Pre-Hamilton Thoughts

I’m not going to say I like Hamilton any more than the next person, because I know there are thousands of more devoted fans than me, but there’s something about listening and experiencing it as a writer that really gets to me. Or maybe I’m just too empathetic? I don’t know, but the lyrics, especially the questions, really stick to me. How does one write like they’re running out of time? Have I done enough [with my words]? Who will tell our stories—will anyone?

How does my writing play into this narrative that is the vast planet we live on? You know it’s kind of terrifying, writing. You put your heart and soul into characters, you believe in your stories in the midst of millions of others, enough to spend months and years on them. Then you publish them for anyone and everyone to read, you put your story on the line because you believe so immensely in it, resulting in inevitable rejection by some readers. Stories can easily be looked over, even if they are published, because of the sheer volume of them. But they’ve all been worked on and loved so well by the ones who penned them.

The vast majority of stories will not be heard by the general public, but does that mean we stop writing them? No. Because as scary as it is, we shouldn’t write with the numbers or lack thereof in mind. We write because we have faith, we write because we’re gamblers, we write because we’re not scared of the odds. We shoot our stories blindly into the dark because we know they’ll help someone somehow. And that’s pretty dang cool. So keep writing and “keep fighting in the meantime.”

(10 days until Hamilton.)⭐️



What to Know about Writing a Novel in One Month or Less

I just had my first baby and she is a hefty 223 pages. I conceived her over 24 days and she is already proving to be a thoroughly sassy child. Her name is “Status: Untilled, Moldy Heart.”

1. It’s harder than you think.

For me at least, it was really difficult to get rid of my inner editor while writing. Part of me wanted to reread bits and fix them (in which case I would minimize the screen as much as possible to write) and part of me was whispering this is terrible for a majority of the time. But in both cases, you really don’t have time to stop and consider those thoughts, even though they are negative, because if you waste time it will take you that much longer to get to sleep at night. (Especially as a college student juggling 50 other things.) I made sure I never stayed up past 2 a.m. and always went to bed by the time that would give me 8 hours of sleep, which will be scandalous to some of you but was actually an accomplishment for me, because believe it or not, last semester I stayed up until 3 a.m. multiple times. (We don’t talk about it…)

It was also hard for the sake of my Novel Writing class, because our professor wanted us to write from the seat of our pants. Besides the main plot turning points, we were not allowed to plan out anything. Many times, especially in acts 2 and 3 of the plot, I had no idea what was going to happen, which made staring at the daily blank page daunting.

*We used the program Scrivener to write our novels. Some people broke up their novel documents into scenes, but I did it by day. Turns out, almost every day I managed to write a mini story, so I ended up turning my daily documents into the chapter breaks.*

Finally, and most importantly, writing a novel in a month is incredibly difficult because you actually create a story that’s much longer than 50k words, which is the monthly goal. So what I ended up with was a very rushed version that time-jumped a lot to get to where I needed to be by the end of the month. As my professor told us, and as I now know firsthand, we’ve actually created stories that are more like 80-100k words.

2. It’s easier than you think.

Now I’m going to refute my previous points–because in every case, there is an upside. Don’t get me wrong, writing a novel in a month is incredibly difficult and you should take great pride if you do it in knowing that not only have you bested all the people who want to write a book but haven’t, but you’ve bested everyone who takes years and years to write one.

If your inner editor starts nagging at you (when it clearly shouldn’t be), just dash in something completely unexpected. Use the nagging thoughts to your advantage. Feel redundant in sentence structure? Start writing one word statements. Start writing long, winding rivers of words. Character falling flat? Create some huge drama in that character’s life. Make them react to a situation in complete opposition to how they normally would. Also, my personal favorite: are you stuck on a scene? Not sure what you want your characters to do next? Have them talk it out. Dialogue will bring their personalities alive and I guarantee they’ll think of something to do.

I am one of the biggest planners you will ever meet. I thrive on planning, I need planning in my life, I get anxious when I haven’t written things down. Maybe you’re like me or maybe a lack of planning is not that terrifying. Either way, know that the lack of plot planning is actually the best thing you could possibly do going into a one month time frame of novel writing. Trust me–I was told I couldn’t write on an already formed idea and I was SO SAD. I was frustrated, I was mad, I considered doing it anyway. BUT DON’T. DO NOT. Start something completely new. Trust me. I know exactly how you feel if that sounds horrific.

But the truth is, you have so many stories to tell. More than you believe you do. And the other truth is, if you’ve planned too much already you WILL get writer’s block. Plus, your planned story is probably WAY longer than 50k words and you’re not going to want to have to limit it or rush the story line that you’re already so attached to. You have complete freedom without a planned story because you’ve put no set-in-stone expectations on your characters or your plot. And the coolest thing is, your plot will transform and surprise you and you’ll love it way more than you initially thought you would.

Finally, your story will end up being rushed or not wholly complete because of the lack of time in one month, but that just means you’ll have endless more ideas by the time the month is over. (However, you NEED to give yourself a break before diving back in. At least a couple weeks. You want to look at it with fresh eyes.) By the time the month is over your plot is going to need some serious surgery. But you’ll also know and love your characters way more, so it’s exciting to consider delving in to better craft their story. It’s actually their story, not yours.

3. Your characters will do their own thing.

As I kind of hinted already, you will reach a point after the first week or so where your characters start acting and thinking for themselves. Think of yourself as an archaeologist picking up artifacts as you go. Pretty soon the artifacts have a much greater story to tell than the archaeologist does. That makes writing a breeze. Once the setting and external situations are established, you cannot plan for how or when the characters will steer off your neatly carved path. Just know that they will and they’ll show you some pretty cool places in uncharted waters.

4. In one way or another, you have writing patterns.

I’m a late night writer, but I also coincidentally switched every week. Weeks 1 and 3 I wrote later at night, week 2 I wrote in the early afternoon. (Week 2 is also the hardest, so I wanted to ensure I was getting enough sleep!) Similarly, you will find that you have writing patterns. Maybe you always write in the morning or maybe you can only focus well if you go to a certain coffee shop. I enjoyed changing my writing setting frequently. The cool thing about writing in such a condensed amount of time is that you find these things out about yourself as a writer much quicker, which allows you to better adjust for future projects and writing in general.

5. You pull from more personal experience than you expect to pull from.

I found myself pulling setting details or character action out of all sorts of random places. Your mind really is a palace of thoughts ,and you realize the full depth and reach of it while writing so rapidly. Since my story is realistic fiction I really enjoyed pulling from popular culture. Sometimes I’d be listening to a certain song or reminiscing on a memory, so I’d just stick those things into my story, and it usually suited the plot or characters! Subconsciously, I also included experiences or interests of mine that I never even intended to place in my story, yet looking back on it I can see the references. For example, the primary conflict originates around a talent show and I genuinely thought I was just pulling that from the air, when really I just spent a whole summer invested in America’s Got Talent so it’s no wonder that came to mind! That’s the cool thing: the story you write originates out of that particular time in your life more than anything, so you could try to write a similar story every year and it would never be quite the same, because you’re never quite the same.

6. You will grow incredibly attached to it.

I cried at the start of my last week writing. Because once all of the inner editor comments had grown stale from three weeks and once I had accepted that most of the word choice would be crap, I peeled away the technicalities to realize how much I actually adore this story. For a moment, I halted my critical eye and just looked at it as a dear piece of my heart. And it really, really is. Even if there are plenty of revisions ahead, I think it’s perfectly imperfect. It’s broken, just like me.

7. You will feel lazy and a bit aimless afterward.

…And as my professor said to me, ‘yes, because you are being lazy.’ (Although, considering I still have 50 other things I’m working on, I don’t know if I fully agree with that.) When it really comes down to it though, if you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing. Not just when you’re in the mood. And that’s a fact that makes me really appreciate this novel challenge. Because, just like life in general, the vast majority of the time we’re not in the mood to do what we hope to do. But you have to be relentless and persistent. It’s just like your basic laws of motion. To keep it coming out, you have to keep it up.

But also, you have to live. It’s okay to feel aimless and sad that you can’t write about your characters anymore, but you’ll get the chance to revise and dive back in later, and if you really care a ton, you can always write a series. I truly believe to be a writer you have to keep writing, but you also have to live. You can’t be cooped up all the time, you can’t expect to write every day of your life, you can’t be too hard on yourself. You need experiences to draw from, you need the other stories within entertainment to inspire you, you need family and friends to remind you what you care about.

Most importantly, the world desperately needs you. Not just your writing, but you with your unique thoughts and passions and talents. So as much as you love your books and your characters and your plot, take time to offer yourself to the world and see what the world has to offer you.

8. You CAN do it.

Stop speaking those lies. Stop making up those excuses. Because the truth is, you can. Anyone can.



An Unspoken “Inferior” Population

Let’s imagine you’re in a coffee shop and you’re looking for music recommendations.

Amiable chatter surrounds you, the cappuccino is hot in your palms, you want some random sampling. To your left, a man in his thirties is seated at a table, intently typing away at something important on his laptop. To your right, a couple of high school girls sit on stools, animatedly talking about something.

Who do you turn to for recommendations?

I have a hunch. You picked the man. (Unless, perhaps, you’re a teenage girl yourself.)

Upon first glance, nothing seems to be an issue. But if you start thinking more intently, I would imagine your choice correlated with a few prejudices and judgments. Start thinking more, and be honest.

Why didn’t you pick the teenage girls?

Maybe your age is closer to that of the man’s. Maybe you figured the man would know more music. Maybe you figured you’d be able to strike up a more meaningful conversation concerning music tastes with the man. Regardless, there’s one large assumption in place–that for whatever reason, the teenage girls’ opinions aren’t as legitimate or serious.

And this is not just the case with music! We feel this way about all topics, in regards to teenage girls, whether entertainment, political, or social topics.

I think there’s a problem with that. If we push aside their opinions or are quick to label their opinions inferior, we are damaging not only their self-worth, but their sense of worth in the future. Our future women.

Why can’t they have a legitimate say? Why does everything avidly enjoyed by teenage girls have to be looked down upon by the older population? What’s wrong with enjoying something that teenage girls like? There’s often this idea that people who enjoy musicians or books or movies that teenage girls like need to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment. Their interests are inferioryou state, implicitly.

Now, I understand labeling opinions invalid if teenage girls try to provide thoughts on topics they are not familiar with, as with any human. But rarely, if ever, is that the case. Teenage girls are passionate, and passionate about topics they are well-acquainted with. Therefore, there is no reason to consider their opinions invalid.

If we are going to continue promoting to young girls that they are capable of anything, we should treat their opinions with the genuine respect and acknowledgement that they deserve, same as anyone else. Otherwise, we inflate their sense of insecurity and hypocrisy rears its ugly head.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” -Harry Styles



Our Grieving World

Some days are sadder than others when you’ve lost someone. Perhaps it’s because I’m older or perhaps it’s because his passing was seemingly undeserved, but Luke’s death has stuck with me, not to mention his family and closest friends, so closely these past few months. It’s confusing trying to figure out how to process our losses, isn’t it?

Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re mad, sometimes you’re resigned to the fact, sometimes it’s very unsettling. Recently I’ve just been deeply disappointed I didn’t get to know Luke more. In all honesty, part of me feels really guilty for this sadness and disappointment, because I didn’t know him as well as so many others did. If I’m upset, I stop and grieve, because those that knew him far more than I must be indescribably upset. On the other hand I can’t help but wonder if this disappointment is flowing out of selfishness. Is this hurt justified or not?

But to those that knew Luke, if you’re anything like me, the main reason his passing is upsetting is likely because he truly was a joyful, loving soul. One could only imagine if he had been given a longer life the even larger impact he could’ve had on others. But then I think about how much joy and life was packed into those 17 years, and the tremendous story his life spoke into those around him in such a short amount of time. It’s incredibly inspiring. Who wouldn’t wish to know someone like that?

Sometimes I can’t help but thank the God I believe in that Luke was able to bless everyone for a whole 17 years. His parents and brothers witnessed a giggling, courageous, witty, faithful soul for 17 years. What a blessing. And the God I believe in said I’m going to take all you have, Luke—17 years—and I’m going to use you for something great. People are going to flock to you and cry over you because of your steadfast faithfulness. You’re going to teach your loved ones how to be strong in the face of adversity.

So that’s some more of my processing and a small snippet of the feelings amongst Luke’s loved ones over these past couple months. I take what I’m feeling and I take the unimaginable pain of his family and friends, and multiply it until it’s unbearable.


Because countless people worldwide are experiencing a similar pain, and sometimes I think it’s easy to be desensitized to the effects. Whether loved ones lost to cancer or loved ones lost to terrorism, it hurts; oh it hurts to consider our grieving world. Perhaps now more than ever we grieve we are sorrowful and we need a rock to lean into. We are broken and struggling to hold on. We yearn for love and laughter because we are sodamaged by brokenness.

This is our chance to let others know we are here and we understand their pain. We have all experienced pain in a multitude of capacities, and yet, we’re too often self-consumed with our own lives to stop and ask others how they’re doing. Every time we undergo pain and brokenness, we are allowed the opportunity to open our arms to others in similar situations and help them through their own. Not because we have all the answers and can eradicate the pain… but because we are made for community and it makes life a lot more bearable when you can confide in others.


The Most Important Word in Human Vocabulary


We all want it and hope for it and seek it among others. Nothing upsets us more than when we can’t have it. I’m going to make a bold statement: Love is the main desire we all have. It’s why our hearts harden after the divorce papers are signed. It’s why we can’t stop gushing about our best friend on social media. It’s why the girl sits in the bathroom weeping. It’s why we shut out the parent that left. It’s why we care so much about other sexualities. It’s why we stand up for minority groups and races. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lack of love was the reasoning behind serial killers and terrorists.

If we just acquire love, life will be perfect and we will feel fulfilled.

Love is a word that creates tension, struggle and sensitivity. Some of you reading this have been seriously wounded by love or those you believed loved you. It’s the most shocking, sorrowful moment when the rug of love is swept out from under you by those you thought would never pull it out. When that happens we don’t want to forgive, we want to grow angry and our hearts harden. I don’t believe either reaction is okay and it only creates more rifts, splitting love into more and more shattered pieces.

I do think it’s possible to love people even with opposing opinions. Many may believe love only exists in similar opinions, but I say love allows all opinions to flourish, without shutting any out. I believe love transcends left or right, him or me, and I believe it keeps no record of wrongs. I believe you always deserve it and love has no limitations. Love extends to all people in every nation of every mental capacity, even those hardest to love, especially those hardest to love. I believe all ideas of love are foggy reflections of a true, pure love that surpasses them all. I believe love offers everything, sometimes life itself, without asking or expecting anything in return.

I know love will outweigh darkness.

But doesn’t it always come back to love? We argue over laws and politics, because we have differing opinions on how to achieve love for people. Wars ensue and people fight because of the love they have for their side. Could you even count how many love songs there are? At every concert you attend, the musician makes sure the audience knows how much they are loved and appreciated. “I love you Detroit!!!” And we scream and some roll their eyes over the inauthenticity, but only because that’s what we really want, right?

Authentic love: humanity’s desperate desire. Our heart’s desperate cry. Ironically, we’re often fed and desire the unrealistic depictions of love constantly thrown at us through entertainment. But only because we long for a love that will blow us off our feet and overwhelm us in joy.

What if I told you I think this kind of love is possible? Would you believe me?

You have good reason to desire love, with its authenticity and overwhelming power. You have good reason to weep when you encounter broken love. You have good reason to wait and not be satisfied with a love that’s half-trying. We weren’t made for broken love.


Quietly Confident & Sweetly Unapologetic

This is a random, word-vomit blog… just a heads-up. It’s commentary on my own character and how I’ve changed, but I’ll try to connect it to the big picture for everyone else.

I’m the type of person who describes myself as ‘nice’ or ‘friendly.’ You know, super generic words that actually don’t mean squat or give anyone a depiction of who I really am. Honestly, I never sit down to really think about my characteristics as a unique creation. I just think I don’t know… I’m Annah. People who know me know who I am… while really I can’t even describe who I am.

Some things never change about our characters, like my resilient stubbornness over the years. Just ask anyone in my family about my relationship with the word “sports” and they will laugh their heads off. I refused to play sports in elementary school and had no interest in being signed up for Girl Scouts, so I avoided both. The only time I ever considered playing a sport was after my siblings’ soccer games, when they would bring snacks back to the car. Sports = free snacks? Hmm, that’s tempting.

Throughout middle and high school I never drank a lick of alcohol and barely touched a boy. People partook in games like ‘spin the bottle,’ while I would sit in the background, shamelessly eating food.

Peer pressure? Not even miles within reach of my vocabulary.

My dad, being an English teacher, ended up being my eleventh grade teacher (and no, it was not weird, to answer literally everyone’s question.) He had us do this, dare I say, great activity where we had to write down a compliment for everyone in the class that did not involve something generic like “you’re nice.” The results were shocking and uplifting for every 17-year-old and I still remember some loud, highly-opinionated guy I seldom spoke to wrote that I had a ‘quiet confidence’ about me.

Well, little did he know, that is one of the most accurate descriptions I can think of for myself. If you want to know who Annah really is, I am quietly confident and sweetly unapologetic.

My lack of knowledge in career paths or future plans is made up for in my knowledge of my personal values, spiritual values, and what I value in other human beings. These values are where my confidence lies, so I guess that’s why I’m ‘quietly’ confident. While I may seldom have strong exterior situations to stand confident in as a college student, my interior life is sure to be rock-solid. Sprinkle some good ole stubbornness in there and my quiet confidence is not about to change anytime soon.

As I have recently realized, I am also sweetly unapologetic. I feel as if I take the characteristics I dislike about myself and force myself to pull a 180. Only two years ago I suffered through my first year of college, incredibly self-conscious and possessing a very small amount of self-esteem. Since then I have allowed my quiet confidence to flourish while my faith has taken the difficult cards dealt me and turned them into rewarding obstacles.

Similarly, my self-consciousness concerning other people has slowly begun to melt away and continues to do so today. While I still have steps to take to not let others’ words affect me so personally, I have become unapologetic in my interactions with others. I don’t mean I say whatever I want with no cares, it just means if I think someone is cool, I talk to them, which is much more than I could say two years ago.

Last year I thought this girl down my hall was cool and even though we had never properly talked, I stuck a note on her door. Since then I have gotten to talk to her lovely soul more. This past May, two cool senior guys were playing Spike Ball with their friends, so I walked up to them and asked them to teach me. Picture this: 5’1” Annah playing Spike Ball with three 6’+ guys. I randomly messaged someone from high school I said maybe two things to today, because I saw something stupid and funny I thought he would appreciate. And those are just some instances off the top of my head. 13-year-old Annah would be appalled.

I think too often we put up walls between ourselves and others, most of which are self-created. We decide we can’t talk to people because they would judge us or think it’s weird or your past is complicated or 5000 other excuses. If you think someone is the bee’s knees, you should befriend them. If some random chick does something funny in the dining hall or you see someone with a t-shirt that has your favorite Star Wars character on it, go talk to them!

Life is short, you are perfectly unique, and both forgiveness and community are unlimited. Be confident in your unique self. Talk to anyone and everyone.

(Also, I realize now I may need to add a third quality to my list: surprisingly sassy.)


The Easy Way Out?

My dog, Gracey, is really old. She is 16 or 112 in dog years to be exact. Last week we took her up north with us to our family reunion and the hardest part of having her along was not at the reunion as we had anticipated, but the car ride. Over the past year or so her hips have given her plenty of trouble, as she has hip dysplasia. All we wanted was for her to sit, stand or lay down, but instead she crouched in the most awkward position imaginable and when we stopped at a rest area partway, she limped out and could barely walk. (The other people there must have thought something was terribly wrong with our dog…) The rest of the ride we had to force her to lie down and my dad commented, “no matter what, it’s like she does exactly what you don’t want her to do.”

That comment stuck with me–partly because I’m an introspective, pensive person and partly because of the truth behind it. Doesn’t that remind you of yourself? It definitely reminds me of myself. On one hand, as a Christian I think about my sin, and how my mind or my mouth goes directly where it shouldn’t go. Too often my anger flares up and my patience depletes. God sits beside me while I take the reins and the burdens and everything else I shouldn’t and can’t handle.

On the other hand, it reminds me of how humans tend to settle for things that we shouldn’t. We choose the easiest and most convenient path. But guess what? That’s not the best path for us. I see this trend in my life and other people’s lives. I’d rather sit around on my phone doing nothing productive than try to write a novel with characters that mean a lot to me. In fact, I’d rather do anything than write my novel, even though I know for a fact my excitement grows when I actually sit and work on it.

Most people don’t face my particular struggle, though, so let me put it into other terms. We would rather settle for a job that pays than a job that we are truly passionate about and can fully use our unique skills in, so we don’t have to put ourselves out on a limb. We would rather settle for the convenient people placed in our lives at school or work than go out and seek friends that really bring out the best in ourselves, because that involves making ourselves vulnerable. We would rather accept a belief system that’s easy to follow than one that’s hard, because we’re too afraid to truly stand for something. Do any of those resonate with you?

Don’t settle for what’s convenient and easy. We think we’re taking the easy way out throughout all of these things, when really it’s making us increasingly unhappy. You and I have hopes, dreams and aspirations of all kinds, whether that includes what we want to do, who we want to live our lives with or what we want to obtain from this life. You and I were not made to settle. This means sometimes we have to put ourselves out there, sometimes we have to fail and we can’t expect to please everyone (that’s a hard truth for me to swallow). Easy and convenient things are just that, but difficult things require hard work, effort and the best part is that it will be rewarding.