Saturday, September 27, 2008

Autumn Makes Me Reflect

The leaves die and fall. Someone you love dies. I'd like to tie this together with the writing life.

When my son passed away four years ago, it devastated me. Thank goodness, I was in the middle of two writing projects. I had just begun an online editing course through the local college and was working on a monthly column for Listen Magazine.

My son died on a Tuesday and by Monday the next week, I made myself sit down at 5:00 a.m. and begin my editing course. My attention span was ten minutes long, but I prayed for strenght and studied while the household slept. I'm not one to give up easily. I'm a fighter, and I instinctively knew I had to go on. The good news is my attention span grew longer over time.

About a week later, when I could think a little clearer, I wrote my editor and told her about my son. I asked her not to bail me out. I wanted the work and would only ask that she would alert me if she found I was slipping in my writing abilities. I churned out nine more monthly articles, which required indepth research.

It was good for me to work.

I did find that I couldn't start anything new for two years. I finished out my column and kept working on my novel-in-progress. It just so happened that the subject matter fit my mood. What a blessing!

Take heart! Even in the valley of the shadows, we can write.

Until next time . . .

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Just Like the Seasons

As Autumn falls upon us and the earth goes through transformation of colors, so it is with writing. Writing like nature has its seasons. Each stage of each writing project must take time to simmer and to change. Even our writing life goes through changes, caused by forces out of our control.

That force can be as complicated as the death of a loved one, or just plain writer burnout. If it is burnout, maybe we need to take time to live life and gather fodder for our writing. What a perfect opportunity to reevaluate what it is we need to share with the world. If it is a death, that can take time.

Death has taken the sails right out of my creative process. I've been left floundering like a turtle on its back. Earlier this year, when my baby brother died a brave soldier, I would sit for hours and look at my oak trees. I even brushed the neighbor's donkey and pretended he understood my words. And I prayed for sorrow to take a back seat, if but a few hours each day, so I could write.

Finally, I sensed the Lord say to me, "Write where you are." Okay.

I wrote what my brother meant to me, and my creative juices rolled once again. That whole process took two months, maybe for others it will be less. A dry writing season is as unique as the seasons of the earth.

Until next time . . .

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I've Made My Home In Oregon

Whew! That was a long silence between postings, but moving to another state with one dog and one cat is not easy. Not to mention finding a good Internet provider here in the mountains. But, I'm back in my childhood state of Oregon where blackberries run wild, and where you can see to the bottom of the creeks.

I mention childhood, because writing for children requires us to tap into our childhood memories and feelings. What was it like to lick the blackberry juice from your fingers? How did it feel to be in a fight with an older or younger sibling? Or even your best friend in grade school or junior high?

Some memories consist of blackberry pickings where the juice stained my fingers and the thorns stuck to my skin. Of fighting with my younger brother, who thought he should be boss when I was the eldest of the siblings. How I pulled my best friend's ponytail, because the popular girls bullied her into joining them and dumping me. I can't believe I took that out on her! And with violence!

Also, it is important to take time to feel like a child, for the times we felt safe and secure from the world and all its chaos. A few days after arriving here, I plopped flat on my back next to my dog, Heinrich, and I stared up at the blue sky. When I was a child, I used to camp out at night in the summers on our front lawn with my siblings. Now, before bedtime, I look up at the stars so plentiful that you can see the sparkling Milky Way.

Until next time, practice remembering what it was like (yes, even the painful parts) so you can write with honesty.