So what have I been doing besides viewing cute baby elephant videos, going to the zoo breakfasts in support/celebration of said baby elephant, and then making multiple return trips to the zoo to see her? Well, one thing is that I went back to “school.” In fact, I even wrote a blog post about my decision and how it was all going when I was about a week into it.
That post, written August 3, 2014 but never proofed, has languished as a mere draft in my posts folder for these last four months as I worked through part of the class, then stopped to switch back to Sky. And, lest you get the wrong idea, I didn’t stop because of deficiencies in the class, but rather because it worked!
This week I decided to go back and the post ready to share, so here it is:
Back to School
Yes, it’s true. I’ve gone back to school, but I’ve done so without leaving my office. Actually I started a week ago, when I signed up for an online writing course taught by award-winning Canadian short story writer Sarah Selecky, who also happens to be a writing instructor.
It all started when I was considering going on a retreat — anything to get myself past the rather extreme blocking I’ve been experiencing with Sky. I thought maybe if I could just get away from all the distractions and focus, that it would help. There’s a place here in Tucson that I could go to, but all I’d have is a room with a bed. No desk. They’d provide meals, but with our 100+ degree temps it would be too hot to walk about the grounds, so I’d be stuck in the little room and I just didn’t know how helpful that would be.
Well, in the course of going online to research other retreats, retreats away, retreats at home, mini retreats, I stumbled upon a report by a woman who was on retreat — house sitting for friends in a beautiful place in the country for two months — in hopes of making some progress on her current book. Alas, she spent nearly the entire time NOT writing. Instead she watched DVD’s of a TV series, knitted a cap and scarf, went canoeing alone, watched woodpeckers at the feeder and generally just rested. (You can read it here.)
Then, about five days before she was to return home, she finally turned to the book she’d meant to work on. I loved her descriptions, and her observations about writing and resting really resonated. Of course it was Sarah Selecky, and one thing led to another. The next thing you know I’d found her writing instruction site, and signed up for both her twice-a-month email “letters” on some aspect of writing fiction, and her daily writing prompts sent straight to my inbox. I immediately began using the latter as a warm up for my daily stint of work on Sky.
The letters all linked back to other letters at the main webpage where I compulsively read one after the other, printing up the ones I found most helpful. Before I knew it, I had a notebook full of printouts, which were underlined and starred and had been read repeatedly. Some titles are “Six ways to look at an abandoned story,” “White Space,” “Don’t try to make it symbolic,” “Is it good or bad?” “Be Grateful for your crazy, active mind,” “Deliberate Practice: What it is and Why you need it,” and quite a few more.
She said so many things that helped, that reassured, that clarified, that pointed me back in the right direction! I kept expecting the next letter to disappoint, but it never did. Eventually, of course I had to check out the info on her class, Story is a State of Mind. And right at the beginning some of the things she said about what the course would do spoke exactly to where I was:
“Do you resist writing? You can train yourself to write anyway…(SSM) is a different kind of writing course. It trains you to work with uncertainty… learn to work with your creative mind, not against it…”
It sounded wonderful. But… she’s a literary short story writer. I have written short stories, but I consider myself more of a novelist. I have never really cared for the literary genre. Plus, I’ve been writing for 40+ years… so it doesn’t seem like I should need a class… but that last bit is just arrogance speaking. Maybe I have been writing for 40 years, but I’m not doing much of a job at it now. Maybe taking a class and getting a new perspective would be just the thing.
So I prayed, and printed up everything on the classes, and read all the reviews, which are many, and glowing, and again spoke to the very areas I am/was struggling with. I prayed some more, and agonized a bit, because though reasonably priced, it’s not free… and what if it turned out to be a disappointment? And all that stuff we tell ourselves when we’re afraid to try something new…
So I prayed some more and then God had an evangelist friend, Scott Grande of Christ Saves Ministries, send out a newsletter in a timing that was absolutely impeccable. I opened it and here were some of the phrases that leapt off the page:
“Stepping out of the Box”
“If you are stuck in your spiritual routine and maybe rigid in your application of Bible doctrine, maybe you need to step out by faith; and if you err, err on the side of grace. God has your back, so long as your motivation is good”.
“Are you stunting an avenue God wants you to take? Do you think the Spirit works in only methodical and predictable ways, where we get to stay “in control”?”
“Many hold to certain things because they don’t want to step out of their comfort zone, even though the Spirit is leading them there! … Be open to what the Spirit is showing you. It is most likely not what you thought it would be.”
That was so precise, so tailored to answer precisely the things I’d been thinking, the objections I’d been marshaling that I knew it was the Lord. And shortly after that I signed up.
A week later, I can say I have NOT been disappointed! It’s been exactly what I’ve needed to get back on track.
December 7, 2014 I put the class on hold about a month later, but despite my early and temporary “abandonment,” I fully intend to get back to the class when I’ve gotten a bit more work done on Sky, and the holidays are over. That’s one of the beauties of it: it’s completely self-directed, and in fact downloadable, so I have all the videos and materials on my computer, waiting for me to get back them when the time is right…