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.