In which hitting 'Publish' is pointless

Projects! And gifts! And many, many parentheses!

So, I need a project. In all my fretting over what grad school was going to be like, I never fretted about being bored. (Which is the problem with fretting, anyway. Whatever you're fretting over is rarely what you SHOULD be fretting over, and even though I KNOW THIS, I fret anyway. AHEM.) It never occurred to me that I'd be wandering around wondering what to do with myself. I have my television, a giant stack of magazines, books, exercise and HELLO, I have THE INTERNET. And I even HAVE a project - about nine thousand things to learn to improve next year's Blathering website. (DORK!)

But Phillip goes to school at night, or he's doing homework downstairs, and I'm sitting on the couch not feeling my TV or my magazines or even (I'M SORRY!) the internet. I feel purposeless. Blah.

I started thinking about writing. I realized NaNoWriMo was around the corner. I thought, "Hmm?"

On Saturday I attended a Catherine of Siena Institute workshop called Called and Gifted. It was like career counseling for churchy people. What are we good at? What do we like to do? What things do we do that make us happy? Add up your scores and figure out what committee to join!

Okay, so not QUITE like that, although there was definitely some adding up of scores. No, most of it was sitting in these TERRIBLY uncomfortable metal chairs and listening - being taught, really - by the coolest priest I've ever had the pleasure to hear. And yes, I just used "coolest" and "priest" in the same sentence.

Dudes, this guy? Was like your favorite college campus minister (for those of us who HAD a favorite campus minister) in a Roman collar. This priest could hang with any of the [many, many] fabulous speakers I got to hear during my four years in Protestant youth culture; I'd even say he'd be near the top. He was probably in his mid-thirties and had the most worldly way of speaking... and I know that probably doesn't sound like a compliment to some of you, but BELIEVE ME. It was so refreshing. So appealing and CLEAR. Maybe I just haven't been around younger priests, but I WAS sitting behind two seminarians and even they, I think, were enthralled with (and possibly intimidated by) this guy. I'm awful at repeating other people's stories (I'm awful at MY OWN stories) so you'll just have to trust me that he was hilarious, but appropriately hilarious. Entertaining but with meaning. You know? It's not like you ever forgot he was a priest. And for a while I thought maybe he just appealed to my generation, but he made all 130 participants laugh in unison, and when I was leaving an old Filipino lady sidled over to me and said, "Usually I fall asleep, but not today!"

It was exciting and inspiring and such a blessing to hear him speak. And not just because the lady next to me referred to him as Father What A Waste. [The priest's gifts, as determined by a layperson in the second-to-last row: Leadership, Teaching, Evangelization, Using Snark in a Priestly Fashion.]

My "Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory" (SIGH) (I wish it wasn't so... BUSINESSY) (I mean, doesn't that name just BUG?) was, at first, not much of a surprise. I've taken enough personality tests (and lived enough LIFE) to know that I would get a running start, tackle The Gift Of Administration and kick all other would-be claimers as far away as possible. 

But Administration was only my second highest score. My first highest score was Writing.

I know, I know that sounds like I Am The Best Writer etc. though I should think it's obvious that's not the case. It's more like... the potential to USE writing to glorify God. At least, that's how I thought of it. And that's why it was a surprise to me, because I have never really used writing in that way. I write the occasional churchy post and sometimes I write something that elicits a thank you email or two, but mostly I write because IT JUST COMES OUT. (Side note: long time friend said something like, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I just don't think I could... WRITE that much about my LIFE." To which I said, "ARE YOU CALLING ME A NARCISSIST?" Sniff! No, I knew what she meant. She meant, although she might not have realized it herself, that she is not a writer.) [Her gifts as determined by her old friend: Administration, Knowledge, Teaching, Leadership, Picking Out Way Cool Glasses.] But anyway, I was never one of those earnest girls who journalled (I have many journals, but they are all about boys, none of whom are named Jesus) and have never entertained the thought of writing as a ministry. A blurb about St. Anthony for the bulletin on his feast day? A reflection on the Gospel reading for the top of the worship aid? NO THANKS.

The presenter said we have the gift if, when we use it, we are energized, we feel we've found our "place", we are fruitful and effective without struggle, we experience joyful satisfaction and we are in the minority (meaning, as a possible example, that I am alone among most of my real life friends in wanting to write about my life every single day on the internet.)

I was hemming and hawing about writing as a gift, a spiritual gift, when I heard the priest say something about experimenting. Trying it out. Seeing what happens. And NaNoWriMo popped into my head again.


So I'm gonna. I'm not going to try writing something churchy, or something that *I* think would glorify God, I'm just going to write. If it's a gift then it can't help but glorify him anyway. I'm not entirely sure how teenage romance (I KNOW, HOW EMBARRASSING, you should see my father slinking away, hiding his face in shame, all "Why can't she just pound out a good sci-fi novel? If she'd only just READ the books I keep RECOMMENDING, she'd SEE THE SCI-FI LIGHT!") will glorify The Almighty, but that's all I've got right now. Unless you want to read about a SAHM with a husband in school and two kids fighting over their respective pumpkins OH WAIT. You're already reading that.

I am under NO impression that I am going to actually WRITE A FREAKING NOVEL. I am doing this to 1) attempt to get in the habit of writing (NOT FOR THE BLOG) every day and 2) stomp my inner editor to a bloody pulp. I swear, I have been writing the first 10 pages of a novel for A YEAR. I really love what my yay-you've-joined-NaNoWriMo email said: ...your inner editor is a nitpicky jerk who foolishly believes that it is possible to write a brilliant first draft if you write it slowly enough. And oh yeah, 3) experiment with this gift idea.

And while I'm not sure how much I will be writing here (my guess: probably just as much, if not more, hello procrastination!), I hope to have your support. I told some friends last night I was going to do this (that's another thing the email recommends, because potential humiliation is a great motivator) and they were super supportive and way more excited than I expected them to be. But they are also not writers. They don't have blogs. They don't spend free time dreaming up characters. They don't have file folders full of unfinished drafts and 10 page starts. I do. I bet some of you do too. And I am going to need you to dry my tears and mix me drinks. Deal?

My Spiritual Gifts Inventory didn't exactly help me figure out what to do at CHURCH, however. It did give me some language to describe my sometimes still-conflicted thoughts about the Non-Denominational College Fellowship (the institution valued some gifts over others! or maybe they wanted everyone to have the same kind of gifts! or that these were the best gifts! why else would they threaten hellfire when I didn't want to invite my Goth neighbor to the barbecue!] [well, not HELLFIRE] [you know what I'm talking about!]) I still don't know about NOW, though. No magic answer! Boo! Although, and this is true, I did have a flash forward of myself chairing the Yearly Ginormous Fundraiser Organizational Committee meeting at the Catholic school and my next thought was REALLY, GOD? THAT'S WHAT'S IN STORE FOR ME? BECAUSE I QUIT.

[My gifts, as determined by The Inventory: Writing, Administration, Intercessory Prayer, Hospitality. Not Discernment of Spirits, which, if you must know, was a MAJOR BUMMER.] [And also, I forgot, The Gift Of Parenthetical Statements.]



a) Huzzah for NaNoWriMo! I signed up yesterday because I am drowning in half finished books, drafts and outlines.
b) Personally, I don't think that God, nature or whomever is really in the business of churning out automatons. There isn't an official gift ranking system, making a contribution is what matters. I think that God wants us to do what makes us happy, bonus points for improving the lives of others. If writing is that avenue and if your writing can bring something to one person then it so counts as a calling. Yes, even making someone who reads you on their BlackBerry in the middle of nowhere inch just a bit out of neck deep self pity.


Yes, Maggie you should write and write and write. You most definitely have a gift for it. Also, watch the TED video I sent you. If you're bored in the evenings surely you can spare 18 min to watch Elizabeth Gilbert talk about creativity. You will LOVE it.


Dude, I'm kinda pumped about your awesome priest speaker man! WOO!
Also really kinda excited about Serious Writing. YAY!! GO FOR IT!
And now does this mean I have to write every day in November? LE SIGH. I MUST BE LIKE LE MAGGIE WHEN I GROW UP.


My husband is in grad school and I can totally relate to the boring evenings. I hope the writing works out for you! Sounds like a great plan :)


Well, one way you've served the Almighty today is by posting this. Seriously. The phrase on my brain this week is "career counseling" or "life coaching," -- as in, maybe I need some -- and when you put "Catholic" next to it, I got excited. So I clicked your Called and Gifted link, and bummer, they're not coming to Georgia. Still, some of the ideas you talked about will probably help me as I find some other workshop or life coach or whatever.

Teeny, tiny little glorification, but still. Thanks. :)

(And I'm happy for you and NaNoWriMo.)


Your workshop sounds wonderful! I went to something like that just after high school, and my strongest Gift was "mercy-shower". It makes sense, given my inclination to mother and care for everyone around me, and my policy that no one cries alone.

Anyway, I'm really glad you had a great time, and that the workshop was so revealing for you! And I'm super happy and excited for you over NaNoWriMo. You're going to do great!


Yay for you! I'm so excited you're going to do this.


You absolutely positutely have the gift of writing! No doubt about it. And I bet you will ROCK NaNo!! Meanwhile I will be doing NaNo Lite and even that is freaking me out because all of a sudden I have NO IDEAS. No really. NOT A ONE. I'm in a bit of a panic about this. Which seems reasonable given that NaNo starts in a mere FIVE DAYS, no?


Go Maggie! Maybe the point of all this wasn't to necessarily figure out what to do IN church (but of course, it very well could be!). I like to think that God "smiles upon us" just as much when we discover/use our gifts in ways that are Outside The Box.

Oh, and "I have many journals, but they are all about boys, none of whom are named Jesus" totally made me laugh.


Writing is something I've always WISHED I were good at. I mean, I blog, and I'm a good writer in the technical sense. (And a little bit of a grammar nazi outside the blogging world.) But creatively? It just isn't there.

So good luck with the November writing. Also, good luck silencing your inner editor!


This post made me SO SAD that I didn't go to the Called and Gifted workshop with you guys. I think I could have used it. Well, I'm PROUD of you, Maggie! You're awesome and incredible and unbelievably gifted and perfect and if you ever need me to play with your kids so you can write I'm available. xo

Sarah in Ottawa

I love those inventories. I, too, clicked through the link but there are no upcoming sessions anywhere in Canada. Boo!

It sounds like the inventory is right on for you, though. Isn't it eerie when that happens?

Good luck with NaNoWriMo. Dave did it one year and it was a challenge. I am thinking of signing up for NaNoBloMo, just to see if I can get over my inertia and perfectionism with respect to blog writing. I don't love writing, but maybe forcing myself to do it will make it more of a habit. We'll see...


I think you glorify God with just being you more than you will ever, ever know or admit. :) But good for you, getting a PROJECT! I think you'll be fulfilled by it. And I hope someday you'll share what you produce.

Amy --- Just A Titch

First of all, you are an incredibly talented writer...seriously. Your posts are awesome. I think you are so gifted, Maggie. I am so happy you're going to be writing more! And, if you ever need teenagers to read said romance...well, I have 115 of them WHO MUST READ EVERYTHING I TELL THEM TO READ. Mwah ha ha ha.


I know it's sometimes hard for you to see it in yourself. But, I can see how your writing (both here and in a teen romance novel) is glorifying to God. Here's the thing: there is so much smut out there - I honestly think that people who come at teen (or adult) romance from a purer standpoint are automatically bringing it back to God. You're writing something that isn't offensive, isn't full of foul language and sex and impropriety and that is refreshing and yes, glorifying to God, IMO.

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