ACW

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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Catharsis or Calling? by Deborah Jenkins


Recently I've found it hard to write - harder than ever, in fact. Or should I say "challenging"? We're not allowed to use negatives in quite the same way as we used to, are we? So, I've found it challenging to write. There could be several reasons for this - significant change, lack of time, a few ICT hiccups, now mercifully sorted, and the usual humdinger of a virus to start the season.

But something tells me this is not the main reason. The most noticeable thing in my life, something I don't remember feeling in quite the same way, for a long time is - a certain all-round contentment. One of the big changes is a new job, where I have next to no responsibility, less hours and a truly harmonious working environment. It has struck me anew - we spend so much of our lives at work. If it's not a good place to be, over time, we can become worn down, thinned, our capacity to feel the smallest pleasure diminished. But the upside, for me, was it drove me to write.

My heart is to write fiction, and it's often when my own world feels out of control that the words flow freely in the make-believe ones. As if all the frustrations of life can be poured out, albeit through different scenarios, and ultimately resolved, when the real-life ones have yet to run their course. Sometimes for years at a time. When things are going well for me, the impulse to write becomes worn down, thinned, its capacity to create diminished. Does this make me a selfish writer?

Of course, all the books tell you it's not a matter of feeling, good or bad, when it comes to writing, but of discipline. Get that minimum word count done every day! Put time aside religiously (an interesting word). Find that writing routine! And undoubtedly this is true. We all make time for the things that matter. Success is 1% luck and 99% hard work. (And other platitudes) But that said, there must be situations, emotions, seasons of life (different for each one of us) that ice the creative cake and kick our writing to a new level. And however deluded we writers can be at times, I think deep down we know when we've written something good.

As believers, we can find another perspective on this. God uses all things in life, longing to breathe hope for ourselves and others into everything we experience, and write about. Our book of faith follows the adventures of those who love and hate life, at mountain tops and in valleys, at the best and worst times of their lives. Not forgetting in the everyday, the pedestrian - those bland hours which can sometimes be the hardest of all. And God, who famously uses raw materials to fashion gold from garbage (Joseph, David, Peter), has a habit of using whatever we give Him - the bad, the good, the ordinary - to make something unexpected and beautiful.
"Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38


Note to self: Give Him the good times too.

In what mood do you find yourself most productive for writing?


Click on the link to see the book on Amazon.

Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, devotional notes and short stories. She has recently completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel.. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, she now lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.

9 comments:

  1. This is so true - I went through a really traumatic time when I was in my 20's and I used to write poetry but when I can through it I never wrote a poem again!
    Having no time and deadlines makes me write - with time on my side I can always 'do it later'

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    1. I agree with you Tania. The more time we have, the harder it is. Godspeed to you and your writing! x

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  2. Spot on Deborah. Writing was my way of letting it all out throughout my childhood when I was a misfit in my family. And poetry and prose were a form of escape from my bad marriage. Eventually, with God's calling to 'comfort others with the comfort I'd received' those writings became books. I can't say that there's ever been a time in my life when I haven't had a trauma of some kind or another, so I can't comment on the reverse of this situation. I only know that I've had immense satisfaction over the years in seeing people come to faith, or grow in their faith, as a result of my writing. Good to hear you're feeling more content in your job. Perhaps the Lord is telling you that your ministry lies elsewhere, other than writing? Just a thought.

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    1. Thanks Mel! Glad I'm not the only one who uses writing to work out the bad stuff at times. Am pretty convinced my future holds writing of some kind (which is why I changed jobs and reduced my hours) but am certainly open to other things! Thanks for reading and commenting :)

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  3. I feel most productive when I have a deadline to keep (even my self-imposed one of 'a blog a week at least'). Otherwise, I find it hard to stay encouraged and motivated. You might remember, Deborah, that commission I had from the TES recently when I had three hours to get the article written and sent off. I did it within two. That's the kind of thing that fires me up!

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    1. Actually that's true. That happened to me with a TES one recently too. Deadlines are definitely good for that. Perhaps I need to give myself more of those with the old fiction writing...

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  4. No, Deborah, it doesn't make you a "selfish writer" to spill like this about what feeds and informs your creative processes best, only an honest and reflective one. I do find writing quite cathartic. Pouring out my heart as a child in poetry and prose was really helpful in challenging circumstances. And as a late-in-life writer still working through elements of my past, I tend to simply share whatever I am going through and the things God is teaching me. Although I don't believe we necessarily have to have existential angst to fuel our work. Your deeper contentment may lead you to explore different avenues as a writer. Or this may be a season to rest a while and let the creativity bubble up when it is ready. Best not to stress about it if you can. :) x

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    1. I'm sure you're right Joy. I think the writing life has seasons and I'm just in a different one, which takes some getting used to, but may not necessarily be unproductive. Actually, it can't be as I have too much to do re the novel. I just need to ask God to help change my mindset. Thank you and bless you :) xx

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  5. I find I need to take the odd wee break from writing to enjoy reading, listening to and watching other people's work for a while. I write short factual things during these breaks, so don't get totally out of practice, but my creative urge can't be forced and needs nurtured. I also find lining up a block of time (e.g. 4 - 5 days alone) for pursuing fiction writing helps. I know it is coming and I work towards it, clearing other demands from my life and preparing my material. By the time the block of time comes, I'm raring to go! I've had 2 whole weeks 5 months apart this year and wrote about 7,000 words each time.

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