ACW

ACW

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Choosing our words


Target readership is a phrase often used by those giving writing advice. Who are you writing for? Who am I writing for?

In this instance I am writing for the regular readers of the More than Writers blog and anyone I can entice to read this post by sharing it on Twitter and Facebook. If, when you have read it, you would be so kind as to share it with your own friends and followers that would make my day!

Almost all of us use words in speech and those of us who write use them on paper or on a screen. We may read them back in print. In speech, we may not realise how we choose our words to communicate with the person or people we are speaking to. It is perhaps second nature to use words, which we expect those present to understand. The words we speak to children are likely to be different from the vocabulary in a conversation with a theologian or a university professor. When we write anything for others to read it is particularly important to choose the right words. We are not likely to be present to clear up any possible misunderstandings as can be done in good conversations.

English is a language where many words have more than one meaning. The intended meaning has to be inferred from the context. When writing about Christianity, it is perhaps even more important to consider one’s target readership. The vocabulary used by theologians is not the same as that of the majority of people.

I enjoy playing around with words. (One of my interests is collecting words which sound the same, but have different spellings: homophones. Spot the example below!)

Sometimes I forget what I have jotted down in one of my notebooks and make a surprise discovery. I found the first draft of the piece of writing below when I was looking for something else.

It was a bit of fun to pick words with more than one meaning (homonyms) and construct sentences around them.

I hope you don’t consider me vain to post this. Perhaps you can write something in a similar vein.

Context is Everything

When they went to the seal colony
It gained their seal of approval;
They rubber-stamped it.
They stuck a stamp on a postcard.
It didn’t need to be sealed in an envelope.
The recipient filed it in a cardboard box.
As she sat filing her nails,
Her husband was using a hammer and nails.
He was making a wooden plant-pot holder.
There was a pot-holder in the kitchen
For picking up hot pans
And a pick-up truck outside.
To pick up a pick-up truck
You’d require a large crane.
They watched a crane fly overhead.
It was much bigger than a crane-fly.
Although its daddy also had long legs,
It wasn’t a daddy-long-legs.
Would it be mean to ask what these words mean…
…Or would it be average?

 
A wooden plant-pot holder

 (I assumed that the reader would know a crane-fly is also known as a daddy-long-legs.)


Susan's Gravatar
Susan always wanted to be a writer.  In 2012 she revived her interest in writing with a project to collect the kinds of sayings, which were much used in her childhood.
Blogging was intended as a way of improving writing skills, but has become an interest in its own right.  Susan experiments with factual writing, fiction, humour and poetry.  She does not yet have a book to her name. Her interests include words, languages, music, knitting and crochet.  She has experience of the world of work, being a stay-at-home mum and an empty-nester.   She is active in her local community and Church, where she sings alto in the choir. She and her husband live in the north of England
Follow her on Twitter @suesconsideredt

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Through A Glass Darkly

Predictions can be awkward, especially with technology, but I'm going to stick my neck out and make a few predictions for 2019.

MS Office will become less popular

Let's start with a biggie. Google Suite is making inroads into many companies who are fed up with Microsoft and it's pricing structure. Not only that, there are long lived 'features' that are causing problems. One such 'feature' is in Outlook, where, under certain cirmstances you cannot search your emails. If, like some employees of the company I work for, you have thousands, this is a problem. The fact that the issue has been known for over a decade and has not been fixed is not a positive for Microsoft.

Alongside that, there are other office suites that are making inroads in the people's homes such as Openoffice and Libreoffice, while its business application, Staroffice, is gaining ground slowly.

The added advantage of these pieces of office software is that they can run on Linux, which leads me into.......

Linux will become more popular

You've probably heard of Linux, and also that it's for nerds. Not any more. You can get Linux ready machines from the internet. It's not as easy to use as windows 7, but is easier to use than Windows 8 and 10.

What you may not know is that the majority of servers on the internet run Linux as the operating system. This blog is most likely run off a server using Linux. Even within companies many, if not most, of the servers will run Linux. And they'll host Microsoft programs.

The tipping point has yet to be reached, mostly due PC gaming still being very popular, and it could be argued that it's PC games that are keeping Windows in the lead. Once games become more widely available on Linux (and that is happening), we may see Windows being eclipsed.

Internet Explorer/Edge will be frozen out

When I was writing my own blog on a regular basis I would look at the stats. One of the things I looked for was the browser that people used. Over time the number of people using Internet Explorer declined while other browsers, notably Firefox, gained traction. By the end of last year, IE was less than a third.

Given the relative ease of use of other browsers this will continue. By the end of 2019 it may well fall below 25% of internet browsing being done by IE, despite its relaunch as Edge. It may even go the way of Netscape Navigator.

Ebooks have plateaued

It was going to happen and it has. As convenient as ebooks are, they cannot replace the feel and smell of a book, nor do books need formatting on a special device that cannot read other formats.

What may happen this year is a different device will become popular that can read any style of ebook and even display PDFs properly. Tablets are already able to do this, as are smartphones. However, tablet sales have stalled and are not promoted as a Kindle replacement (the dominant format), while smartphone screens are not suitable for extended periods of time.

There's is also the issue of the tablet screen which does cause eye problems if over used, something that doesn't happen with an ereader due to the electronics behind it. It's not an insurmountable problem, and we could well see a development this year.

There we have it. Four predictions that may or may not come true.



Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Impact

Do you wonder what impact your writing has on others?

I mostly consider impact from the other side. That is I know my theme, what impact I’d like my piece to have and focus on selecting words I think will best achieve that.

What impact will your work have on readers?  Pixabay image
What is lovely is when readers give you feedback and you can judge if the impact you thought your piece would have did so.  If you wonder about commenting on a post but don't, think again! Comments are noted.


Feedback isn't always positive (alas!) but seek to learn something from it.  Pixabay image.
Even negative feedback can be useful if you use it to gauge whether your critic missed the point of what you were trying to say or you didn't make the impact you thought.

Look for positive impact where possible.  Pixabay image.
How do you create impact? Look for the strongest words for description. No "he wore grey" here. Go for "his suit was the same colour as my cheapest cutlery". You use a few more words but the imagery, and resulting impact, is more powerful. I don't need to say the guy here is unlikely to be getting his suits from Savile Row. That is implied by "cheapest".

Use strong words for descriptions.  Using strong questions can  help you get to what you want to convey.  Pixabay image
In thinking about impact ahead of writing a piece, you’re also trying to engage with potential readers from the outset. This is great because you’ll be less likely to go off at tangents which add nothing to your piece.  (It is easily done!). That saves editing time! I must always cut so anything helping me edit more efficiently is welcomed!

Now this IS what I call making an impact!  Pixabay image
For bloggers, feedback doesn't always come when you think it will. Sometimes it won't come at all! But that doesn't mean your words lack impact. All it means is you don't know about it. Frustrating though that is, if you enjoy blogging, carry on for that reason alone. I've also found as I blog, ideas for posts (and sometimes stories) pop into mind. By writing you are feeding your creative spirit.

Feedback doesn't always come when you think it will.  Pixabay image
Look at why you want your piece to have the impact you've chosen. Are those reasons good enough? Do they match the brief of your story competition or article theme the editor has called for?

Naturally we want the impact of our work on an editor to be "Wow! Got to take that.". It is a question of accepting the need to polish your work and knowing sometimes the piece will make the cut. Sometimes it won't but there's nothing to stop you revisiting that piece and submitting it elsewhere assuming your topic or story is relevant to the market in mind.

Polishing your work is hard work!  Pixabay image
Think about impact on you as a writer. If rejections are getting you down (and they do for everyone), harness the support of writer friends.  This is where they come into their own.  In time, they’ll appreciate your support during their difficult periods.

Every writer has their share of turn downs. They don't necessarily stop when you are published.

We rightly talk about the writing life as a journey. Let's make its impact on us and those around us as positive as possible.






Monday, 28 January 2019

‘Nibbler' by Trevor Thorn

Recently I needed professional help to migrate everything on my ten year old laptop to a new one. Fortunately, after a bit of local searching, I found someone who would come to my home and work together on the changeover. (As a guide, he charged £30 an hour which felt very good value to one who just knew that trying it myself would be bound to lead to all manner of discomfort, possibly for several weeks on end: it cost just over £100).

During the time here, it was necessary to wait for some of the changeover which gave me an opportunity to ask for any helpful suggestions about improving my blog. On the assumption that a fair number of readers of this site will be blogging, I pass on the most significant piece of help he gave.

He called up a site called ‘Nibbler’. This is a free service and assesses any website on a host of fronts.

Some of the suggestions are simple to follow; others are a bit more on the geeky side but the result which takes maybe a minute to generate is amazingly comprehensive. So, for example, my blog The Cross and The Cosmos gets 8.8 out of 10 on page content: the average on the tested pages being 527 words and the recommendation being ‘Consider the amount of text on the website and increase it if appropriate’ (sic). Apparently search engines respond better to texts headed up towards 1000 words. So there’s a simple target to aim for (hopefully without resorting to too much padding!). Even if I don’t make that recommendation on this short post.

So there it is. I had never encountered this service and I’m sure there are others but in terms of gradually building an improved blog, this seems a very helpful start point

Sunday, 27 January 2019

A Beautiful Thing by Tracy Williamson


I would love it to be said of me that I'd lived a beautiful life.
That I'd allowed His love to melt my heart, to live and love for Him.
That He be my goal, my life, my love,  and my significance.
What is my significance?
What is yours?
Sometimes I long to 'make it' as a writer, to say that my work has been accepted, that I have a contract to sign...But although such things do bring joy, it doesn't last.
It fizzes and bubbles and is gone.
Maybe you too struggle with a sense of insignificance and feel that the things you do or say are like drops in the ocean?  What difference will it make in the big scheme of things if I write that blog or shelve it?  Share what's on my heart or let it die? Reach out to someone I know is struggling or let someone else better qualified than me get on with it?
I find that inner voice of insignificance paralysing at times and looking back I can see so many instances of when I've held back from doing something that was on my heart because deep down I am believing a lie that I am insignificant and my efforts won't be of any lasting worth. 
I was touched deep in that inner place of self rejection today as I read the story of the woman who broke her alabaster jar of perfume and poured it over Jesus head (Mark 14:3 - 9).
Like me she had made mistakes.
Like me she was surrounded by negative voices.
Like me she wanted to give Jesus something precious to express her love and deep gratitude.
How did she take that step?
I sensed the Lord whispering to me:  'she acted from her heart.  She knew that she would be judged and her motives scrutinised.  But she followed her heart.  She had been moved as she heard the stories of what I was doing. Her motivation was to say thank you.  I loved that and I described what she'd done as a beautiful thing and said it would never be forgotten.'
And of course it never has been forgotten as we are thinking about it now, in this blog!
Her action took on great and lasting significance because it was from the heart.
Acting from her heart she gave the most precious thing she had,
to Jesus.
She wasn't wondering if this would be classed as an achievement or would make her look more spiritual.
She just wanted to love Jesus while she had the chance.
And He received her love and was deeply blessed.
The story doesn't record her reaction to Jesus, but I know my own. I feel overcome and full of an almost painful joy at the thought that my efforts to love and to offer Him my broken gifts will touch His heart and cause Him to declare that I've done a beautiful thing!
So what can I give Him?
My heart not just my gifts.
And I want to write from my heart as an expression of my love and thanks
not as a means of getting on.
I want to give my all and to follow every opportunity to act, to give, to write, to love
to know that even when I don't understand why,
that my gifts when offered this way,
Will be beautiful
to Him.

Tracy Williamson who is deaf and partially sighted, shares a home in Kent with her friend and ministry partner Marilyn Baker.  Tracy who is an author and speaker loves reading, writing, eating and dogs! Find out more about Tracy and Marilyn's music and teaching ministry at www.mbm-ministries.org

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Silence and prayer, by Eve Lockett



Sister Wendy Beckett, the ‘art nun’, was born in South Africa in 1930 and died on Boxing Day. She lived as a hermit, attached to a Carmelite Monastery in Norfolk, and wrote around thirty books. In the 1990s Sister Wendy quickly became famous through a series of TV programmes on art. Her audience made up 25 percent of TV viewers. 
Sister Wendy’s character was a significant part of her story. The Arena programme about her portrayed someone who found human company difficult. Under the tutelage of JRR Tolkien, she was awarded a congratulatory first at Oxford, which means the examiners chose only to applaud, not to critique her work. Twenty years later, a series of breakdowns in her health ended her teaching career, and she was allowed to become a hermit which was the desire of her heart.
Today it is hoped we have a deeper understanding of those who find relationships and empathy difficult. Instead, Sister Wendy spoke of herself as having a ‘cold heart’, and as a child had no idea how to behave socially with friends. She had to find her own path to serving God and being herself. She chose a life of prayer, rising at midnight and praying through the night in the seclusion of her caravan and attending convent chapel services every day, tucked away in the belfry away from the other sisters. 
When she was before the camera, she was in a sense still in solitude and still at prayer. She would speak only after a period of contemplation, never use notes or an autocue, and her words were so simple and direct that the meaning was never lost. She was known as ‘one-take Beckett’ because she was always word perfect.
Sister Wendy’s writing style was similar, in that she would contemplate and then dictate her words to her priest, who helped her in her projects. He said that there was seldom need for editing or revising her words. Of course this is unusual, and not to be recommended as a way of writing: it is idiosyncratic, and perhaps even formulaic.  But Sister Wendy did not pretend to be able to be anyone but herself. And as herself she was hugely influential.
We, too, need to be ourselves, but we also need to learn from each other. And what I pick up from Sister Wendy is this intriguing connection between silence and prayer and our speaking and writing. Do we despair of getting words out, or getting into the flow? What if we followed Sister Wendy’s example, and began with quiet contemplation, preparing ourselves along with our thoughts and words? I know I have written before about the connection between silence and writing, so I will admit it is something that touches me. And I’m re-using a quote by Henri Nouwen from The Way of the Heart:
 Words can only create communion and thus new life when they embody the silence from which they emerge.
Sister Wendy’s life is an encouragement that each of us, however we are situated, whatever our personality, can bring glory to God, and the light of Christ can shine through us into the world.

Friday, 25 January 2019

My First NaNoWriMo - by Eileen Padmore


October was frantic but I managed a quick first look at NaNo on the 30th.  Help!  So many writers way ahead in the preparation stakes: planning, scheming, writing out neat chapter structure cards.  I was coming at it with a blank computer screen (and head).  Best jump in for a dummy run now then do it properly next year.  No pressure, no word targets I decided.

Title?  Nothing!  An empty mind to match the virgin page – signed into with a pseudonym so nobody could witness me making a fool of myself.  I chose the title of a recent blog that had been popular, then hit genre – difficult when you 
don’t know what to write about.  Exploring ‘chat rooms’ and ‘genre lounges’ opened up options.  Would it be ‘Fantasy’, ‘Literary’ or  Satire, Humour and Parody?’  Humour always seems to find a way into whatever I write, but I opted for fantasy. It offered more scope. 

Badges next: one for posting in a forum, another for donating – which placed a satisfying halo around my intentionally out of focus profile picture.  These offered quick fixes, encouraging me into the ‘fantasy lounge’.

Fascinating but scary.  I seemed to be the only person who wasn’t sure I should be there.  Page upon page of clever discussion shouted at me, dark and esoteric:  ‘It sounds like your earth magic controls uniquely terrestrial aspects like biological and geological aspects', then reference to ‘space-being conduits’, and, ‘book smart and street smart’.  Could this possibly be the right genre for me? Should I have done a course first?  Too late!

ACW members discovered me drowning, buddied up, and I was off in good company, committed to writing at least 1667 words a day.  It was coming – I was keeping up!  Never mind the brick wall on day three, next morning it was back on with ideas that came too fast for fingers. Early on, the genre morphed into christian fantasy as my faith refused to stay quiet.

Writing to a pre-ordained word count was a new discipline.  By day ten my, ‘but I don’t do fiction’ mantra was in the bin.  I was doing it.  It might never be read or published but I was hooked and having fun!  The early cardboard characters started coming to life on their own.  One developed a marriage breakdown, another a disability.  This wasn’t fantasy world of course, but my animals were providing plenty of that.  Now what name did I give Fox in chapter three and had I just transgendered the cat?  More to the point, back in the real world, had I really almost gone through those traffic lights on red? 

Family tragedy hit on day twenty when my nonagenarian mother fractured her pelvis and was admitted.  This removed peace of mind and sleep in one go.  The discipline of writing helped, as did my siblings.  Quality suffered.  There was no longer time for basic editing. 

But I arrived – ahead of time, bagging certificate and T shirt.  NaNo2018 winner!  Feels good.  





Eileen Padmore has retired from a life spent in health care and academia, having worked in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Eire and Northern Ireland (in the troubles) as well as inner city Birmingham and Leeds.  She has had articles published in Woman Alive, Christian Writer and contributed to the popular ACW Lent Book.  Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and a large African tortoise.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

Thinking about the ACW blog


In her recent email, Wendy made a good point: the blog has slipped into being more of a ‘Christian’ blog than a blog about writing, by and for people who self-identify as Christians, reflecting a Christian world view. Maybe it’s a lot easier to discuss one’s faith than to discuss writing, given all the other writing blogs that are out on the web. We all know those blogs which try to teach other writers the craft, some addressing beginners and others suggesting new things to try. It sometimes seems as if writers would rather tell other writers how to do it than to buckle down to doing it themselves! Our discussion of writing needs to be done in a new and as yet not overdone way while also coming at the topic from a distinctively Christian angle.

And is this a spiritual angle, a theological angle, a moral angle, a traditionalist angle, or what? Or is it more like something concocted from a special language and terminology designed for the consumption of Christian insiders? This is a real and relevant question to ask of something written from a particular viewpoint, whether that of Christianity, another religion, a political stance, or a particular profession or industry.

Obviously how language is used is the most important element of writing. All special interest groups have created for themselves a specialist language, or rather a species of jargon. For example, the language of corporate life has taken on many metaphorical uses from sport, such as the ‘ballpark figure’ or the ‘level playing field’, or the labelling of people as ‘players’ or ‘stakeholders’. We all know and use such waffly expressions as ‘a raft of’ or ‘skyrocketing’. In Christianity there are also many terms which began in a very different context from their current popular use, phrases Biblical and non-Biblical.

There are, for example, terms whose meaning in the original historical setting is no longer active, such as Jesus’s titles of ‘Lord’ or ‘King’. As Christians we may be quite happy to sing the line ‘hallelujah, Jesus is our King!’  However in a world where there are few kings, and where many would regard kings negatively as absolute rulers or see the concept of king as outdated, is describing Jesus as our king necessarily the best way to communicate his status?

A closed door for some readers?
The case of ‘Lord’ is also challenging. When the church was new, the only person who could be referred to as Lord was the Roman Emperor. So to call Jesus Lord was to make a revolutionary statement which amounted to treason against the Empire. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a bold statement not lightly made. But now, to those outside the church ‘Lord’ is largely an outdated title associated with the aristocracy or with people who have been awarded a peerage for services to the country.

Arguably, the way the early church used titles is 2000 years out of date. But as insiders we continue to use them while secular outsiders find them meaningless or confusing.

Another phrase which may appear in a blog which has slipped over to dealing with the Christian life, is ‘Child of God’, used by the blogger of herself or himself. This is a powerful concept based on the relationship of a father to a daughter or son, irrespective of the person’s age. It conveys confidence in our relationship with God. But the New Testament writers also use ‘child’ to refer to an immature stage when recent converts may need to be fed on the spiritual equivalent of milk, which we are urged to leave behind. There is a strong possibility that readers (Christian or secular) unfamiliar with the first image may get the impression that the person using the expression sees herself or himself as a child in the second sense, permanently stuck in immaturity.

It is not that these words or phrases are wrong in themselves but that they do not give a clear picture of what Christians are talking about.

Perhaps our blog has slipped towards being one about the Christian life and experience because some people have without realising it been drawn away from the subject of writing by the need to express the reality of their spiritual lives.  As a reaction to this, others have begun to lean the other way, drawing the attention of readers to the world outside ourselves and its problems. This dichotomy has begun to take precedence over the simple fact of our being writers, who write with a Christian viewpoint. The blog could indeed benefit as we collectively become clearer about whether we are primarily Christians or primarily writers, and how the two become one in the phrase ‘Christian writer’.

Edmund and Clare Weiner

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

It's supposed to be fun, you know - by Helen Murray

Well, it's been difficult for a while. These seem to be turbulent years for me, and somehow, writing has taken a back seat. At least, I think he's still in the back seat; I haven't turned around and looked lately. My eyes have been firmly fixed on the bumpy, twisty road ahead. Maybe he climbed out at a junction some time ago and actually isn't there any more. I haven't missed him.

I remember years ago when I first started my blog, began the first draft of my no-doubt-soon-to-be bestselling novel, bought myself a copy of The Writers' And Artists' Yearbook and churned out post after post about anything and everything; my mind was overflowing with ideas and inspiration and the world was full of possibilities and promise. Then life took over. Lots of stuff, lots of challenges, problems, difficulties; lots of priority-shifting and introspection.

And now I find myself once again in January and people have been talking about that oppressive 'blank canvas' of a new year; that awful blank piece of paper. Is this my year? The year that I get fit? Lose weight? Finish that book? I don't know, and I haven't the energy to consider it, much less make it happen. I'm changing gear - out of 'Drive' and into 'Park'.

My One Word for this year is 'Wait'. I don't know why; the word chose me, as all the best words do.

I'm going to wait for God.

"Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:14

I'm going to sit tight and wait for Him. I'm going to pause, rest, reflect, take stock, be patient, contemplate, renew my strength. I'm going to put the emphasis on being, not doing. I'm going to pray for eyes to see and ears to hear what God is saying and doing, and then I'm going to ask Him if I can join in.

That's the plan.

It's not passive waiting, though. I am still expectant and hopeful. There's been a spark of light.

My Writers' And Artists' Yearbook might be well out of date, but I haven't given it to a charity shop yet. My novel is in a folder somewhere. My blog is still there, and now and again someone stumbles on it. These things too can wait. Their day will come, perhaps.

I have a reason to believe this. Something happened in that no-man's land between Christmas and New Year that made me believe that I'm not done with my writing just because life has crowded it out. Years ago, when I was full of energy and enthusiasm, someone bought me a book of writing prompts. Although I loved the idea of the book, I never used it, not once; for two reasons. First, it seemed very trivial and a bit of a waste of time. I had more important things to write - books and blog posts and articles and so on. The prompts in the book were lighthearted and the space to write relatively small. The second reason was that you were supposed to write in the book itself, and I have always struggled with writing in books.

Its pages remained pristine.

On 29 December, I opened a cupboard in my desk where all my writing books have been shoved. There, among the reference books and manuals and biographies was a book of writing prompts.

I opened it up, and picked up a pen. 

'What can happen in a second?'

I imagined that final moment when the very last sign of life slips away. The last exhale, the last beat, the last spark of a cell...

Speaking of death:

'A houseplant is dying. Tell it why it needs to live.'

My peace lily! Given to me by a friend with a wry smile when our (former) neighbour raised multiple objections with the council when we sought planning permission to build my mum a granny flat. What are the implications if my spathiphyllum passes away? Is it significant that it never flowered?

'Tell a story that starts with a ransom note.'

...and I was off. The blank pages were not oppressive this time, and I found it easy to scribble my ideas in the gaps. The prompts are random, strange, thought-provoking, funny, poignant, lighthearted or serious, but all of them demand creativity. I thought my creativity had gone and it's back. I can fit in a few of these when I can't find the time, headspace or opportunity for longer pieces of writing. I woke up that night thinking about my book of prompts and itching to getting back to it in the morning.  I can't remember the last time I looked forward to writing anything. 

That's good, hey? Doing some writing just for fun? No deadline, no audience, no expectation. No word count, no references, no editing.  Nothing from this book is likely to be seen by anyone else, and the longest entry is only a page, the shortest a mere paragraph. It's small and silly and yet serious enough to enable me to make the connections between the bit of my brain that has ideas, the bit that expresses those ideas in words, and the bit that tells my fingers how to form the letters.

So here's my bit of New Year's advice:

If you're thinking that writing is no fun any more, try this. 
If you're thinking that you've run out of ideas, try this. 
If you're thinking that the Big Project is too big and too hard, try this.

It's much simpler than I thought. It had stopped being fun, and now it's fun again. 

It fits with something I've remembered about God: He wants me to stop striving, stop trying so hard and sit with Him. For us to spend time together without an agenda, for our only reason to be here is to be in relationship with Him. I don't have to achieve anything in order to impress Him, earn His love or repay Him for all that He's done for me. 

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope." Psalm 130:6

While I wait, I am going to enjoy the gifts He has given me. An imagination, and some words.

I like to write, you know. I'd forgotten.





Helen Murray lives in Derbyshire, England, with her husband, two daughters and her mum.

As well as a reader and a writer, she is a student of theology, a master of procrastination, a drinker of far too much coffee and a full-time swim mum. She has a drawerful of writing projects which one day might once again see light of day. Who knows? 

Helen has a blog: Are We Nearly There Yet? where she occasionally writes about life and faith.

You can also find her here:

Pinterest: @HelenMMurray
Twitter: @helenmurray01

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Where do you Write? by Emily Owen


Last week, I visited a Cathedral, where I was amused to see this notice:



The reason for the instruction was that the nativity scene not be disturbed, I think.  Anyway, it caught my attention.
Do not enter the Sanctuary.

Sanctuary is, in ecclesiastical terms, a holy place.

As Christian writers, I doubt many of us sit down to write alongside a ‘Do not enter the Sanctuary’ instruction. Probably not many of us think, I do not want to enter God’s presence as I write.
But I wonder if sometimes we do not enter the Sanctuary, nonetheless. Not through deliberate choice, but through accidental forgetting.

We’re so desperate to meet a deadline, or frustrated we don’t have a deadline, or longing for inspiration, or convinced we should never write another word, or trying to make ideas work on the page, or…
And we do not enter the Sanctuary. 

We’re accidentally on the edges.
People sometimes ask me where I write? There are a few answers, some of which are: 
‘On a train.’
‘At my desk.’
‘From a hospital bed.’
‘In my head as I walk.’  
‘In a waiting room.’

Even mid-conversation, when I’ve been known to say, ‘hang on a minute. I just need to write that down’.
As I look at this list, though, I notice an answer conspicuous by its absence:
‘I write in a place where God is.’

Do not enter the Sanctuary.
The place where God is can be the place where we write, but we need to get rid of the ‘do not’.

So enter the Sanctuary. Go right in. There’s no better place to be. Ever.
One of my favourite chapters in the bible is John 15, where Jesus talks about abiding in Him.
He’s inviting us to choose to live permanently where He is.
Deliberately deciding to stay with Him.
All the time abiding.
Able to say, ‘I write in a place where God is.’

Jesus said, in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
A part of Him, we can do everything.

Right in a place where God is,
write in a place where God is.

Monday, 21 January 2019

In the midst of turmoil, confusion, anxiety…

"... the people 
who know their God 
shall prove themselves strong 
and shall stand firm 
and do exploits [for God].

Daniel 11:32  AMP







Our daily newspapers, the media and internet in our nation, and in others, constantly report civil wars, persecution, corruption, violence and uprisings ousting people from their homes.  Countries are seeing a refugee crisis the likes of which have never been seen before. Billed under climate change our tv screens weekly show vast areas of devastation from fire, floods, famines, earthquakes and tsunami’s.   

Matthew 25 says “do not be alarmed.  Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.”  When we see today “nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom” Jesus told his disciples these things would be the beginning of the birth pains.  I take comfort from the Bible where Isaiah writes that our creator God ‘knows the end from the beginning’ and 'do not fear for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God."

Since November I have sought the Lord about the above verse from Daniel, it's promise has become imbedded in my mind and heart.  At the beginning of this year UCB's Word for Today featured Joseph’s story which I felt drawn to meditate on. Pharoah’s dream drew Him from captivity because God gave him the interpretation or prophesy, that there would be seven years of plenty, so they could store the excess for seven years of famine.  Several days later Bob Gass highlighted the above verse in Daniel, and with our church also adopting that verse this year with, “Know, grow and go” I felt to share scripture for others to read and consider.

In my life time I have seen Biblical prophecy come into being. In August 1982 I had a dream and have felt it is as Daniel was told, 'been closed and sealed until the end of time'.  The verse after 12.9 says, “Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked.   Is there to be a spiritual outpouring in us to store within for a time of Godly famine? 

For years I’ve wanted to be ready, purified, spotless and refined.  I’ve found Ephesians 1 a useful diving board.  I start to read and then from Verse16 speak the words into my life by replacing the  ‘you’ with ‘I’ and then, like a budding rose the words blossom into heartfelt prayer, not just for myself, but for others to ‘know’ Him.

As with any relationship to really know a person you have to live with them day by day. In which case I'll only  'know' God second hand through a Sunday sermon, albeit a helpful signpost, or books and Ytube videos which may inspire me, but with thanksgiving in my heart, talking to the Lord and listening to His Holy Spirit I can be ready for Him to feed, fill and enable me to overcome every circumstance and constantly…                                                     be filled with His love, joy, peace.   





Sunday, 20 January 2019

Writers Face to Face

I spent a few days in Ireland recently. As well a catching up with family, I had 2 different coffee dates with writer friends. It was hard to leave my writing connections behind, when I moved from Ireland in 2014. I had to start from scratch; finding a writing community, in some cases starting one myself. I pined for my Irish writer friends and I love to catch up with them when I'm home.

As tech'd up as we are these days, there really is nothing that compares to face to face meet-ups with other writers. I love social media and I believe the online connections are important. The ability to reach out to readers and writers across the world is amazing really. I look at the stats on my blog and I'm amazed to see the different countries that pop up. And yet, for me, something much more special happens when I unplug, sit and talk with other scribblers. I share ideas or projects and suddenly the plot or plan I've been stuck on, becomes unstuck. The work in progress that I'm bored with gets a new lease of life, by just telling someone about it. Someone who shares my creative passion who can see the potential that has been disguised by my familiarity with the work.

Writers get writers. Most of us, I hope, are blessed with patient loved ones who 'bear with us' and our literary foibles, but spending time with writers can be like coming home.

Ours can be a lonely craft. Most of the time, it's about getting our butts on the chair and getting some words on the page. So in 2019, let's take every opportunity that comes for a get-together. Think about the ACW Writers' Days. Find a local group or attend a book launch. If there isn't one locally, go on a day trip to. Ring a faraway writing friend and agree to meet half way for a conflab.

I came back from my trip to Ireland feeling full. I'd had a large dose of family fun, spiritual encouragement with some old church friends, and a boost of creative vavoom after my writer reunions. I can't recommend it enough - and I charge you to go find some for yourself. x


Annmarie Miles is from Dublin, Ireland. 
She lives with her husband Richard who is a pastor in the Eastern Valley of Gwent, in South Wales. She writes short stories, magazine articles, devotional pieces for Christian radio, and blogs about her faith at www.auntyamo.com Her first collection of short stories published in 2013, is called 'The Long & The Short of it' Her second collection, 'A Sense of the Sea and other stories' was published in December 2018. She is currently editing a non-fiction book about being an overweight Christian called, 'Have mercy on me O Lord, a slimmer.'

Friday, 18 January 2019

Stuck! by Georgie Tennant

Ever found yourself stuck in a rut?  Fed up with everything and everyone? Feeling like you’ll never write anything, ever again, in your whole life?  You’re not alone!


I am currently in the phase of what I like to call ‘stabbing at writing.’ Most of my time is taken up being a Mum and a teacher, church member and friend.  Writing is something I only ‘do’ when I have a deadline approaching or when my heart overflows with something I need to get down on the page.  The deadlines bit is still ticking along – I haven’t missed a post on this blog and, if I’m asked to produce something on a topic for someone, somewhere, the keys and blank screen generally comply.

The rut bit is showing itself more in the heart stuff – the inspiration simply isn’t flowing.  Life has taken me through some emotionally draining times, of late, and writing has often helped with this. As I have ridden the waves of emotion that sometimes threaten to sweep me away and walked through valleys of no emotion at all, these experiences have sometimes found their voice on the page and writing them down has been helpful and cathartic.  It has helped, too, to share and have others say they resonate with my words.

 
Now, though, I’ve stepped into a different season.  God has been working in my emotions, bringing a new level of healing.  I am experiencing a strange calm and stability that I haven’t for a while.  But the writing has dried up too!  I don’t know what to write.  I have no fresh ideas, no new material.  My heart has stopped overflowing quite so much, so my pen doesn’t know what to say.  I have no long-term project, nothing I can chip away at, calmly and non-emotionally.  Where do I go from here?

I decided to try to view this as a learning opportunity – after all, if I’m serious about doing some ‘real writing’ in the future, I’ve got to learn what it is to press on and write, whatever the weather or mood.  So this is the advice I am giving myself and desperately trying to heed.

1. Don’t give into sinking feelings of despair
This is something I am learning in life as well as writing.  It is so easy to be swept away down a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions – I’ll never get anywhere with this; I might as well give up; I’m useless at it anyway; it’s all, already been done,; nobody reads what I write – but if I can learn to catch these thoughts as they sprout and throw them out as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, I can press on with what I need to do, and be more productive because I’m not wasting my energy on all these niggling doubts.

2. Feel the fear and do it anyway
My husband has a fond memory of a 23 year-old me, on our honeymoon in France, declaring this very thing, as I drove down a slip road to join a dual carriageway.  He was exhausted from a long drive and needed me to take over for a bit.  The thought of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road terrified me, but I knew we wouldn’t get where we were going if I didn’t at least give it a go.  Half an hour in, he was fast asleep in the passenger seat, and I was relaxing into the experience.  Sometimes we just have to launch at it and hope our feelings and productivity follow.

3.  Know when to step back and take a break
This is crucial and something I’ve learned through walking the road of grief.  Sometimes I have to feel the fear and do it anyway.  Sometimes I have to step back and take a break from it all.  The hard thing is, learning which the right one at the right time - but it comes with practice and getting it wrong a fair few times.

This is true of our writing too.  Sometimes, we need to just give it a go, write something - bang out some words, without thinking too hard or too critically.  At others, we need to take the day off and do something far-removed from the frustrations of our keyboard and mouse.  And we need to see this, not as a failure, but as a deliberate move, part of the rest of the whole, that will rebuild our capacity and restore our strength and desire to write again.  If we can make ourselves do this, we’ll probably be twice as productive the next time we try.


4. Avoid the comparison game
It is so, so easy to wish you were someone else whom you perceive as much further ahead than you – you long for their blog, their book and their radio interviews to be yours – and you don’t even have a concept for a book yet and only manage to blog once in a blue moon.  Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  He was absolutely right.  Of course, we all long for our writing to be read, enjoyed and have impact on the world, but embracing the season I’m in is the only healthy way to keep my mind from wandering down all sorts of destructive paths.

5.  Have a bit of fun
Write something silly, don’t take yourself too seriously and keep placing your writing back into the capable hands of the One who gave it to you, as a gift, in the first place.

During the particularly stuck week, I wrote something silly, to try to heed my own advice.  If you still have a few sips of your cup of tea left and time to spare before you rush into your day, I include it below for your fun and amusement!

An Ode to the Stuck

I really am quite squarely stuck,
I cannot move from here.
Inspiration’s packed its bag
And won’t come back, I fear.

I check my laptop keyboard –
The letters are all there.
It’s not a hardware issue, more
A problem between keyboard and chair.

I daydream for a morning,
I make a cup of tea,
I dust and sort and clean the bath –
O, Muse, come back, prithee!

I have a look on Twitter,
No inspiration there.
I watch some videos of cats.
I’m sinking in despair.

Pathetic fallacy noted,
As grey clouds pass the sun,
I need some inspiration, fast –
This really isn’t fun.

Afternoon becomes the dusk
And hope is fading fast.
But just when I’m about to quit,
Something stirs at last.

A tiny little flicker –
No more than an idea,
That tickles at my fingertips
And whispers in my ear.

I grab a pad and fan until
The flicker is a spark
And the spark becomes a bonfire
That lights up this dim dark.

Stuck no more, I stoke the flames,
Basking in the glow.
The words burst forth like fireworks,
I’m fully in the flow.

Next time inspiration parts,
I’ll try harder to remember
To hold fast, stand firm, panic less
And fan that tiny ember.

I’ll daydream for a morning,
Make coffee strong and black
And trust that, when the time is right,
It will all come flooding back!


Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 10 and 8, who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflections.’ She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog: www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk