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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Keeping Company With More Than Paper

"It should surprise no one that the life of the writer - such as it is - is colorless to the point of sensory deprivation. Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the occasion of his only firsthand experience. Writers read literary biography, and surround themselves with other writers, deliberately to enforce in themselves the ludicrous notion that a reasonable option for occupying yourself on the planet until your life span plays itself out is sitting in a small room for the duration, in the company of pieces of paper." -Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

I've been in brilliant company this last week. Thankfully, it was neither pieces of paper nor my laptop.

Our family drove to Chicago to spend the week visiting with family and friends. Because we'd planned our trip to accommodate our children's fall break, we didn't stay long enough to participate in any real Thanksgiving feasting.We did, however, hold a three-day birthday celebration for Nathan, which was lots of fun but now that I think of it, might be the very kind of thing perpetuating the notion that his birthday is a national holiday.

It's always a good thing to step away from my otherwise normal writing life and the technology, which supports it. When we cross into Michigan and my iPhone tells me that I no longer have access to data (except for an exorbitant charge), I feel relieved. Radio silence descends, revealing just how reflexive my digital habits are: all those empty minutes inhabited by a quick scroll through Facebook status updates and tweets; rabbit trails of mental activity, as I follow one article after another. Not a bad thing - but not always defensible and certainly a source of distraction.

I welcome a pause when it arrives.

And although I didn't write this last week, I did make some writing connections.

I met Katelyn Beaty, the managing editor for Christianity Today, for breakfast one morning. About halfway through the conversation (at which point I'd finally slowed my nervous chatter to a normal speech cadence), Katelyn made the wonderful and unexpected offer that I join Her.meneutics as a regular contributing writer. (P.S. I forgot to tell you I wrote another article, which they published last week: "What You Don't Know About Complementarian Women.")

I'm grateful for this opportunity, knowing that great readers make for great writing. And Her.meneutics, with its outstanding roster of women writers, certainly courts a theologically thoughtful audience. At the same time, the offer makes me feel all jittery inside, wanting alternatively to do cartwheels or move to Montana.

There's courage needed for the writing life: to keep at it, to keep risking the sound of your own voice. Which is one of the many reasons I am grateful to belong to Redbud Writers Guild, a community of women writers. For the first time last week, I had the chance to meet some of the buds in person.

Shayne Moore, author of Global Soccer Mom  and the soon to be published, Refuse to Do Nothing

Teri Kraus, a seasoned fiction writer who has published 13 books

Aubrey Sampson, a newbie like me

Margaret Philbrick, who is working on her first novel

And a friend I've known a long time, Alisha Venetis.

So there's my update, friends: I've spent a week living not just recalling the real world. There was even a lazy morning spent at a coffee shop with the my beautiful daughters: hot chocolate for them, a latte for me, and several rousing rounds of Checkers and Clue.

And if that's not life . . .