by Dina Sleiman
Last week, amidst all the excitement of my first novel sale, one of my closest friends lost her father. A sober reminder that while new things are beginning, other things are passing away. As my husband and I looked over the funeral schedule, we decided that our kids should drop all of their activities and attend the viewing with us, because this was not only the father of our friend, it was the grandfather of theirs.
They hadn’t been to a funeral since my last grandparent died, and our youngest child was still a baby at the time. We thought this was an important opportunity to teach them that the man had lived a long life serving God, and that he was happy in a better place now with his Lord. We could teach them to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. How to be a good friend in the midst of heartache. But most importantly we could teach them that death is a natural and necessary part of life on this fallen earth.
In a different book by Brenda Ueland called If You Want to Write, she calls this the “theory of planned neglect.” No one can do everything well. We must focus on our goals and set priorities. And in order to do something truly incredible, like write a novel, we must be willing to intentionally neglect other areas of our lives. I first read this book in an undergrad creative writing class, and I’ve used it in my own teaching ever since.
So it’s not surprising that when I felt the Lord call me to seriously start writing in 2006, I realized I would have to let some things die. Now that might sound easy, just don’t do them anymore, but it was actually one of the hardest and most thankless decisions I’ve ever made. At that point I was homeschooling my children, doing almost full time volunteer church ministry, and had a very active social life. It took nearly two years to slowly, piece by piece, prune away the excess until I could truly focus on my writing ministry the way I desired to. I was met with whining, complaining, guilt, and even some hurt feelings. I hate to hurt people's feelings :( But I continued onward, as gently as I could, carving out a space for my writing.
Today I still lead worship for children’s church once a month. I still choreograph and direct a few dances a year. I taught a ladies bible study for several months one winter, and a free writing course last summer. I’m still involved, but at a normal, balanced level.
And it paid off. As I mentioned in the beginning, last week, after five years of writing, I got “the call” (which was actually an email), and all that sacrifice, all that neglect, was finally worthwhile. My books will reach people. I did my best to follow God’s plan for my life through thick and thin. Even when it meant letting go the good to pursue the best. Finally, I can breathe a big sigh of relief.
Dina writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her first novel, Dance of the Dandelion, will release with Whitefire Publishing in 2011. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/