Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Storms in the Writing Life

By Debby Giusti

Each summer, my family and I vacation at the beach. Last week, we stayed at Crystal Beach, on the outskirts of Destin, Florida, where the water is sparkling clear and the white sand is silky soft. I have three adult children and four adorable grandchildren so we need a large condo with a pool. Because the beach is our happy place, my husband and I rent waterfront accommodations that provide spectacular views from sunup to sunset.

The adults get up early and enjoy coffee on the balcony. Some days we see dolphin frolicking in the waves and dark patches of fish swimming in large, undulating schools. Pelicans and seagulls fly overhead, then dive into the water for their morning meal. From our lofty perch, we watch fishing vessels with huge nets and private chartered boats head out to sea while fisherman on the shore cast their lines, hoping for a good catch. 

Once the children are up and fed, we don our suits and sunscreen and head to the beach with chairs and umbrellas and inner tubes and floats to spend the day enjoying the sun, sand and water.

If you were following the news last week, you heard about Tropical Storm Barry that blew into the Gulf. By Wednesday afternoon, the waves were rough and eventually strong enough to force us out of the water. We scurried to the pool but kept watch on the rising surf and encroaching storms. 

Thursday morning, the beaches were closed and double red flags alerted beachgoers to stay out of the water. The pool provided lots of fun for the little ones in between intermittent rain showers. When inclement weather moved us indoors, we played cards and board games. Being together made the week special in spite of the storms.

The local lifeguards provided an interesting diversion. Our condo sat next to their beach training area, and each morning twelve to fifteen lifeguards arrived before 8 AM for an hour of strenuous exercise. They jogged on the beach then swam back and forth to a series of buoys some distance from shore.

Double red flags signify the beach is close for swimming.
The sheriff's vehicle is parked at the lifeguard training area.
Some of the lifeguards can be seen leaving the water.
We were all impressed by their daily workouts and amazed that training continued even in the midst of the storms spawned by Barry. An evening exercise held us spellbound as two lifeguards took their rescue boards out while thunder boomed overhead and lightning cut through the sky. The surf was treacherous, yet they performed amazing maneuvers while waves crashed around them and the storm raged.

The last two mornings we were there, the lifeguards swam seemingly effortlessly for nearly an hour through the ten-foot waves. Their endurance swims were followed by extended time on their boards as they trained for rescues and surfed the waves.

Lifeguards are training on their rescue boards. Each
morning they spent an hour in the water, even when
Tropical Storm Barry hit!

This year, we hadn’t expected storms and beach closures, but Barry provided a unique glimpse of nature’s fury as well as God’s grandeur and the majesty of his creation. It also provided food for thought about the writing life.

In my pre-published days, I was a fair-weather writer, who worked when inspiration hit and my schedule provided free time. I was the beachgoer who wanted perfect conditions for my beach vacation.

Publication brought responsibility. My editor and publishing house were relying on me to produce a contracted work of fiction on time. Early on, I was concerned about the level of my writing ability and cautious about jumping into each new story. Like a few of the lifeguards who lagged behind and were always trying to catch up, I needed to hone my craft and pick up my pace.
God bless the USA! Old Glory flew throughout our
time at the beach!
In life, storms are inevitable. Rip currents and gale force winds can hamper even the best of swimmers. Similarly, all of us in the writing world, including established authors, can be thrown off course by changes in publishing houses or new trends in the marketplace. Lines close, editors change jobs, genres ebb and flow like the tides, but the committed writer finds the wherewithal to continue in spite of the hardships.

I doubt many beachgoers realize how strenuously the Destin lifeguards train, yet it is because of their daily efforts and dedication to excellence that they are able to perform heroic feats of rescue when swimmers’ lives are in peril. For that, I’m grateful.

I’m also grateful that the writing life does not involve life and death situations, except those on the written page. However, staying true to our calling requires attention to detail and an ongoing desire to improve our craft.  The best way to become a better writer is to write and write and write some more. We also need to read books that stretch our imaginations and expand our creativity. Attending workshops and studying how-to manuals help to enhance our ability as well.

The Gulf is constantly changing and so is the writing life. To be successful, writers need to take the good with the bad, the sunshine with the storms, the times of progress with the times we’re blocked or our creativity seems to wane. Like the lifeguards, we sometimes pause on shore to catch our breath before we grab our boards and jump back into the waves.

At week's end, my family and I packed our cars for the long drive home and said goodbye to the beach with hopes of returning next year. The memories of our vacation and the physical endurance of the lifeguards will continue to inspire me to keep pushing forward, even when storms threaten.

Where are you in your writing journey? Are you a fair-weather writer or are you ready to face the big waves? What helps you forge ahead even when the going gets tough? How have you faced the storms in your own life?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of my books, winner’s choice.

Happy writing!

Wishing you abundant blessings,
Debby Giusti

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  1. Well, Debby, this one hit home. I'm facing my first pub date in September and aware every day that my time is No Longer My Own. And I'm more than a little afraid. I built in some disciplines while I was waiting for publication, but it's still going to be other people's deadlines. And that scares me. (Hey, you guys are transparent, I might as well be.) I don't write on spec right now, but I can see it coming at some point.
    I've been helped by Mary's advice to "Be ready," and I've been stockpiling guest blogs and the like. I wrote the sequel to "Westward Hope" while I was waiting for the first book to be accepted, because I figured one way or the other these stories were going to see the light of day. The prospect of finally being "out there" is still daunting.
    I can relate to the shifts and changes in the publishing world. Historical fiction is not exactly enjoying a moment, unless you're a really big name or a really big talent. But it will come around again, and in the meantime, I'm glad Pelican took a chance on me.
    This is what we all want, to be published and maybe make a difference for someone with God, and as Ruthy often says, it is a privilege. Good way to look at things when the storms hit.
    Debby, great metaphor. You had me at "coffee on the balcony."
    Kathy Bailey
    Undaunted, or getting there, in New Hampshire

  2. Kathy, I'm proud of you! You've achieved your goal. Now you're moving forward into uncharted water. Those first few books are challenging, and self-doubt can abound. We all fear being the One Book Wonder. The water is calmer once you pass over those first hurdles, yet rough seas appear at varying times in any career! Keep swimming! You've trained well and are ready to navigate deep water...even any storms that might appear on the horizon!

  3. Debby! Awesome post and so true. Just like those lifeguards, we've got to train and work hard with craft and get books written. This part stuck with me, "Publication brought responsibility." Once you're published doesn't mean you can sit back and relax. Thanks, Debby!

    1. Hi Sally,
      Late one night when I was working on my second or third book, I realized I had to produce because I had contracted with Love Inspired and they were waiting to receive my manuscript. I remember thinking, "What if the story doesn't come together? What if I can't create a story my editor will accept and readers will enjoy?" That night was a turning point. I pulled in a deep breath and jumped back in the water, so to speak, and have been swimming ever since! :)

    2. And you've been doing a marvelous job! I think there just comes a point when you have to decide this is what I want to do, and whatever it takes, I'm going to do it. Up until that point, it's not a priority and everything that comes along will take time away from your writing. (Talking to myself as I have a story halfway done that I've been trying to work on and finish! It's time to just do it.)

    3. So true, Sally.

      I'm confident your story will get written...and will touch hearts and spread God's love!

  4. Debby, I had no idea the lifeguards trained like that! Wow. A great lesson for how we should proceed in our writing lives--even when the storms hit. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad you had such a wonderful vacation despite Barry.

  5. Missy, I had no idea how much they trained either. At first, we thought it was a course for those wanting jobs, but I asked one of the guards as he raced into the water. He said it was their normal training...which then continued each and everyday we were there. I was impressed and felt more confident that they could, indeed, perform rescues when needed.

    Today's the first day since Barry blew in that my weather app for Destin hasn't issued rip current warnings. Last Sunday, the day after we left, one man drown in Seacrest, two girls were pulled to shore in another area of the county and seven lifeguards pulled two swimmers to shore about two miles from where we were staying. One survived, the other did not. It's so tragic, especially when beachgoers fail to heed the double red flags. During our last two days, the lifeguards often had to order people out of the water. Some folks don't realize the danger of rip currents and stormy seas. Others are daredevils who ignore the warnings and put themselves and the lifeguards in danger.

  6. Love your post, Debby! You are always so positive and inspiring. I never knew that about the lifeguards!

    1. Such a sweet comment. Thank you, Jackie! So glad you enjoyed the post.

  7. Thank you for sharing. My nieces half brother is a lifeguard in Destin. Would love to see FL and put my toes in the sand. Blessings

    1. God bless him! I have a new appreciation for lifeguards after what we witnessed during Barry!

  8. Thanks Debby! What a great analogy. We must preserver no matter what the "weather".

    1. So true, Carroll! I'm excited about your upcoming release! :)

  9. Debby, thank you for this post! You've described a writer's journey so well-and truly gave me the little boost that I've needed this week. I'm hoping to see you in NYC next week!

    1. Shelley, so glad you could stop by Seekerville today. Looking forward to seeing you at the National RWA Conference! Hugs!

  10. Love this post, Debby! What a spot-on description of the squalls of the professional writing life, and of the mindset needed to sail through them! Thanks for the uplift! Sounds like you had a wonderful family vacation! And the lifeguards—wow!

    1. Hi Laurel! We did have a lovely getaway! Now I'm back at work and loving every minute, as Ruthy says.

      Will you be at RWA?

    2. Not this year! Hate to miss, but looking forward to seeing the pictures and enjoying it long distance!

  11. You make me glad our beach vacation last week was in Georgia and far from Barry. But we did have a yellow flag on the last day. And I think the yellow flag is about where I am in my career. With two books published and one receiving a contract this week (squeal!), I am still slightly ahead of schedule because I have at least six more manuscripts written and just waiting for edits and publishers. I only feel the urgency when deep in edits for the publisher or when my muse won't hush. But I know I am not typical, either.

    1. Amy! I'm so proud of you!!! Congrats on all your hard work paying off! Six manuscripts, two published books and a new contract! That's fantastic!!!

      Where were you in GA? Tybee, St Simon or Jekyll? Love the Georgia coast.

  12. Hi Debby:

    I think your 'stormy weather' post with its lavish laurels for lifeguards has cleared up one of my writing conundrums! We vacation at Orange Beach each year and I haven't seen a lifeguard in all those many years! (I'd have a better chance of seeing Missy walking along the beach!)

    I must be missing the writing corollary (or is it analog?) of a lifeguard. Perhaps I'm destined to vacation in Destin. That's just a little further down the road.

    I must admit I am having a lot of problems with the below quote:

    "I know well that the greater and more beautiful the work the more terrible will be the storms that rage against it."


    This is counterintuitive!

    Get better at your craft, develop greater skills, and the gods will send greater and more terrible storms to knock you off your perch!

    That sounds a lot like some early cultures which when a major building was erected had the architect always include an error (like placing the keystone upside down), so that the gods would not become jealous of man for creating a perfect work. I think the Greeks called this hubris which is often the basis of Greek tragedy.

    I don't think for a moment that the storms are going to get more terrible the more writing skills one develops but I will speculate that when a writer earns those greater skills it will take greater storms to get his or her notice.


    1. Vince,
      I find that a negative element can and often does oppose work that will touch lives for the better. Other Christians have mentioned this as well. When we are on the right track and if the product of our efforts will be significant, a negative force wishes to stop our progress and keep the good from coming to fruition. That is what the quote you mentioned is expressing. Good triumphs, but evil tries to get the upper hand in some cases. Does that make sense?

      BTW, we've gone to Orange Beach and enjoyed it there, but Crystal Beach has become a favorite spot to vacation. Hope to see you on the beach one of these years. Great lifeguards are an added plus!

    2. Hi Debby:

      You wrote:

      "Good triumphs, but evil tries to get the upper hand in some cases. Does that make sense?"

      That makes perfect sense if you believe in Manichaeism of which St. Augustine was once a believer and which later influenced his writings on good and evil in Church doctrine.

      I don't believe that evil has an independent existence and that it will appear as an opposing force of nature wherever good arises. This is the physics of the devil and hell.

      I think such is highly negative thinking and, as they say in the East, "We see what is behind our eyes" and thus if you think that good attracts the evil, then you will experience that in your life. This may be a case of 'thinking makes it so'. (PMA saying: "Whether you think you will be a success or a failure, you're right.")

      I think there is a spiritual danger of applying Newton's third law, "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction" to the forces of good and evil.

      If the good empowers evil, how good could it be? If evil empowers good, how bad could it be?

      Of course, this is why I am a Unity Christian believer. I want life to be a positive affirmation.

      To each his own.


      P.S. Or her own! :)

    3. Hi Debby:

      I should have added this question:

      Were there any pretty female lifeguards?

      It seems like, 'Love among the Lifeguards,' might have some romantic potential especially in a beautiful location many romantics would love to visit.

      A lifeguard and a beach wedding planner: who saves whose life? I see a novella already!

    4. Your "Love Among the Lifeguards" sounds like a Hallmark movie! Yes, there were female lifeguards! I was amazed at their strength and endurance.

    5. Debby: Thanks, I am very encouraged by your Hallmark comment. Now I need to get the inside scoop about being a Florida lifeguard. (P.S. I've seen many beach weddings over the years and the cost is amazingly low.)

  13. Debby, thank you for the great post! Growing up in a small town along the Texas Gulf Coast, I'm well acquainted with storms. Hurricane Harvey was my first flood experience. The Lord is faithful in every storm!

    1. He is faithful, Caryl.

      Water does so much damage and can be so forceful. What I love (the beach/water) is also what I fear, depending on the weather! :)

      So sorry you had to experience Harvey!

  14. Debby, I like your picture. You look warm and welcoming. The LORD always sends just what I need when I need it. Today, I needed your post. Thank you.

    1. I'm so glad the post appeared at the perfect time to help you! Hope we can meet someday. Your comment touched me. :)

  15. I would like to meet you, too. I will subscribe to your blog so that if you ever have a speaking engagement that I can attend, I will try to be there. (Also, I figured out how to get my picture to show. My Gravatar doesn't want to work with this site, so I had to use my "Blogger" picture.)

  16. I tried to sign up. Not sure if it went through. My email is if you would like to add me to your newsletter, etc. Thank you.

  17. I apologize if I sounded like a stalker above. I just released a piece about which I am really excited, and I am a bit overenthusiastic right now. Let me reword the above as "If we are ever at the same writing convention, I hope we happen to bump into each other."


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