On Writing, Shovels, & Speaking Your Verse

I checked my ordinary life at Ms. Svoboda’s classroom door on the first day of 8th grade, and I haven’t seen it since.

Her English class syllabus was two words long, stapled in big letters next to the clock:

Carpe Diem.

She asked us to tell her what that meant, and I didn’t have a clue.

“Seize the day,” she beamed. “And make your lives extraordinary.”

She then led us through the most magnificent Dead Poets Society unit you can imagine, and I was riveted by all of it. For the rest of the school year, Dead Poets served as the backdrop, the soundtrack, and the underpinning of everything we discovered and discussed and considered in her class.

Seize the day. Find your verse. Speak it with all the power and grace of Shakespeare. Repeat.

Ms. Svoboda wanted us to live our lives something fierce, and her passion for helping us learn to appreciate and lean into our God-given gifts was not lost on me. When Robin Williams as Mr. Keating said that “the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse,” Ms. Svoboda didn’t let a day go by without encouraging us to answer his follow-up question, “What will your verse be?”

“I’m going to write,” I told her. “I’m a writer.”

I knew it in my innards.

**

I wrote my face off through high school for English classes, local newspapers, and anyone who would open my snail mail. I journaled like a crazed person (as you know), left ASU with a journalism degree, and wobbled—then waddled—my way through an editorial position at one of the most affluent (but dysfunctional) magazines in Arizona, all with Ms. Svoboda’s parting words to our class framed and hung on every bedroom wall I occupied between 1995 and 2004.

Then life got insane and I did something totes brilliant and ballsy with my God-given gift:

I buried it. 

True to my if-I-can’t-do-it-well-I-won’t-do-it-at-all form, I buried my verse in Minnesota soil and let winter have her way with it for more than a half a decade.

Oh, sure, I still wrote circles around people at Christmas card time, and I even rallied a bunch of people around a little international adoption thing through a blog journal, but other than that?

Forget about it.

I stopped journaling, I rerouted my creativity to photography, and I even went so far as to tell my boss that she was going to have to find someone else to do the writing part of my job because I was over it. A director of communications who doesn’t write? Makes perfect sense to me.

Change my title if you have to, but I ain’t writing no mo.

I could blame all the babies we had or all the moving around we did or the buffoonery that was living through Ryan’s seminary experience, but the truth is that it was far easier to bury my verse than it was to speak it, and I got to a point where I was okay with that. Preferred it, even.

When God moved us to Las Vegas to plant Advance Church, I figured I should start writing things down, even if none of it was good. So I bought kristenlunceford.com and began “writing” when I had time. Which, let’s be real, was never.

For two years I “wrote” posts in my head while making dinner, pushing kids on swings, unloading the dryer, walking the dog, painting only the toes that showed through my sandals, and during conference calls when my boss lamented about needing a writer. After I pieced things together in my head, I would hole up somewhere at night or stupid early in the morning and then wrestle the page as fast I could.

And that, dear reader, is how all the words got here. Rushed, sporadic, and from the margins.

You’re welcome.

I wasn’t writing (even though it looked like I was) until something unexpected happened a little over a year ago. Late last spring a few people I have a crazy amount of respect for started kicking at the dirt above my buried verse. They said some bossy, audacious things, the most ludicrous being, “You should write more. Like a book.” In my head I sassed off (oh, reeealeee? Well yoooou should become an astronaut), but in my gut I knew I was busted. 

Like the servant who received one bag of gold from the master in Matthew 25:18 and hid it in the ground, I had dirt on my hands and I knew it.

By summer I was finally able to confess to Ryan that I am a writer who doesn’t write and that as such, I was perhaps being a teensie bit disobedient. I told him I needed three weeks and a bunch of uninterrupted hours to find out for sure, and then I grabbed a shovel.

By the middle of September I had unearthed a 15-page book proposal and written three sample chapters without breaking a sweat. It felt right—like breathing—even though it also kinda scared the crap out of me.

“It sounds like work and it feels like vulnerability and it smells of getting in over my head. But it also looks like being brave enough to honor the talents my Master has given me, whether I double it, triple it, or come back to him empty handed.”

Annie Downs, Let’s All Be Brave

Yes. That.

I told a few people about what I’d done, passed the proposal around a little, and then God told me to wait.

**

So here we are, friends, at the end of the wait.

It’s decision time.

God’s given me the last nine months to decide whether or not I have the heart to bury my verse again, and I’ve come here to tell you that I most certainly do not. 

As you can see, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pulling myself together under one new roof. My writing, photography, speaking, and even pieces of the original adoption blog (remember that?) will live here until further notice.

Beginning August 26th (when, praise Jesus, all of our kids are in school together full time for the first time) I will be writing more intentionally and consistently than ever before. I know you won’t read everything. I know you won’t like everything. But I am going to give you everything because I am a writer, and writers write.

I have no idea what the outcomes of this will be, but managing the outcomes is not my job. My job is to show up, to do the next thing, to speak my verse.

Your job is the same.

Find your verse. Speak it with all the power and grace of Shakespeare.  Repeat.

You with me? Cool.

Carpe Diem,

Kristen

“You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, ‘Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.’ Don’t be resigned to that. Break out!”

Robin Williams as Mr. Keating, Dead Poets Society


 

© 2017  Kristen Lunceford