April McGowan

What I Learn From My Characters

Writers are a bit like actors.  Let me qualify that by saying I never wanted to be an actor.  Being in front of people like that isn’t something I yearn for.  However, I was a TV addict as a child.  I don’t think we needed a TV guide because I always knew what was on at any given moment–even re-runs.  If an episode caught my imagination, I would replay it in my memory, change the ending, or extend it out.   I guess I wrote fan-fiction in my head as a kid–but I had no idea that’s what it was!

My kids don’t know what re-runs are, really.  They don’t know that if we missed a show in our youth, my husband and I had to hope they’d run it again in summer and we’d live in anticipation of catching it later.  VCR’s were futuristic and expensive, so we didn’t have one.  Today, if we miss a show, we can catch it on the internet.  I find it ironic that now I have the capability to watch EVERYTHING that is on, I really don’t want to.  Nor do I have the time.

I digress.  Back to my original statement—writers are a bit like actors.  First we imagine a character, and get to know them by writing their backgrounds (family, friends, childhood experiences) to learn how they would act in certain situations.  Then we pull them on, step into their lives and move about, seeing how they feel, what they think, what they want from life.  It’s been said, although I can’t remember by whom, that in order to understand someone you have to walk a mile in his or her shoes.  (I could Google this quote, but that would sidetrack us).

I learn a lot from my characters.  Being a writer of faith, I often learn about God.  Verses I haven’t thought of for years come to mind.  Situations that my characters are going through might draw them closer to God and that gives me new insight into Him as well.  They grow and I grow.  Oftentimes my character will say something truly enlightening that I’ve never thought of before in that context, or maybe not at all.  Those are the wonder moments.

Right now I’m learning about walking by faith.  This happens at many stages in people’s lives, not just one.  I’ve been here countless times, and I will be again.  It’s about growing in my walk with the Lord, and I hope I never stop doing that.  I put one foot in front of the other and keep going, praying God will guide my steps.  I’m expanding a book I hope will pass muster and earn an interview with a publisher this summer.  I don’t know if all this effort will get me there, but I’m learning a lot—and anytime that happens, it’s not a waste.  All I know is that there is a possibility before me, and if I give it all I’ve got and pray, then I’ve done my part.

One of my favorite passages from the Bible is a large section on faith.  Rather than copying the whole section, I encourage you to read it yourself.  It’s starts off like this:

Hebrews 11

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. To read the rest of the chapter, please click HERE

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Stress Cat

Stress CatOur kitty, Jack, has an autoimmune blood disease.  If you know us, then you know this is nothing unusual in our family—in fact the irony takes on special meaning.  The words “autoimmune disease” were once foreign to us—but there are so many things that fall into that category, it’s just ridiculous.  Our family is affected, especially by one—Celiac disease.  A second one (and not the last) was introduced in our kitty, Jack.  Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia or IMHA.  He was born with it, but it kicked in big time when he got a distemper shot in December.  His immune system attacked his blood cells and he nearly died.  We were told to keep him ‘calm’ and not ‘stress him.’  Jack is NOT a low stress cat.  EVER.

Recently we had a lovely visit from family.  This part of our family has a sweet dog, but he wouldn’t mix with Jack at all—so we locked the cats safely in the back room with their kitty box, water, and food for periods at time.  Even though we did this to decrease Jack’s stress, it seemed to drain his system to break his routine like this.  His symptoms (ears, nose and gums turn white from a lack of red blood cells, extreme fatigue) kicked up and we almost had to visit the vet.  We’ve babied him for several days now, and his symptoms improved.  His nose and gums grow pinker every day and he’s back to his feisty self.

When someone says they are ‘stressed’ we often think they are going through a hard time.  And I think that we equate that in our own lives as well—but it’s often not true.  Good things, busy things, can cause us stress just as much as bad things.  But if we feel stress about doing ‘good’ things we tend to feel guilty.  Those things are good, and we should be enjoying doing them, not feeling worn out!  Things like helping others, attending social events, and outreach opportunities.  If you do too much, though, even good things can stress you out.  And if your body is already taxed because of illness or other circumstances, then you get a double whammy.

If there’s been a theme for us in the past two years, it’s thus: take each day as it comes (don’t worry!), know our limits and don’t over commit.  When I watch Jack, I’m reminded that even a break in our routine can stress us out.  I need to pray about our commitments, paying attention to my limits, and my family’s limits and ask for the Lord’s leading.  If I’m paying attention to His direction, then even when bad stress comes, I’ll be in better shape to handle it.

1 Peter 5: 6-11  Humble yourselves therefore under God’s mighty hand, that he might lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  To him be the power for ever and ever.  Amen.

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