Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


Without Small Beginnings, There Would Be No Big Ends

Like most writers, whether pre-published, newly published, or multi-published, we often wish we were further along our career path —no matter how far down that path we are. “After all, growth is natural,” we say.

Let’s admit it. We don’t really want growth to be natural; we wanted it to be rapid and explosive.

We begin a story and can’t wait to type “The End.” When the end arrives, we agonize over our book proposal and one-sheet. (Whether anyone actually reads them, we don’t know.)

We can’t be happy until we find an agent. When we do, we can’t be happy until we find a publisher. Then, “Hooray! We have a publisher!” We sign a two-book contract then spend weeks, sometimes months, editing our manuscript according to our publisher’s preferences, all the while scrambling for a new storyline for the second book.

When our debut novel arrives, we enter contests, hoping to add “award-winning” and “best selling” in front of our names. Then we’re off to book signings, conferences, and speaking events to sell, sell, sell! And I haven’t even touched on social media. [Sigh.]

While I’m not saying any of this is bad, I am wondering if the “one day at a time” axiom has morphed into “I can’t wait until tomorrow?” In our mad race to cross an imaginary finish line, do we appreciate the strides we’ve made to date? Have we forgotten to enjoy the present? Do we have any guarantees the future will be better?

In Zechariah 4:10, we are encouraged: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line [pen?] in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)

Without small beginnings, there would be no big ends. Small beginnings are more personal; they usually involve working closely with others. During these formative years, we hone our craft and develop good habits. We also have more time to read, learning much from those who’ve gone on before us.

I remember when angst grabbed hold of me as soon as I decided I wanted to write for publication. I fretted over query letters, elevator statements, and pitches to agents and editors—as if I were in charge of the outcome.

I thought back on the small beginnings I had so enjoyed: 1) Creating and presenting humorous “roasts” for my friends and family. 2) Writing and editing a monthly church newsletter. 3) Creating website copy for my employers. In all these cases, the feedback was immediate and more intimate, and the experiences encouraged me to keep writing.

What are your small beginnings? Are you rejoicing with the Lord over them?

Do you finally have the time to write after raising your children? Has an article you wrote been accepted for publication? Does someone other than your mother love your writing? Have you employed the plot twist that came to you in the middle of a sleepless night? Have you created an outline for your non-fiction book? Have you figured out how to apply the three-act structure to the first draft of your novel? (If so, write to me privately and tell me how.)

God’s word says, “And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I [Jesus] say to you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 NASB). So, whenever I find myself absorbed in self and steeped in my projects alone, I break the pattern by focusing on someone else. Encouraging other writers excites me, humbles me, and brings me joy.

Getting rid of negative internal dialogue helps, too:  I wish I was as prolific as he is … If only I had a different agent … What if my publishing house closes? … I wish I had her sales … If only I had his platform …What if I get a bad review?

Listen up, Clarice! Whining is selfish, comparison is ungrateful, and fear is doubt.  

Eventually, I learned to listen more closely for God when I wrote, mainly because I had no idea what to write. When my novel Double Header debuted in 2015, a reader told me, “I feel like you wrote that story just to help me and my family.” When Party of One came out last year, others wrote basically the same thing. Just this past week, someone said, “I love your blogs. They’re so funny and uplifting.” I knew God was using me. Whether my books minister to one or thousands is in his hands. He is the ultimate marketing genius.

Zechariah 4:6 (NASB) declares, “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit.” God has a personal and perfect plan for each of us. If you’re using your writing gift to the best of your ability for God’s glory, he’ll get you where you’re supposed to be on time. You can’t rush the Holy Spirit.

Let’s all enjoy the moment we have right now. It’s all good ’cause it’s all God.

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The Great American Whine Flu

StopWhining400“In holy worship they’ll honor the Holy One of Jacob and stand in holy awe of the God of Israel. Those who got off-track will get back on-track, and complainers and whiners learn gratitude.” ~ Isaiah 29:23-24 (MSG)

I want to become less of a whiney American, as in a United-States-of-America American. [Whether the Great American Whine Flu has spread over the borders into Canada or Central and South America, I cannot say.]

Here on the home front, I will start in these small ways:

  • I promise not to stand in the cereal aisle and whine nasally, “But it’s so ha-rd to decide with all these choices.”
  • If a retail store’s computer is hacked by criminals, I’ll cut up my card and cut my losses. I won’t threaten them with a class action lawsuit. Besides, any pockets lined by winning that case will NOT be mine.
  • If television continues to offer trashy and ignorant reality shows filled with fake, tasteless drama (and people), I will stop watching them. I have the power; it’s as close as the off button on the remote.
  • In addition to the price tag, I will check the “Made in . . . ” labels before I start my self-righteous rants about the horrors of child labor.
  • Before I argue that every citizen in this grand country of ours deserves flat screens in every room, the latest technology for their pre-teens, huge master baths and  walk-in closets, and brand new vehicles in their three-car garages, I will take a closer look at the Native Americans.
  • Before I whine about all the candidates running for President, I will be thankful I am not one of them and more thankful I can vote.
  • Before I complain about the songs my church’s worship leaders select, I will be thankful for the freedom to worship.

book-ugly-americanAs for any opinion foreign nations may have of me as an American, I hope to make a small difference in the future:

  • If I ever visit Switzerland, I promise not to say, “What’s with all the cuckoo clocks? Doesn’t anyone here own a smart phone?”
  • If I take a trip to Rome, I won’t wear a belly shirt to the Vatican and complain, “I could never live in this neighborhood. The buildings are in ruins.”
  • If I end up on House Hunters International looking for a free-range, sustainable lifestyle, I will try not to get filmed saying, “What? No stainless steal appliances?” or “What’s with all those ugly windmills?”
  • If I go north to Canada, I won’t ask, “Why’s it so cold up here?” Or, if I go south to Ecuador, I won’t say, “Why’s it so hot?”
  • If I visit Iceland (which is not on my bucket list, by the way), I won’t assume all their clocks are wrong because the sun is out at midnight.
  • If I decide to go over the border to Mexico, I promise not to ask, “Don’t you have any real Mexican food like Taco Bell?”
  • If London is my final destination, I won’t complain that they don’t speak English clearly. At least they try.
  • Whatever country I visit outside of my own, I will refuse to use this phrase: “That’s not the way we do in the States.”

Need I go on? I could, you know. But then that would be whining–or worse, preaching.


PS: God? If I don’t whine for a while, do you think maybe I could get that new kitchen I want? I would really appreciate it. No, really, I would. Pleeeese . . .

Enoch, the seventh after Adam, prophesied of them: “Look! The Master comes with thousands of holy angels to bring judgment against them all, convicting each person of every defiling act of shameless sacrilege, of every dirty word they have spewed of their pious filth.” These are the “grumpers,” the bellyachers, grabbing for the biggest piece of the pie, talking big, saying anything they think will get them ahead. ~ Jude 1:14 (MSG)


Lord, Why Won’t You Let Me Have One Good Reason to Complain?

keep-calm-no-reason-to-complain-3Do you ever get mad at God because He won’t let you have one good reason to complain? I do.

Like last night when I couldn’t sleep.

  • Me: “I can’t sleep!”
  • Holy Spirit: “Yes, but what a comfortable, warm bed you have to toss and turn in.”
  • Me: “Aagh! Why can’t I sleep?”
  • Holy Spirit: “It’s certainly not because you went to bed hungry, is it?”
  • Me: “I need sleep! I have to work tomorrow.”
  • Holy Spirit: “I’ve been meaning to ask you, how do you like that job I blessed you with?”
  • Me: “Lord, please help me to sleep, so I’m not cranky in the morning.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Perhaps you can ask your friend Nancy how she does it. She’s still smiling after months of trying to sleep in the hospital.”

My morning moments aren’t always better.

  • Me: “I wish I could lose weight.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Oh, but you can! You only have to do two simple things: eat less and exercise more.”
  • Me: “But why is it so easy for some people?”
  • Holy Spirit: “Which people? The ones who eat less and exercise more?”
  • Me: “Yes, them.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Would you prefer to have their problems?”
  • Me: [Pause.] “Guess not.”
  • Holy Spirit: “You can do this. I will help.”

Afternoon whining can sound something like this:

  • Me: “I want to replace my electric stove with a gas range.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Oh? Have you and your husband been unable to prepare food?”
  • Me: “Well, no, but it would be easier.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Have you ever explained your definition of easy to the people of Bolivia and Guatemala?”
  • Me: “I wish my home’s side entrance came into my kitchen instead of my dining room.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Remember when you were young and would have given anything to have a home of your own?”
  • Me: “Never mind.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Just doing my job.”

Evening complaints don’t vary much:

  • Me: “There’s nothing good on TV.”
  • Holy Spirit: “You’re right. How much did you say you pay for cable?”
  • Me [throwing down a book]: “And this book is terrible! How did it ever get published?”
  • Holy Spirit: “There’s no 11th commandment that says you have to finish it. Have you spent any time today reading the Book I wrote?”
  • Me: “I’m just too tired to read.”
  • Holy Spirit: “You didn’t sleep well last night, remember? Maybe you should turn in.”
  • Me: “I can’t go to bed now; it’s too early. And I’ll miss the news.”
  • Holy Spirit: “You are free to exercise your will.”
  • Me [after watching the news]: “Sheesh! There’s nothing but bad news!”
  • Holy Spirit: “Why don’t you replace it with the Good News I gave you? You know . . .

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16 NLT)

  • Me: “Yes, but . . .”
  • Holy Spirit: “By the way, Clarice, do you recall Jesus complaining while dying on the cross for your sins?”
  • Me: “Uh, no, Lord.”
  • Holy Spirit: “Hmm. I didn’t think so.”

“You don’t have to give way to careless speech or complaining. You don’t have to let your feelings get in the way of what God wants to do in your life.” ~ Joyce Meyer

Watch this video for some real complaints from others. 🙂