Monthly Archives: August 2012

Operation First Novel

Operation First Novel is a contest for, as it says, authors submitting an unpublished novel. The contest is sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

This year I entered my novel. 

Huh. When I pushed the send button on my entry form no flares went up, no confetti, no balloons, no champagne cork popped. Didn’t it register in the universe that I had just submitted my novel to a contest?

No—nothing. Then I remembered what a lonely business writing is. Really, it’s more alone than lonely. I’m not lonely when I write—generally I’m having fun somewhere on the fun continuum between good enough and a blast.

After submission, then a writer waits—and waits—and waits.

Years ago, while whining to the Lord about waiting on something else, the scripture came to mind “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Whether or not I get what I think I want, I don’t wait alone—I wait with the Lord—and I wait actively—watching and praying.

There are a lot of I‘s in that last sentence— enough to gag on. My fervent prayer is that the Lord helps me get out of His way so He can use me. But I’m no better than the disciples—I keep falling asleep when I’m asked to “watch and pray.” Then it’s—wake up—slap cold water on my face—and try again.

As Peter Leavell, winner of Operation First Novel 2011, said “…God knows the end (Jeremiah 29:11). He knew I would win.” Likewise, He knows exactly what will come of my novel. That’s weird to know while I wait, but that’s part of God’s process—teaching us to trust Him in the dark. But it’s still…well…dark, and sometimes my lower lip trembles.

I don’t expect to win the contest, but I want to win the prize. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
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I Got Nothin’

I asked a therapy client if she had anything in mind she wanted to talk about for our session. She said, “I got nothin’.”

Me too.

It’s Friday, and I’m trying to keep to a blog posting schedule of something new every Friday. But today I’m two days away from sending my first novel to a contest. All I can think about is my revision—what I have to do yet to get it as good as I can—the culmination of over a year of very hard work.

I haven’t thought about ironing, weeding, cleaning house, or much of anything in the last several weeks. I have managed to get a few loads of laundry done, cooked now and then, and remembered to feed the dog. My poor husband has really picked up the slack I’ve dropped. Fortunately, he thinks doctored frozen pizza is a real meal.

Writing a novel has been an incredible process. When I finished the last round of revision, it was hard to close the binder and be done. I already missed the people. I missed my blue editing pencil—how weird is that!

Since I got nothin’, here’s a link to a clip worth watching: “J.I. Packer’s Advice to Aspiring Christian Writers”.

http://vimeo.com/43985791

Maybe next Friday I won’t be such a single-minded, blithering idiot, and I’ll be back in the real world—and I’ll have somethin’.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
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A Little Couple Psychology

Here’s a picture of our cats, Wadi and Lulu—fighting. Bear in mind, they’re brother and sister, and they’ve obviously known each other their entire lives. Yet they still fight.

If you want to see them not fighting, check out the Family Album page.

In therapy, I’ve often said couples are like my cats. They know each other —they love each other—but for some reason, one of them looks wrong at the other, the hackles go up, and they’re off and fighting.

In session, sometimes I just want to yell, “KNOCK IT OFF!” I do yell that at Wadi.

Effective couple therapy often lasts a number of months to make sure the couple learns how to handle, and recover from, episodes where hackles get raised.

My motto in therapy is—there’s a reason people think, feel, and do everything—however, it may not work, and you may not deserve it. What that means is that it’s no mystery why people behave the way they do, although it may be hidden deep in the recesses of one’s brain.

Stay tuned for more on this.

So there’s a reason Wadi picked on his sister this particular day, but he’s not saying what it is.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012

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Writing Believable Characters

Author Jon Hassler wrote brilliantly. I haven’t finished devouring his work, but Rookery Blues, The Dean’s List, and North of Hope are set in small-town northern Minnesota where people cope with life. Obviously, people cope elsewhere, but crafting a fascinating story about fascinating people doing not much in the middle of nowhere takes skill. No wonder Hassler taught creative writing. He was a master.

In my opinion, one of the reasons Hassler’s work crackles is that he creates extraordinarily believable characters. I picture him writing with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the bible of mental health diagnoses, propped next to the keyboard.

To create real, consistent—believable—characters, it wouldn’t be a bad idea if writers really did that—familiarized themselves with the criteria from the DSM-IV.

It’s jarring if a character does something we just know people like that don’t do, because we know these people.

Read the descriptions for: Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Substance Abuse, Adjustment Disorders, Childhood Disorders, Cognitive Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, Impulse Control Disorders, and Psychotic Disorders. That will get you started on drawing real-life people and their problems, remembering the continuum factor.

Writers love to get characters into trouble and watch them squirm to see what happens. The process and outcome of coping should usually ring true to a character’s personality, whether it’s reactions to trouble of the character’s own making, or events or actions of others. A narcissist is unlikely to be overcome by a wave of altruism, unless it’s self-serving. A hoarder, chronic worrier, or clean freak is unlikely to ever be free of all obsessive-compulsive behaviors or anxious thoughts. A character who’s basically OK before a seriously depressing event occurs is likely to have the resources to cope and be relatively OK again. And eating disorders aren’t about being thin, though the client may protest too much, they’re about emotions and control.

There was a time when I railed against diagnosing my psychotherapy clients, but I did it because third party payers require it. I’m resigned that we’re stuck with the medical model and insurance companies. (And if I continue down this particular bunny trail, I’ll start foaming at the mouth.) Diagnosing has its point, though, in that it gives therapists a framework within which to understand and treat people.

Diagnostic categories can also be the basis for putting flesh and bone on our fictitious characters.

© Cristine Eastin, 2012
Categories: Psychology, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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