What To Do When Your Life Feels Like A Rough Draft

Yesterday something happened. I hit a milestone I’ve been pursuing for months, perhaps my whole life. I declared the rough draft for a book, finished. I printed it out, shut my computer and picked up our kids. I’ve been told that getting out that first draft is a big deal. I suppose it is, in a way. But I am also aware of how much more work I have to do before it enters the world. It was a moment that came and went unceremoniously. Just another day.

I know what my end goal is and I know that I want to do it, but at this point the book feels a lot more like chaos than art, more like confusion than clarity.


Rough DraftLife Is One Big Rough Draft

That’s kind of the way it goes, isn’t it? We enter into life-things such as a career, marriage or parenting with some distant, vague goal in mind.
Most of the time life feels more like chaos than art, more like confusion than clarity. And the little mundane steps along the way pass by unceremoniously. Just another day.

But if we stop when things feel mundane and get chaotic, we won’t get anywhere meaningful. If we see how “rough” our rough-draft-of-a-life is and just stop writing our story, we effectively box up our voice and set it to the side. And it becomes irrelevant.

In his book Creativity, Inc., Pixar CEO Ed Catmull discusses why it is necessary to move with purpose through the creative process, “Early on in the production of a film, chaos reigns. The bulk of what the directors and their teams are doing is not cohering, and the responsibilities, pressures, and expectations are intense. How, then, do you move forward when so little is visible and so much is unknown?”

Moving Through The Chaos

You move forward in the chaos of life because if you don’t, you’ll get stuck in it. Your life will pass by while you stand there whining, complaining or seething.

But that’s not you.  You want more than to sit to the side, paralyzed by the chaos. You want to make a difference for someone, even if it’s difficult to do. So you courageously work your tail off to dig deep and search around inside the real you for the thing that you most want to say and do in each moment because you want your voice to be a true representation of who you are.

You may feel like your life is a rough draft right now. But someday you will be able to look back and see beauty in the chaos you’ve moved through. Someday you’ll see your life as a work of art.

Just keep moving.

[Update] September 2, 2016
That rough draft is now a Kindle Bestselling book about my own life that felt like a rough draft.

Yes. I now see it as a work of art.

Get the book HERE.Keep moving through the chaos. someday you'll see your life as a work of art.

My Birthday Proclamation

How I want to spend my life

Do you ever wonder what your life is really about? I am not talking about your overall beliefs about the meaning of life, necessarily. Rather, when you look at how you actually live, what you actually say and how you actually do what you do…how are you spending your life?

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

Photo by Jennifer Brungardt

The other day I watched a movie that rocked me to the core and got me feeling what I was already thinking about my life-spending. In Still Alice, the main character is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. I grieved as a brilliant 50-year-old Alice considered her future, forgot her family, grew anxious and lost her ability to interact with others. And I thought…

How much time do I really have left? The next fifty years are not promised to me. I turn 37 this week. What if I had thirteen years left to leave a legacy? How do I want to spend my life?

I can tell you how I don’t want to spend it.

  • I don’t want to spend my life protecting myself. I don’t want to hide or hold back for fear that I may not succeed or that someone might think negatively about me. I don’t want to restrain my love.
    • So I’m going to go for it. I’m going to step out and do something bold and brave. And then I’m going to do it again. I may fail and I may not be everyone’s favorite person, but I plan to learn and grow from it all. Because I want to love boldly.
  • I don’t want spend my life overwhelmed. I don’t want to shuffle stuff around and over-pack our schedule for fear that I might miss out on something or disappoint someone. I don’t want to act like I’m God and can handle it all.
    • So I’m going to simplify. I’m going to cut back on stuff and activities that turn into detours or stumbling blocks between us and our family purpose. I realize it will be a constant balancing act, but there will be less to balance. Because I want to think clearly.
  • I don’t want to spend my life running from feeling. I don’t want to distract myself with meaningless things so I don’t have to feel the intens
    ity of the meaningful things. I don’t want to numb my feelings or carelessly feed my emotions so they grow out of proportion. I don’t want to diminish or exaggerate feeling.

    • So I’m going to explore. I’m going to dig deep to uncover what I’m honestly feeling and why. I’m going to bring those real feelings to God and allow Him to turn them into power with His love. Because I want to live passionately.

That’s it. Those are three things I don’t want to spend my life on, and three things I do. These particular things have been on my mind for a while, but now I want to be clear: I want to love boldly, think clearly and live passionately.

How do you want to spend your life – your actual day-to-day life? What are you willing to do or give up to get there?

Go for it square



How To Get More Out Of Movies

...and life

What questions and expectations are in your mind as you enter the theater to watch a movie? Are you asking if you’ll like the movie? Do you expect action or romance? Do you ever wonder what gift the movie has to offer you?

I get a lot out of movies and I love to talk about them with others. And when I say I get a lot out of them, I’m not messing around. I declared that Frozen literally changed my life and I’m not even being sarcastic. (Read about that here.)

Abstract ThoughtDespite my self-declared distinction as a “writer,” I prefer the movie over the book every time. It might have something to do with the fact that I think in shapes and vague images and have a difficult time imagining elaborate descriptions, so I skip to dialogue. The “Abstract Thought” room as depicted in Inside Out is a perfect example of what happens in my head.

But I love the movies. I don’t have to focus hard on imagining, so I can just think and feel. And that’s where the magic happens for me.

Open Curiosity

Let’s look back to Les Miserables which came out in December of 2012. I recorded my observations about why I got so much out of the movie at that time, but the concept of open curiosity applies to every movie…every life.

Considering the many criticisms I heard regarding the quality of singing and singers chosen for the Les Mis, I was surprised the noticable lack of musical precision did not bother me as it often does. Instead, I was lost in the moment, inspired with every note. This is why:

  • Curiosity.

    Rather than participating as a critic looking for certain elements, I came to the theater wondering what the experience would be like. Curiosity is an interest that doesn’t expect a certain answer. There’s no subtle demand to wondering…no agenda. Just the question.

  • Openness.

    In my curiosity I didn’t guard my emotions like I often do when I don’t know what to expect. Instead, I gave myself permission to trust the filmmakers to draw me deep into a story and experience that took me to the depths of despair and up to the power of grace and love and redemption.

I realize that other directors may have set a higher standard of musical excellence. Other actors may have interpreted the characters differently. Other cinematographers may have chosen different shots or angles or lenses… But in the middle of the film, I wasn’t thinking about what they should have done to give me a different experience. I was experiencing. I made a mental decision after the first imperfect note to trust the artistic choices of the filmmakers and enter into the experience they were offering.

In the end, I was overcome by hope and desire. I sensed God’s presence with me – His love for the world – the great need for His light – a desire to love another and “see the face of God”.

Criticism Is The Safe Path

Why is it so tempting to view to view our life, others’ lives and God’s interaction in our life with a critic’s eye? I wonder if it’s partly because we are afraid of the unknown. We want the security of knowing everything will work out for the best, so we try to figure out how to make life work out for our idea of best. Rather than being curious, we are critical.

I can’t believe he said that!
What was she thinking?

Viewing life as a critic allows us toLive Dangerously pull out of the experience (where it is quite dangerous since who KNOWS what might happen) and close off our emotional responsiveness. From this seat in the house, we do not have to feel vulnerable or sad because we can be angry that someone did something differently than we’d hoped. Maybe it was a friend. Maybe it was ourselves. Maybe it was God. But there must be someone to blame. Rather than being open, we are closed and cynical.

In The End

Granted, I knew the plot of the Les Miserables story. I knew it was going to be miserable. I knew the misery would be redeemed in some way. So perhaps the fact that I knew the end of the story made it easier for me to remain open in the middle of despair.

I don’t know how every story will end here and now. People will get hurt. Some will feel tortured. I will die, though I don’t know how or when. There is ugliness, despair, misery. It’s awfully hard to feel hopeful when I don’t know what might happen in the end.

Or don’t I?

The thing is, if I consider what the Bible says and believe there is a bigger story…
if the end is one where justice and love rule side by side…
if there is a greater goal than happiness here and now…
if the whole world is in the pains of childbirth as the New Creation is born…

If my story is not the end…

If my story contributes to the greater Story…

Revelation 21:4-5
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

If this is the end, can I trust God in the middle of the ups and downs of my story?

Open curiosity or closed cynicism?

What do you want to ask of the movies? What do you want to ask of life?

Your New Superpower

Apparently, I have a new superpower.

My daughter has been sad a lot lately. She is entering that delicate tension between child and teen, running toward independence while simultaneously mourning the loss of naiveté. I rejoice with her and hurt for her. This is, what seems to be, the second in a series of transitions into what we eventually come to know as “real life.”

I don’t blame her for having a difficult time with it all. Everyone was in awe with her when she was little. Two tiny pigtails atop her head and words like they came from an adult, she had everything a two year old needed to get all kinds of ooo’s and ah’s and wow’s. It’s hard when a little girl’s years catch up with her cuteness. Precious as she is now, she also has a lot more responsibility. It will never be the same. I totally get it.

I know she’s sad because she gets angry. The kids love each other so intensely that they drive each other crazy with the expectation to be honored and loved and considered. It’s hard for kids to do all that for each other. It’s hard for any of us to do that for each other, regardless of how much we want it for ourselves. So several times a day they are offended and angry – especially after 4:00 in the afternoon. And in those times it is hard for them to do anything but scrutinize my favor.

You NEVER make Grant…You ALWAYS let Grant…He got more…Oh of COURSE he gets that!

I stopped rationalizing with her in these moments a long time ago. It doesn’t matter if she’s right or wrong, it matters that she isn’t feeling loved. We have no intention of changing her consequence or our decisions; but when this happens, the girl needs help.

One night a couple of weeks ago I realized that my little gal needed some extra sweet love – the kind that reaches the sadness under her anger. Right after an angrily offended outburst I followed her to her bed…

Hey babe. Look at me. Right here – look at me.

Her eyes wandered over for a brief second and met my adoring whole-face, gentle smile.

I love you, Amelia.

She immediately turned her head and hid the smile she couldn’t keep off of her own face. I didn’t joke this time. No arguing. No giving in. I just told her I loved her and I said it with my entire being. And I’ve been doing it periodically ever since. Then last night it happened again.

“How do you do that?”

Do what, honey?

“Make people smile.”

I don’t know. I guess it’s just my new superpower.

…a superpower we all have when we put on our super-deep goggles to see past surface-anger and find deep-pain. There’s no need to be afraid – no need to rationalize it away. Just meet it with deep-love.

You Are Loved

A Letter to Readers

Deep One,

Over three months have passed since I began to blog regularly. It’s a blip on the timeline of my life, but it’s been an intense blip, without a doubt. It’s hard to say if it was the reflective writing, strategizing, life or the weather that made for so much internal ebb and flow of angst and release. I suppose it’s probably everything mixed together.

If you read any of my posts, you are part of this. So thank you. It’s kind of odd to think that a blog could offer an opportunity for a relationship, but I hope it does. Because of this “relationship,” I’d like to ask a favorite question of mine: “How are we doing?” (read about the “How Are We Doing” conversation here). I’ll start.

How I’m Doing

Coffee TimeI regularly struggle with self-doubt. It certainly takes courage, trust and some self-confidence to put myself out there, but for every ounce of “I can do this,” there is a pound of “What do I think I’m doing? I’ll never be able to keep this up! I’m not even a real writer. People are going to get tired of me. I can’t even keep my house clean, why would I spend so many hours a week writing without getting paid to do it?!”

Yet there has been just enough feedback to keep me moving forward. Though for years I’ve been willing and able to share the deeper parts of myself with others, I’ve done so in conversations where I can see and hear the people with whom I’m sharing. If I’m an expert -albeit imperfect- at anything, I’m an expert at knowing what to share and what questions to ask in a conversation to invite others to go deeper.

But writing is an entirely different shtick. I don’t see the look in your eyes. I don’t know when you tuck something in your heart. And most of the time, I don’t even know who you are. Nearly all of the relational feedback I usually rely on to know what to say next, is gone.

So I end up looking for digital feedback. This is pretty much ridiculous. You know the Facebook game – it’s an impossible measure of how much something you say or post is “liked” by others. Besides, when you’re writing not to be liked but to make a difference, it’s like measuring weight with a ruler.

Misleading. Confusing. Impossible.

Intentional Friends

I’ve been playing with the concept of intentional friendship for over ten years. If there’s ever been a time when I’ve needed friends to intentionally seek out deeper conversations with me and offer their expertise, it’s now. Without these friends (and family-friends), I am alone and I am not blogging. Without them, I am more of a hot mess than I am usually. I am so grateful for my intentional friends. I hope you have friends like that. I hope you and I can be like that.

How I’m Doing, Really

WorkingBut if I dig a little deeper, the truth is that I love blogging. I love the opportunity to sit at the keyboard and search for what is stirring in me and release it through my fingertips. I love condensing offerings into short snapshots of life-reflected and clicking “Post to Live and Love Deeply.”

I love sharing my life with you.

And the more I write, the more I see my little posts as little works of art. They are bits of me – born out of enough vulnerability to invite you in, veiled in enough ambiguity to invite you to relate.

I hope.

I hope that you will continue to join me here every once in a while. I hope that a few of you will sign up for email updates (at the side or bottom of your screen). I hope a few more will comment and share. I hope that if you are touched by something you read here, you will share deeply with someone. It doesn’t have to be me. But my hope for Live and Love Deeply is that you might find you are not alone and that you have the courage to think and feel deeply so that you can connect and share more deeply in your relationships.

I hope it for both of us.


If you pray, would you pray that I would share life and love in ways that help people connect deeply? Would you pray that this message would touch hearts and that we would be open to receive what Love has to offer? I really believe miracles happen. And they are most amazing when they happen in relationships.

How Are You Doing?

Now that I’ve shared how I’m doing, I would like to ask you the same question. I realize you probably do not think about reading this blog as though we have a relationship, but we kinda do. Especially if you respond in some way. There are many people I would love to hear from, but you are the one I want to take to coffee. Seriously. I do. So if you’re in town and want to do that, please let me know. Email and messages are also great. Your comments, likes and shares do make a difference for getting the word out and encouraging me. I really appreciate it. Your voice matters to me (read about that here).

  • How do you want to take risks to love?
  • When do you let your guard down and let others in?
  • What do you want to explore together?
  • Why do you choose to read posts from this blog? What aspects of it keep you coming back?

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your feedback and support. I deeply desire to share my journey with you, that we might impact one another to…

Live & Love Deeply,

Andrea Joy

Find me on…

Facebook: at Andrea Joy Wenburg

Twitter: @andreawenburg

Email: awenburg@gmail.com