Category Archives: My books

June 2015 Promotion for The Enclave

enclaveSm

Just a quick note to let you all know that Bethany House is running a discounted ebook promotion for my most recent novel, The Enclave for the rest of the month of June (now until the 30th ) available through all the major online vendors (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook.com).  So if you have an e-reader and you’ve not yet read The Enclave and want to, now’s your chance to get it for as low $1.99 (as opposed to the official listed price of $7.99)

Here’s the back cover blurb:

When Lacey McHenry accepts a prestigious research fellowship at the world-renowned Kendell-Jakes Longevity Institute, she sees it as a new start on life. But when a disturbing late-night encounter with a bizarre intruder leads to a cover-up by Institute authorities, she soon realizes all isn’t as it seems.

Caught in an elaborate game of deception and seduction, her only ally seems to be the brilliant but absent-minded geneticist, Cameron Reinhardt. A favorite of the Institute’s charismatic director, Cameron, too, came to K-J hoping to escape his past. But the more he learns about Lacey’s attacker, the more he fears that the past still pursues him.

Not certain they can trust each other, Cameron and Lacey reluctantly work together to uncover the shocking secrets that lurk behind the Institute’s respectable facade — secrets that turn out to be bigger, stranger, and far more dangerous than either of them could have imagined.

And this from the Amazon blurb:

“The Enclave is characterized by adventure, intrigue, spiritual analogy, and romance, all set in an unusual but fully realized world–one that may have its foundations on earth but which, the more one learns of it, doesn’t seem much like the earth we know at all.”

The Enclave was a 2010 Christy Award Finalist for Visionary Fiction

To go to The Enclave’s Amazon page, click here.

To go to The Enclave’s Christian Book.Com page, click here.

To go to The Enclave’s Barnes & Noble page, click here.

 

 

Repost: Unmerited Grace

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A couple of weeks ago, in the course of a really bad day when it came to making any progress on my WIP, and as I was lamenting yet again the fact that I had pitched the writing journals I’d kept during the creation of Return of the Guardian King, it occurred to me that maybe I had posted some entries regarding it when I first started blogging back in 2006 on Blogger. It would have been about the right time. And it like this blog was subtitled “The Writing Diary of Novelist Karen Hancock,” so it seemed reasonable to think that I might have actually posted something from my journals. Or barring that, at least something about my journey in writing that book.

Why did I pitch those journals? Well, “they’re all the same” I’d told myself. “I’ve been writing for over — ahem — forty years and kept diaries for most of those years. Why would I need to keep more?”

Well, because Return of the Guardian King was the first book I’d done in a long time that started basically from scratch. The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within and Shadow Over Kiriath had all been completely or partially drafted before I had to work on them within the Bethany House deadline structure. RotGK was the only one for which I had little more than the most general of ideas where I was going when I began. Since that’s a lot of what I’m experiencing now with The Other Side of the Sky, it would have been really helpful for me now, had I kept those particular diaries.

So I went looking and happily, I found some entries. Since they reflect or at least speak to a lot of what I’m going through currently, I thought I’d repost a few of them now and then.

Today’s entry, originally posted to Blogger on February 18, 2006, is one such post: it not only described what I’ve been going through lately but offered helpful counsel:

Recently I came across this thought from Annie Dillard in her book The Writing Life,

“At best the sensation of writing is that of unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.”

This struck me very strongly, because we’ve just been reviewing in Bible class how it is to search for God. He only reveals Himself to us if we search for Him diligently, as if we were hunting for treasure. Treasure hunters do not sit back and wait for the treasure to come to them. They go out and search for a likely spot and then they dig, and lug dirt and dig and lug. It’s not easy. When they get tired, they keep digging. When nothing turns up for all their digging, they do not quit, they go on. They try a new place. And finally, maybe three years later, they find that for which they’ve been searching. It is, in a way, handed to them.

So it is with the search for the story, for the perfect, right arrangement that will resonate, for the answers to the questions of who these people are, and what they will become, what is it I really care about, and what am I really trying to say? How can any of that be easy to find? If God Himself is not easy and simple, how can writing about what I know of Him and my life in Him be easy and simple? Spiritually now I’m beginning to grasp things I can’t even articulate. I cannot explain them with words. How can writing about them be easy?

It can’t. It won’t be. Some days I’ll find the silver and the gold. Other days it will feel like endless digging and lugging of dirt. The key is to keep going. To keep on learning about who God is through His word. To keep on writing. To trust that He is guiding me and that in the end I will not be ashamed. That in time it will all come together. If my motivation is correct, and the power system in which I operate is correct, it will be rewarded.

“If you seek her (wisdom) as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God…I, wisdom, love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. ” Proverbs 2:4,5; 8:17

When Progress is Invisible

my painting of a dove on her nest in our grapefruit tree

my painting of a nesting dove

I painted this mourning dove one year as she sat on her nest in the grapefruit tree in our back yard.  She watched me as I took the pictures that I would use for the painting, but she didn’t stir, didn’t leave the nest. She sat on those eggs for weeks.

And all that time she was mostly doing “nothing.” More than that, the things she was sitting on, her eggs, also seemed to be doing nothing. All that time she spent sitting there when she could have been flying around or walking about looking for seeds or taking a shower in the sprinklers with her dove friends… instead she was sitting up there on her eggs which did not seem to be doing a darn thing. For a very long time, no change whatsoever registered in those eggs, at least as far as the dove could see. And yet… amazing, profound, complex, rich changes were occurring behind the façade of the thin white shell.

She might have been tempted to give it up. I mean… 15 to 18 days of sitting there doing nothing at all? With only brief time outs to feed and get water? I doubt I could do it for even 2 hours!

And yet, lately God has been using the dove analogy with me as regards my working on Sky.  There’s been a lot of time where I can’t see any changes occurring… I was getting no ideas, I’d go in to write and couldn’t seem to think of a thing, couldn’t keep my mind on the work, couldn’t get anywhere. Stuck.

But a couple of months ago, He sent me the dove analogy courtesy of Elisabeth Elliot’s daily devotion site. Not only as the analogy regards the book, but even more so as regards my spiritual life. I love the idea that growth is occurring, unseen, unnoticed, behind the scenes, where I can’t feel it, can’t measure it, can’t realize it. Even as in another unseen place, He is orchestrating the pulling together of different elements of character and plot and setting to produce the next scene that I will eventually write.

I could freak out and get impatient and condemned and anxious or I can be still and trust that He’s at work even when it seems He’s not.  I know this, because He’s told me that it’s so:

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to execute for His good pleasure.” ~Philippians 2:13

“Faithful is He who calls you, and HE will bring it to pass.” ~I Thessalonians 5:24

I just have to believe it.

Never Easy

Leaf portrait small

It’s been awhile since I’ve said anything about my progress or lack thereof on Sky.

That’s because, in part, writing all those posts about rebound took up a lot of words and mental energy.

It’s also because after a couple weeks of unrelenting distractions and interruptions, when I finally got back to it, the magic had once again left and I had no idea what I was doing.

I had brought things to a point at the end of Chapter 7, but couldn’t quite finish it off. Too many questions… too many options. Too many, “whys”. As in, if A does that, what will B do in response? If I don’t want A to be figured out by B now, how can I have events progress as I have them? B would have to be a nincompoop not to figure everything out, and he’s not supposed to be a nincompoop.

[Where in the world did that word come from? Nincompoop??]

Somehow those questions led to a re-evaluation of the surface of the world I am trying to build, which led to a re-evaluation of the government, this after an earlier re evaluation wherein I decided to change my world set up from a single empire situation to multiple nations…

Then an interruption would come in and several days would pass before I could get back to it, during which time I would have forgotten what I had been thinking about… Returning to the work was almost like returning to square one and the whole project would seem so vast and overwhelming I’d spend at least the first day back doing my best to run away from it.

But today I got back to it and in the course of writing one of those nonstops I’m so wont to write, I remembered this:

From my ruminations over today’s work:

“It occurs to me that I haven’t really thought all this out and this kind of thing, the ideas, the modification, the sudden realization of inconsistencies, the  major readjustments, the refinement – or the dumping as unworkable and starting over…  it’s all part of the hard work of building a world for a novel. So… nothing’s wrong here. It’s part of the process and the process is long, hard, confusing, frustrating, exciting, gratifying, rewarding, never easy. Nor simple. Nor fast.”

It’s been like this before. Many times. I’d forgotten that. Forgotten that I just have to keep plugging along, and be patient, It will come, in time.

Thanks, to…

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One more post on the Christy Awards…

Since I did all that talking about my bungled acceptance “remarks” in my previous post, and because I rather liked having the opportunity to express my thanks publicly to some people whose support has been very significant over the years, I want to share it here.  And not only because of them, but because you all — my readers — are also among the “thankee’s.” It was supposed to be 1 – 2 minutes, during which we were encouraged to talk about what it was like in the beginning, a bit about our journey and what motivates us then and now to write:

“Well, I am deeply honored to be among the first inductees into the Christy Awards Hall of Fame, and a bit overwhelmed. No matter how many times I’ve been privileged to stand up here, it always seems unreal.

First I’d like to thank the Christy Awards organization for holding this annual recognition of excellence in Christian fiction. [Insert spate of blither about inspiring and encouraging authors here]

Thanks, too, to the Christy Awards judges for being so kind to my work over the years.

Second I want to express my deepest gratitude to Steve Laube, my agent and formerly my editor at Bethany House, and the one who opened the door for me. Despite hearing my nervous and rather lame pitch of Arena at Mt. Hermon many years ago, he still asked me to send him the manuscript!

I’m grateful as well to the Bethany House editorial board he presented it to, and who bought both Arena and, not long after, my fantasy series Legends of the Guardian-King. They were taking a big gamble back then. Science fiction and allegory were still very questionable venues for Christian fiction. Fantasy was even worse — “a death word” in the industry, Steve told me.

So I took to calling it “Speculative Historical fiction.”

Nevertheless, Bethany House took on all five books. So to Carol and Gary Johnson and the others on that board — thank you for your vision and courage in taking the risk that you did and then in continuing to believe in my work as the years have passed.

I also want to give a huge shout out to my editor, Karen Schurrer, who has worked on every one of my books. — What a joy and blessing you have been to me! — In the beginning it was unnerving to think of someone else making changes to my work. But Karen was so patient with me, so good at what she does that now I can’t imagine not having her there to find all the clunks and logic gaps and wrong turns and to gently suggest I take another look.

Finally, I am thankful for and to my readers whose enthusiasm and support have shown me that I actually am accomplishing what God has called me to do: provide spiritual encouragement and edification through story to my fellow members of the Body of Christ. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to serve them in this capacity.”

Thanks to all of you!

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

Close-up of the engraved words: 2013 Hall of Fame, The Christy Award, Karen Hancock

The Christy Award Hall of Fame

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

My Christy Hall of Fame Award at home

Okay, so the entire reason for my going to St. Louis was, as I mentioned, for me to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Award Hall of Fame, along with Historical novelist Lynn Austin. And so far, I’ve said nary a word about it.

Well, the dinner/awards ceremony was held in a ballroom … or at least, I think it was a ballroom — we weren’t exactly sure for what purpose the room had been built but it had a high ceiling and floor to ceiling windows, as well as tall, squared- off columns. And yet… it was very long and narrow, almost as if it had once been part of a larger room, and was walled off to increase the number of spaces the hotel could offer for events.  In any case, it was an elegant if echo-y room, with a very lofty ceiling.

This might be the room -- the windows and columns look right...

This might be the room — the windows and columns look right…

The reason I can’t recall the exact location is that I didn’t know it beforehand, and when my husband and I arrived, we were late. We were supposed to have been early, because I was to be participating in the presentation of the awards to this year’s winners and needed to receive my instructions…

We would’ve been on time, I think, except for the GPS.  I knew where the hotel was, but my hubby had brought our GPS, so we were planning on relying on that. But when we left the garage, the GPS became terminally confused. It was determined that we should “turn right on 7th street” even though we were past 7th street. As it repeated its command to turn right, the screen declared that the Garmin was in fact, “off.” Even as it was on.

Okay. So we tried to make our way through the maze of one way streets, and I thought I had a clear idea of which way to go, except then the street I wanted to turn down had suddenly been blocked off and … by the time we arrived, I’d keyed myself up in that Introvert state of Overwhelm. As I said, I was supposed to have arrived a half hour early to meet the banquet organizer “by the podium” for my instructions. But when I got there, late, there were tons of people already there, and I had no idea where I was going. I spotted a familiar face and asked if he knew where the podium was… and only gradually did I realize I’d asked the former president of BHP, now retired, Gary Johnson. He was very gracious — and helpful — nonetheless.

Eventually I made it to the correct room — all my angst had been utterly without justification (as is so often the case!) — but that is why I don’t know what room we were in!

Anyway, it was a fun evening — despite the fact I had to give an acceptance speech. I had one written out when I left Tucson, but every time I went through it for practice in St. Louis, I kept changing it – via hand-written insertions since I had no computer. For some reason I thought it would be bad if I just read it, so I was trying to memorize it… and there was one particular spot at the beginning where I kept going off script because it felt like there was more to say, even if I couldn’t think what.

Anyway, instead of freaking out about it all, I gave it over to the Lord to handle (Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you) and asked Him to give me the words He wanted to me to speak and not let there be any huge bungles in my delivery.

So I got to sit with my editor, Karen Schurrer, my agent, Steve Laube, the Editorial Director of Fiction, Dave Horton, and BHP’s Executive Vice President and Director, Jim Parrish, all of whom are really awesome people to work with. Lynn Austin with her hubby, Rachel McCrae, a book buyer with Lifeway, and the director of the awards, Donna Kehoe rounded out the rest of the folks at our table, though Donna spent almost the entire dinner hour away from her seat, working out various details.

Steve Laube, (yes, my agent) was the Master of Ceremonies and did an excellent job, as usual. He always seems to do an excellent job no matter what he does…

After the presentation of the 2013  Christy Award nominees, agent Chip McGregor gave an emotional tribute to his friend and colleague Lee Hough, and presented him with a Lifetime Achievement award in the field of agenting.

Then it was time for dinner, where I talked far too much and ended up hardly eating much of my food at all… but I can always eat and I can’t always talk to the people who were with me. At least not face to face.

After dinner, the Induction into the Christy Hall of Fame began.  I went first, made it to the podium without tripping, notes in hand, and started in with my spiel. Then I looked up from the notes and was suddenly ad libbing in that area at the beginning where it kept seeming like I should say something more. The next thing you know I heard myself LITERALLY babbling, making no sense whatsoever! Here’s a pic my hubby took of me, so rattled, the camera couldn’t focus:

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

Me rattled during my unplanned spate of blithering

LOL!

Fortunately I had the sense to cut it off immediately, but not without observing out loud to everyone listening that “I’m babbling. I’ll stop now” and went on to my prepared remarks. Which I think went well, in spite of everything. I should have known before I tried it. Yes, it’s true, I’ve ad-libbed in the past and had no problem. But now that I’m older, the words are no longer coming as swiftly as in my youth. And the words that do come initially are often the WRONG words. Which is what happened on the podium.

If I ever have to do something like this again, I have learned that I MUST stick to the script. Anyway, no one threw anything, and I didn’t collapse from the horror of it so… I guess it’s okay…  Here’s a picture of me right after, receiving my award (courtesy of Becky Miller — Thanks, Becky!)

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

Me receiving my Hall of Fame Award from Donna Kehoe

I’ll share a bit more tomorrow…

Arriving in St. Louis

The Arch in St. Louis My hotel is just behind that capital building

The Arch in St. Louis
My hotel is just behind that capital building on the right.

I mentioned some time ago that I was going to St. Louis last weekend for this year’s International Christian Retailers Show, where I was to be inducted into the inaugural Christy Awards Hall of Fame. They have decided to limit the number of awards an author can win to four, which is how many my books have won.  Lynn Austin, a writer of historical novels who has won eight Christy’s, was also inducted.

When I was first invited, I was hesitant to go. We’d have to board Quigley if both Stu and I went, which we’ve never done before with any of our dogs,.  And I didn’t much take to the notion of going alone…  I don’t care for fancy, dress up parties, and I really don’t care for being in any kind of limelight. Plus I feared I would fret about it for weeks and by that take away time otherwise devoted to Sky.

I was almost ready to decline, but my agent Steve Laube talked me down off that ledge. It wasn’t that hard. All he had to do was point out what an opportunity it was to publicly thank Bethany House for all they’ve done for me and my books, and that turned it all around. Plus I got to publicly thank him for opening the door in the first place, and my editor Karen Schurrer who has had a significant hand in all my books.

I am so glad I went. I had a great time, even if I did have to fly alone. (Primarily because long ago after a sudden glitch in our air travel plans I decided I would never again fly on the same day as the event I was attending.)  So I left Sunday morning very early (the Christy dinner was Monday evening) while my husband stayed behind to bring Quigley to the Pet Resort Sunday afternoon. That way we could minimize the time Q spent there (we feared the worst). Stu left for St. Louis early Monday morning.

Not that flying alone was bad: I finally had the time to finish the biography of J.R.R. Tolkien I’ve been “reading” for far too long.  I’ll write more on that in another post, but it was extremely edifying. In many ways, he was a kindred spirit as far as writing goes (and in many other ways he wasn’t)

Anyway, my hotel was practically at the foot of the Arch, and the dinner put on by Baker Publishing for all its authors, editors, publishing contacts and friends (Bethany House was acquired by Baker a number of years ago) was at the hotel next door. I’d also been invited to that, so at about five-thirty that evening, I left my room to walk over. On the way down some people in the elevator asked me if I was going outside. I said I was and they expressed head shakes of sympathy for my misfortune.

I thought they were talking about the problem of the muggy heat and agreed with them that it was unpleasant. I told them I was from Arizona, as if that explained everything (we have that “dry” heat, you know, so the mugginess is always a shock). They seemed to agree, and got off on the second floor where the garage is. I went on down to the first floor, walked out toward the street and for the first time realized there was a thunder-and-lightning, pouring rainstorm outside that would rival many of the best monsoons of southern AZ.

So that’s what the elevator people were talking about! I started laughing. Yeah, the humidity was about as bad as it could get!

Well, when the rain didn’t let up, I went back up to get my umbrella and emergency poncho, which the Lord had fortuitously supplied me a couple of weeks ago. Then when there was a break in the ferocity of the downpour, I walked over, shielded by umbrella and a poncho that felt more like a garbage bag, though I arrived none the worse for wear. My shoes and the bottom of my skirt were a bit damp, but nothing anyone would notice, and both would dry soon.

The dinner was held on the top of the building, where glass panels formed part of the roof and we enjoyed a spectacular show throughout the evening. I love rain storms, especially when there’s lightning and thunder. Always makes me think of the power of God.

In fact, everything about this trip just drew my attention to God over and over again. All the weeks leading up to it, whenever I’d start fretting, I got to practice turning it all over to Him, utterly and completely. For example, there was the problem of where to find an umbrella in the midst of June, when there is rarely a cloud in the sky, let alone rain. In fact we’d hardly had any measurable rain since February. Nor did I have a lot of time to go driving around from place to place. So I took it to the Lord. You handle it, Father.

Not long after that, I had to go to CVS to get my eye-drop prescription refilled and while I waited I wandered about the store. Well, I’d barely begun when I “happened” upon the umbrella and the poncho both. Right there together, and costing a lot less than everything I’d looked at online at Target and Wal-Mart. The woman who checked me out looked at the umbrella and poncho and commented that I must be going to a rainy place. Well, certainly a place with more potential for rain than we have here right now.

Anyway, the last thing I expected was to have to walk to the Baker Dinner in a thunderstorm. But I did, and it worked out fine. (In the picture above, the hotel I had to walk to was just to the left of the Arch, out of sight behind the immediate buildings. There is a small park between the two hotels, from which to view the arch situated on a hill some ways beyond the downtown area, though it looks much closer than that.)

Second Real Day Back

events stack

Well, finally, after all the catch-up I played last week after our trip, I’ve gotten back to work. It was a productive day!

When I started, though,  as I looked at the three hundred or so  2″ x 3″  cards scattering my desk, I felt quite overwhelmed. Over time I’d used them to note down ideas as they had occurred to me — ideas about character, about incidents or events that might happen, about a character’s intentions or desires or reactions… each to its own card, but the cards all in a jumble. All waiting to be put into some kind of coherent plotline.

Augh! How was I going to do this? It was all swirling around —  random events and occurences that seemed to have no relation to one another. I needed, so I thought, to form some kind of plot line, but I felt lost in a fog of indecision.

So I went to the Lord, which I’m doing a lot more now than I have in the past — about almost everything.

“What should I do?” I asked Him, wanting to run away from it all yet again…

Well, He drew my attention to the fact that I have three placemats on my desk and enough space for another, though I don’t have one.  That’s more or less 4 sections. I could at least divide up the stack into general sections…

So I took up my stack of “event” cards (above)

And began to go through them one by one… placing some of them on the “beginning” placemat, some on the “ending” space and  just parceling out the rest of them as seemed fit, more or less where I thought they would fit in the story. Some events were predicated on others, some had to come after others… Sometimes I had two cards with different options for the same event, mutually exclusive. Sometimes I had two cards with slightly different takes on the event, or different details or trappings for it.  I just laid them all down, some in rows, some on top of other cards, some bridging two rows. Some of them I even put between the placemats when I wasn’t sure.

It was kinda fun, because I didn’t have to decide, just generally divide up the cards. Some of them I even threw away. And it was something of a comfort to find that for several of the events I’d envisioned, I’d made two, three even four cards with the same event on it.

Once I had them all parcelled out, I divided them into four piles, which I gathered together in a rough approximation of the order they’d been placed on the table.

The operative word here is “rough.”  I was not demanding that I be precise and orderly, it was just to be a general dividing of the concepts.

parts 2 - 4 small

Above you can see parts 2 -4 all gathered up and secured with rubber bands.

Where is part 1?  Well, once I’d gotten all four of my stacks divided, I took up Part one and began to lay out those cards in terms of cause and effect, order, etc.:

cards part 1

And having done that I have the beginnings of a line of events to work with. Nothing finished by any means but a start. There are lots of holes, and some of them are just ideas that need fleshing out. Some — those either/or cards — require a decision to be made one way or the other.

But that’s all tomorrow’s work. Oh, and I’m still loving my Freedom program, which I blogged about awhile back. That and turning off the phones, continues to give me what feels like a safehaven in which to relax and focus on the work… Plus something about the suspension of being available for contact motivates me to use the time to advantage rather than simply dink around.

Eating an Elephant

eat an elephant

I’m sure most of you know the old adage, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. ” Well, my next step in my writing rehab program, as outlined in my Overcoming Writing Blocks book, was just that.

Having dealt with the distractions in my environment, I moved on last week to the writing project itself.  First up was to break the task into “bite-sized units.”  For a novel,  that would be chapters or possibly “Parts,” though so far I have not been thinking of this book in  terms of “Parts.” For now I took the average of the number of chapters in each of my six books — 42 — as the number of chapters in Sky.

I’ve already written six of them, which  leaves 36. At a rate of 2 chapters per 3 weeks,  with time out here and there for holidays and trips, I would be done with a first draft around May 1 of next year.

Whether that has any tie to reality or not, I have no idea. But it’s a start.

Next was to come up with a “Purpose Statement.” For fiction writing that would be one’s main story question for the tale. In working through developing this,  many things came to light about the world I’m building and this plus the next step “research reading and taking notes” (which I take to also include work in developing the parameters of one’s make-believe world) sent me off for most of last week gathering all my scattered notes and ideas into folders with the intention of going through the collected material and deciding what I want to keep and what I want to toss.

In the process of all this I realized that I am no longer interested in the linear set-up of a single empire beneath my fictional planet’s surface with the heavenly city floating above as I had originally envisioned. There have to be various nations to carry out what I’m wanting to do,  and in fact in the chapters I’ve already written there are already at least two other national entities mentioned. So I see that this concept was there all along, despite my initial plans.

I’ve been taking all my note cards and entering the notes on them into one of my many world building documents, or if I’ve decided not to use that material, simply throwing it away. It’s been very productive work. Not when it comes to chapters written, but as regards the fundamental shift the story is now taking. Once an optimum number of the world building questions have been answered, I’ll be able to turn my attention to the plot…

The fact that I’m making this fairly major change, in addition to much new material I’ve gathered from miscellaneous reading, news events and my own increasing understanding of some of the spiritual issues I was wanting to deal with, I’m beginning to see there might have been a reason for my stall over the last few months… years? … that goes beyond mere burn out, life distractions, or lack of self-discipline…

The Winds Have Changed

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted regularly. In fact, except for last Friday’s post, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted at all. So much for all that Platform stuff from last summer about posting regularly and often…

I don’t know what happened. My desire to write just dribbled away… Other things claimed my time and attention. When I considered the book, the blog, even email, I was blank and utterly without motivation. First time in my life that I’ve felt like that.

Or so I thought.

Of course I’ve prayed about it. Repeatedly. What is wrong with me, Lord? Has the fire gone out? Am I not getting enough sleep, or just being undisciplined? Should I relax and trust You to move me when it’s time? Or is there something more I can do?

It’s been a very strange two and half months. No, it’s been longer than that, especially when I take my progress on Sky into account… which, until last week, was not much progress at all.

So, for a time now, I’ve been reading stuff — books, blogs, news — and making cards, and cleaning the house and working on long-put-off projects and dealing with Stuff… can’t clearly remember all of it. Church stuff, taxes, ailing relatives, shingles, stuff going wrong, breaking, getting lost… a leak in the water line from the main to the house…  not getting enough sleep, drinking too much caffeine (which means any caffeine at all), beset by the terrible distractibility I’ve written about in previous posts…

But then, at the beginning of May something happened.  I’d just finished and sent off the guest post I wrote for Seriously Write and “for some reason” says my journal entry, “I picked up Overcoming Writing Blocks.”

blocks

It’s on the shelf above my desk. I’ve had it for 30 years. I’ve read it and reread it and read it again. I’ve underlined passage after passage, starred portions in the margins… even blogged about here  and several other places…  In the past few months, while wondering if I was blocked I’d look at it on its shelf and think it would be no help. After all, I’d read it. Repeatedly. I already knew everything that was in it…

But on the first of May, for some reason I picked it up again, and was… SIGH… again “amazed to find,” in the section on Preparing to Write,  not only a description of what I’ve been enduring, but also some new and slightly different insights I’d not considered before.

One of the new and slightly different insights was this:

This is the training and gestation stage of any writing task. You know what you have to do and you must prepare yourself properly for it…you need to develop basic fitness habits that will get you in shape for prose composition.”

That’s true, I thought. If you just go out and try to start a daily running regimen, it’s not going to work. You have to work up to it, you develop some basic habits…

The precise description of what I’ve been going through recently, is exactly what I’ve gone through in the past, repeatedly, and you’d think that I’d remember that but for some reason… this time it all seemed New and Different and Far Harder and More Hopeless than ever before.

I believe the Bible when it says we have sick heads and deceitful hearts… How can I be so thick-headed?

Well, here’s the recap of the description of blocking at the preparing to write stage:

  • restless, anxious procrastination
  • can think of 1000 things you’d rather do
  • when you finally force yourself to sit down — dozens of extraneous but apparently urgent thoughts bubble up
  • when finally do get yourself to concentrate, all you get is dull blankness. There’s no excitement, no inspiration about the project. It leaves a flat, sour taste in your mouth.

YES! YES! YES! That is exactly how I felt! EXACTLY!

I thought this was all new. That I’d never experienced it before. At least “not like this”. Ha!  It was a great comfort to know it was not new, that I had experienced it and though I thought I already knew what was in this book and all the advice it had to give, maybe I should give it another look…

At least the Preparing to Write section, anyway. First up was”Managing your Environment.”  But I’ll save that for tomorrow.