no writing left behind

As a writer who’s been slapping words down on paper since I could hold a pencil in my plump little fingers, I have scads and scads of sentences and paragraphs–even whole chapters–written that have no place to call home.

The book I started writing on jealousy and insecurity. The one about in-laws. The ones on Bible prophecy, dandelions, and the messy business of motherhood.

The companion book to mine that I want my husband to write: She Thinks That’s All You Think About.

Then there are all the scribbled quotes and thoughts and crazy notions and flashes of brilliance that I scrawled on scraps of this or that before they disappeared into the Abyss of Fabulous Ideas That You Get at the Most Inopportune Times (like when you’re driving on the interstate or standing in the shower) So Nothing Ever Comes of Them.

I’m not naive enough to think that all of my words are destined for publication someday. Goodness knows I’d be happy if a publisher said yes to just one more book. Period. But I’ve been thinking lately that God might have a plan for a lot of those words I worked so hard to piece together.

I’ve been flipping through old journals and notebooks lately (with bits of scrap paper flying everywhere), and sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised by what I discover. Something I wrote in 1999 that fits perfectly with a talk I’m giving in 2010. Something I recorded in 2002 that I can slip neatly into my current book project.

A few years ago my sister looked through her old journals and copied all the parts where she talked about what she wanted in a husband someday–and gave it to her groom on their honeymoon.

My mom e-mails snippets from her 90 (!!) journals to my girls about their early months and years of life. They love it.

I have hundreds of old letters and some old journals written by precious people in my family (including my Great-Aunt Leona’s Elite Trip Abroad Book from 1949), and I’ve been discovering ways to pass on some of those long-ago penned words to bless various folks.

All that journaling I did for three months while I student taught in Okinawa, Japan? Maybe it wasn’t good enough for a traditional publisher, but my self-published memoir has touched a lot of people over the past 10 years.

My first NaNoWriMo novel? Again, not Barnes & Noble material, but God is helping me use it to raise money for missions.

I’m hoping to carve out a day to myself sometime soon, and I’m going to sift through desk drawers and folders and notebooks and computer files and ask God to show me what He might want to do with some of those million+ words.

God is the consummate recycler, renewer, resurrector. Taking stuff (read: people) that everyone else thinks is worthless and making it like new again, using it for a brand new purpose. Everything He created is good, and He’s not about to let it go to waste.

I know I’m not God, and my words aren’t people. I also know I can’t take every word I’ve ever written and make something fabulous out of it. Some might serve no higher purpose than to show me how far I’ve come in 20 years. Some might show me that I’m still struggling with the same stinking things, darn it. Some I might gently kiss good-bye and toss in the trash (er, recycle bin I mean, Ali, my sweet green friend).

But some of them might find their way to somewhere special where they will somehow, someway, someday bless someone’s life and draw them closer to the God I love. Ooh, I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it!

Do you have any words stuffed away that could be resurrected, recreated, recycled? Any plans to give them new life any time soon?

p.s. I’m guest-posting today over at a very special gal’s blog. I’d go nuts if you’d pop over and say hi to me there! Stay tuned tomorrow for a riveting post on monochromatic books!

12 thoughts on “no writing left behind

  1. Jennifer

    Loved your guest post!

    My mom saved every single email I wrote to them while I was in Namibia. Two years worth of all of my random stories and thoughts, all printed out and put into binders. I’m not sure if anything will ever come of them, but I’m glad that I have such a real, transparent record of that time in my life, along with my journals and prayer letters from then. I thought about self-publishing a book like you did for your student teaching in Okinawa, then giving all (or any?!) profits to the IMB. We’ll see…

  2. Donita

    Your post made me think of the section about books in “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn (p323-326).
    I remember feeling the excitement when I read those passages originally…
    “I believe that on the New Earth, we’ll also read books, new and old, written by people. Because we’ll have strong intellects, great curiosity, and unlimited time, it’s likely that books will have a greater role in our lives in Heaven than they do now.”
    “I expect many new books, great books, will be written on the New Earth. But I also believe that some books will endure from the old Earth.”

    And this is what your post made me think of. Maybe these words are for you today:
    “On the New Earth, will you see once more the letter of encouragement you wrote to your teenage son? Or the letter you wrote sharing Christ…? Or the life changing words you jotted on a student’s paper? Many such things written in this life may prove more important than books.”

  3. Keri

    I have to be honest, I kept a journal through an incredibly tough period in my life and I ended up throwing it away. I think the temptation to go back there and read it was too strong and I felt that I would easily slip back into the mindset I was in when I wrote it……so I tossed it instead. I do kinda wish I had kept it now that many years have gone by and my relationship with God is in a very different place. It would be amazing to see how far God has taken me.
    The blog thing is relatively new to me and has been strangely cathartic. I LOVE going back to read posts. I’m no writer, but putting my heart into words leaves a legacy for my kids like nothing else ever will.
    Praying for you this weekend!!

  4. e.lee

    I just read your guestblog at Rachelle Gadrner’s blog so I came over here.

    I don’t throw anything I’ve written as a writer, becauseyou just never know when something can be recycled…

  5. Denise

    I think Parker’s first blog and the journal I kept while he was in the NICU. I’d love to share it with him when he is older so he knows the difference he made in my life being my miracle. Along with that, I don’t know I ever would as my writing is well, special, but reaching out to other preemie parents. There are many of us out there and if you are a first time one, it’s SO hard!

  6. Omom

    Oh yes I have words, thoughts, journals, stories everywhere. The messiest ones though are the ones all still in my head. I have recently told myself to just start writing them all down and it is helping just to get them out of my head. I too have no idea what will become of them all, but I do know that God knows and that feels satisfying enough. For now! 🙂

  7. Heather Sunseri

    Hi, Marla. I have a couple of friends who are sisters. Their grandmother recently passed away and they discovered after her death that she had been journaling about her life all the way back to her college days. How amazing to learn about parts of a family member’s life that you never knew existed. Journaling is so amazing for those writing the words and for the beneficiaries of the stories later in life!

  8. Amber

    I love words.

    I have tons of journals and look through them often and giggle and cry. Amazing to see where we came from, huh?

    I have a book started somewhere on this computer….but I don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. I think about it, but then forget about it in the same minute.

  9. Missy

    I’ve been combing through my own journals and enjoying reviewing my thoughts and learnings. Some make me very sad, others bring peace and some are just so funny (I began journaling faithfully in 1989). Nothing is wasted with God!

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