Path to Publication Five: Belly Button Lint Knits a Sweater

Apr 14, 2006Family Uncaged, Write!

My formal writing career started with belly button lint.

You see, I was reading copious amounts of a newsletter entitled The Tightwad Gazette. We were living on one income, had bought our first home, and were pinching pennies left and right. I menu planned. I gardened. I made jam. All good things. But then something weird started happening to my brain. It became obsessive with saving money. I’d time my husband when he shaved to see how long he was wasting hot water. And then I pestered. I washed tin foil.

Exasperated, he told me, “Mary, are you going to knit my belly button lint into a sweater?”

I knew then that I had gone over the edge. Way over.

So, then I re-evaluated. Saving money was good. Being a good steward was important. But not so that I became weird and obsessive about it. There had to be a better way.

After a bit of thought, I realized that saving money needed to have a goal: so that we could give more. I wanted to save for an end, so I could give more money to the Kingdom. As I noodled further on this, I decided to write a counter-tightwad newsletter. I called it The Giving Home Journal. The idea for it came in 1992, so that’s why my website says, “creating relevant prose since 1992.”

I didn’t have a computer then. I asked my grandfather for a small business loan, something he graciously granted me. I bought a Gateway computer. When I turned it on, I had NO idea what to do with it. True to Mary form, I had already imposed my first deadline for The Giving Home Journal. I had to finish the eight-page, six-times-a-year production very soon, which meant I needed to learn Microsoft Publisher quickly.

Somehow I figured it out and sent out my newsletter to everyone I knew. Subscriptions started trickling in. Nine bucks a year. Eventually, after three years of producing the newsletter (which had articles about lifestyle, finances, stay-at-home mom stuff, and a slew of recipes), I was able to pay my grandfather back.

By now we’d moved to a new home. Aidan came. The Giving Home Journal ended. My new church approached me and asked whether I’d produce their newsletter, a small paying job. I took it.

Somehow I got connected with a published writer. I boldly asked her if she’d have time to meet with me. She said yes. When I waited for her in the restaurant, I was nervous. I wondered what a real writer would say to me…