By Christen E Krumm
It’s that time again. The time where you find yourself madly scrambling trying to figure out what in the world to get your favorite writer for Christmas. Have no fear! I’m here to help—whatever your budget, these are gifts that any writer would love to receive.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving all year around! And there’s a few to choose from: Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Magazine, Poets and Writers, or Publisher’s Weekly .
Craft books are some of my most treasured books. My favorites include: Stephen King’s On Writing , Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.
Not sure if they have a certain one? Give them an Amazon gift card (or a gift card to your local bookstore. I promise you can’t go wrong!)
I write books. What’s your superpower? (yeah, that’s a t-shirt . . . you can get it here:)
Writers are superheroes (really, just think about it) You can get some fun literary action figures on Amazon including: William Shakespeare, Edger Allen Poe, and Jane Austen .
Coffee (or coffee swag)
You could get a couple from a local roaster or have a roaster ship. There are also coffee subscriptions (another gift that lasts more than one time).
You could also go with a fun mug or coffee-inspired art.
This coffee poster from Pop Chart Labs is one of my favorites
This mug is fun, and shows that you believe in your writer
Fun accessories and etcetera
Fun tools. If we’re going to slave away on a novel, might as well make it fun right? I’d love to have one of these typewriter keyboards.
Bookends. Writer’s love books. Bookends are the perfect gift to keep their most treasured tombs together. My favorites are: this beautiful agate pair from West Elm, these... because owls, and these awesome pineapple ones from Anthropologie.
Story Cubes. Because sometimes writer’s need help brainstorming.
Writing maps. Speaking of brainstorming. These Writing Maps are amazing.
Kindle unlimited subscription. When all else fails. Give the gift of books. If your writer doesn’t have a Kindle, you can gift them one for as low as $30.
On a tight budget this year? That’s ok! I have you covered. Hop over to my blog to see how you can love on your writer without spending a dime (or very few dimes).
By Samuel Tyler
“Never Forget what you are.
The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor.
And it can never be used to hurt you.”
– Tyrion Lannister
In this day and age, it’s difficult to go anywhere without being aware of all the different stories and stimuli created by our peers. Recent advances in technology over the past decade have given us the ability to be more connected than ever. This has given us both many wonderful benefits and inevitable “problems.” While there are many we could discuss, I would like to focus our attention on envy and external validation. By the end, I hope to give you the ability to recognize these feelings and face them.
Envy is strange. It’s one of those things categorized into pettiness, and in more extreme cases, an act of sin in religious communities. Envy goes a lot deeper than other problems however because it doesn’t necessarily show on a surface level and you can’t always see that someone’s negative behavior is rooted in their jealousy. It’s a motivator that compels people to act more defensive and passive-aggressive. Everyone has felt it at one time or another, and those feelings have become more amplified due to exposure to social media.
Recently a new term called “Instagram Envy” has surfaced. Instagram promotes a user’s ability to be creative and to make green monsters out of all their friends. When you look at other people’s photos, you’re looking at glimpses into their lives. You’ll see graduation photos, getaway vacations, engagements, pregnancy announcements, you name it. Seeing these moments can force us into a state of “Comparisonitis.” Or the act of unfairly comparing your faults and disappointments to someone else’s accomplishments and opportunities. It also doesn’t help that these photos can also be digitally altered on the fly to look even more vibrant than they are. This causes us to exaggerate our own failures and fantasize the lives of others.
(By the way, here’s a shameless plug for my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/styler1775/ )
Observe my creative photo angle of the wine rack! Doesn’t it show my creativity?
Notice how I’m not so subtly baiting for your approval? This photo might make me look like a connoisseur of fine wine, but allow me to reveal to you that I know absolutely zilch when it comes to wine. To be honest, I’m not even that big a fan of wine. Sure, I’ll drink it if you offer it to me, but if you start asking me my professional opinion, I’m just going to respond. “Yep… It’s fruity!”
Now did I post that photo to give you the impression that I’m living the fancy life? Nope. I just thought it looked neat. I didn’t care what people were going to think. I said, “This might make for a good picture,” so I took it, regardless of how many people I thought were going to see it and like it. I want you to take note of this mindset because we’ll be exploring it later.
It’s likely everyone has experienced this form of envy one time or another, and I just want you to know, that’s ok. It can be very demoralizing to be sitting at home during Halloween looking at all the happy couples on Facebook who have synchronized costumes while you’re sitting in your room re-watching Stranger Things season 2 for the third time. Not only that but when you see someone else having a great time with life while you’re barely getting by it only builds into your need for conformity and approval from others. Which leads nicely into my next topic…
You can’t talk about envy without addressing its cousin issue “external validation.” Now to be perfectly clear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to conform and be part of a group. In fact, it’s built into us evolutionarily as a means of survival. As human beings, we do in some instances need the acceptance of others. We need it to be a part of groups and to find partners for survival. This is why there’s so much anxiety centered around being rejected by a romantic interest.
I just really want to reach into that comic and tell Charlie Brown that everything is going to be ok.
The problem is centering your happiness on external forces rather taking agenda over your own attitude.
Take Marty Mcfly from Back to the Future. A lot of his fears are centered around whether or not his musical talent will be accepted.
“What if they say I’m no good? What if they say, get outta here kid, you’ve got no future?
I mean, I just don’t know if I can take that kind of rejection.” – Marty
Then later in the film. Marty’s dad drops a bomb of a revelation on him.
He gives the same kind of response that Marty gave early. He’s not alone in his fears, and neither are we. The subject may be different, but whether it’s talking to a romantic interest or chasing your passion, rejection hurts and we’ll all face it at some point. It’s not until our characters are thrown into conflict that they’re forced to face that fear. The same goes for real life. Conquering your anxiety requires consciously walking into discomfort and ultimately living through it.
Social Media Woes
Do you post too much on social media? Does your esteem take a hit when you don’t get a lot of reactions or no reaction from a certain person? Do you constantly post selfies of yourself? Are you constantly updating your profile picture? Are you making status updates for every little activity no matter how menial? If any combinations of these represent you, you’re seeking some form of external validation, and you probably need to take a break from social media for a while to break that addiction.
If you do post something, post it because it matters to you. Do it because you want to savor the memory, not to see how people will react or to get back at an ex. On top of that, don’t post anything that doesn’t build into the narrative of your life. I.e. Don’t post something just for the sake of posting. Treat Instagram like a scrapbook or a photography club. Treat Facebook like your personal storybook. If you do something with authenticity, it will show and people will gravitate toward you.
On the topic of needy people: Insecurities can be revealed by seeking constant approval from relationships. This is what is known as “needy” behavior. It all comes from a place of fear. Their relationship is a source of happiness and losing that joy would be detrimental to their self-worth so it must be maintained at all costs, even if they don’t realize that the constant maintenance will be more likely to drive people away. Think of it like watering a plant. You don’t want to die from dehydration, but you also don’t want to drown it. Your life has to have more in it than just keeping your plant alive.
Another thing I’d like to recommend for more personal instances: Sometimes we get rejected by people we care deeply for. Seeing their selfies and perpetual joy on social media drives us crazy. Looking at it is like hearing that person say “I was so bored before, but guess how much fun I’m having now without you!” You need to stop doing that to yourself. The only cure for unrequited love is distance plus time. Facebook has a way for you to unfollow people without letting everyone know if you would like to avoid any drama. However, if it hurts to look at someone on social media you need to break it off because it literally causes you emotional harm and you need time away to reflect and heal. I also wouldn’t recommend being like Adele and writing your pain into a song for all to hear. (Because again, that’s seeking external validation.)
Aziz Ansari on Ghosting
(EXPLICIT: Some cursing present. Viewer’s discretion is advised.)
What Can You Do?
First and foremost, you need to accept that you are the master of your fate and the captain of your soul. You are what you do, not what happens to you. It’s not about the hand you’re dealt, it’s how you play it. Change what you can, accept what you can’t. You need to accept yourself. Mistakes and all. Know what you are, own it. If you’ve already defined yourself no one else can do it for you.
On top of that, you need to also accept your successes. That sounds obvious but think about it. How many times do you stop and think about the great things you’ve done? Probably less than you should. It’s easier to be negative, that’s why we need to be mindful and remember to take the good with the bad. It doesn’t matter how small the accomplishment.
Make a note, write down every day something your proud to have done. Take that time to reflect. Don’t bottle up any emotions either. You need to express them in a healthy way through some form of expression. I have found writing it down to be quite effective. Most of all, don’t ask people to tell you what they think are your best qualities, it needs to come from YOU.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Mistakes get made. Don’t beat yourself up over it. People tend to be more worried about themselves than what you do anyways.
Sometimes you run into someone in a bad mood. Sometimes people are jerks. That’s no reason for you to lose your cool. Brush it off. Let it roll off your back. It’s not passive behavior to turn the other cheek. It’s actively making a choice not to allow someone else to control how you feel. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone except yourself.
Pain is inevitable, suffering is self-inflicted. You’re going to get hurt. You’re gonna feel down occasionally. When it happens, write it down, or just take note of your emotions and thoughts as they happen. Take a moment and say “I feel this emotion,” and then “Why do I feel that way?” You will need time to reflect.
Having self-respect or confidence is not just something you’re born with. It comes from experience and being willing to be vulnerable. It is being uncomfortable and ultimately surviving the discomfort that builds confidence.
Now, I am not a doctor. What I’m suggesting comes from my own experiences. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking counseling or professional help, and if you feel as though your life is somehow deficient in some way, I would suggest you do so. Even just asking for help from a loved one is a good idea. But please, whatever you do, don’t be silent.
Remember that having self-validation is not necessarily the end-all-be-all of life. As I said before, human beings are social creatures, and it is in our communities that we find our place in life. No man or woman should stand alone. You should seek the advice of your elders and people you trust. If you’re a Christian, you should seek guidance in your faith and your religious leaders. Praying is an effective form of reflection that allows you to take a moment to calm your mind and rejuvenate.
Without a doubt, self-validation is incredibly rewarding. It makes others want to be around you more and talking to them easier. It means you worry less and expect better and when you expect better, better things happen. Having faith in yourself helps you to be an even better cooperator. Remember, social media isn’t the culprit. It’s a tool for your benefit or determent depending on your ability to control your own impulses.
When you’re so secure in yourself and there’s nothing inside that can hurt you, then nothing outside can hurt you either.
I just want to take a moment to thank Sam Ellenwood for letting me post on his blog, and if you would like to know more about curing social insecurities, I’m going to be exploring more on the topic on my own blog at https://ambercladblog.wordpress.com/about/
Charlie Brown comic above is the creative property of the Charles Schulz Estate
Back to the Future gif above is the creative property of Universal Pictures
Back to the Future gif above is the creative property of Universal Pictures
Though I was twenty-three when I had my first girlfriend, I still had no idea what I was doing. I had asked some great girls out, want on some truly fun dates, and had two DTR talks(Define The Relationship) before I found a girl who was actually interested in moving forward too, and I was on cloud nine when that happened. It's a great feeling when someone is like, "yeah, let's see if this leads to marriage," however after that comes the work which, with the right person, will be worth it.
Many people gave me great advice before, during, and after my first relationship and I wished I listened to more of what they said during it all.
Remember, I am not an expert, these are just some of the wise words people told me and personal lessons. A story from an expert, in my opinion, will be at the end of this by my fantastic father, Drew Ellenwood!
1. solitude is risky
Be it in a home alone or a parked car alone, when two people of the opposite sex are alone together and are 'interested,' only bad things can happen. That doesn't limit it to physical either; topics can be dangerous too as they can venture into subjects too deep at the moment or just unhealthy and inappropriate discussions. A good counter is being in public places together, coffee shops, restaurants, or with friends. Leading to the next one. (Segue)
2. groups are healthy
Community is essential. It is healthy to see the other person in different environments as it helps both of you get to know each other in a safe place. That being hanging out with their friends, your friends, or mutual friends, very rarely is community wrong. Seeing how they get along with your friends and you with their friends helps you get to know them better, from them personally or from their friends. A healthy relationship won't force you to abandon your friends for it. Good friends will want to support both of you as you two should support them back like friends should, just like family. (Better Segue)
Though, if everything goes well, you will get married and leave your family to start your own with your spouse. This doesn't block them out forever as they will still be involved in both of your lives. Getting to know the family and seeing how their relationship is with other members and you is important because they won't be going anywhere.
Side note about parents: they are a great glimpse of what the person you are dating will be in the future, just like you. It is not the norm for someone to not be like one of their parents. Trust me; I am a lot like my dad. (No Segue Here)
4. tough talks
During all this, stuff will come to mind. Conversations will come to light that will need to be discussed. They aren't the typical "how many kids?" or "where to live?" questions which are important and should be talked about but are harder to state broadly for everyone ones. I'm talking about the topics that are unique to each couple that would be easier to avoid, and you will want to avoid them. You will think of excuses for not bring it up, the timing isn't right, it will just make them uncomfortable, or they don't want to talk about it. These conversations will vary and be unique to each couple but must be discussed sooner rather than later as it is better to talk about them now instead of five years into marriage.
Side note: both parties must want to have these talks and must both agree on the topics to be discussed now and the topics to wait to talk about for engagement for protecting both parties. (Segue by contradicting myself)
5. protect the hearts
Now, to help make it clear, with these tough talks, and just spending time with them, you will get close to past pains, deep fears, and long struggles you have. All of these things your future spouse will need to know to help you carry those burdens as you help carry their burdens. At the moment though, they aren't your spouse, and if they do know these things, it can end up hurting both of you even more if you all don't end up as husband and wife. Now, if you find yourself confused on what you must talk about or stuff to wait for until engagement, that is where community and older, wiser people come into play to help both of you know how to traverse the topics and the journey itself. When in doubt, ask someone who has been there before.
Now, you could listen to all the points I gave and even the wiser words of my father below, but if you don't have Jesus at the center of the relationship, it will all be in vain. Because in the end, it is all about Him.
Now to the good stuff!
Below is the manuscript my father used when he gave his marriage testimony at his church last Sunday and after reading it, I knew I needed to add it! Thanks for the permission dad!
Drew Ellenwood's Marriage Testimony
When Jeff asked me for a testimony on marriage, I reminded him that I’m single. But a testimony is a description of a scene or the relating of a story. I will tell you a story of a marriage. Its characters are Dona and I. And as any story, this marriage has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I was a senior at OU, and Sandy and I were pre-Christmas history. Alone again… naturally. It was just past Spring Break and I wanted a date for the coming weekend. Who to call? Dona or Marty? I picked up the phone and called… Marty. But she was busy that weekend and I didn’t want to wait until the next, so I proceeded to the second on my short list. Sure enough, Dona could go. Just as well. Months later I saw Marty with her feet up in her chair at a nice restaurant. Yikes.
The date with Dona was a disaster, or so I thought. We couldn’t seem to keep a conversation going. We ate at Sweet Peas in Oklahoma City then stopped on the way back to Norman at an arcade where I watched her play Ms. Pacman. And as I watched, I knew she’d never go out with me again; I had proven too boring.
But she did. We dated a couple of months before she went on a summer mission trip to Spain. I entertained the idea of asking Amy out while she was gone. I mean, there were no rings on anyone’s finger yet. But I couldn’t get Dona out of my mind. I had to eat crow and ask Charlie Ann for Dona’s address in Spain.
“Didn’t get her address, huh?”
“Did you say ‘goodbye’?”
“Hmm. Well, here’s her address, though she’s probably found a cute Spaniard.”
Now, international mail is frustratingly slow. This was before cell phones and emails. On the day I had been sailing – my first and last time as I capsized the boat and lost the mast – and with Christopher Cross’s “Sailing” in my head, I got home to an airmail letter. Mast lost or not, it was a good day. No mention of a Spanish hunk. And I started understanding what falling in love is about.
She came back. And soon I thought I might propose. I asked my parents, my mentor, my best friend, Dona’s disciplemaker, and my grandparents if this was a wise choice. You know, real love is deeper than romance; it is wisdom. My advisors were unanimous, though my grandmother warned that with marriage comes enough exposure of the heart for it to be broken. Let’s not skip to the end yet.
One date before Dona and I were married we learned a lesson that stayed with us. I took her to My Pi Pizza. Neither of us wanted to tread on the other, so we hemmed and hawed over the menu.
“What do you want?”
“O I don’t care, you choose.”
“No, let me know. Which do you like?”
And on it went. We ended up with a pizza neither of us liked because neither of us had opened up about what we really wanted. The lesson: Marriage is not compromise. You want compromise: try Congress, though they don’t even get there now. Marriage is consensus. Compromise and you end up with what everyone can tolerate. Consensus is talking and listening and coming to a decision better than what either had thought before.
During We Bought a Zoo, Scarlett Johanssen tells Matt Damon, whose character is recently widowed, that the word ‘cage’ is not used in zoos anymore. They’re called ‘enclosures.’ Then she says, “My brief marriage: that was a cage.”
He replies, “Not mine.”
So we come to the middle part of our story: Wedding, honeymoon, finishing school, starting a career, raising kids, buying a house, riding the ups and downs of finances and health and family. The humdrum. With Dona, it was nice.
In marriage Dona and I let our guards down and showed all the fear, desires, and ick of our hearts. But to do that, you must trust each other and you must be trustworthy. There are to be no weapons pointed against each other. It’s like what Dennis Quaid says in the movie In Good Company that you choose who you’re going to be in the foxhole with, and when you’re out of the foxhole, you keep your pants on. Marriage is not everyday a fight. Marriage is everyday a united front.
This person is your companion. Not some dude sitting with you in a deer stand, not some chick you share coffee with. They are friends and have their place. But your spouse is your intimate companion.
Dona knew my moods, and I have many. My poor kids are left with me, the weakest one. Dona was the level-headed of us. She could calm me down by simply saying, “Drew.” She never sprung stuff on me when I had just walked though the door. She encouraged my silliest dreams, even sent me one weekend to merely write. She didn’t get angry because I can only think on one thing at a time. She would simply say, “Drew, look at my face.” Then she had my attention.
And me? I studied her. Men, don’t throw up your hands and tell me you don’t know what to buy your wife for her birthday. Go in her closet and see what she wears, what is her size, what has she pushed to the back wall. We can memorize football scores and baseball statistics; we can figure out our wives’ desires.
Dona and I were watching While You Were Sleeping and the dad says to Jack, “Why didn’t you tell me you didn’t want my business? I could have sold it to Uncle Eddie for twice its worth. I could have taken your mother on a cruise with Kathy Lee Gifford.”
I looked over at Dona and said, “Would you like to go on a cruise with Kathy Lee Gifford?”
“If I went on a cruise,” said she, “I’d rather go with Mickey Mouse.”
Hmm. So for her 50th birthday I sprung a surprise on her and told her to pack her bags because the next day we were leaving on a Disney cruise.
This was after she had fought cancer for a few years. Things were going well. I even wondered if I should waste the money on something as trivial as a cruise. But was it the Spirit or no? I was reminded of Jesus saying, “The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
And I didn’t always have her. I had really wanted to have a Golden Anniversary. But life rarely takes your desires into account.
There came a day the oncologist said there was nothing more to be done, and Dona stated matter-of-factly, “Let’s go home and live until we die.”
We took one last little trip up to Mount Magazine, bringing along her medical equipment. A month early for her birthday, but this was good. She died four days after her 52nd birthday. I was sitting by her bed in the room she loved in our house, reading her verses from Isaiah, as she passed. But this is not a bad thing, my friends. What better way to pass to God than to hear your love read those beautiful promises from Isaiah and next hear Jesus speak your name.
The center of the family is not a person. It is not the husband; that is tyranny. It is not the wife; that is bitterness. It is not the children; that is delinquency. The center of the family is a relationship, an unshakable one, the marriage relationship between the husband and his wife. This is security for man, woman, and children. And at the core of that relationship, if it is to hold at all, is Jesus. Even cancer cannot rattle this.
Yes, my grandmother was correct. A heart can be broken. Yet I would never trade those years married to Dona. So, give yourself to Jesus, have a daily Quiet Time, and cherish one another as long as it is called today.
And make your own story a happy one.
© 2015 S. W. Ellenwood. All rights Reserved.