Friday, 7 April 2017

Changing Seasons of Writing

For the last couple of years, I've been having trouble settling down to write a new novel. Since the nineties, I used to rip right into them very quickly, but that feeling of eureka in the planning stage has been eluding me. I would find that even when I devised plans which might have some merit, I couldn't force my enthusiasm to jump on board to the extent it used to. Since that sense of fizzing anticipation was once my green light, I didn't want to move without it. I knew there wouldn't be much point anyway. That strong drive to woo others to share my love of my plots and characters had been my motivator.

For some time, it distressed me if I thought about it too hard. I thought I had a case of writer's block, and faced all the frustration and loss of identity that went with it. Acquaintances would ask, 'What book are you working on now?' and I'd mumble something about sifting through ideas. On one hand, I really wanted my mojo back, but on the other, it was nice to have a break from all the emotional energy it took, which I'd been drawing from for several years, and one project after the next. Because my characters often had some pretty tough issues going on.

Anyway, this photo of my local wetlands in the summer heat seemed an accurate picture of what I thought my creative mind resembled then. A desolate looking dust bowl. But I didn't want to admit it to anyone.



Then one day it struck me that I was still writing the same volume anyway. The writing pads and pens I was flying through were still the same as before, and so were the number of hours I'd sit at my computer typing. I assumed I'd developed writer's block, but I was simply writing different things. One was a factional account of my grandfather's life, based on the prolific notes my Dad had asked me to type for him. I also wrote lots and lots of blog posts, including numerous lists and reflections about reading and writing. The source of my writing hadn't dried up at all. It had simply changed direction, at least for a period of time. I guess it can happen.

In fact, when it comes to ideas for blog posts, my mind is like this. The exact same spot, but during last year's floods. And that water got even deeper, so you couldn't see the bridge at all, because it was completely submerged.

I understand marketing advice to be clear about our personal brands, so we can convey them to the general public and our target audience. And I'm loving the new genre series, which are cross posted on this blog and Christian Writers Downunder. Passionate authors with a wealth of experience in what they write are sharing the wisdom they've gleaned over many years. I look forward to each new one, and the interesting details we might learn. Yet at the same time, I've been learning that I need to be flexible enough not to get so set in my own rigid decisions about what I write that I close myself off from the Holy Spirit's gentle nudges. Fearing that my writing time might be over, just because I wasn't working on a novel, was my own idea, and not necessarily God's.

At the moment, I'm considering the possibility that there may be no more contemporary Christian dramas from me. They might be a season of my life that really has dried up. Perhaps some things are for a particular time, and then a drive to move on to something else catches up with us. Maybe our spiritual antennae should be always primed to pick up new possibilities in the air. It makes a lot of sense that since we're all different, something which might be a lifelong mission for one person could be stepping stones for another. And of course, the outcomes that eventuate may be way different from the outcomes we plan anyway. (Of course I won't say that I'll never, ever write another one, because by the same token, I might be wrong. Some day a new idea might come.)

Author and doctor Rachel Naomi Remen wrote a personal testimony in her book, Kitchen Table Wisdom. It's a long time since I read it, but it went something like this. She'd planted a wonderful rose garden, intending to enjoy the blooms from a particular room of her house for many years to come. One morning, she glanced out the window to see a magnificent buck (male deer) standing in her rose garden, munching her new rose buds with great relish. He was so stately and majestic, with his spotted hide and elegant, spreading antlers that she couldn't help catching her breath. And something whispered in her heart, 'You thought you were planting this rose garden so you could enjoy the splashes of colour. But it turns out the real reason you planted it was so you could attract and enjoy visits from this awesome fellow and his friends and family.' And so it turned out to be.

In a similar way, I'm liking what I'm writing at the moment. I thought I started my book review blog just so I could request access to brand new releases from Net Galley. But maybe a more far-reaching reason turns out to be so I can ponder all sorts of ideas I'm getting from books, new and old, and making connections between different stories which help me see the world in ways that wouldn't have occurred to me otherwise.

And I thought I was just doing my Dad a quick favour when I agreed to type out his notes, but it turned out to be a consuming idea which gripped me for longer than I ever expected. For anyone who enjoys contrasting shots as much as I do, and what the great outdoors can show us, those are a couple more glimpses of my daily walk in different seasons.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.

10 comments:

  1. It's a busy world, and we don't often take time to sit back and reflect on what we're doing, and why. Yet reflection is so important, especially for a Christian writer. How are we to know we're writing what God would have us write if we keep ploughing ahead without pausing to reflect?

    Thanks for inspiring me to reflect a little more on my own 'season' of writing.

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    1. Hi Iola, yes, ditto for that. It's so easy to forge full steam ahead without taking time to sit back and ponder why, or seek God's heart on the matter. And sometimes life's events knock us unexpectedly too. I'm glad you got my drift.

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    2. That's a great point, Iola. We were encouraged to keep a reflective journal as part of the Masters & indeed, did one whole unit on it. In some ways that was my favourite unit.

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  3. My wife's Uncle Red from the U.S. traveled to Australia once every year. He traded fishing flies with those who also tied flies in your country. He was a hunter as well. On one of his travels, he found a live Joey in its mother's womb. She had just died and Red brought the little guy back to the U.S., and traveled across America with his adoptive Joey the Boxing Kangaroo. 10 cents to see the kangaroo, and 25 cents to watch him box Joey. This was in the 60s. Cheers, Don drewsdad13104@yahoo.com

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    1. That's a cool story. Sounds like a great life for a kangaroo. We have lots of Aussies here at this blog (and kangaroos in our country). Thanks for saying hi.

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  4. Thanks for your encouragement, Paula. I'm learning in this season of my writing how important it is to trust God to open doors, and that the doors that are closed are ones I can trust Him with too. I'm so glad He sees the big picture far clearer than I do!

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    1. Hi Carolyn, yes, it's definitely a matter of remembering that as far reaching as we think our plans are, He is really the only one who can see the broad range of our lives. Comforting in a way, to think we only need to follow what's clear for the next step.

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  5. Great post Paula. While I'm sad that there may not be any more Paula Vince contemporary novels - I'm thrilled to hear that you are still writing with passion :) I love your book blog and greatly enjoyed reading a beta-version of your newest project. My primary focus at the moment is fantasy but I have a bucket load of ideas for non-fiction projects that I hope I will have the opportunity to write one day. Author brand is one thing, but I don't think any writer likes to be pigeon-holed or boxed in. Our creative art continues to grow and maybe branch out into different things.

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    1. Hi Jenny, I'm curious by the sound of those non fiction ideas you have on the back burner. I can understand why fantasy must be your priority for now, as your plans for the direction your series will take will also take some time to tell. What you say about not being pigeonholed is spot on.

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