Saturday, January 13, 2018

What Lies on the Horizon

This new year is something I've been thinking about a lot. Not just in terms of goals and resolutions, but in terms of where my heart is and what lies on the horizon. And it's finally time to catch some of those whirring, buzzing, humming fragments of thoughts. Time to string them together into something to share with you, because I'm a firm believer in the strength we can find in each other's journeys. I wouldn't blog if I didn't think that somehow, some way, the tangling threads of our stories matter to each other.

Last January, I set some lofty goals, writing-wise. (You can see them in detail HERE, if you're so inclined.) Another thing in which I am a believer is the value of looking forward to set goals, and looking back to see how far you've come. So before we look ahead, let's pause and turn around for a moment.

2017 goals

Finish the first draft of The Prophet's Key. Nope. Didn't make it. But I added 17,000 words to the rewrite I'd started in 2016, bringing the total word count up to 100k. I ground to a halt there, realizing just how bloated and huge the story was becoming. A course correction was needed, but at that point, leadership college was ramping up like crazy and I decided to put the project aside.

Began expanding The Brightest Thread into a novel. Check!

Go to Realm Makers. Another check! That was an incredible dream come true, one I hope to see come true again this summer.

Write, edit, and submit a story for Rooglewood Press's contest. Surprisingly, check again. Mirrors Never Lie is on some judge's desk right now, I imagine.

Complete the first draft of The Brightest Thread and do a round or two of edits so that it's poised to move forward (aka maybe get published) in 2018. First draft--check. A round or two-ish of edits earns another check. And is the novel "poised to move forward" now? I'd say it's poised to move into another round of edits, that's for sure, and then . . . well, we'll get to that in a minute.

Finish The Creative Way writing course by Ted Dekker. Um . . . no. This kept getting pushed back due to one reason or another, and I still have a handful of lessons to complete.

Possibly begin querying agents for TBT. I dipped my toes in the water by pitching it at the Realm Makers conference, but subsequently sent it to beta readers, knowing the novel needed more work. So querying didn't happen last year.

All in all, four out of seven, plus some progress on a couple of uncompleted goals, isn't bad!

Here's where I would turn my hopeful attention toward this year's list of aspirations . . . But again, we'll get to that soon.

The past two Januarys, I've set aggressive timelines for my writing goals. And there is a place for those kinds of plans. I don't regret pushing myself past my limits. Yes, I danced on the edge of burnout some weeks, but I learned valuable lessons about pacing myself, working hard, writing when the inspiration is gone, working under deadlines, juggling responsibilities, and what healthy (and unhealthy) creative practices look like. It was great!

But this year, I've realized I need to recognize what season of life I'm in. I am a student. And I won't be in school forever, so rather than resist the demanding schedule and the responsibilities, I want to thrive. That means balance. That means reframing school from a burden into a passion. That means taking care of myself by carving out pleasure reading and making sure I get enough sleep. That means soaking in time with family and saying yes to friends when I can (instead of no, sorry, I'm busy, come back when I graduate).

But the biggest dream I have for 2018, the one thing that I am finally allowing to overshadow everything else . . . is my friendship with God.

It's a little crazy, how even a year of Bible/leadership college didn't cause me to become more intentional about spending time with Him. I read my Bible every morning because we were given class time for it--which was so good, don't get me wrong--but the habit somehow didn't transfer to my home life. In fact, ever since leaving high school and wading into the big, wide world of adulthood, I feel like my devotion time has been irregular.

But busyness is a lousy excuse. (And please, before I go further, don't take this as a guilt trip for yourself! I simply want to be honest with what's been going through my head lately!) I am a quester, a pursuer, a dreamer, and a doer by nature. Give me a goal, and I will plot, list, track, and work my way toward it, for better or for worse. (This is not always a positive, guys.) But being a doer is little good if I'm not doing the right things in the right order. If I can devote myself to a novel I'm writing and show up day after day even if the well runs dry, can't I put the same energy into flipping open my Bible every day?

Yet this is about more than doing--although I do want to redirect that trait--this is about a relationship.

This is about Jesus being the first name on my lips in the morning and the last thought before I fall asleep.

This is about a dialogue with my Creator, the Lover of my soul.

This is about looking for Him in the everyday moments.

This is about being aware that He is here, always, and even if emotions run their own course I am never cut off from His love.

This is about a single-minded, single-hearted pursuit.

This is about seeking one kingdom above all others, and yet--

I don't know how to get there. I want to, badly, but it's not something you work up on your own or even work towards at all. It's less about my hands doing something, and more about my heart doing something. The only labor involved is that of laboring to "enter into that rest."

What I know right now is that every time I have hungered for more of God and cried out for a deeper knowing of Him, He has responded. And every time, all it took was asking . . . and then putting one foot in front of the other with my eyes open for an answer. Another thing I know right now is that I miss digging into the Word.

And those two things I know for sure? They're interconnected.

So my planning/listing/doing side is happy to have discovered a really cool Bible reading plan in the back of my new copy of The Voice translation. It's a plan that takes me slowly through the Bible in three years instead of one. That's exactly what I need right now, just a quiet, thoughtful walk through Scripture. It's not even chronological--in the past two weeks, I've dipped in and out of Genesis, Job, Psalms, and Proverbs. This plan takes up only 40 weeks a year, leaving time to investigate some suggested readings for Easter and Advent. So it's not a high pressure thing, and so far I'm loving it.

I'm journaling as I go, just jotting down whatever means something to me today, rather than trying to encompass everything as if I'm writing a scholarly essay. I'm rediscovering glimpses of this great narrative God has been weaving throughout history, and I'm stumbling upon little bits of it that are woven into my own life today.

Am I a changed person? Am I on some spiritual mountain right now? No. But this is slowly, surely being built into a habit, and I hope that the more I do it, the more it will pervade my thoughts and attitudes throughout the day.

It's a simple thing: seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things--all these dreams and lists and goals--will be added to you. This year, I want to actually try that, and not just fool myself into thinking I'm already doing it.

If you're anticipating some grandiose announcement of a hiatus, that's not coming! I'm not scrapping anything entirely, just shifting some priorities around. Like I said, I need to give myself room to enjoy my school studies and get back into a regular daily time with God.

So for the next few months, writing is taking a backseat. It's not out of the car entirely, but it's not the driver right now. Here's what I'm aiming for:

January-April: Slowly start organizing the beta feedback on The Brightest Thread. Possibly start working on a secret project I hinted at a couple months ago, which is still stewing in my mind. Possibly try my hand at some flash fiction to submit to magazines and whatnot. I'm giving myself the freedom to be sporadic and to take time off whenever needed. This is going to be playtime, not work time.

May-August: Edit The Brightest Thread. Assemble a list of literary agents and actually start querying. Attend Realm Makers in St. Louis (hopefully!!!) and pitch TBT again there. Finish The Creative Way course. Get that secret project off the ground for real. Maybe even make some tweaks to the blog to spiff it up and make it look more professional. It'll be summer, which means there will be time to power through some goals!

September-December: Totally depends on how the previous goals are going. Likely, I'll continue querying TBT, working on the secret project, and who knows? I might even be in a good spot to start casually planning my next novel. I'll be back in school, so I may ease off a bit again, though.

that's our heart-to-heart for today, friends.

I kind of hesitated to talk about the deep stuff, because I know things like prayer and devotions are highly personal (and I've been guilt-tripped by well-meaning writers and bloggers before, which I wanted to avoid here), and maybe you're not into that to begin with . . . But I think it's a good and healthy thing to be honest with each other. We've all been through dry spells, all struggled to form good habits in this area. And I couldn't talk about my writing goals without talking about why my approach is different this year.

What are YOU aiming for and dreaming about for 2018? Big or small, deep or more superficial, I'd love to hear it!


  1. Best of luck on your goals!

    I want to work on reading my Bible every night, because I've been slacking on that.
    I also want to work on keeping my grades up. :/

    Happy 2018!!

    -Gray Marie |

    1. Thanks, Gray!

      Reading the Bible before bed has worked the best for me so far too. I haven't succeeded in waking up early. :P

      As for the grades, you've got this! *high fives*

      Happy 2018 to you too! <3

  2. You can do this, Tracey! I'm so happy for you getting work done on TBT and getting beta feedback--that really is an amazing feeling. <3 I hope you succeed in all your goals! My goal is publication in some way or another O_O Obviously if I do aim for traditional publication I won't be publishing in 2018, but I want to at least send out some queries and try to talk to some agents. XD

    1. Aww, thank you, Faith! Beta readers are AMAZING and their feedback is precious.

      You're aiming for publication? :D That's so thrilling!!! Do you know if you're planning to go for traditional or indie? Queries and agents are a great place to start, from what I can tell. I hope you make great progress!!!

  3. I feel like I've been slacking on my relationship with the Lord too. Therefore, I haven't been feeling as joyful and content as I could be. It's such a hard thing, to get in to the habit of spending time with God, but it is sooo worth it. I'm glad you've decided to take a break and focus on that. Good for you. :)

    Also, YOU CAN DO IT!! ^_^ I truly hope to someday see your book sitting on a bookstore shelf. That is my sincere wish. <333 I hope you're having a lovely January!

    1. That's where I've been lately too. It's amazing what a difference I see in my attitude and emotions when I spend even just a few minutes with God! ^_^

      Oh, Madeline, you are the SWEETEST. *hugs* Thank you for the faithful encouragement, my dear!!

      P.S. I keep wanting to shorten your name to Maddy when commenting. XD Does anyone ever call you that?

    2. Good to know I'm not alone in that. It's true! My whole day can be turned around when I spend just five minutes with the Lord. :)

      Oh, you're so very welcome, Tracey!! <333

      Yes, actually! That's the nickname my family uses, since Madeline is kind of mouthful. So shorten away, if you like! XD

  4. Your posts are the most inspiring, beautiful things. I just can't! <333

    Firstly, LOOK AT ALL THE THINGS YOU ACHIEVED IN 2017!!! You did SO amazing. All that on top of college. You are superwoman! I'm so proud of you!

    Okay, but all your thoughts on taking a step back and focusing on your relationship with God is so inspiring! You are NOT guilt-tripping me! As fellow believers we should be able to share our journeys with one another. We're brothers and sisters in Christ and SUPPOSED to talk about what is on our hearts, to support each other and inspire one another and lift each other up. To be able to let loose our thoughts with one another when we need to. I LOVE how you shared this with us! It was inspiring. And I think it is absolutely beautiful that you want to just go with the flow and seek Him, instead of forcing high, demanding deadlines on yourself. You're exactly right, college IS only for a few years. You should definitely soak up this short season in your life! That is such a wonderful perspective.

    And your goals are spectacular! I love how you have them set for the months of the year. That's awesome!

    I do hope all your 2017 dreams and goals and hopes and aspirations are fulfilled, and that every day your journey with God becomes more and more beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Love ya, girl! <333

    1. *2018 dreams, not 2017. >.> Yep, still not used to typing 2018...

    2. Thank you for your precious comment, my dear! <3

      In the day to day, it usually didn't FEEL like that much, but looking back I'm pretty satisfied! *dramatix flip of my Superwoman cape*

      I agree! It's all about spurring each other on to good works, right? I find so much encouragement in sharing the journey with people. And right now, the college workload is a biggie, so it's been kind of a relief to NOT think about writing and such. (Though I do miss it!)

      I'm just a goals maniac and timelines motivate me! XD

      Oh, Christine, the same to you! *hugs* (Haha, I've been accidentally typing 2028 lately...!)

  5. 'But busyness is a lousy excuse' << ohh truth. it's honestly a hard thing (for me) to remember. it's hard not to get caught up in the whirl and end up arranging your priorities in the way you think are important, but probably really aren't. so thanks for the reminder!

    hope your 2018 is a great one, girl! <33

    sarah » the introverted extrovert

    1. Exactly my struggle on an almost daily basis! There's always something more to do--the list never ends. I guess that's why it's so easy to put it off, and also why there's no better time to do it than right now.

      I hope your year is off to a great start, Sarah! <3

  6. Wow I love reading your writing!
    Thanks for sharing the deeper stuff, it's encouraging.
    And I didn't feel guilt tripped at all. =)

    1. You're precious--thank you! Being an encouragement makes my heart so happy, and I'm glad to hear it wasn't a guilt trip. <3

  7. Hey Tracey!

    Wonderful blog post. You are doing so well to place God as the most important priority in your life. I loved that you described it as friendship too - relationship with Him is the most important. We can sometimes see God as a distant figure or someone we cannot be friends with. I love that you know Him as a friend and want to grow that.

    Interestingly enough, I feel the same. I really want to partner with Him and make Him a priority in all things.

    Also, The Brightest Threads sounds fab! So exciting to think about agents and querying. I think you've made a great timeline for the year and given yourself space to enjoy school and not get too stressed out or stretched thin with hefty writing goals.

    In 2018 I would like to be more intentional with spending my time with the Lord. I also would like to write regularly. Right now I have an opportunity where I'm not working or in school full-time so I have been writing full-time, working on my novel Evren and readying it for querying this spring.

    I also would love to go to a writer's conference :)

    And perhaps enter a few more writing contests.

    I want to grow as a person, physically and mentally. I want to grow as a writer and as an artist :)

    Woohoo! Here's to a great year :)

    Blessings <3

    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Loie! Coming to see God as my best friend was a big turning point for me, and it was when I started to really dive into my faith. ^_^

      Thank you! I hope spacing everything out will give me some room to breathe. I'll just throw myself into schoolwork for now, and then throw myself into writing...and then school again in fall, etc. Very excited to see what all happens!

      Those sound like great goals, especially since you have some time on your hands. I hope all goes well with Evren, and the potential writer's conference and contests too! :D

  8. Beautiful post, Tracey. Thank you for sharing yourself. You are an inspiration. I truly enjoy reading your blog. Bless you in your journey and your relationship with the lover of your soul. His love shines through you.

    1. Thank you, my dear! Your comments are always encouraging, and you're such a blessing to me! <3

  9. Thanks for your honesty and for sharing with us! Your posts are always so heartfelt and inspiring. ^_^ Best of luck on ALL your goals! I hope your 2018 is amazing! <3

    1. Oh, thank you! ^___^ You're a dear for saying so. Sending a hug! And I hope you have an amazing 2018 too!!

  10. This post was simply beautiful. And a good reminder to me, as well. It can be so easy to get overwhelmed and flooded by all the busy-ness of life, the universe, and everything, and forget what is best and most important. Like you said, even when reading my Bible is on my daily to-do list (because we read portions of it for school each day) it's not the same as really taking those words into my heart and building a relationship with Christ over them. Thank you for your honesty and for speaking directly to my heart with these words.

    Best of wishes with all your writing dreams and plans. We are hoping to get to Realm Makers, this year, too! Hope to see you there!!!!

    1. Thank you so much, Jenelle. Busyness is so, SO easy to fall into! I'm very much a Martha...learning how to be more like Mary, who choose the one thing that was needed. ^_^ (But why is it so hard to remember that?) I hope that even as you read for school, the words burrow deep.

      Eeeep, meeting you would be so exciting! I can't wait for February because registration will be opening up!!!

  11. where can i read da brightest thread??

    1. Thanks for you interest! The Brightest Thread is still a work in progress, but I'm very much hoping to publish it someday. So keep an eye out! :)

  12. UHM. EXCEPT SAME? I'm definitely going through some similar things this year! Reprioritizing is 100% happening over here in the USA also, so you're not alone. :D

    1. *high fives* It's always encouraging to hear others are on the same journey! And ugh, why is reprioritizinf so hard? XD All the best there in the USA!

  13. I have been trying to refocus on God this year too, I want him to be guiding my steps. I don't seem to do well on my own.

    Great post!

    1. I'm with you, Skye. I get weary on my own. It goes so much better when I set my focus on God! I hope you experience a genuine shift this year, friend! <3

  14. The whole relationship part is so important. I just started my tenth year of reading through my Bible. It sounds great in theory, but so many of the days it's just a 'gotta do' thing which makes me sad. Even though I have perseverence, it isn't always present in the important places.

    Faithfulness is so important. If we don't build a strong foundation during our youth, how shall we survive?

    1. It gets so dry and task-oriented when we lose sight of the relationship! Thanks for that reminder--I've been consistent with reading the Bible this month, but I want to stay engaged. It's not about checking another thing off a list!

      Building an early foundation is so important! I hope you rediscover joy in your time alone with God. <3

  15. Congratulations on fulfilling so many of last year's goals, and I wish you all the best with this year's goals!
    It's always uplifting when I hear someone talk about how they want to grow closer to knowing God! There is nothing of the guilt-trip sort in these deeper topics. It resonates and it's encouraging. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for the well wishes, my friend!

      Oh, I'm so glad to hear it. That's what I hoped to get across. I hope your friendship with God grows even closer this year too!

  16. Oh yay! I'm planning on going to Realm Makers too! I hope to see you there! It was great meeting you in person last year!

    1. Wahoooo! I hope so too! Meeting you was a blast. :D