I wonder how 2015 has unfolded for you, either as a writer or in general. Has everything turned out as you expected? Has it been a fulfilling year or has it contained some disappointments? Has the writing project you have been putting your heart and soul into taken shape well? Or do you feel you have barely done anything and here it is, almost Christmas again?
I gave myself a ‘semi-sabbatical’ this year because I knew that was what I had to do. I have taken on fewer speaking engagements and book events than normal. And, having completed my second non-fiction book in January, I decided to hold off on any serious work on my planned seventh novel for a while. I have kept up my own weekly blog and have also helped several other authors by editing or reviewing or endorsing their books. But it has been a vastly different year for me during which God taught me many valuable lessons.
I have seen again, for example, that I need to approach my writing and speaking—or anything else I do—with a thankful heart, remembering that any gifts and abilities I have are from God. My role is to receive them with an open heart, develop them as best I can and use them to bless others as God leads and empowers. It is a privilege to be able to enjoy doing this and I need to guard against becoming too proud of anything I achieve or too self-reliant in it all. Yes, I must work hard in my writing and at speaking and promotion. But I need to steer clear of any sense of entitlement—it is all gift.
I have also become even more convinced I need to write what God has gifted and equipped and inspired me to write, irrespective of what others might produce. Yes, I need to do my marketing homework, as does any potential publisher of my work. But in the end, if I cannot believe with all my heart in what I have written and if I have not sensed the hand of God in it all, then it may count for very little in the long run. Likewise with my speaking. If I cannot speak with integrity and conviction on a topic, whether overtly Christian or more general, then I think I need to close my mouth.
This year too, God has impressed on me how important it is to help and encourage others, not only with their writing projects, but in life in general. Yes, this takes time, but what a privilege to see God at work in and through someone else’s life and to be part of enabling them to achieve their God-given dreams! Others have done this for me and I need to pass that on, as I am able.
It might not be the right time for you in your writing journey or in general for a sabbatical in any shape or form. But I hope you can find those quiet moments at least somewhere in your busy life to be refreshed in your spirit and to reflect with God on your future direction. Perhaps some of you would like to share how you manage to do this, so all of us can benefit.
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 four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.