and (though I didn’t much tell anyone), have a baby. God started to drop things into place when Paul Coneff of Straight 2 the Heart ministries asked me to help him write his first book, The Hidden Half of the Gospel. During July of last year, I was also starting to write my master’s thesis (eventually 100 pages), which was a perfect warm-up for the book-length project I was taking on. Now busy with writing, I tabled my internal baby discussion for the time being.
I was still working fervently on my two writing projects, but there came pausing points in both works, during which time I was left with nothing to do but finally start writing what was in my heart. Four notebooks and one month later, I had the rough draft of my memoir and the beginnings of this blog down on paper—both would wait for January for further development.
I looked around one day on campus and asked myself if this student life was what I wanted for five to eight more years. I didn’t see how that life would allow me to be the parent I knew I’d want to be—if we decided to have kids.
One day in October, while writing a paper for my last graduate class, I broke down at my computer and finally faced the truth: I was tired of this solitary student life; I wanted something more. I called my husband in tears and he came home early that day to take me on a walk-and-talk through the local state park. As I unknowingly acquired poison ivy, it was a relief to hear myself finally saying words I had been repressing for a long time: I want to have kids (this was a fun scene to write for my memoir).
In December I completed my master’s program and sent out two graduate applications—one MFA, and one PhD—just in case we didn’t conceive, and just in case God still wanted me in graduate school.
I did not get into either of the grad programs I applied to, which told me that was not God’s plan for me right now. I went off birth control in January, began this blog, and started officially calling myself a writer.
I spent the early months of the year feeling lonely and a bit depressed—now I was alone in our big house all day long, getting to write, yes, but without the promise of much people time during my days. I started really missing my family in Minnesota, whom I hadn’t seen since the previous June. I also realized I had been taking my husband for granted for most of our eight years of marriage—putting him on the back burner as I worked on emotional issues, self-improvement, and career development. I decided to be more family oriented.
Around the same time, God also brought many friends into my life to help alleviate my loneliness. This told me that God could meet my need for people contact with or without a baby.
In May, when I wasn’t expecting it, I found out I was five weeks pregnant. Yay! We had a fun time surprising our family with the announcement, as most hadn’t been reading this blog and didn’t know we were trying. I rededicated my efforts to finishing my memoir “before thirty,” and now I also vowed to try to finish before baby.
I have just returned from two weeks in Minnesota—probably my last trip to see my family before baby comes in January (I am four months along today). While in Minnesota I attended my ten-year class reunion and felt additional closure about God’s plans for my life. Though visiting Minnesota always makes me wistful, I clearly saw God’s wisdom in moving me away almost nine years ago. Visits back home used to be hard—brought painful memories—but more and more they bring happiness. Now, my husband and I are talking about getting a summer house in MN in a few years—which prospect fills my heart with joy.
My memoir is going well, and I have made contact with a favorite author of mine, Trish Ryan, who has agreed to consult on my book in late August to help me prepare it for publication (my hubby is giving me a “loan” because I told him it would be a good investment!). This fall I will be searching for an agent and/or publisher as I prepare for this baby’s arrival—and hopefully this winter I will have both a healthy baby and a manuscript headed for publication. The healthy baby is more important, of course—the book would just be a bonus. Regardless of how long it takes to get the memoir published, The Hidden Half of the Gospel will be published long before my next birthday—showing me that God heard my “before thirty” prayer six months ago.
It is 10:10 as I finish writing this, and my dentist’s office just texted, “Happy Birthday, I hope you have many reasons to smile today!” I am happy to say, “Yes, I do!” Today, I am smiling about my immediate future that will consist largely of family time, writing time, and more Minnesota time—and that doesn’t even compare to my eternal future!
Thank you, Lord, for taking such a personal interest in the mundane details of my life. Today I praise you for how you care about my heart’s desires and how you’ve led, not just for the past year, but for the past twenty-nine years.
Have you ever felt like there’s something you’re supposed to do, had a nagging feeling that’s followed you, kind of like your shadow, for most of your life—and yet, you’ve never done it? Have you found yourself wondering why you just can’t make yourself do that one thing you seem meant to do? Have you felt disgusted, even, because you’ve let other stuff get in the way? Or, another possibility, have you been so beaten down by circumstances that you’ve lost sight of your true purpose, and with that, your true identity?
Well, for me, that something is writing a book. And this blog is proof that I’m finally doing it. This blog started as a graduate class project for which I was researching and writing how to get published. But when my professor pushed us to write our last essay for a real-world audience, I felt it was time to take action.
I’d been waiting over ten years to publish a book; I was at the end of my master’s degree; and I was at a crossroads. As I wrote in my MFA application essay, I can’t fight this feeling anymore (some eighties band might have said that, too). Anyway, for months now, ideas have been spewing out of my pen, and although I don’t know what next year holds—I have applied for both PhD and MFA programs, and talks of kids are underway—for now I have a semester “off”; and I have decided to write.
But what am I writing about? Friends and family have asked. It’s not enough just to want to write—you also have to have an idea.
Look again at my first paragraph. That, in a nutshell, is what my book, and this blog, is about. It’s not just about my journey to publishing a book (although that’s part of it). It’s about pursuing dreams that were interrupted by depression and other disasters. In the words I have chosen to describe my project, it’s about writing to my roots: the roots of what I was meant to have, be, and do—and the roots of what kept me from having, being, and doing all of the above for most of my adult life.
Thank God, after praying through a lot of the bad roots in myself, I am ready to write to the good ones (though there’s always more healing to do). That said, in order to document the tangible feat of publishing a book by the time I’m thirty, I’ll also want to tell you about the many intangible feats it took for me to get here. I’ll tell you about how I’ve survived a broken family; how I’ve overcome a debilitating mental illness; and how I’m finally learning to redefine myself after, at age twenty, leaving everything I had and everything I knew—family, job, school, and friends—to move one-thousand miles and marry a man I’d known only four months. Spoiler alert: my story has a happy ending.