How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life

4349222989_7448e7bb2f_z (1)

[NOTE: I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Hosted by Positive Writer/ See more here.]

Writing a blog has enabled me to express diverse opinions or observations on culture, life or the human spirit, through sharing glimpses of my thought processes or simply commenting on that which stirs, troubles or enthuses me. In releasing those words onto a page for public consumption, I’m effectively setting my thoughts and ideas free. Thoughts that would otherwise bombard my spirit relentlessly.

Every time I hit the ‘publish’ button on a blog post, or ‘send’ on an email containing an attached article, even when I’m aware of its flaws or shortcomings, there arises an acute sense of satisfaction within; I’m allowing myself to think, to create, to be. To withhold the words would be to deny my true sense of self. I write, therefore I am. Articles and blog posts enable me to influence and to respond, to make my mark in some small way amidst the sea of voices that battle for attention. It matters little to me whether my writing is liked; what matters more is that I might have caused others to think, to respond or to care. And if that’s only one reader, so be it. It’s in writing that I discover a deeper sense of who I am and who I aspire to be. It’s in writing that I realise my calling, my destiny.

Through my humble foray into the world of poetry, I’ve learned to bare my soul through the outpouring of heartache or joys, to create a literary dance by experimenting with rhythm and line. Poems are enabling me to grapple with feelings, with struggles, with pain. A minor expression of art leaves its mark when I dare to allow words to formulate a written mirror of my soul. I’m able to look back and see how I’ve developed as a person, how selfishness has chipped away and how I’ve seen the bigger picture and begun to appreciate other perspectives. In dabbling with the poetic, I’m harnessing the power of literary ingenuity – not only to soothe uncertainty, fear and doubt, but also to brighten, uplift and restore.

The poems I write may just be ramblings or simple verses, but to me they are evidence of a human being’s wrestling with trying to understand life, to understand faith. In penning verses, there are no rules nor restrictions; I am the master who can let the words run free – and in doing so, set myself free. Writing poetry releases me from my prison of self and allows me to rise above anything that is thrown at me.

The writing of a novel was a daring feat; who was I to think it could even be possible? Yet once the idea was birthed within me, it would not let me go. The story found me and demanded to be written, even though my inherent laziness fought to deter me from even beginning the project. The muse may have grabbed me, but it was not going to do the work for me! The crafting of my novel took me beyond my natural capabilities and into a steep learning curve whereby all my literary inadequacies were laid bare. It’s a humbling process when you recognise how little you know about novel writing when you actually begin to write. Rather than feeling dejected, I decided to invest my energies breathing life into my story and to accept the need for a professional editor. Although I was writing a children’s fantasy novel, I became captivated by my protagonist, as his struggles and disappointments became mine. I lived and breathed a futuristic story that developed and grew as I allowed it to fill my mind and grip my soul.

Writing ‘The Book Beyond Time’ fuelled a creativity within me that I had not realised even existed. It was never my intention to write a novel; it did not feature in my life’s plans. Yet once my father began to succumb to cancer’s cruel grip, I started writing with a passion and fury that arose within, my fingers tapping away cathartically. As I delved fully into the process and let myself be consumed by its vision, the novel took shape and developed – and in doing so, shaped me. In remembering the words of my high school English teacher, who once wrote: “You have the makings of a writer, I think”, I must admit feeling a compulsion to fulfil the prophecy pronounced over me.

In completing the project and holding the finished, printed product in my hands, I honestly felt that my purpose for being had been realised and that if I died the next day, I would be content in knowing that I had made my mark and left a legacy for my children. Though my Dad didn’t live to see it, I know he would have been proud. As readers have shared personally with me how much they enjoyed the story or how it affected them, I’m left touched by the power of purpose and the value of pursuing one’s dreams to completion. To know that my children have been captivated by my story evokes emotions that are difficult to describe. I may not be a brilliant writer, but I’m developing the writer within and taking risks that I never imagined I’d take. And my life is oh so richer as a result.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Write A Book (And The 1 Reason Why You Should…)

Photo: marsmet (CC)

Photo: marsmet (CC)

  1. Everybody is doing it. There was a time when writing a book was seen as a major, commendable feat; authors were held somewhat in awe. Not anymore. Since the typewriter was ditched and we all got our hands on new technology, writers have been springing up all over the place. The advent of the internet and the ability to self publish has enabled an explosion of authors into the marketplace. Just look around on Amazon Books for a few minutes and you’ll get the idea (if you hadn’t already realized). Nearly every fifth person on social media sites seems to have written a book or a novella or a travel guide (well, at least if my followers are anything to go by), while virtually every other person expresses an intent or desire to one day write a book. So, yep the market for books is beyond saturated, and if you’re going to write something, you better check that it’s unique or in demand.
  2. It will consume far more time, energy & mental exhaustion than you could ever imagine. It may consume your every waking moment. Just consider your most stressful project, dissertation or creation to date, and how much it took out of you to complete it. Now quadruple that, or even times it by 10 (depending on the length, complexity and genre of your book), and you’d have a vague idea of how much work will go into this brilliant book idea of yours. (For more on exactly what’s involved, check out this article). Despite what you may have heard, writing a book is work, not a stroll in the park. Are you willing to invest that much of your heart, mind and soul into getting your book into print? Thought not. Think again. There are other vocations out there, you know.
  3. It’s not just about churning out text for the content of your idea any more. You’ll really have to look into expending effort into producing a website (or outsourcing it to a professional), and think about additional social media channels devoted solely to your book. Yep, basically more time, and probably a hefty sum of money to get on the writers’ bandwagon these days. If you think such things are an unnecessary extra that really wouldn’t concern you, you better do some research. Even the big publishers are looking for authors who are willing to go the extra mile with establishing an online presence and connecting with readers.
  4. If all that hasn’t put you off yet, maybe this will: The project doesn’t end after the book has been written, or even published. Next comes selling hard copies to friends, neighbours, colleagues, twitter buddies, random strangers etc. It’s all about marketing yourself, chasing leads, requesting reviews and making friends with others who’d happily advertise your book to their friends and followers. Yet again, even if you land yourself a deal with a top publisher, they’ll expect you to do your part in marketing your book. You are no longer just a bona fide writer, you are now expected to be a promoter and marketer. Believe it. Could you actually do this, or does the mere thought scare you silly? If so, now’s the chance to forget that vision of becoming an author and put your ideas on the slush pile of Silly Ideas To Be Forgotten, Never To Be Resurrected Again. Just think of all the stress you’d save yourself, not least the embarrassment of having to sell an actual product to the wider world.
  5. And finally – and this is the most convincing reason of all… In pursuing your dream to write a book, you will subject yourself to the greatest tension ever known to writers everywhere… No, not waiting to see if anyone will buy your book; no that’s really not that bad. After all, you don’t have to tell anyone how many copies you’ve sold! No, the ultimate fright comes after you’ve sold a few and the reviews start coming in – from readers you don’t even know. Yes, waiting for reviews, and along the way requesting reviews, often having no idea what they will say, could possibly be the scariest moment of your life. Are you ready for those 1* reviews to come in from those who think your book is the biggest load of rubbish they’ve ever read? I have not asked anyone for 5 stars, not even my over enthusiastic big sister – and yet a few glowing reviews have rolled in. But I am not naïve. When I think about it, I don’t think I would even give myself 5 stars! I know those 1* reviews will likely soon come in. How am I so sure? That’s easy, just check out the reviews for your most favourite book ever, or a well known blockbuster that comes to mind. Scroll down. Yep – there they are – the 1* reviews from disgruntled readers who really weren’t impressed with the story or style of that hyped up book! Do you really think that if J.K.Rowling couldn’t avoid 1* reviews, that somehow you’re so special that you won’t get any? You must be joking (unless you only ever sell 5 or 10 copies to your best friends and family.)

The 1 Reason Why you Should Write a Book…

If all the above has failed to deter you from pursuing this writing malarkey, then here’s the one reason, and one reason only, why anyone should actually press on and write that book they’ve so wanted to write. And here it is (drum roll, please)… The ONE reason you should ever write a book is because YOU HAVE TO! Because it’s stirring in your bones & your soul, and you finally relent & accept: ‘This is what I absolutely must do. I will get no peace unless I get the words out, printed on the page/screen/scrap of paper.’ If this is you, then what are you waiting for? Get on and get writing your book! We want to hear about it. Tell us about your book idea in the comments below.

And while you’re here, why not check out the links to my novel and book website? Thanks!

Recipe for Writing a Novel (In 20 Easy Steps, Ahem)

Just Published: The Book Beyond Time

Just Published: The Book Beyond Time
>>>Where faith and fantasy collide

Out Now!  (Link to US publisher) Or here. (UK)

Step 1. Let your mind carry you away with a crazy idea for cooking up a brilliant story. Stay up half the night writing it down.

Step 2. Add main ingredients: setting, plot ideas and a few main characters.

Step 3. Stir in some conflict, minor characters and a couple of subplots.

Step 4. Spice everything up with up with an original title. Change your mind 5 or 10 times. Return to your first title.

Step 5. Outline the story into individual chapters. Blend in help from a writing coach or editor (if you’re a novice).

Step 6. Turn up the heat: Write, write, write. When you’re not eating or sleeping, write. Ideas in the middle of the night? – Write!

Step 7. Lower the heat: Edit, edit, edit. Turn up the heat: More editing.

Step 8. Mash up what you’ve created by writing a second draft.

Step 9. Repeat steps 6. And 7.

Step 10. Submit manuscript to publishers. Allow it to simmer a while. Get rejections.

Step 11. Consider adding a huge dollop of self-publishing, read all about it. Forget that idea. Submit to literary agents.

Step 12. More rejections. Reduce heat: Edit some more. Receive standard rejections from literary agents. Stir in some more publisher submissions.

Step 13. Work on side dishes: Sort out a website; Liaise with web and graphic designers.

Step 14. Novel rises: Gain some interest from a couple of major publishers. Get all excited…only to get rejected. Author deflates.

Step 15. Feel dejected, throw in the towel and ditch the idea altogether. Feel like a fool. Pursue other projects and forget about the whole thing.

Step 16. Just as you’re getting on with your life and other interests, receive an unexpected email from a publisher offering a contract.

Step 17. Stir up some major panic. This is really happening! More final edits, proofreading, self doubt and thoughts of disbelief.

Step 17. Frantically create more than 20 different possible blurbs for the back cover. Eventually select the final version you write.

Step 18. Add the finishing touches: Liaise with the publisher. Manage to whisk away a few more minor errors or typos. Finalise proof. Breathe a sigh of relief.

Step 19. Bake at 180 degrees: Leave it in the hands of the publisher and printer.

Step 20. Remove from oven: See the finished product on Amazon and the publisher’s website. Inhale and admire the finished product. Congratulations, you just baked yourself a novel! Maybe it took three years, but hey – who said this was an easy recipe?!

(UK readers, find my novel here)

Note: Someone just pointed out that there are two Step 17s! Which proves again the importance of Step 7. I never said that I was any good with numbers 😉 …

In which I make an announcement…

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

Well, I’ve been putting this one off, and I really don’t know why. I should be jumping for joy!

Having chased publishers for the better part of a year, and had my hopes raised and dashed a few times, the children’s novel that I wrote has been accepted by a little publisher in Texas. Yes, I have a publisher!

Having consigned myself to the fact that I probably wasted two years of my life – planning, writing, re-writing and editing – I’ve actually gone ahead and signed a contract. This is really happening…

The Book Beyond Time (website to be updated) will be released early December by eLectio Publishing.

Watch this space.

Be the Inspiration – How using your gifts can be a life changer for someone else/ FaithWalk

Image

Photo Credit: Dafydd359, Creative Commons

The old classical guitar positioned in the corner of the room wasn’t particularly alluring or noteworthy. It was concealed within a cheap, tan coloured case gathering dust. But it beckoned me.

My older sister had long since left for college, having had some beginners’ classes, but she’d decided not to pursue the instrument any further. I knew she wouldn’t mind if I claimed the second-hand guitar as my own. Excitedly I opened the case and placed the strap across my shoulder. It felt a little cumbersome, yet simultaneously magical; the varnished wood and nylon strings seemed well crafted and aesthetically pleasing. I plucked the strings to discover it was greatly out of tune. I would need to get my friend to tune it; perhaps she could show me a thing or two.

I was in the middle of my ‘A’ levels when I decided to learn the guitar and figured that if I practised during my times of relaxation, instead of watching Australian soaps, that it might just be time well spent. I was right.

Within a year and a half I was writing my own songs, leading worship at small groups and C.U at university and playing with other musicians. By that time I’d acquired my own Yamaha acoustic guitar and a set of music books. When I met my future husband at university, one of the things that helped draw us together was our common interest in music and guitar. Within months we were asked to sing and play at a friend’s wedding.

A year or so after that I was playing alongside German friends during my year abroad. The song I composed there in my room, inspired by a photograph on my pin board, and sent to my fiancé on a TDK cassette tape (remember those days?) was sung by me and my husband on our wedding day. ‘First Love’ wowed the congregation, as the song had not been scheduled into the order of service. (I had been worried that I might be too nervous and back out on the day).

Fast forward a couple more years and I found myself on a full time performing arts course. Once more my guitar playing and song-writing skills came in handy. At a performance we put on at the Midlands Arts Centre I performed a couple of specially written songs, put together for the theme of the event and played alongside dramatic interpretation.

When we lived in the States for a few years, I formed a small band to perform as a support act at a coffee house concert in New Jersey. We also experimented with song recording in a friend’s basement recording studio.

More recently I’ve joined one of the worship teams at my local church and have enjoyed learning to play in different styles and with a variety of musicians. When I went to visit my dying dad who could barely speak or move in his final days early last year, I wanted to express my love for him through quietly playing guitar and singing a psalm. Tears are starting to fall as I write this, as memories are evoked and I can hear the song in my head. Music can be powerful.

Learning the guitar and stepping out to play in a variety of contexts, despite my feelings of inadequacy and lack of formal training, has been significant, meaningful and central to me for more than half my life. I cannot imagine my life without guitar being one of its main features.

And yet this story is ultimately not about me. I love this quote from Jeff Goins’ book ‘Wrecked’, where he boldly states ‘Your life is not about you.’ It sounds crazy, so contrary to what we’re accustomed to hearing in popular culture. But I’ve found it resonates with me and my life.

Why did I even pick up the guitar for the very first time? Was it simply curiosity or a simple whim one day? Was it completely my own idea?

No, far from it! I was influenced by a friend I’d met at church. She was a new Christian who’d been having guitar lessons, and one day when we were hanging out with a bunch of young people she brought out her guitar. We didn’t even know her that well at this stage but she put aside any fears of embarrassment and played a song she’d written the night before. I can still remember the song and the lyrics, which detailed her personal spiritual journey. We were all amazed at her confidence and encouraged her to write more.

This one friend, Sharon, who poured out her heart gently in a song, inspired me to do the same. I became convinced that I should and could learn, too. Since learning to play the guitar I have been likewise inspired to share my story and to speak to others through songs. I’ve written several songs for other people that simply came about as a response to their situation. It wasn’t just about me. The guitar has been a vehicle of blessing to both myself, my family and other people. I’ve also encouraged others to write songs and try new things.

What astounds me about this realisation is that I’m not even all that great on the instrument. Yes I can play and hold a tune but I’m not particularly skilled, and I still have never had even one formal guitar lesson! Others are far more gifted than I, yet God has emboldened and equipped me to use the skills I have to bless and affect others.

In the same way that Sharon inspired me that one evening in 1990, I’ve experienced how actions or pursuits are not completely random. Something you say, create, do or start can kick start a chain of events or something significant in others’ lives. Sharon didn’t worry about what our reactions might be to her song, she just played. My story is forever linked to hers.

One person was the inspiration for a crucial feature of my life. You, too, can be that person in another setting, in a different context. As you engage with others and use your gifts for good, you can be the inspiration for someone else. May I encourage you to not hold back or let fear stop you from using or sharing your skills, imperfect as they might be. You will never know the true extent of your influence or how your actions affected the course of another’s life. Through simply exercising your gifts, you can be the inspiration.

Living Sculptures

ImageImage

I treasure living near a beautiful, well maintained park, taking frequent short walks through the week, either after the morning school run or at lunchtime. Fresh air, exercise and plant life help to revitalize the mind, body and soul. This poem was written both before and after the recent snowfall here in the UK.

Trees like living sculptures, natural works of art

Designs crafted an age before, bound up in seeds of unique DNA

Preserved through changing seasons, revealing shades of green, boughs of brown

A feast for the eyes on this

An ordinary day, inhaling oxygen

Seeping unseen from leaves and branches here since

Generations before as wind moves audibly through

Swaying, majestic arms

Longing , welcoming those in appreciation of their constant

Steadfast presence

Watching over streams of visitors

Passing beneath their shifting shadows

 

Now winter white descends

Transforming landscape, views reborn

Icicles hanging, frozen webs, frosty twigs

A covering of snow delighting senses

Misty air lingers between branches

Stillness disturbed only by crunching of ice and snow beneath feet

Freezing cold resists the usual walkers

An eerie quiet embraces me

Like a shroud of mystery

Oh the wonder of nature, the salience of seasons

Where worlds collide

Metamorphosis overnight