ACW

ACW

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Clearing the clutter by Sue Russell

I've been cogitating on the subject dear to all our hearts (or maybe not): editing.
The gardening analogy is an obvious one, but might bear reiterating. We humans, compared to a grapevine, are told we are in need of pruning in John's Gospel, chapter 15, verse 2, with the express purpose of becoming more fruitful. I don't know anything about viticulture, apart from the delights of the end product, but I have a vague notion that some plants need pruning, whether delicately or more stringently, and I guess there are few among us who would deny we need that sometimes painful discipline.
Just lately we've been doing some drastic clearance in our UK garden. Used as we are to macro-gardening in France, we wanted to make our English garden as low-maintenance as possible. So the ugly, overgrown and already-ringbarked-and-therefore-dead Leylandii between us and our neighbours  - planted many years ago, and not by us - had to go. A dozen or so trees, ranging from spindly to massive, had been taken over by a rampant, tangled and inaccessibly-high growth of climbers whose woody stems had entwined themselves in and out of the chain-link fencing put in by us and our neighbours to prevent mutual dog incursion, and had been taken over by undesirables such as brambles and ivy. So it was a huge job.

Down comes the overgrowth...


 ...and  a little over a week later the new fence is partly up, after a great deal of hard work. I  am aiming not only for practicality but also for a more harmonious array of plants and a great deal more light. Which is where destruction begins to turn into reconstruction, and we see the (perhaps flimsy) analogy with editing. 

I wouldn't suggest that every work of ours needs quite such treatment, but I don't suppose that many of us can produce a perfect first draft - as Mozart is reputed to have done, so I am told. Editing, especially by a sharp-eyed professional, is surely essential, whatever we have written. Often we are too close to our great work to see its flaws of construction or gaping plot-holes. And proof-reading is also vital; how easy it is to miss the repeated word or misplaced speech mark. I don't know about you, but anachronisms, typos, spelling and grammar errors, inconsistencies and the like will very soon deter me from continuing to read. Such carelessness seems to indicate a lack of regard for the reader, and ignorance is no excuse.
No one is immune, though. I try very hard to eliminate mistakes,  but I once allowed 'bothers and sisters' to go to print!


Sue writes as S.L.Russell and has written six novels from a Christian viewpoint, available in the usual places. The sixth, 'A Vision of Locusts', published by Instant Apostle, is available to pre-order now on Amazon (yes I know, shameless plug.)






Saturday, 19 August 2017

Making your mark, by Veronica Zundel

How do you write? I don't mean, how do you begin, do you plan or just pitch in, do you use lots of adjectives or conversation or authorial comment, do you do research? I mean physically, do you tap on a tablet or doodle on a desktop, or are you one of those supposedly old-fashioned writers who have to start with a pad and pen, or even a fountain pen on fancy thick cream paper?


I can write straight to screen if it's prose (like this),  but with poetry I have to have the physical feel of pen on paper, the muscle memory of inscribed words, even in the middle of the night when all I have is a nearly finished reporter's notepad and a run-out biro by the side of the bed (and yes, last night I had to go to the home office twice since the first ballpen I picked out there was just as run-out as the one by the bed, but at least I got the draft poem down). I gave up 'proper' fountain pens decades ago, in spite of being the generation that started with desk inkwells and dip-in nips with marbled tapered wooden handles (remember those? And the way they picked up fibres on sub-standard exercise books and dragged them across the page smearing everything?).

There's something about the bodily act of making marks on paper that just helps the flow of poetic inspiration - and maybe it's also the fact that most of my poems turn out shortish, which means I can stop well short of writer's cramp. For millenia, making real marks on a real surface, whether cuneiform on clay, heiroglyphics on stele or illegible scribble on a prescription pad (my dad was a doctor, which is why I haven't yet deciphered his roughly 40 years of tiny Letts diaries), was the only way to preserve and share your profound and priceless thoughts. Digital is a mere Johnny-come-lately, and for all its convenience (and I think every schoolchild should be taught to touch type), is somehow at one remove from the sensory experience of moving something long and thin around a surface (which reminds me of a wonderful video I just saw of a pre-schooler painting using her dog's tail as a brush!).

Writing is a physical activity, and though it sadly doesn't burn many calories, it can still be viewed as a sort of exercise, linked  to walking or running (as Georgina pointed out in Thursday's blog) which are both activities that can stimulate inspiration - literally, an intake of air. It demands good posture and a comfortable position - I still don't know how my husband can work with a laptop literally on his lap, or my son sprawled on the floor with his in front of him. I'd be wriggling like an eel within minutes, which is why chemotherapy, which involves long periods of sitting, has been such an ordeal.

So tell me, do you pick up a pen or sneak a stylus, tap on a typewriter or  tickle a keyboard?

Veronica Zundel is a freelance writer whose latest book is Everything I know about God, I've learned from being a parent (BRF 2013). She also writes a column for Woman Alive magazine, and Bible notes for BRF's New Daylight. Veronica used to belong to what was, before it closed, the only non-conservative, English speaking Mennonite church in the UK, and is currently playing at being a high Anglican. She also blogs (rather occasionally!) at reversedstandard.com





Friday, 18 August 2017

What do running and writing have in common? By Georgina Tennant

My two sons love telling jokes.  They have, in fact, become a headline act in our church's yearly talent show.  Andy Murray's favourite number?  Ten is.  His bedtime?  Ten-ish.  Such is the quality of quip featured in their annual performance.  

'What do running and writing have in common?'  sounds, initially, like a question so absurd that it wouldn't be out of place in their next recital.  Running and writing?  Surely these two verbs are from such far-flung ends of the 'verbial' spectrum (sorry, a neologism was necessary there!) that they can only co-exist in a comedy line-up?

Think again!  I have long thought that running contains a limitless supply of metaphors for our spiritual lives.  It was only recently that I began to discern its countless connections to writing too.  As I set out running, a few weeks ago, for the first time in a while, after weeks of holidays, parties and indulgences, I observed a few things about running that we would do well to heed in our writing. 

One, I reflected, was that it's really hard to get started again after a long break - but you have to start somewhere!  I could have put it off for another week, but it would have been just as hard - harder - if I had let another week elapse before I leapt into my lycra (okay, crawled into my kit is more accurate).  When we haven't written for a while,  picking up a pen and starting out again feels hard - but as we do it,  we suddenly find ourselves in the flow again and, a few pages in, we wonder why we left it so long. 



Secondly, if we compare ourselves to others and try to keep up with them, it is tempting to give up when we've barely begun.  This is a real battle for a beginner runner - and writer - like me.  Though my two running friends declared themselves unfit and out of practice too, they soon sped ahead, leaving me pounding the pavements at my own sorrowful speed!  Beetroot red in the face, I was tempted to take a short-cut home.  But my eyes were on the end game; if I wanted to get fit, lose weight and be healthy, the painful beginning had to be endured, however far behind others I lagged.  Likewise with writing.  If I look enviously at the impressive CVs of other writers and compare them to my beginner's ramblings - this would be the last thing I ever wrote!  But we all have to start somewhere and it's only with patient and disciplined practice that our running and writing 'fitness levels' improve. 
Finally, we need encouragement - so much encouragement - to keep on keeping on.  Despite my tortoise pace and my bright red face, my friends congratulated me on getting back out there, arranged another run for another week.  Our writing needs this too - someone to spur us on, encourage us to keep doing it, even when progress is slow.  If you haven't uttered any encouragement to a fellow writer recently, make it a priority this week!  It is oxygen to a discouraged soul and may just be the nudge they need to have the courage to keep honing their God-given gift, instead of hurling their tentative scribblings onto the nearest log burner. 

So starting is hard.  Re-starting is hard. But in writing, as in running, rewards await those who set themselves in for the long haul.  So get out there!  Start writing.  Keep writing.  Stay focused on what God has given you to write, not what others are up to.  Most importantly, be an encourager, especially cheering on those flagging at the back! Type that comment, send that text - you may be the catalyst someone needs to keep training, keep trying.  Ultimately, your five seconds of encouragement could help to keep a plodding beginner from veering off and collapsing on the side of what could be an exciting road ahead, as God anoints small beginnings and transforms them into great things for His kingdom.




Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 6, who keep her exceptionally busy! She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition! Her musings about life can be found on her blog: www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Writing from a place of rest By Claire Musters



During the summer our church has been doing a preaching series on rest. Last Sunday my husband Steve and I spoke, focusing on working from a place of rest, which is something that God has been talking to me about a lot this year.

I know that many of us fit our writing around other jobs – and even if writing is your main job it can still seem like there is never enough time in the day for it.

Here is what God has been teaching me about resting in Him as I start each day rather than rushing on with my ‘to do’ list…

The importance of ordering my day
I try to remember to ask him to order my day before I hit the to do list. I have found when I do this it really makes a difference – and I think part of that is heart attitude, as I’m giving the control over to God before I start running away with it myself.

Starting the day in silence with Him
I am someone who can’t sit down and relax until all the jobs are done. God challenged me, saying that He knew I did give Him time as soon as dropping the kids off but I always seemed to be racing against the clock while they were at school. He asked me to take time out with Him in silence, and concentrate simply on connecting with Him.

Sometimes I say a simple prayer such as ‘come Lord Jesus’; at other times I concentrate on breathing more deeply and slowly as that helps tension to go, and say a phrase as I do so, such as ‘Be still’ (‘be’ when I breathe in and ‘still’ when I breathe out. Or ‘Come, rest’).

I know in our world that silence is quite alien but, more and more, I am learning that it is in the silence that we connect more deeply with God.

As I learned in the book study group I help run, when we studied Having a Mary Heart in Martha world, it is about establishing the centre (connecting ours with His), and allowing everything to work out from that place (like the centre of a wheel and the spokes coming off of it).

The importance of prayerful prioritising
Rather than simply working out the priorities of the day myself I bring them before God. Sometimes this simply means reading my ‘to do’ list out, offering it to Him and asking for His perspective, to point out the things that I can simply drop for that day.

Sometimes I pray for God to show me the ‘one thing’ that He wants me to do, and I purposefully leave all the rest (which is so against my nature!). It is interesting to see how the things I thought were so important are simply no longer necessary once I’ve let them go for a little while…

Be open to the unexpected
When we give our work over to God He can sometimes bring things or people into our days that hadn’t been on our horizons at all. When that would happen before I would get stressed and sometimes tell God I couldn’t deal with it because I was working.

I’m learning to prayerfully consider whether an interruption is something that God has brought into my day – and when it is my life has certainly been enriched. I’ve also seen God enlarge my capacity in order for this to happen.

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous young children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Claire’s desire is to help others draw closer to God through her writing, which focuses on authenticity, marriage, parenting, worship, discipleship, issues facing women today etc. Her books include Taking your Spiritual Pulse, CWR’s Insight Into Managing Conflict, Insight Into Self-acceptance, Cover to Cover: David A man after God’s own heart, Insight Into Burnout and BRF Foundations21 study guides on Prayer and Jesus. She also writes Bible study notes. She has two books being published in November: Taking off the mask: learning to live authentically, with Authentic Media, and Cover to Cover: 1–3 John Walking in the truth, with CWR. To find out more about her, please visit www.clairemusters.com and @CMusters on Twitter.


Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Making Difficult Decisions by Lynda Alsford

 How do you make difficult decisions? As a Christian it is not just myself and others I need to take into account. I also want to make sure I am doing what God would want me to do.

I have realised recently that I am trying to focus my attention and energy on too many things. Unfortunately that has meant my energy levels have been rather affected. I also have not got any writing done. I wanted to evaluate whether I can make more time for it. I thought I would be better once I stopped being administrator for ACW last autumn but the busyness and tiredness has continued. I find myself having to look through my diary and commitments to see what else I could stop doing. But that is so hard. What do I stop? How do I choose? I hope what I share will assist others in making hard decisions.

The good thing about this is that it is throwing me back onto God again. I am spending time in prayer and simply time being with the Lord, seeking to find out what he wants me to do. What should I give up and what should I keep doing?

Having prayed, and continuing to pray, I imagined what I would say to a friend if she were me. I thought this would help me to look at my life more objectively. I think I would tell someone else to go through all activities and look at them systematically.  

Being a writer at heart I decided to get out my journal and do this on paper. Having made a list of everything I do, I worked through it noting which brought me joy and which dragged me down. Obviously I can't stop everything I don't like - we all have to do things we don't like sometimes but it gave me a starting place.

I then asked myself why I was doing each thing. Some things have to be done - like my job. No job, no money. That is an easy one. Some things I am doing because it is expected of me, and others simply because I really enjoy them – they are life giving.

Other questions I asked myself about each thing on my list were...

  • Who would be affected by my decision? 
  • Is it a permanent decision or temporary one? Can I stop this thing for a season and pick it up later?
  • Is it in line with God’s word?


Some things on my list of activities have already been culled as I get to this point. I stopped going to my book group because although I enjoyed reading and discussing books with others, I no longer had time to read the book club book and read my own choice of book each month.

Others decisions are not so easy, so I am allowing myself time to make these decisions. I am not rushing. I am waiting on God, spending time with him while I decide.

What about you? How do you make difficult decisions? 


Lynda Alsford is a sea loving, cat loving GP administrator and writes in her spare time. She has written two books, He Never Let Go describes her journey through a major crisis of faith whilst working as an evangelist at a lively Church in Chiswick, West London. Being Known describes how God set her free from food addiction. Both books are available in paperback and on kindle on  Amazon.co.uk  and  Amazon.com. She writes a newsletter called Seeking the Healer, in which she shares the spiritual insights she has gained on her journey. When she finally starts her blog, it will also be called Seeking the Healer and you can find out more about both at  www.lyndaalsford.com.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Thank you, Glen Campbell

Sorry this post is late.  I'm on holiday in Ireland with a dodgy internet connection.

At school, we all loved ‘Wichita Lineman’, even though we didn’t know what a ‘lineman’ was.  It must be one of those intriguing American things, we thought.  When I found out what it really was, I looked upon GPO engineers (as they were in those days) in a different light.

As everyone will have read in their newspapers over the last few days, Glen Campbell, who had a hit with ‘Wichita Lineman’ in 1968, died, at eighty one, last Tuesday (8 August), after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.  He was singing to the end, bringing out a new album Adios, with the support of his family. 

His voice, simultaneously sexy and wholesome in that Country and Western way, ringing out from the transistor radio in my bedroom in Leicester, bared no hint of the man underneath, a womaniser and a substance abuser.  His songs were (are) all about ‘lurve’.  His lyrics have an emotional impact that all writers can learn from, an uumpth factor that makes all listeners’ hearts somersault inside them (especially teenagers, like me when I first heard it).  Listen to the lyrics of Wichita Lineman:

And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line

A hunky telephone engineer, clambering up tall telegraph poles and working in a hanging cage up in the air, offering his heart and eternal devotion – what is not to like?

In his tribute in Rolling Stone, Jimmy Webb, who created the music and lyrics for many of Campbell’s songs, wrote a moving tribute to him in Rolling Stone.  He tells us that Campbell wanted ‘to bring every suffering soul within the sound of his voice up a peg or two.  Leave them feeling just a little tad better about themselves; even though he might have to make them cry a couple of times to get 'em there.”

Cambell does the ‘making them cry’ in By The Time I Get to Phoenix in which he lets us into the agony of a breaking relationship, he travelling around the southern United States and she picking up notes and laughing in disbelief because it’s all happened before.  Much to learn here, from his use of the small actions, and the use of place names which would be familiar to his Country and Western listeners.  Me, the teenager in Leicester, didn’t know much about Country and Western, or that Glen Campbell was regarded as a Country and Western artist.  Country and Western blares out in every gas station and supermarket in the southern and western United States, the sound of the American white working class, music of resignation and acceptance.  Gospel music also has a part in it, but, although Campbell grew up in the Bible Belt, where ‘Jesus Saves’ banners hang from every church, every few yards, and punctuate the freeways more frequently than signposts, he didn’t start off singing Gospel, as Elvis did.  In 1980, he turned his back on his rackety lifestyle and became a Christian.  (I have no details.)  In 1981, Momentarily single and unattached and on a first date, to a restaurant, with Radio City presenter, Kim Woolen, he bowed his head to say a private grace before starting to eat.  That was the moment Kim decided she wanted to marry him.

Now, I hear something else in Campbell’s lyrics, even though they were written before Campbell found Christ, but bearing it in mind that Jim Webb (who also composed psychedelic hits like MacArthur Park) is also a Christian.  I discern a longing for God, running away from God in By the Time I Get to Phoenix and connecting with Him in Dream, ‘needing more than wanting’ in Wichita Lineman.  I don’t think this is what Campbell and Webb intended, but it’s there.

Thank you, Glen Campbell, for all your music and thoughtful lyrics.

Rosemary Johnson has had many short stories published, in print and online, amongst other places, in Alfie Dog Fiction, The Copperfield Review, Circa and Every Day Fiction.  In real life, she is a part-time IT tutor, living in Suffolk with her husband and cat.  Her cat supports her writing by sitting on her keyboard and deleting large portions of text.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Neither a saggy sofa nor a hard chair be! (A few thoughts on setting) Andrew J Chamberlain

The best setting is a compromise between the literary equivalents of the saggy sofa and the hard chair. I want to explore setting with you, and present the case for the best settings being both credible and immersive.

What is setting?


Setting is the moment, or moments in time and space where your story happens. It’s the moment in time, past, present or future where the story is set.

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is set at the turn of the 19th Century, in Hertfordshire and London.

Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea is set in the late 1940’s mainly in a little fishing boat off the coast of Cuba, near the capital Havana.

Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom is set in the city in 1940, just after the civil war.

Whilst there are an infinite number of settings, I think there are only these two critical qualities that a setting must have.

The setting must be credible.


The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word credible as ‘able to be believed, convincing’.
The setting has to be capable of being believed. It doesn’t have to be true, it doesn’t even have to be true to life, but it does have to be an environment that the reader can believe might exist. The reader has to trust the setting.

For this to happen the setting must be consistent within itself, and it must not contain errors which, if the reader spots them, will throw her out of the story.

As an example of internal consistency, imagine reading The Lord of the Rings, and finding that when Gandalf is stuck at the top of the Tower at Isengard, he gets his mobile phone out and calls for help. It might be temporarily funny, but in the long term it would destroy the consistency of the setting, and damage the story itself. Or imagine a Jacobite tale with steam engines, or almost any kind of novel where the weather seems to fluctuate from polar to tropical with no explanation. Unless an inconsistency is a specific conceit of the novel, it’s going to jar on the reader.

The same is true with simple factual errors. If you set your story in London and your character walks from Waterloo Station to the National theatre in ten minutes, that’s believable, the distance is less than half a mile. If your character walks from Waterloo Station to Camden Market (a distance of about four miles) in ten minutes readers who know this will stop ‘believing’ in your story.

Setting is like the seat our reader sits in. The question they will be asking, albeit subconsciously is – can this seat hold me, am I safe with it? If the reader sees something inconsistent or wrong, it’s the literary equivalent of the seat collapsing under you. The credible setting shares the qualities of a sturdy chair, the reader can trust the setting to hold their weight.



The setting must be immersive.


The adjective immersive derives from the verb to immerse, meaning ‘to involve oneself deeply in a particular activity or interest.’

The reader must not only trust your setting, they must also be able to lose themselves in it. To do this, your setting must have the necessary richness of detail to capture and enthral them.

Daphne Du Maurier brilliantly captures the readers of Rebecca, right at the start of her book with this first sentence:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

With these few words, the writer gives Manderley, the house that features as the main setting of the story, a mystique that attracts us as readers.

An immersive setting is often presented through vivid and often sensory description. 

Part of the appeal of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is the sweep and majesty of Middle Earth. One of the reasons reads love the Harry Potter series so much is the rich sense of mystery and wonder that the author evokes in the work.

But this immersiveness on its own is not enough. A great setting is

achieved not simply by creating a rich environment, first the setting must be credible, so that readers can trust it, then it can be immersive enough to capture them.
uncomfortable to sit on after a while, but an immersive setting that is not credible is like a old saggy sofa, you might find yourself falling through it and onto the floor if it can’t take your weight.



A credible setting that is not immersive is like a sturdy chair that is



The best setting takes the qualities of each of these features and combines them, so that the setting becomes like a sturdy but comfortable armchair, it can hold you, but it’s also a place you are happy to sit in for as long as you want to.




Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast and author of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook containing the best advice and insight from 100 episodes of the podcast, and which will be published in October 2017. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

The Now and Not Yet, by Deborah Jenkins

I am probably the least nimble fingered person you'll ever meet. The one in front of you at the parking meter, muttering, Where's the hole? while jabbing it randomly with a coin. Probably the only mother in the world who had to get her bleeding kids to open plasters, if there were no scissors available (why do they seal them unattainably in those ridiculous sheath-like wrappers?) In shops, when I reach into the depths of my purse, random objects tend to flip out and skate across the counter - a hair grip, an earring and once unforgettably, a tampon. I claim it's my poor eyesight (I  had a very rare eye disease some years ago) but my husband says I've always been like that. He says it with affection (mostly) or irritation (occasionally).

I used to get very anxious about my clumsy ways. Over the years, I've done some terrible things - knocked glasses of water over keyboards and spilled coffee on teachers. Memorably, I once stepped on a child with a high heel while he was carefully measuring the room in hand spans Forty-one, forty-two, aaaargh! I gave him a team point for bravery.

I've learned to slow down and focus on what I'm doing instead of gazing out of the window  or planning my next novel. I try to look carefully at wrappers, turning them over and over in my hands to see if there's a flap or one of those red. stringy things to pull. The right glasses help (of the three sets available, you can bet those will be upstairs). As does access to natural light.

But I can't change who I am. And my lack of dexterity has reaped unexpected benefits - a good chat with an assistant in Costa, tipping my purse out and telling him to 'help himself', assisting a young mum while she found the 'hole' in the parking meter for both my money and her own, hilarious stories over dinner with friends while my children recount early experiences with plasters. God can use who we are in surprising ways.

Similarly with writing, at this time of my life, I don't seem to fit into the categories that others do. I can't do that 'write for at least ten minutes every day' thing and I don't plan very much. I don't really use social media to promote my writing although I do post the odd link to two. I'm not great at networking. You could argue that this is partly why I'm not particularly successful and you would probably be right. But at the moment, this is the stage of life I'm at and I've decided it's OK. One of the constant challenges of writing is reconciling the 'now and the not yet' - the now of what we are actually doing and the 'not yet' of what we aspire to. But, in a way, now is all we have, and perhaps we should embrace it and be content with it while keeping those long term goals in mind.

Some of my favourite verses are from Psalm 84: -
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion."

God has given me this verse time and time again in my life. His theme for me has been very much one of travelling. As a child we moved around a lot - my dad was in the army. As an adult, I've lived in different places in central Asia and in a rented house when we came back here, while rebuilding this one. I'm glad to be in one place now but, as I look back, I can see that some of the happiest times were the transitional ones, the working purposefully with others towards a shared goal - helping others do church in central Asia, hosting teams from the U.K, doing up our house as a family.
And God regularly surprised us as we travelled these paths, blessing us in unexpected ways and using us to bless others.

As we writers nurture our dreams, chat on Facebook and at meetings, and put our heads down over those increasingly coffee stained keyboards, let's not forget to embrace the now as well as the not-yet. Who knows? One day, when we look back, these might end up being the most precious times of all...

Click on the link to see the novella on amazon
Deborah Jenkins is a primary school teacher and freelance writer who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the TES. She has 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, who are now grown up, she lives in south-west London with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver. 




Thursday, 10 August 2017

Scribble, scribble, by Ben Jeapes

Short version: On 6th August 2015 I handed in my notice to become a full-time writer.

Slightly longer version: I’d always done my writing career on the side, in the mornings and evenings, before and after the day job. It was never more than handy pocket money, and I was happy because by and large the day job was something that I enjoyed.

Until 2015, when I was three years into a job that I wasn’t enjoying at all. I didn’t believe in it, I was bored and demoralised, I had zero inspiration to be creative in my own time, and this was noticeably affecting the quality of my work.

Then, out of the blue, a seed that had been planted a few years earlier in the sideline came to fruition, and I had a year’s writing work signed up at the equivalent of a year’s salary from the day job. I had no idea what would happen at the end of that year but I took the plunge.

I did the work, the contract duly expired, and along came a new one for the equivalent of a further two years’ salary. There’s now one year to go, I have irons in the fire for other titles, and there are whispers on the wind of further contracts.

Even if it all comes to a crashing halt in a year’s time, I’ve no doubt this was God’s provision. I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do, via a route I could never have imagined. And there are other pointers.

During this time we’ve had to arrange some major rebuilding work on our home to make it sellable (which we could afford, thanks to savings accrued with the secondary writing income), deal with an extremely problematic neighbour, and move house twice. There was so much that required my presence at home: if I still had the job, a thirty minute drive away, it would have been horrendous. It seems to me that God simultaneously did the least and most that he could. He changed one little thing, and made everything else work.

Doesn’t that strike you as similar to the miracles recorded in the gospels? Jesus set them up so that first and foremost, God’s glory would be shown. He didn’t set people up with new homes and lives, but he removed the one obstacle to the fulfilment of their hopes and prospects, then kept open the channel that would allow them to continue to receive his blessings as they came.

Back in 2017, I’m very aware that God hasn’t provided guaranteed lifelong security. This is the difference between answering prayer as in the Bible and granting wishes as in fairy tales. We don’t get the happily-ever-after in this life: we’re expected to keep on trusting God. A two-year contract is about the most many people get even out in the world of day jobs. Hence he provides a very obvious opening to keep on trusting him.

It’s also become quite clear that he has thoughtfully provided us with another awkward neighbours situation, just to keep us focused.

So with full sincerity and only slightly gritted teeth, I say, thank you, God.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 5 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. www.benjeapes.com