Writers have a common denominator – we write. (At least, we hope so!) But the way we write, the hows and the whens, can vary greatly. There will be many of us who, on getting together, find ourselves in understanding company – where we keep saying, ‘Really? You too? That makes me feel so much better!’ But equally we can come across those who make us feel somewhat ‘lesser’, or a little bit odd, perhaps not a ‘proper’ writer because we don’t do things a certain way.
Writer, know thyself. (And by the way, thyself is allowed to be different from that lot over there.)
One writer, chatting to me at the recent ACW writers’ day, expressed her anxiety over those who implied that there is a ‘best way of doing things’ – a ‘right way to write’, as it were – those who swear by writing a certain amount each day, keeping to a very specific routine. I said to her, as I have come to believe – we are all different; we all work in different ways; what releases one into productivity can imprison another into the stalemate of feeling guilty that they just can’t do that. I also mentioned that thinking time still counts as writing time. I read somewhere not long ago something which said something about ‘staring out the window’ meaning that a writer is working – it annoys me I can’t recall who said it, but I quite agree. I brew, I percolate. There has to be a thought which leads to the word.
(As well as the stage of writing and the personality of the writer, the method also depends, I think, on the genre you’re writing. Fiction or non-fiction? I would approach them differently.)
Of course, for those of us who have deadlines, commissions, contracts, there does need to be that ‘push-on-through-even-when-it-hurts’ on occasion – or, perhaps, even most occasions. That’s true for me – I do have moments of delight, elation, when the words fall off my fingers giggling at their own appropriateness – but there’s an awful lot of dragging them out, grumbling at their inadequacy. And then there is the long, wearisome job of trying to shape them into something a wee bit more adequate by that particular date on the calendar.
Why? I could ask. Why do I do this? Because I love it? (When I’m groaning aloud, desperate to do anything but this?) Because I was made for this? (A delightful thought, but does it sound pompous? And again, ow, this is so hard it hurts.)
And yet – at my depths I do love it, in the more realistic, gritty way of loving which requires commitment, is less starry-eyed and can be prone to grumble on occasion. And it has felt important that I do this, even if right now I feel idiotic and useless at it. In some subtle but profound way, God speaks to me when I write. The writing itself may not be for public consumption, nor particularly beautiful, but the act of doing it puts me in a place of listening; it opens me to new possibilities.
Motivation matters. The nature of it matters. When things feel at their most dull, when it all feels like drudgery, we need something deeper than surface stuff. We need a meaningful reason, a spark underneath it all. A strong root to help the tree grow well.
And that leads me onto the topic of my new book, Undivided Heart, which is out this week. This week! Now!
As my More Than Writers slot falls naturally into the period of the Undivided Heart blog tour, forgive me for dwelling on it for a moment. Undivided Heart explores what makes us who we are and where we find our identity, why we do what we do, where we find meaning and motivation. As usual, rather than skipping in the shallows I plunge right into the depths of questions of existence, meaning, suffering and hope.
I’m not claiming to be able to answer them, just respond and reflect on them. Words are limited. They won’t be adequate, but I hope that God, who was kind enough to whisper to me as I wrote, might whisper to my readers, too.
There are things I try to say that may not come across; my writing art is not quite up to scratch yet. There will be thoughts I hold out to my readers and ask, ‘do you understand?’. Some will say ‘YES!’ Equally there will be others who pull frowny, puzzled faces and say, ‘I don’t get it. What’s her point?’ They may criticise, patronise, try to turn my words into something quite alien to my meaning.
We writers have to take that risk, don’t we? And I now have to untether myself from this book, to somehow learn to love it and carry it with me as a separate entity, a testament to my recent journey. All the angst I felt in writing it – I need to detach myself from that a little, for this next stage.
I need to remember the reason, the purpose, the motivation for my journey.
What was it? A longing for God.
That, for me, is deep motivation.
Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 (DLT). Undivided Heart: finding meaning and motivation in Christ is OUT NOW!
Lucy writes articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is Editorial Co-ordinator at magnet magazine. www.lucy-mills.com
Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills