4.29.2016

3 Ways To Accept [Constructive Criticism] About Your Writing


"How do you deal with people criticizing your writing, even if it is constructive criticism from people who love you? Like I get real sensitive because my writing feels like my baby and it hurts my feelings if people I know like give suggestions and stuff. Any advice?"


"Have you had to deal with constructive criticism from your family and friends a lot? I sometimes feel like mine are my harshest critics. I know they do it because they want me to get better at writing, but it is still hard. Especially if they say my book ideas don't sound that great. It is hard."


These are two questions that I received on my ask.fm.

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First of all, constructive criticism pretty much defines itself.  It's an evaluation, assessment, an appraisal of a work - whether well done or not.  
Secondly, the 'constructive' part of the two-word phrase is merely to lessen the blow of someone finding fault in the writing.  
BUT just because someone criticizes your work doesn't mean that what you've written is bad.  Constructive criticism is a useful, encouraging, helpful bit of information from an outside perspective, on something that may or may not be made better.

There are three reminders to accepting constructive criticism that I have learned - and reminded myself - over the years I have been writing.

1) Just because someone is criticizing your work, doesn't mean it's bad.
You should accept the criticism and yes, give it a thought.  Maybe you could've worded this or that differently.  Maybe what you were feeling wasn't conveyed thoroughly enough in what you wrote.  Or maybe you need to quit using that specific scenario or metaphor because it's getting old and you're way more imaginative than that.  Learn to tolerate criticism and use it to move forward and better your experience as a writer.  You can understand where a person is coming from without agreeing with them, you know?

2)  You can choose whether or not to accept the criticism.
After all, YOU are the writer here.  YOU know what you were trying to convey through your words.  If someone criticizes you for being 'too dark', 'too vague', 'too romantic', well they can have that opinion, but it doesn't mean that that wasn't exactly what YOU were trying to transmit through your writing.  But also, remember that you aren't perfect.  Admit when you've made writing errors or that something could definitely be phrased better.  Anyone who has done anything had critics.  
Accepting criticism on something that you wrote from the heart, is like losing a game. There's a good loser or a sore one.

3)  Don't let the judgements of others determine what you write and how you write it.
Constructive criticism is good because it hones your skills.  Some people know how to give criticism well.  Others do not.  
But regardless of either of these, you need to find what you enjoy writing the most about and how you enjoy writing it.  And if someone just doesn't like it - for no other reason than that they just plain don't like it - then they don't have to read it.
A lot of people say to not take criticism personally.  That it's not about you, it's about the way others perceive what you've written.  Well, I disagree with that because, as any writer knows, every thing we write about has a piece of our heart in it.  Like the first question from ask.fm that I shared above says: "I get real sensitive because my writing feels like my baby..."  Oh I know how that is.  You put so much time and care and effort into writing something that it's like drops of blood from your heart are mingled with the ink on the page.  But also, remember this:


Also, to answer the second question, yes - my family and friends do offer me criticism on my work.  I've had some rude things said about what I've written, I've had lots of encouragement, and then I've had some 'You really want to say it that way?' type of feedback.  I used to be extremely sensitive when it came to my writing and what others thought of it.  But as I've learned more about what I write and how I best enjoy writing it, I've come to a point of accepting any sort of feedback with a dose of humbleness too.  Whether it's negative or positive, I keep myself focused on the ultimate goal - to become a better writer.  And that's something I will be working towards my whole life.  So why not accept the bad with the good, hm?

4.28.2016

Missing Them


Missing them is going to hurt.  It's going to sting.  It's going to be a kind of pain that you've never imagined.  It's a kind of pain you didn't know existed.  (And I'm sorry you're finding out.)

Missing them is going to feel like someone is loading bricks onto your chest and you can hardly breathe.

Missing them is going to come in waves every now and then.  You'll be going about your day just fine when suddenly, someone will say a phrase they used to, a song will play, you'll find a shirt they gave you...and memories will hit you like a semi truck without brakes.

Missing them doesn't have a deadline.  Honestly, you'll probably miss them for the rest of your life.  They were a part of you.  They held a significant amount of importance in your heart.  Your souls were connected, and may forever be.
Don't rush yourself.
Give yourself time.

Missing them is okay.  It's okay to embrace it.  To accept it.

But remember that there is so much more to living than to spend time focusing solely on the pain of missing someone you cared for.  Okay?

And don't, for your sake, miss life because you miss them.

4.26.2016

F i x

One of the greatest notions a human has is that they can somehow fix, or at least help fix, another individual.

But the truth is, we can't.

We can only offer advice, give encouragement, and remind them that we are here if - and whenever - they need us.

It's hard to stand back and watch as someone you love and care for decides to take a bad path, make wrong choices, pick the [bad] influential friends.  Part of you just wants to jerk them awake to reality, and part of you just wants to grab them in a tight hug and whisper, "I'm sorry you're going through this time of life, but please don't do things you will later regret".

It's hard to not be able to fix someone.

It's hard when they accuse you of leaving them when in reality, they're the ones just pushing you away.

I wrote this poem as part of the 30/30 challenge a couple of days ago.  I thought it was fitting to include in this post.


Sorry if this was kind of a depressing thought.  
I'm just experiencing this exact scenario right now with someone who is dear to my heart and it pains me to see them choosing to go back down to the murky swamp they worked so hard to get out of.  They're choosing to leave the high and narrow road.  And there's nothing I can do to stop them.
Except pray.
And I will never, ever cease to do that.

4.25.2016

Music Monday | Interview with Zach Morris of Endless Pursuit

In March 2016, three teenaged guys, who call their group Endless Pursuit, released their first single - a worship song entitled 'Renew'.  

Two months prior to its official release, Renew was aired on National Radio on KLTY's New Music Cafe.  Soon after being available for purchase on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, the reviews were positive and encouraging, including letting the band know that some churches were using Renew during their worship sets.  

I stumbled upon the band through a simple retweet on Twitter.  And once I listened to their single, I was an immediate fan.  
The lead singer and frontman, Zach Morris, reached out to me and made me aware of their GoFundMe account in preparation for the launch of their second single.  I've already heard a preview of it and I'm excited for it to be officially released.

I asked Zach if he'd be interested in sharing with us a little about the band...


Raquel: Let’s start off with something simple.  Please introduce yourself and tell us about how you got started in music.
Zach: I’m Zach.  I started off in music as a wanna-be rock star; meaning, I was that annoying kid in 8th grade that was always bragging about playing some made up show with some non-existent band of mine that was “better than Green Day”.  This was really before my real relationship with Christ began. But soon enough, after my interest in music and guitar started, I met a guy named Matt Riley who was (at the time) leading worship at the church my family was going to.  After beginning some guitar lessons with him that lasted a little over a year, I decided I wanted to be a worship pastor.  That’s kind of how I began developing into the musician I am today.

Raquel: How long have you all known each other?
Zach: I’ve known Luke for about 3 years, going on 4.  I’ve known Zeke for about 2. 

Raquel: How old are each of you?
Zach: 17

Raquel: How did the band form?
Zach: Luke and I met after a church service at Celebration Church in Georgetown.  We only talked briefly, but long enough for me to see that he knew what he was doing with guitar.  A little while after that we met again at a small group at his house where I bugged him enough about starting a band that he gave in.  We recorded our first song that night using Garage Band, if I remember correctly. 

Raquel: Where did the name Endless Pursuit come from?
Zach: Good question.  It was an idea I had come up with after we had decided our former name was terrible.  The idea was that, even after our walk here on earth is done, we’ll still be pursuing God forever.  Hence the name Endless Pursuit.


Raquel: What instruments do each of you play and did you take lessons or teach yourself?  What is your favorite to play/perform with?
Zach: I mainly sing and play guitar.  I got lessons on both for about a year, then taught myself the rest of the way to where I am now.  If you consider the voice an instrument, that’s my favorite for live stuff.

Raquel: Have any of you ever taken voice lessons?
Zach: I have.

Raquel: Can you share with us who some of your first and current inspirations were/are?
Zach: I think my biggest inspiration - as far as songwriting and playing live goes - is Jon Foreman.  I just think he’s a really cool guy with lots of insightful thoughts about life and its implications upon music.

Raquel: Who are some artists/bands you’d enjoy performing or collabing with?
Zach: I’d definitely like to do something with Jon Foreman.  I think it’d be cool to have him singing and songwriting in the “worship” genre area.  As far as songwriters and bands in our own genre go, I’d have a blast working with John Mark McMillan, Kings Kaleidoscope or Elevation Worship.

Raquel: How many originals have you written?
Zach: I have no idea, but a lot.  I stopped keeping count years ago.

Raquel: What are the goals for the band?  
Zach: To make much of the name of Jesus.


Raquel: What has been one of the greatest blessings about performing and having a following for your music?
Zach: I guess the coolest thing about it is seeing the things that God has put on my heart impact other people in awesome ways.

Raquel: Do you all hope to tour someday?
Zach: Yes.

Raquel: Do you have any projects currently in the works?
Zach: We do.  We’re finishing up recording for a new song and also have another two songs that are currently still in the writing stage.

Raquel: If you had to choose, what would be one word that could sum up who the band is?
Zach: That’s one I don’t feel like I can answer very well.  I guess ‘resilient’.  It’s not easy to do what we do, especially not when you’re still in high school.

Raquel: What is some advice and encouragement you would give to any budding musicians?  Or to ones who have continually run into roadblocks in their path to becoming recording artists?
Zach: I think the biggest piece of advice I could give anyone that’s starting in music is to think long-term.  Nothing’s going to happen overnight.  Today’s emerging artists aren’t brand new.  They’ve been working for years and have been patiently crafting their sound and style.

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Facebook: Endless Pursuit
Instagram: @EndlessPursuitBand
Twitter: @EPBWorship
YouTube: Endless Pursuit

4.19.2016

Everyday Blessings // 42


>> driving the back roads till 10 p.m.
>> acquaintances who quickly become friends
>> keeping up on this 30/30 Poetry Challenge
>> meeting a friend's girlfriend (and actually liking her)
>> getting drinks with an old friend and restoring our friendship
>> leading worship at a young adult group
>> discovering Endless Pursuit (interview with these guys coming soon)
>> running away to a waterfall on hot days with friends
>> bumping new music
>> when my siblings offer to wash my car
>> having solo worship nights at 11:30
>> needing someone to talk to and Jesus providing the perfect person
>> telling customers they're 'beautiful' or 'good-looking' and seeing their smile of appreciation
>> snuggles with my little sister and brother
>> celebrating National Sibling day by me and my big bro surprising the whole family
>> warm nights, but sleeping with the windows open
>> being able to call my Mama, even late at night...
>> cocktails
>> $5 tips from first time customers
>> spreading a sleeping back on my front porch and spending time with Jesus whilst over-looking the river
>> seeing The Jungle Book movie with my big bro #hardcorenostalgia #thatwasourfavoriteDisneymoviegrowingup
>> when one of my roommates makes me yummy dinners
>> this song
>> plans
>> trusting God to reveal His will for my life

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How has April been for you all?

4.16.2016

Letting Go Or Loving Less


You broke up with someone and now you're with someone else?  Well that was fast.  Maybe too fast.  Did you really truly care for person #1 or was it all just a facade?

"Feelings aren't immoral," a friend once said.  "Just because you felt something for one person doesn't mean that when you move on and have affections for another, that the first relationship was a fake."

I have learned something throughout my time with people.  Family, friends, individuals.  Sometimes, you need to let them go.  But that doesn't mean you love them any less.

It means that you give yourself the freedom to move on from a relationship that was either not healthy or a love that wasn't reciprocated.

I think part of growing up is learning the difference between someone who wants you and someone who would do anything to keep you.  There's a vast distinction between the two.  And it's up to you to figure out who is who in your life.

Again, letting go doesn't mean you love them any less.  Sometimes it means the opposite.
Sometimes you love them so much that you know the best answer for both of you is time and space.
And that's okay too.
Too often we get caught up in trying to make things work, to make relationships work, to feel that connection, when in reality, maybe it's not supposed to exist.
Maybe not for right now.
Maybe not ever.

I don't have the answer to your "Why?" plea, but just know that you're not the only one having to make decisions and deciding to let certain ones go.  I've had to.  And I probably will have to many more times in the future.  It sucks to think about but I guess that's life.
We love, we learn, we let go, we move on.

Don't ever love less though.  Don't ever gauge your affection for someone on your past experiences.
Every individual is different, but everyone deserves the same amount of love. 

4.13.2016

Storybook Life | 13/30 Poem


As I writer, I look at life as a sort of storybook.  

We each have our stories

They're all different and unique in their own ways

We are a part of each other's stories

But ultimately, you are the protagonist to your story
And the antagonist in someone else's
And you're the person someone is crushing on
And you're the person someone looks up to -
Just like you look up to someone in your own life
And you're also a supporting character in a lot of people's stories
You could be the kind stranger who pays for a meal
Or a random person who smiles at someone in the store
You're that person in someone's book who can unintentionally change the whole mood of the story.

Our stories are already written
They were handwritten by the same fingers that designed the galaxies
Every intricate letter, every period, every semicolon
Was etched by the sovereign hands of an Almighty God.

Now if that doesn't make you excited for your storybook life
Then I don't know what will.

Life will never be a smooth path of everything nice
But it will be an adventure
And every person you meet along the way adds a sense of wonder
Because everyone is different
Just like every character in a book is unique
But we're all a part of the same storyline...

- 13/30 #NaPoWriMo -

I've been thinking a lot about life lately.  And just how quickly time seems to be flying by.
Every day we spend dreaming is a day we could be spending doing.  
Life can take some drastic turns.  Or suddenly end for some of us.  It's a really intense and terrifying thought, honestly.  I'm thankful to know - and believe - that death is just another chapter of my life so I'm not scared of dying.  But I'm terrified at the thought of not leaving this life well.  I want it to end beautifully.  I want to leave behind a legacy that will make people stare in awe and be able to say, "She lived and love well."
And I am only capable of doing that because I know what life and true love is.  I know because I belong to One who gave His life to show His love for me.  And that's a powerful thing to believe and trust in.
I just want to be able to leave behind the legacy of love and forgiveness and grace.
And ultimately, the glory of my God.

4.09.2016

Content But Not Complacent


I know I’ve written on the discipline of contentment before, but a recent scenario made me want to write on it again from a different perspective.

Being content but not complacent.

We need to be content in many different situations, but this doesn’t mean we should just sit around in a heap of lazy boringness.
Being single, not having a job, not having a car, waiting to hear back from a college, wanting to travel but not having money… these are certain life scenarios in which we must exercise patience (yes),
but…
while you can’t rush any of these things, you can pursue them.
It’s tough not having what you need and want, but in the meantime, focus on the positive side of things and the blessings in disguise of not having those things.
Fall in love with the beauty that surrounds you; fall in love with all the beautiful souls of family and friends who impact you; fall in love with goals and dreams you want to chase.
And pursue them!
Whole-heartedly.  
Because there’s a difference between being content and being complacent.
Be content in whatever situation you’re in. Rest in the knowledge that you are rightwhere God wants you to be.
But do not be complacent.  Do not say “Okay, I’m content, therefore I won’t do anything or go anywhere or pursue anything.”  Pursue.  Act.  Push on.  Strive.  Life is still moving.  You need to keep up – but keep the focus on Him not on yourself.
What does He want you to do?  Where does He want you to go?  What is He teaching you right now?
Seeking after what He has planned for you is the best way to move forward in life.  You may desire and yearn for certain things or a certain person or a certain career, but if He’s saying “no” to that right now, you need to be content in that answer and know that it’s the absolute best for you in this moment of time.
One thing may be a “no” right now, but what is He saying “yes” to?
Do not be complacent.  This life is beautiful – single or committed, working a job or two jobs or being jobless, wanting to travel or traveling worldwide, having a career or going to school.  A relationship isn’t going to make everything wonderful and flowery.  In fact, it makes things more challenging.  Having a job will keep you extremely busy.  Traveling can be really sucky sometimes.  School can get overwhelming.
So take advantage of this time without those things to be content in Him. Take the time to figure out who you are as a person and what you’re looking for in life. Take the time to hone skills you have, try new things, explore new places, visit new countries, and follow your dreams.
---

This post was originally published by Raquel on Brave.

4.06.2016

4 Important Things To Remember When Your Life Is A Mess


1)  You aren't a failure.
You have goals, you have dreams, and you haven't achieved any of them.  This does not mean you never will.  Or that you're a failure.  It's easy to get frustrated with ourselves for not succeeding, but hey, circumstances have you where you're at right now and that's nobody's fault.  It's just life.  And there's a reason behind it.  I promise.  The fact that you're moving towards your goals, though, is proof that you're not letting those circumstances completely stop you.  They're just a temporary roadblock right now.  You'll find your way over - or around - them.  You're weeding out the ways that will and won't work in you reaching your dreams.  And you're awesome for doing that.

2)  You're growing and learning through this time.
Whether you realize it or not, you're storing valuable information and learning many lessons through this crappy time.  It's profitable, it's life-altering, it's good.  Life isn't a movie.  It's not perfect like some people portray it as.  But one day, you'll look back and realize just how good it was.

3)  You're not in this alone.
Nobody knows what they're doing.  If someone says they do, they're lying, cuz I'm pretty sure they haven't lived through life and somehow started all over again with a brain full of wisdom.

4)  This isn't the end.
I don't know what I would do if I didn't believe in a loving and sovereign heavenly Father who was looking over me - and who has already written my life story.  I would be a mess - worse than I already am;)  But I'm His mess.  He's doing all kinds of crazy stuff in my life and in my heart and it's a beautiful mess.  He's changing things around, taking things away, giving me new passions and desires, and guiding me along to wherever it is He wants me to go!  What an exciting thought.  This isn't the end.  It's not the end until He says it is and so far, I've survived my worst days just fine.  I got this.  You got this.  God's got this.

4.05.2016

National Month of Poetry


April is National Poetry Month.
And I have accepted the 30/30 challenge of writing a poem every day.

I will be sharing some of them on my social medias (Facebook and/or Instagram), and also here on my blog.

Here is Day #4's poem:

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I am not the malicious type
I do not do things with the intention of seeing an individual hurt
I hate being the cause of pain
I hate seeing tears form in someone's eyes
But there comes a time when I am that someone
Wounded, aching, in pain
And I need to say no to things
And people
Who are hurting me.
There is nothing wrong with realizing
When someone has become toxic in your life
They may have once been a beacon of light and love
But people change
Time changes people
And time shows how they have changed.
There is nothing wrong with protecting yourself
Remember to look out for yourself
Sometimes, we're too busy helping others
And making others happy
That we ignore our own hearts and how they are being affected
Sometimes, all you can do
Is pick yourself up
And be your own little hero.