The Messy Life


A good story starts with a bad rough draft.

In college, my composition professor made us staple our rough drafts behind our final essays, so she could see our revision process. A confession, though: I never did that — at least not as she intended. My handwritten rough drafts were, I thought, too rough, with illegible penmanship, and entire paragraphs scribbled through, and sad faces drawn over the truly dreadful parts. I wanted Jackina to like my writing, and I couldn’t let her see my mess. And so, for every assignment, I’d write an ugly essay, revise it, print a clean, perfected version … and then re-write a neater “first” draft to turn in with the final.

I’d even make a few careful scribbles on it, to give it that “edited” look. It was a not-so-rough, rough draft.

OCD? Perhaps. People-pleasing? Definitely. Phony? Sadly, yes.

My life, like my writing, is often messy.

I’d love to present a neat, perfected version of myself to the world. But the truth is, I have some truly dreadful parts that need a lot of revision. For example, last Sunday, I yelled at my son, Nathan. I don’t mean I “raised my voice” for parental effect — I yelled. Last July, Andy led a marriage retreat for our church, and I argued with him the entire weekend. Yes, I picked fights with my husband while he taught about marriage. And perhaps messiest of all … for nearly six months now, I’ve been seeing a Christian counselor — a wise and funny man who helps me deal with my fear and insecurity. I was sent to him because every aspect of my life, from my relationships to my daily routines, was crippled by fear.

Messy? Absolutely. I’m a rough, rough draft, indeed.

Sometimes people call me “transparent,” which is really just a pretty word for messy.

I wish I could reply, “Oh, yes, I’m so confident that I don’t mind showing the real me.” But the truth is, I’m only learning transparency because I’ve lived phony, and phony is exhausting. Phony leads to friendless, fearful, controlling, dishonest, and empty. Phoniness tries to cover up the messiness, just like writing a not-so-rough, rough draft.

But good stories — good life stories, written by the Author Himself — start with bad rough drafts.

How are you learning to be authentic with those around you? Can you see the beauty in rough drafts?

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Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

  • julieneils

    Amy, I love, love, love this. Phony is exhausting! May I glory in the rough draft of today. Thank you for this.

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The Messy Life

by Amy Storms time to read: 2 min