The life and words of Ashley, Erin, and Michelle

My Writing Verse October 26, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 2:25 pm
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I’m not sure if other writers have a verse that applies particularly to their writing, but I have a verse that helps me type that next word.

Did God wake me up in the middle of the night with a verse in my mind? No. After discovering my “writing verse” did I hop on the computer and cheerily pound out 50,000 words? No. In fact, God gave me that verse in the midst of my biggest writing struggle and it did not end instantly.

During my senior year in college, I often found myself staring at a blank screen. Any thoughts I’d had before writing drained out of my ears. But I didn’t have the luxury of avoidance because of my writing classes. I had to extract each word like a dentist pulling out a bad tooth.  And of course when I edited my writing, everything seemed terrible. I’d shake my head and say to myself, I should be better by now. Why in the world did I think I could do this?


During my daily Bible reading one afternoon, I stumbled across this verse in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 (The Message, emphasis mine)

3 -5I was unsure of how to go about this, and felt totally inadequate—I was scared to death, if you want the truth of it—and so nothing I said could have impressed you or anyone else. But the Message came through anyway.

I’m not sure how many times I read it, but each time a wave of relief rolled over me.

Paul was scared? Paul felt inadequate? Yes. And despite his inadequacy, God used him to spread the Gospel. And He will use me too. Yes, I need to give my best effort, but after that, God will use my words,  no matter how bumbling, to tell His beautiful story.

That thought makes me brave enough to keep writing. Eventually, as I persisted the words came easier. One day I found myself on the other side of that dark tunnel. I think part of my problem was the pressure I’d put on myself to be perfect. (See my old post on perfectionism.) But when I do my best and leave the rest to God, writing, though still had work can be immensely rewarding.

Do you have a verse that God has specifically give you for your calling? Please share!


Messes June 16, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 11:34 am
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In one of my all-time favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird, author Anne Lamott says,

“Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground—you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.”

Even though she’s speaking metaphorically, I’ve thought about it’s possible literal meaning when I ask myself the question, “Should I write or clean the bathroom/ clean the kitchen/ mop the floors/ slice that fruit?” God willing, I’ll have time for both but which comes first?

I often choose the cleaning, when I know I’ll have time for both because, well, I like a clean apartment. I feel more at ease. Maybe I just need to loosen up. But this morning because I’m not sure I’ll have time for both, I chose writing. And although I feel pretty good about it, I also feel somewhat anxious and distractable.

Many of my writing friends say they’ve learned to live in a house that Martha Stewart might scoff at so they have sufficent time to write. When push comes to shove, they felt called by God to write but not to dust the chandelier daily. Pretty liberating, huh?

I understand why a lot of writer’s leave the house to work. Since being in my messy apartment makes me more anxious and therefore less creative and efficient; I’ll probably leave home when I have lots of writing work that needs done and a less than tidy apartment. But for the most part I enjoy the ability to switch mental gears between writing and homemaking. I’ve also found that while rinsing plates or sweeping, my subconscious mind untangles knots that tripped me up at my desk.

I also feel more comfortable in my own space, I can listen to music, eat for free and talk to myself as needed. And when it’s relatively tidy, I think my thoughts can move around without bumping into anything.

What about you? How do you balance your professional life and housework? Do you a little mess comforting or annoying?

I’m off to slice the fruit.


Another definition of Perfectionism May 26, 2009

Filed under: Writing — ashleybarrett @ 10:31 am
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I overheard two ladies in my church talk about sewing. The first said, “Maybe you could help me. I want to make a slipcover for my recliner.”

“Wow,” said the other lady, “that’s a big job.”

“I know,” said the first lady with a sigh. “I was so excited when I bought the fabric and I can’t start it. I want it done, but I have this perfectionism, I don’t want to look at it if I mess up.”

I identified with her as only a fellow perfectionist can—then my thoughts screeched to a halt. Wait a minute, I’m not a perfectionist! Perfectionists graduate with a 4.0 GPA and scrub their kitchen floors with toothbrushes. That’s not me!

Still, how many things have I never tried because I didn’t think I’d do well? Because I couldn’t live with making mistakes? That’s also perfectionism.

And nothing wakes up my insecurity like writing. I want to write excellent, well-crafted words and stories. I’m afraid I’ll waste my time by writing something lousy. I’m afraid I’ll look at it and see that I’m no good at this. I’m afraid of humiliating myself in front of other people. What if I look like one of the bad auditions in American Idol pouring my heart out while the judges snicker and tell me to find a new dream?


So I find other things to do. I check my e-mail, again. I wipe the counters one more time. I let that idea for a novel or article grow stale in my mind. The stories remain unwritten, and I become the writer who talks and reads about writing, but can’t sit in her chair and write.

First drafts in writing are like a baby’s first steps. The fumbling words must come before the confident strides of polished prose.

That’s why I’m writing this post today. Before I sat at the computer, I nervously searched my house for something to clean, something to eat, something else to keep me from writing. But I’m here now, and I’m writing. And it’s never as bad as I imagine.

So how about you? What are you afraid to try?