July 06, 2015

Summer Time When the Writing is Easy (I wish)

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 Ah. . .summer. Ah, yes, summer. 

     As I ponder what my summer writing life is like I come to the conclusion that it is just like my spring, fall and winter writing. Or at least it has to be, otherwise it it will fall into the category of non-existent! 

     As much as I would like to think that I could leisurely write, seated in the deck chair out back with my laptop in high gear, I know what will happen if I do. There will be birds singing, the weeds beckoning, the breeze relaxing, the sun ablazing, the neighbour's dog barking. 
     Then my mind will drift to a different place. 

     Then I will find myself flipping to a new screen writing out my to-do list. 

     Then I will find my brain consorting with the enemy of distraction. 

     Instead, I make out a list of things I need to accomplish on any given day and then I do my best to accomplish such. 

   Perhaps I don't let myself go outside and enjoy the lazy hazy days of summer because I know that will make me lazy and hazy. But I do enjoy the lazy hazy days of summer from another standpoint. It's the inspiration. When the windows are open, the breeze is light and the sun is warm on the panes, I feel a freshness and vitality that makes me want to clean out the cobwebs and really focus on and try to listen to what God has in mind. 

     So, maybe I can't rave about writing outside and enjoying God's creation firsthand, but I can rave about how God's hand first directs me to get my writing done; in my usual spot; undistracted; at my desk. When I venture to the great outdoors, then my mind can flip to idea mode instead of writing mode. 

     I still keep a notebook handy, though, to write down ideas or inspiration from the birds, the weeds, the croaking frogs, the neighbour's dog. One never knows when the muse will strike!

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Colossians 3:2.


July 03, 2015

Summer Writing Challenge by Steph Beth Nickel

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This is Day 3 at Camp NaNoWriMo. By the end of the day, it is my goal to have written 6,600 words, 1,320 in my novel. I hope to achieve my goal writing only Monday through Friday each week. If I get extra done on the weekend . . . BONUS!

Most of you are likely familiar with the original NaNoWriMo challenge that takes place each November. For those of you who are not, here are the official National Novel Writing Month rules, taken from the NaNoWriMo website:

  • Write one 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people's works). While this is no longer a hard-and-fast rule, it is still very strongly recommended, ESPECIALLY for first timers. 
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
  • Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30. 
“Impossible!” you say? I assure you, many people have "won" this challenge.

But if you’re like me and prefer more flexible criteria, you may be interested in signing up for Camp NaNo.

In April and July, campers set their own goal, from 10,000 words and up. As an added bonus, the word count doesn’t have to be from a single project. (To verify your word count, however, you have to copy and paste a single file into the appropriate box on the Camp NaNo website.)

I have a blast watching the arrow get closer and closer to the bull’s eye on my personal page. There is also a bar graph that shows how many words I must write each day to achieve my goal. It is my goal to keep the bar above the line that shows the minimum required.

There is also a second graph on my page. Although participation is optional, what fun is camp without a dozen or so cabin mates? Participants can allow the administrators to assign them to a cabin or they can reserve a private cabin and invite up to 11 of their friends to join them. (This is my first time hosting a cabin. Hey, I don't have to be neat or even keep snacks on hand. Score!) The private bulletin board allows you to have discussions among yourselves that are not visible to campers not in your cabin.

You can encourage one another, share your victories and setbacks, challenge one another to writing sprints to up your word count—and if you’re so inclined, you can even sit around a virtual fire together and enjoy virtual s’mores.

I’ve tried to find out if you can sign up after Camp NaNoWriMo begins, but I couldn’t track down the answer before posting. If you’re interested, there’s still plenty of time this month to set and achieve your writing goal. Pop on over and check it out.

Hopefully I will gain enough momentum to continue after July draws to a close and actually complete my first publishable novel.

What does your summer writing challenge look like?

July 01, 2015

What Are Your Summer Writing Challenges? by Sandi Somers

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Ernest Hemingway said that when the weather got too hot in the summer, it was better to go fishing than to perspire at his desk trying to write.

Prompt: What is summer writing like for you? Do you ease off because of the heat and many other activities? Or do you have time off from your job in which to devote to your art? Or perhaps your summer writing is no different from any other season. How does God direct your writing during this time?

A New Strategy

In the past, my writing drops off in the summer months because I’m more active, with gardening, longer hikes/walks, travelling around Alberta more (if I’m not on a longer travel journey) and attending more family events. I’ve tended to spend more time journaling, while letting work on my specific projects be somewhat haphazard or irregular at best.

However, last month’s blog theme focused my thoughts in a new direction: “How could my writing please God this summer?”

As I prayed, God gave me a systematic strategy for these active months.

By providence, I came across a blog post by Lisa Dale Norton, a memoir writing instructor, who advised that during the summer, writers would do well by writing smaller pieces at a time: “write just scenes, and don’t worry about how they fit together yet.” She advocated listing scenes that are essential to your story, record on your calendar a realistic writing schedule, then show up at your computer or desk and write a scene.

“Each time you sit down, you look at the next scene on your list of moments that make up your story. You watch the moment play out in your mind as you remember it again. You transcribe what you see, feel, and hear onto the page--no matter how skeletal the shape...”

Her idea resonated with me. I could do this over the next weeks. I would, however, not schedule myself too hard and fast, as events come up that pre-empt writing.

I listed scenes or short vignettes in my ongoing project—about thirty pieces—each of which I could write in an hour. Some I have to write from the beginning, others need revising or expanding. As I complete the draft of one vignette, I know which one I need to work on next.

Already I’ve received benefits of God’s strategy for more systematic writing through summer; it’s giving me a sense of stability, order and focus. And this process is pleasing to God.

The Apostle John said it well, “And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22 KJV).

June 30, 2015

On Knowing God's Pleasure by Susan Barclay

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When I first considered this month's theme, I struggled. When did I feel God's pleasure when I write? I wondered - did I feel His pleasure at all?

I finally concluded that while I may not be aware of His pleasure, God is pleased when I write to encourage others, when I write to share the gospel of Christ, and when I write about difficult, even controversial, subjects, in a way that reflects His love, mercy and grace. He is pleased when I don't sacrifice my faith on the altar of showcasing my work.

Well, that wasn't going to be enough for an entire blog post, was it? :) Therefore...

I recently read the Mark Batterson/Richard Foth book, A Trip Around the Sun: Turning Your Everyday Life into the Adventure of a Lifetime. There's a lot of food for thought and impetus for personal transformation within the book's pages. I think God took great pleasure as He watched Mark and Dick put this together, and I want to know that He takes that same pleasure in my writing.

A few quotes from Mark, and my response:
Whatever you don't turn into praise turns into pride. When I write, I shouldn't do so for my own glorification, but God's. He will never share His glory with another, and is worthy of all my praise. I need to put the spotlight on Him, not on me and my own brilliance, which, if any, is His gift to me and not anything I have independently. If I do my part, I will know His pleasure.
I want to go after dreams that are destined to fail without divine intervention. I am small and He is big. What is impossible for me is within His ability to perform. When I go after dreams that depend on His power, whether that's to write a bestseller or to change lives through the words that flow from my pen, I will know His pleasure.
It's not until you say to God "whatever, whenever, wherever" that you begin living out the adventure God has planned for you. It may be difficult to say "whatever, whenever, wherever" when you have no idea what the outcome will look like - it's called faith for a reason, people! - it is easy to say this when you understand that God is trustworthy and that His plans for you indeed are good (Jeremiah 29:11). When I leave the nature and outcome of my writing to Him, I will know His pleasure. [Note to self: try saying "whatever, whenever, wherever" when facing a blank page/screen]
And finally, a quote from Martin Luther, which was also in the book: 
Preach  as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is returning tomorrow. Change the word 'preach' to 'write.' How would I write differently with this mindset? I think there would be a greater urgency and a greater faithfulness both in the doing and in the content. And I would better know His pleasure.
I know His pleasure when I write for Inscribe :)

For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca or www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com

June 28, 2015

I Am, Therefore I Write - Bruce Atchison

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"What do you do for a living?" That question fills me with dread because I'm on disability. People I know seem to be succeeding at every turn of their lives. My life, on the other hand, was nothing but blunders and wrong turns.

After all the trials and errors, I've found that writing is the only thing I do with any proficiency. At the CNIB smoke stands and cafeterias, I worked too slowly. The only reason I was a security guard was that the company was desperate for guards. The only reason I was a government clerk was because of the quota to hire disabled people as well as women and native people.

Of course becoming a writer wasn't easy for me. My vision is so poor that my nose almost touches the paper when I write. Spelling was a huge problem too. The English language has many exceptions to the rules. I managed to collide with every one of them.

The house church elders made my life even more miserable by claiming I didn't have enough faith to be healed. Time after time, the congregation laid hands on me and prayed fervently but to no avail. The minister even claimed that I lusted for good vision so God denied it to me. I often wished I was dead so I wouldn't have to be humiliated for having limited sight.

Though I had written a few articles on an amateur basis, a job counsellor suggested that I try going professional. Since I had recently been laid off from the government, it seemed like a good idea. I took a magazine writing course from the University of Alberta Faculty of Extension and began pitching ideas. My first article sold after a year of hard work. This inspired me to keep writing and sending out query letters.

Eleven years ago, I took a course on autobiography writing online. Three memoirs later, I now feel confident to tackle fiction short stories.

I love writing. Putting together an article or story fills me with excitement. Being able to create characters and settings is akin to God creating the world but on a much smaller scale. When I feel satisfied with my edits, I can say, "It is very good."