Lessons from lighting a stove

We have a woodstove at our house, and even in this dud-winter, we have used the stove on multiple occasions. It’s nice to have an extra heat source for the cold snaps. And if we ever got snow, it would be nice for that, too.

When we first moved into the house over four years ago, I left the stove’s lighting to my husband. But, in a general progression of bravery, I no longer sit watching. Instead, the duty falls to both of us.

This winter, though, no matter how many times I light the silly thing, I’ve had trouble getting the fire to blaze. I do the right things. I place the logs just so. I roll the newspaper in tight logs and place them in the right spot. I put the husband-prescribed amount of kindling on top. And I light the paper.

I’m always successful to this point, as the paper and kindling light easily. But the logs? Not so much. They are stubborn and slow to ignite.

When I think the fire is progressing, I inevitably let down my guard. However, turning my back seems to give the stove license to quit. Without diligence on my part, the flames dwindle.

On a given instance, I generally spend longer than I think necessary stoking, stirring and challenging the logs to ignite. And then, just when I’m about ready to scream—or at least call the hubby for some advice—the logs finally take. The fire lingers and spreads.

Time for the victory dance.

Even so, the fire must continue to be fed, otherwise, I’m back to square one. And if I have to do it all again on the same day, let’s face it… I’m better off grabbing a couple blankets! So I continue to put in my due-diligence and haul wood from the porch to the stove in order to keep that hard-earned flame going.

As I’ve mulled over this repeated experience this winter, it became apparent that there was something I could learn from my little stubborn stove. (OK, if you know anything about me, you might be questioning my use of “something.” You’re right. It was really a lot of somethings. But this column is brief, therefore I must be as well.)

One something is perseverance. Lasting fire is worth the effort. It’s worth all the work it takes to ignite a flame. This concept can be applied to countless situations. But since I just returned late Sunday from a writing conference in Houston—called LIT, by the way—I think my prevailing desire to expand my writing ability is an appropriate example.

I’ve shared here some of my current attempt to journey into the world of publishing. Platform plug: If you would like to learn more, be sure to like my Facebook writing page, @MalindaDJust.

Publishing is daunting. It’s venturing into a deep unknown. And if I didn’t have such a burning conviction to write a book about my experience of healing from adverse childhood experiences, frankly, I would run in the opposite direction.

The publishing world is full of rejection. Oftentimes over and over. Beloved children’s author Dr. Suess was rejected by 27 publishing houses before his first book was published. Twenty-seven times. I have been rejected twice. Do I have what it takes to keep going?

The publishing world is full of competition. Is there even room for me?

It’s full of platforms and promotion. I’m supposed to work on building a large social media platform where the desired number is 10,000+ followers. Honestly, that scares me. Do I even want that?

Publishing is intimidating. Most companies don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. Finding an agent is as complicated as picking someone off a list. How do I know what would be a good fit?

I don’t have answers. I don’t know what I’m doing. But others do. Others have been there. Others have persevered.

Lately I have learned from other authors, all who were once on my side of the fence. Most recently, I sat under the tutelage of Beth Moore, a woman who has poured more into me than she will probably ever know. (I write probably, because it is one of my dreams to have a face-to-face conversation with her. I mean, if I’m going to dream, I might as well dream big!)

To me, Beth is a giant of a flame. And spending the weekend listening to her wisdom, her passion, her hope in my generation, she stoked a bigger fire in me.

One of the questions she asked was, “What do you want?” My answers might surprise you, as getting published is not even close to the top of my list. I have several encompassing desires.

But one I want to mention here is that I want to be a fire-lighter, not a fire-fighter. I want to support and encourage others to light and stay that way. I want to cheer them on as they persevere. And I would love it if you would do the same for me.

We’re all in this together, so let’s start a fire!

Malinda Just has been writing her monthly column for the Free Press since 2008. She can be reached at malinda@justs.org.