Emily Timbol

The Power of Community


A love of books goes hand in hand with a love of writing. Often times, I’ve found, so does a love of movies.

I’m not sure if it’s the desire to escape into fantasy, the ability to shut off a constantly running mind, or simply the ease with which one can immerse themselves in a foreign world, but most creatives love film.  Ever since I was old enough to see above the seat in front of me, I too have loved movies.

Occasionally, while engaging in a particularly amusing or unique experience, I’ll pretend that I actually am in a movie. Or, I’ll step outside of myself in the situation, and look at what I’m doing from the perspective an audience would.

Last night was one of those times.

Left on mallory

Photo courtesy of Jared Rypkema

Sitting around me at the handmade wooden table were people so interesting, they reminded me of characters in an indie film.

There was Chris, the author in the faded boat shoes, jeans, and newsboy cap, whose long blonde hair and scruffy beard matched his outside-the-grind personality. He leaned back in his chair and spent ten minutes describing the food in each city he had lived in the past three years, chewing over the words as if they were savory morsels.

Then there was Amanda. She reminded me of a sweeter version of a character from a show about 20 something girls in a big city. Only she was in my city, which isn’t very big. Dressed in a light lace shirt and high waisted pants, she kept her hair back with a small rose pin. While humbly talking about the blog she helps write, she casually took out a flier from her notebook. It was for a local business trying to crowd-source enough money for a vegan food truck.

Her friend, also named Amanda, was brought along for moral support. Donning a large jade statement necklace, she looked every part the vegan photographer she was. Despite being the lone artist who used visuals, not words, to present her craft, she seemed at ease among the group of writers.

Lastly, there was Jared, whose table we were scattered around. Jared, who came up with the idea to start, and lead, a community of local Jacksonville writers, fueled by a passion to make the city a serious literary presence. It’s his relaxed personality, friendliness, and eagerness to learn from others, that has helped make his dream, Left on Mallory, a reality.

And then there’s me.

Me, who before, never felt “cool” enough to sit at a table full of people that could inspire indie movie characters. Me, a person who for a long time, struggled to feel like she belonged at any table, at all.

It was last night, leaving the writers group meeting, stopping for a minute to talk to Chris, that I thought, “Oh. This is that feeling I’ve been missing.”

I finally felt like I belonged.

Strange enough, this wasn’t the first time in the past few months that feeling has come over me.

While communicating with the 49 other participants of the upcoming Reformation Project, I’ve felt it too. Even though I’ve not yet met a single person, while talking to them, and reading their thoughts on the Bible and the academic papers we’re trudging through, I sense that same tingle of recognition.

What I realized, while unpacking all of these emotions, is that God is behind this new-found sense of belonging. Not in a cliche’d, “there’s a reason for everything” way. More like, “This is what you feel when you start living the life you’re meant to.”

Despite their cooler personalities, clothes, and experiences, which normally would make me feel aloof, I felt at home among the writers I met last night. And despite the fact that most of the reformers I’m going to meet in September are all gay, and have lived through vastly different experiences than me, I feel at home with them as well.

I hate that it took me over two decades to realize this, but community is not about race, or sexuality, or income. It’s not about surrounding yourself with people who look and think like you do.

Community is about what happens when people striving towards the same goal come together.

I don’t think I ever really got that before. Which is probably why I struggled with sticking with other communities I joined in the past.

God has brought me into the communities I’m apart of now, through little-to-no work of my own, to show me how powerful and life-giving it is to not work alone.

Which is odd, for someone like me, who craves solitude.

But what Left on Mallory, and The Reformation Project has shown me, is that alone, I’m rather weak. Prone to quitting. Easily frustrated.

As part of a community of others working towards the same thing, I’m emboldened. Revived. Determined not to give up.

I’m incredibly grateful for both of these communities, and excited about what will come in the future for them, and me as a part of them. And for the first time, I’m shifting my view of the future from what, “I want,” to “what is best for us.”

The great part is, there’s much more freedom from the future when the “I” becomes, “we.”

Struggling With The American Dream


Monday I started a new job.  After working three years for a small company that exploded into one of the largest e-commerce sites on the internet, it was time for me to move on. When I started working at my old company, I knew almost nothing about IT, or the role I’d be filling. This was not something I went to school for, or ever envisioned myself doing. It was something I fell into, only because I needed a job, and a good friend of mine who was a valuable employee recommended me. Thanks to the chance his company took on me, I was able to learn skills that are worth a lot of money. These skills are what led me to the job I have now. One at an even larger company. It’s a job that is demanding, difficult, and high stress.

But, it’s a job that is paying me more money than I ever anticipated earning.

Driving home from work today, exhausted, I thought about the strange place that I am in right now. For the first time in my life, I don’t have to worry about money. That girl who grew up knowing her parents loved her, but couldn’t afford to buy her the things her friends had, now has the money to buy what she wants.

Within a couple months, my credit cards will be paid off. Within the year, my student loans. I’ll finally be able to replace my eleven year old car. I forgot when payday was, for the first time since I began working 12 years ago.

If I was someone who was working towards the American dream of getting a good job, working hard, and making a lot of money, my mission would be accomplished. All before 30.

But while I’m very grateful for my job, I’m struggling with my dream. My dream that doesn’t involve making lots of money, but making a difference with my writing. A dream that I can’t seem to make a reality, no matter how hard I work towards it.

I find myself in a difficult place. I’m so grateful for where I am financially. But I’m terrified that three, six, ten, twenty years will go by with me working towards a dream that’s never been mine. But I have no idea though how to make my dreams happen, because I am not the one in charge of their future. Agents are in charge. Publishers are in charge. And the rejections I have received so far have given me their resounding answer.

No. Or at least “Not yet.”

At what point do I give up, and let this dream die? Or do I keep working towards it, until eventually, someone says yes? Working hard at my “day job” (which is bleeding into nights) in the meantime? This is the place I find myself in, without any clear answers.

The one thing I can find solace in at this point is that this struggle is not unique. I know I am not alone, and that I am blessed to have a job at all, let alone one that pays me enough to not have to worry about money.

So fellow writer friends/artists, how do you deal with the struggle between work and your dream? Have you ever felt like it was time to give up? What keeps you going?


The Writerly Blog Hop

Seventeen years ago I attempted to write my first book. I was ten years old. Everyday after school I sat in the cheap fold out chair in front of the computer, my feet dangling just above the carpet, while I pecked at the keyboard. It took a couple weeks for about 30 pages to appear. My story was about a young girl with curly hair in the witness protection program, trying to find her parent’s killer, so she could get her life back. But after 30 pages, it got too hard to keep the characters and events together, and to come up with ideas. The novelty of writing a book wore off. So I quit.

While a freshman in college, eight years later, I was struggling with a crush on a guy from high school who had ended up at the same out-of-town university as me. To work through these feelings, I decided to revisit my old love of writing. Every night after class I’d plop down at my cheap cardboard brown desk, my fingers flying over the keys of my laptop. This time, I made it 60 pages into my screenplay about a (you guessed it) curly haired girl and the guy who finally realized he loved her. Once complete, I read back what I had wrote, horrified. It was crap. Drivel. Terrible and immature. I sealed the manuscript into a manilla envelope, and shoved it in a drawer. Instead of working to make it better, once again, I quit.

I’m now 27, and have spent the past three years writing, editing, and submitting my memoir to agents and publishers. While doing that, I also become a regular blogger for the Huffington Post, a member of the Burnside Writers Collective, and a contributor to Red Letter Christians. I’ve come a long way since my feet first dangled in front of a computer screen.

My book is done. And at 63,000 words, it’s a lot more than 60 pages. It’s been something I’ve committed to for years, not weeks or days.  And unlike my youthful writing, I invited lots and lots of people to not just read it, but critique it. Tear it apart. Tell me how to make it better.

Yet, after all this time, I still struggle with two things. Wanting to quit. And not feeling like a writer.

Like Kirsten, who started this blog hop, when I first pictured my life as a writer, it was one  filled with thick glossy book covers embossed with my name. Sitting on (built-in) bookshelves in a large, white, expensive home. On the beach or in the mountains maybe. A home I kept when I wasn’t living in my high rise apartment in Chicago/NYC/Seattle. I’d have an agent, a publisher, and a bank account that reflected this fame my creativity had brought me.

My life looks nothing like that.

I have no agent. No publisher. No glossy covered book with my name on it. My house, while lovely, is nowhere near the mountains, let alone white. And because of these things, I often feel like I have no right to call myself a writer. A failure, yes, as I have an inbox filled with rejection emails from agents. Writer, no.

But the more I connect with other writers, and participate in things like this blog hop, the more I see that the things that I think make me a failure, are what actually make me a writer. Writing, for one. And persistence in the face of a landslide of rejection, for another. To write is to be rejected. To be a writer, is to overcome rejection, and keep writing.

Even though I don’t have the bank account, agent, or hell, even desk of a writer, I still know that, as long as I keep putting fingers to keys, a writer is what I’ll be. Glossy book cover or not.