Birthday Post 2: Turning 21

Guys, I’m happy.

Usually on my birthdays, I slip into an introspective, rather melancholy, thoughtfulness about life. Something in my mindset changed in the past year: I don’t think about dying young anymore.

I still live each day as if it will be my last. But I don’t imagine some kind of heroic, tragic end so often. I’m beginning to believe they lied when they said the good die young – I can be good and live a long while. And if I don’t live very long, you guys had better make this post well-read.

There’s a question I’ve been reading every day, something I got from Tim Ferriss: “Are you having a breakdown or a breakthrough?”

When I start questioning myself, I choose the answer to that question.

The most important thing I’ve held on to this year is this: I know who I am.

Tuomas Holopainen asked, “How can you just be yourself when you don’t know who you are?” You can’t. The great thing, though, is everybody gets to choose who they want to be.

Different groups of people know me as different things, because I do what I can to serve the needs of those around me. Other times, I’m serving my own needs – the people who know me as quiet, shy, and pensive are the people I respect most; I’m learning from them. The people who know me as outspoken, funny, and intense are the people I trust most; I’m developing myself with their help.

I know who I am. I’m Cynthia Jeub and I’m a warrior chronicler. The chronicler in me is the person who knew she would be a writer from the age of two. I happen to be in the right place at the right time a lot – I witness historical moments, meet important people, and am the receptor of random blessings…once when a coincidental moment happened with an atheist friend, he joked about me listening to a voice. I was listening to a voice – just one he doesn’t believe in.

My identity is personal. When I brand myself to an audience, a huge part of who I am won’t make sense. The important thing is I know who I am, and I know who I’m becoming.

I’m starting to realize becoming isn’t all work. One thing that can get in the way of my progress is thinking too hard about progress. If I’m thinking about writing instead of about the subject I’m writing about, I’ll get sidetracked. If I’m writing a schedule instead of doing the stuff I’m scheduling, I won’t get anything done.

The Infinite One cares deeply for growth, but I don’t think growth comes through continually striving for purity or righteousness or wisdom – not through the guilt-mongering, fear-inducing, control-using methods of religious authority, anyway. Maybe God just wants me to rest in his love, and learn to trust him.

Last night I spent some time dancing and worshiping under the stars, watching the moon and clouds paint the sky and letting the wind play with my hair. I was thinking about this whole spiritual freedom and the gospel of grace thing, and wondering if God really loves unconditionally.

Maybe the hardest prayer, the one I’m most afraid to utter, is not “save me” or “teach me” or “refine me.” The most life-changing, recklessly abandoned thing I can pray is, “love me.”

I’ll be praying for the Infinite One to love me this year. If you see a change in me, don’t wonder.

A Lesson in Jam Writing

I’m heading up my writer’s group for the first time, and I had to lead a discussion last week. My theme: discovering the subconscious. I taught my friends a few things I’d learned about waking up my imagination before trying to describe a vivid scene, and then we practiced jam writing.

My friend Evelyn, who led the group before she passed it onto me (she’s moving out of town), always gave me a difficult time about jam writing. She didn’t want to try it.

Jam writing is the attempt to break all mental barriers and self-censoring to just write. The rules are simple: once you pick up your pen, you don’t stop writing for anything. Not to fix grammar or spelling, not to gather your thoughts. You just keep writing, forcing out the thoughts you usually keep yourself from thinking.

Because of the brutally self-searching jam writing results in, many people fear it. Evelyn did. This didn’t make sense to me, though, because I don’t draft.

Most writers use the writing process of outlining, then drafting, then editing. Being an editor, I edit as I go and can write almost as fast as someone just drafting. When I’m finished writing something for the first time, it’s almost publication-ready. The average writing instructor will tell writers not to edit as they go, because there’s so much self-doubt going on, the draft won’t get finished. Write first, edit later.

Writers who use the write first, edit later process are still reserved and out-of-touch with the subconscious voice, though. I feel like I get both with my process: I know how to access my purely uncensored voice, but I also know how to edit myself to sound my best as I go.

The reason people fear jam writing is they fear what resides in the subconscious. I forced Evelyn to try jam writing with a notebook and pen for ten minutes. The goal was to make the writers feel free to say anything, so I didn’t say they had to share what they’d written. It was a personal exercise.

For me, I find an angrier, less confident, and less self-controlled person in my jam writing (my jam writing document is up to 68,000 words – more than a typical novel). Evelyn found herself writing about things she doesn’t usually let herself think about – situations she can’t control. She explained she doesn’t allow those things to reach her conscious thought pattern because why bother with it? She can’t do anything to solve those problems.

Try jam writing. It’s probably the one thing I learned from Travis Herche that I teach others the most often. You’ll learn things about yourself and learn to face the fear of your subconscious.