August 01, 2015

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block? – Sandi Somers

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Every great work has its impossible moments—or days. Ideas just won’t come. You try and try to force the work, but your mind goes blank. Your creative well has just gone dry.

You’ve hit that dreaded thing: writer’s block.

Prompt: Why do blocks happen for you? How do you overcome these blocks? How do you keep yourself motivated and inspired?  What do you use to propel your writing forward?  How does God encourage you?




Creative Grace for In-Between Places

For the last number of months I’ve had health issues that have left me with little energy to write. Even some of my InScribe blogs—this one in particular—have been difficult to write.

So this summer I’ve set aside much of my normal writing time. Instead, I’ve gone out for coffee with friends, phoned or emailed family members in different parts of Canada.  Friends and I have taken day trips to the mountains or to scenic spots in Alberta. And long walks are building my stamina.

Long rests in the afternoons give me time to read, pray and reflect. I’ve journalled questions and insights, and sometimes I’ve taken out my “work notebook” to record and initial drafts for articles.




Rather than calling this time a “block”, I consider it creative grace in the in-between place. God has been drawing me aside to be renewed spiritually, physically and mentally.

But I also know that I’m in a transition. This extended period is giving me a much-needed perspective. “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” Rainer Maria Rilke wrote.

As I wait for God in this in-between place, God waits for me. He is giving me His creative grace as I work through questions on life and writing.

My creative well is being filled with new ideas and new approaches. Louise DeSalvo’s, The Art of Slow Writing, has been particularly helpful, as she talks about more thoughtful ways of engaging with works-in-progress.

DeSalvo advocated we go more slowly and become self-reflective writers. “‘…slow writing’ doesn’t just take time, but makes time. Slow writing is a meditative act; slowing down to understand our relationship to our writing, slowing down to determine our authentic subjects, slowing down to write complex works, slowing down to study our literary antecedents.”

So as I lean into this time of rest and re-strengthening, I meet each day with thankful expectation. I wait in quiet trust and faith as God gradually opens up my way to write more productivity. 

* * *
Don’t be afraid to put down your work during a block; it’s part of the writing process. Some authors even call blocks “friends”, because blocks are voices calling out to you that something is out of balance.

Discern what the blocks are trying to tell you. Listen to the signals, the inner nudges. Invite the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom—creative graces—for those in-between places. This pleases God.

Janice Elsheimer in The Creative Call, sums up my thoughts beautifully: “When we call first upon the Holy Spirit in those dry times and then…wait in… ‘confident expectation’, God will be faithful in His own time—and what he has for us will be worth the wait.”

* * *

Now it’s your turn to flesh out this discussion. Tell us your story.

To kick start your efforts, you may want to read what great writers have said on overcoming blocks. 


July 31, 2015

Carving Out (Summer) Time With God - Guest post by Karma Pratt

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Summer time. Long, sun-filled days. Weekends spent barbecuing with friends, outings to the park and the pool,  lazy days relaxing in the shade. Gardens to be watered and grass to be cut. Lots on the go and yet, somehow, it feels more relaxed than my family's schedule would indicate.

In the midst of all that is summer, I find myself somewhat distracted by God's grace-filled creation. I think I am paying Him tribute by appreciating all that His glory has to offer, and, on some level, I am. I give a thanks offering with every joyful trip to the water park, every smile witnessed in the full light of the Son.

But in enjoying the experience of summer, I find myself falling out of sync with the purpose God has placed on my heart: "Write the words I give you." The command is specific and straightforward. Should be fairly easy to follow, right? And yet, in between barbecues and late night, open air outings, I discover that I am attempting to carve out time for God instead of making him the center of my summer.

The result? I have learned that it's impossible to find time to fit everything in when I don't put God first.

Much like tithing the first fruits, when I prioritize God's call on my life, everything else falls into place. We have more than enough. More than enough time, more than enough fun, more than enough to do all which must be done, and still time left over for that which is simply seasonal (and exciting). As a writer, I must make the effort to obey God first, even in the midst of summer sunshine and fun times.

A line from scripture rattles around in my head: My grace is sufficient for you. He speaks truth. It's my job to remember God's truth and live it everyday.

The full verse goes like this: 

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

My weakness (one of them, anyway) is summer. I take delight in the small happenings, the warm evenings, the bright sunlight, the friendships deepened over conversations, campfires and marshmallows. There's nothing inherently wrong in enjoying these moments... at least, not until they begin to take my focus away from God's call on my life. In this season, He's been showing me all the ways that I get distracted and lose focus, and has been guiding me back to the important tasks. At the end of the day, my job is to follow God, serve with a joyful heart and cultivate a generous spirit. All of this must be reflected in my writing as well. 

When I find my walk meandering away from my primary purpose, distracted by the smell of sun soaked skin and fresh watermelon, that's when I must take a step back and determine what to prioritize first. Once I do God's work, and "write the words", the rest takes care of itself. God's grace spills over into a fun-filled, sun-filled season of love, laughter and excitement. Ah, summer. 


Bio:
Karma Pratt is a faith-driven mom of twins, a communicator, a writer, and an encourager from way back. She loves words, art, creativity, God, and people, although not necessarily in that order. A recovering food addict and binge eater, she writes in an attempt to express how her life has changed as a result of the profound healing of Jesus. She gives thanks for daily doses of grace that fill her to overflowing. You can find her online at redraincoatcreations.com 
You can follow Karma on TwitterFacebook  and LinkedIn.

July 30, 2015

The Value of Taking a Break by Susan Barclay

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At times it’s been a hot summer, but when you have air conditioning, you can never really use the excuse that it’s “too hot to write.” Still, as MarniePohlmann expressed a few days ago, there’s a season for everything, and sometimes it’s appropriate to take a break – even from something as important as writing. 

In fact, this has been a somewhat challenging year for me. As I contemplate the prospect of writing the annual Christmas letter, I toy with the terms ‘annus horribilis” and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” I won’t get into the details, but apart from a few personal experience pieces and their submission, I have not succeeded in accomplishing the writing projects I had in mind. In the eyes of someone like Stephen King, who believes in writing every day regardless, perhaps I’m a bad writer or no kind of writer at all. I choose to believe something different, though: I am a writer taking a break from writing to live a very real life, one that gets a little messy, one that requires my attention.

I’m reminded of a quote from Tom Hodgkinson that says, “Being lazy does not mean that you do not create. In fact, lying around doing nothing is an important, nay crucial, part of the creative process. It is meaningless bustle that actually gets in the way of productivity.” While I wouldn’t say I’m “being lazy” or “lying around doing nothing,” I do believe that what I am going through is, or will be, part of my creative process and future literary fertility. But if I were relaxing or otherwise unoccupied, I would remember that there is value in being “bored.” Recent studies show that boredom leads to more creativity and encourages the pursuit of new goals. Hurray for science, right?

And like Gretchen Rubin, who “always had the uncomfortable feeling that if [she] wasn't sitting in front of a computer typing, [she] was wasting [her] time,” take “a wider view of what [is]"productive." Time spent with … family and friends [is] never wasted.” At the end of the day, we’re not going to wish we’d spent more of our time working; investing in people is what lasts and has eternal value. So, go ahead, take that break. I’ll know I’m in good company with you.
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For more of my writing, please visit www.susan-barclay.ca or www.susanbarclay.wordpress.com

July 29, 2015

The Birth of a Book - Ruth L. Snyder

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This anthology sprang to life in the spring of 2014 at an executive meeting where someone voiced the thought, “What if . . .?” A motion transformed the dream into a plan. A small band of volunteers (Kimberley Payne, Stephanie Nickel, Sandi Somers and I) agreed to work together on the project, with the goal of having the book ready to launch at Fall Conference 2015. Our team grew to include Ellen Hooge, Beverley Nippard, and Carolyn Wilker. During conference 2014, the official call for submissions went out. One by one submissions trickled in until the deadline.

We decided to use 99designs for the cover to get better exposure for our organization. This resulted in an amazing selection of covers, which we narrowed down to one.
            
Making selections for the anthology was a challenge. A team of four prayerfully read and marked the submissions, then had a candid discussion. Pieces were chosen based on content, quality, and how well they fit the applicable theme. Some pieces, which were well written, did not fit with the rest of the submissions, so were rejected. Editing, layout, obtaining ISBNs, writing front and back matter, asking for endorsements, formatting, and more editing followed. Hundreds of volunteer hours were donated for the glory of God. 

The anthology features 28 Canadian authors who come from all walks of life and write in various genres for a range of audiences. Through fiction, poetry, and non-fiction such as devotionals, essays, and articles, they generously share their own discoveries, success stories, and hard-won lessons to encourage and support other Christian writers.


The e-book version of 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is now available on Kindle. The paperback version will be released during our InScribe Fall Conference in September. Share the news with your family and friends and come celebrate with us in Edmonton by registering for conference today!


Endorsements
“I love seven things about this book: It is practical. It is affordable. It is encouraging. It is worth highlighting, underlining and dog-earing. Plus it made me forget about my toothache. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran writer, you’ll discover 7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers to be jammed with instantly actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Dig in.”
Phil Callaway (www.philcallaway.com) is the best-selling author of more than 25 books, a popular speaker, the host of Laugh Again Radio, and a grandpa.
7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is an absolute gem! I love that it covers all the basics a writer needs to know, making them simple and practical. I also love that the book has many authors, giving us ideas and suggestions from their own writing journey. I highly recommend this book to anyone seriously considering writing as a vocation or even an avocation, particularly those writers who see their work as a ministry—which it certainly is!”
Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com) is an award-winning author of more than 50 books. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, Kathi lives in Southern California with her husband, Al.
7 Essential Habits of Christian Writers is loaded with actionable advice that will make you a better writer. Whether you are a multi-published author or a beginning writer, this book will benefit you.”
Shelley Hitz, author coach and best-selling author
www.ShelleyHitz.com 
“This book is a beautiful blend of faithfulness and craft. It will help you answer the practical questions of what it means to be a writer while honoring what you believe. I wish I’d read this when I got started.”
Jeff Goins, Best-selling author, The Art of Work
“There are hundreds of how-to-write books on the market, but none that I know of touches BOTH of the vital aspects of writing as a Christian better than this anthology from InScribe. The practical AND the spiritual are woven into a whole by a remarkably creative group of writers who are in the trenches as we speak. I intend to snack on this fare again and again.”
Nancy Rue, best-selling Christian author and creator of Shadow to Shelf, a mentoring program for writers.
For more details, check out the media page at http://inscribe.org/media-page-7-essential-habits-of-christian-writers/


July 27, 2015

The Four Seasons of the Writer’s Life by Melanie Fischer

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There are generally four seasons in the writer’s life.


Fall

This is a time when the writer falls into a slump. It is when the ideas are dryer than a pile of leaves on the front lawn in late September.


Spring

This is when you pull out the dusting cloth. It is when you do some spring cleaning on your works which have sat for a season, then you spring back into action!

Win-ter

This is when the pen and the ink lines up. When the mind and fingers flow. When the words and the messages meld. When the writing slides along with greater ease than a greased sleigh on a toboggan hill. This is the season when you are on a winning streak. This is Win-ter! Unfortunately, win-ter in the writer’s life doesn’t usually last near as long as our Canadian winters. If we get too comfortable in this season, our win-ter tends to melt away like a snowman under a heat lamp.

Some-er time

This brings us into the fourth season of the writer’s life: Some-er time. We like to shorten it to “Some-time.” This is when it is very easy to say “I will write some-time.” During this season we may be distracted by an enticing lawn chair in the back yard, giggling children in the front yard, and all of the other things that happen anywhere but at our desk. And that “some-time” usually isn’t any time soon. Now of course there are legitimate times when we are to put down our pen and pick up our fishing pole. But not always. You could be in a season of distraction. You may need more than sunglasses to keep the glare of distraction out of your eyes. You need “Son-glasses.” Yes, the son of God. Look through Him, and only Him in times of being tempted away from the works which you have been called to. 

This is the season when I experience God as the gardener. This is when He tends to the seeds which produces the fruit of the spirit “self-control.” This is the season when the Lord exercises my discipline and teaches me the rewards of showing up, even when I would rather be elsewhere. This is where the toughest yet the most rewarding writing often comes from.

When we understand and believe that “self-control” doesn’t come from self, but from the Holy Spirit within us, then even the sunniest days will not call us away for the works which the Lord has entrusted us with.

This is the season when we have the greatest opportunity to grow; the season when we can learn how to turn “Some-time” into “Some-thing.”


Melanie Blog's at www.HungryForPurpose.com/blog

All photo's from Flickr photo sharing