Friday, 7 February 2014

Building that bowerbird’s nest

In these early weeks of a new writing year, I am usually well into planning speaking engagements for the months ahead and preparing input. But this year has begun very differently. At the moment, I am still recovering from a recent back operation and thus needing to rest far more than usual. Right now, I’m typing this lying sideways, with my laptop perched on a chair beside the bed.

Yet this past month of relative writing inactivity has hardly been wasted. I have been exercising that very necessary skill for all authors—the fine art of observation. By this I mean noticing all sorts of things about all sorts of people and situations, as well as what is happening inside myself, then storing these details away in that big, mental writer's file, if not in a literal computer file. In short, I have been building my own unique bowerbird’s nest—just like the male bowerbird collects an interesting array of colourful items, from leaves, flowers and berries to shiny metal objects, pieces of glass and discarded plastic items, then spends hours arranging them in a way that will hopefully attract a potential wife to his nest!

My stay in hospital provided me with ample opportunity to observe people. I noticed with interest the different manner and tone of voice employed by various medical personnel, from the bright, breezy words of the young, upbeat anaesthetist to the soothing reassurances of my almost as young neurosurgeon as I waited for him to operate, to the respectful, concerned responses of my gentle, Asian post-op care nurse. And how could I not notice the lilting, laughing voices of those two Irish nurses or the deep, resonant voice of the older Indian male nurse, with his occasional interesting word pronunciations?  In my mind’s eye too, I can still see those beautiful, almond-shaped eyes of the young Zimbabwean nurse who chatted about her homeland and the stern face of the head nurse with an aura of experience and battle-weariness about her who nevertheless farewelled me with kindness and courtesy. Who knows in what future novel these will make an appearance? For now, they are among my treasures, waiting to be displayed at the right moment to attract potential readers or publishers!

Then there is that collection of my own responses to contemplate, such as a definite aversion to being a nuisance, unwilling to ask for and receive help. Where did that come from? How does it affect those offering help? How has it affected me? Or I could ponder upon that frustration within me that I am unable to forge ahead with all my writing and speaking plans right now. Why is it so hard at times to rest and be at peace about it all? Why can I not trust God with the year ahead, who has promised over and over in the Psalms to be my shield, my protector, my refuge, my healer, my provider—my God? Surely, as a future novel or even non-fiction work unfolds, these experiences will help me delve deeper into my characters, understanding and revealing their motives better.

May God enable you too to build your own wonderful, bowerbird-like writer’s nest in the year ahead.  And may you know God’s amazing grace and deep peace, wherever your writing journey takes you in 2014.

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com or www.soulfriend.com.au.

18 comments:

  1. HI Jo - Loved your post. It's a great reminder that any and all situations be opportunities to observe and sharpen our writing repertoire. A friend was almost in a small plane crash today in remote Northern Territory - thanking God the pilot was able to pull out of the situation just in time - and I think she's a bit shaken - but I wonder if this experience will turn up in her writing in the future. Now, maybe I just need to apply the same wisdom to my colonscopy experience tomorrow!!!!

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    1. I've had a few Colonoscopies over the years, Jeanette, and the preparation for the last one was no where near as bad as others. All the best with it and don't forget to take notes in case you need it for a character. LOL.

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  2. Thanks Jeanette. It's about living in the moment with God, don't you think, asking him what he wants me to see or learn in each situation. And I trust your colonoscopy goes well tomorrow--the lead up isn't so pleasant but it will be over in a flash. God bless.

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  3. Great post, Jo-Anne. Our loving God does time those periods in our lives when we need to be made to rest in Him and wonderful to know He never wastes any experience in our lives committed to Him. One of the first things I learnt way back when attempting to write fiction was to be a "people watcher". It sure does help with characterisation. I can tell this from your description of your nurses you will use this experience somehow in another great book. Do take care in this post op period and I continue to pray you will now be free of the back pain you've put up with for so long.

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  4. Thanks so much, Mary, both for the encouraging comment about my blog and also for your prayers that I'll be free of back pain. Still a bit sore right now, but I'm getting there. I had better be, as I have to sit/stand at Koorong West Ryde tomorrow for four hours as part of an 'Author Expo' there! That will test me out. God bless!

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  5. Lovely post, Jo. I do hope you'll feel much better by tomorrow at your Author Expo. I'd have oved to have popped in but doing a special treat for my son's b/day might make that impossible...but I'll try. Take a back support along with you.

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    1. Thanks, Rita. It would be lovely to see you at Koorong, but you'd better put your best efforts into that special treat for your son. Hope he has a great day!

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  7. I could hear you speaking Jo-Anne. I remember your talk at the Caleb Conference about how you take experiences from life and weave them into your writing. It sounds like your enforced down time has turned into very productive time.

    I hope your recovery is filled with grace. Thanks for sharing your journey with us

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    1. Thanks, Elaine. That's a wonderful concept to keep in mind - a 'recovery filled with grace'--and it really does sum up what I have been experiencing. I'm looking forward to seeing how the things I have learnt in this past little while impact my writing. God bless!

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  8. All the best with your author date at Koorong tomorrow, Jo.

    Quilters say 'she with the most fabric, wins.' I think we authors are the same. We squirrel our scraps and threads for just the right project. What a great way to live. :)

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    1. Hi Dorothy! What a lovely analogy with quilters--I hadn't heard that before! That is exactly what we do, isn't it, finding just the right scraps or threads for our projects? And thanks for your good wishes for the Koorong author expo. God bless!

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  9. Hi Jo, Enjoy the Author Expo :) I'm glad you're recovering well from your op and I hope your back doesn't cause you too much discomfort tomorrow.

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    1. Hi Narelle! Thanks for your kind thoughts. I'm looking forward to the Author Expo, despite a bit of a dodgy back still, as you never know what interesting people God has for us to meet at such events.

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  10. Hi Jo-Anne,
    Thanks for those beautiful thoughts. I love the analogy of us being bower birds, collecting treasures into our nests. I'm really sorry to hear that the beginning of 2014 has been hard and painful for you. I knew you had a bad back but didn't know about the recent surgery. I hope your health improves rapidly.

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    1. Thanks for your lovely comments, Paula. I really appreciate your kind thoughts. I'm beginning to feel much better, although still tired. But I'm sure I'll improve so much in the coming month. Maybe I'll even get some writing done!

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  11. Hope that back is feeling so much better since the op Jo-Anne. Thanks for the lovely positive post about observation and using experiences. From one bower bird to another.

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    1. I have thought of you quite a few times as I have been trying to recover from my back op, Dale, as I remember how you had a similar op (by the sound of it) a couple of years ago, I think it was. It's all progressing okay, although I do tend to do too much too quickly!

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