Showing posts from February, 2016

The Problem with the Empty Cup by Catherine Campbell

I haven’t written anything in ages. In fact since I hit the ‘send’ button on my sixth completed manuscript back in September the nearest I’ve got to writing is the occasional post on Facebook.

The reasons for my absence at the keyboard are many and varied: each one a perfectly understandable excuse for my lack of written words. Conversely, my publically spoken words have had to continue due to the bookings expanding the covers of my diary. Somehow I have managed to continue ministering to others in the many places I find myself every month. God’s willingness to equip for the task in hand never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful in spite of me.

However the true nature of my problem was brought into sharp focus by a picture someone posted recently on fb. It didn’t simply catch my attention as I scrolled one morning; it reached out and grabbed me.

The words: “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first” accosted my soul.

“But Lord,” I protested, “I spend so much ti…

The Attraction of Beauty or What’s in a Name? By Trevor Thorn

For four and a half years, I have been running a blog with the title ‘The Cross and The Cosmos’. The idea has been to publish poems (in the main) and occasional prose pieces which celebrate those places where faith and science intersect, and to do so in such a way that the ideas would be fairly simply grasped by non-scientists and also by those many Christians refer to as ‘Seekers’. The initiative has been encouraging insofar as it has attracted a readership far wider than I would have expected at the outset for simple maths (1% of the population may be interested in poetry, 1% in faith and 1% interested in science) makes for a tiny proportion ofpotential readers. This miniscule percentage, therefore, makes it unsurprising that so far, none of the entries has exactly ‘gone viral’: but something rather interesting has come to my attention. Since the turn of the year.
It feels to me that it has become increasingly easy to uncover references to beauty in the science media. Mathematicians …

Words in the Darkness, by Lucy Mills

This originally appeared as a Finding Inspiration column in the Spring 2014 edition of Christian Writer.

What happens when the lights go out? There are times in our lives when we struggle with darkness, of whatever kind. Times when our faith is knocked. In these times we may find writing a release. We may also find writing as difficult as everything else.

This is made even harder if we consciously identify ourselves as ‘Christian’ and, to a lesser extent, ‘writer’. To have our identities thus undermined can make our words seem like masks, pretenders to the throne of reality.

So let’s be real.

Let’s write what we feel. Any words – however dislocated and dull – will do. Let’s embrace honesty.

It may be the best thing we’ve ever written. It may be the worst. It doesn’t matter. This first draft of the heart may be ugly, but it’s only a first draft. It’s not the last word on who we are. Don’t bother counting your adverbs or censoring your anger. If it’s dross, perhaps it needs to come out – …

Do Books Matter by Fiona Veitch Smith

“Of makingmany booksthere is no end, and much study wearies the body.” (Ecc 12:12)
I’ve been feeling a bit like Solomon lately. That’s probably because I’m approaching deadlines for a number of writing contracts and am also bogged down in my ‘day job’ marking university assignments. I’m also putting together a proposal for some post-graduate study of my own. Things should ease by the end of March but in the meantime I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.
Which is probably why I’m feeling jaded. I’ve been asking myself lately ‘do books matter’? A few things have led me to ask this question. Firstly, a discussion in the ACW Facebook group about the commercial shelf life of new books. It was generally agreed that except in rare occasions a new title will make most of its sales in the first six months and then a new one is required to stir the pot again and get the author / book back on the consumer’s radar.
The second thing is all the book bloggers and readers who claim to r…

How thin is your skin? by Fiona Lloyd

There are some days when I feel I’m not cut out to be a writer. Before you swamp me with a deluge of sympathy or – worse still – start typing ‘Hear, hear!’ into the comments box, let me explain. It’s not that I can’t cope with the need to persevere, to refine and to edit. I understand that my work may need umpteen rewrites before I dare show it to anyone (and that’s just my shopping list). I’ve a well-developed penchant for beautiful stationery and I get irrationally excited at the sight of a large dictionary. And my friends must think I’m turning into a social recluse, as I often lose track of real-life conversations because I’m having a private chat with one of my characters in my head.

             Most of the things I struggle with in regard to my writing can be overcome with a little ingenuity, a willingness to learn and a healthy dose of pig-headedness. Reading articles, going on courses and interacting with other writers helps me build and extend my skill-set. Being creative wi…

The new black

C. S. Lewis’s English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, as regular readers of this blog will by now be aware, is a tremendous work of literary history. It’s the kind of book that gives you the ‘aha’ experience and makes you feel cleverer.

Lewis is famous for saying that J. R. R. Tolkien ‘had been inside language’. Well, Lewis, for his part, could well be said to ‘have been inside literature’. He knew better than most critics what it felt like to be Milton, or Spenser, or any of a host of earlier writers that most of us have never heard of. He could imagine what it was like to be a person of that age who didn’t write at all. He knew sixteenth-century thought from the inside, with the sympathy of a Christian scholar who shared its fundamental beliefs.
Last month we had a look at some of the historical paradoxes that characterize Puritanism. But what was it like to be a Puritan in the early days of that movement? Lewis gives us a brilliant analogy. It may not resonate with you if yo…

Washing my spirit clean - by Helen Murray

I have a diary. You see, there are all these days and I need to keep track of them. No sooner one finishes than another starts and I hate just letting them slip away without being marked.

Actually, I have dates all over the place. I have a calendar in the kitchen for appointments and arrangements; one of those with multiple columns so that I can keep track of the whole family's social and sporting commitments. My column looks much more impressive than it really is because it consists largely of chauffeuring duties and swimming training - overflow from other people's columns. Of course, this calendar isn't portable so I have a tiny diary that is supposed to enable me to make a note of appointments as I schedule them. Unfortunately, because I never get round to transferring calendar-notes to diary and vice versa, I find that much of the time I am attempting to live two parallel lives.

The system is in need of refinement.
Then there are other diaries. Electronic ones that I c…

Writer's Flood

In our house, today is the first day back at school after half term. The kids have left, and all of a sudden my time feels empty. I’ve been enjoying the boundless creativity, inquisitive minds and zany ideas that come with getting the children at their best. When they get home this evening I'll get the tired, grouchy, 'please can I just play Wii?' children that appear in my house during term time, and we’ll be back in the drudge again.
The only plus point about the kids going back is that I’m able to get stuck into writing again. I love writing, it’s where I feel most at home, Coffee, notepad, pencil, computer - these are items that feel most comfortable to me, like putting on old, warm slippers. 
I just have one problem: I don’t have a project.
I’ve blogged on here before about  writers block - about the frustration of not just knowing how to get what I want down on paper, but what to write about in the first place. And yet, I don’t know about you, but many times I complain …

A Case of Cancer vs.Christ.....Part 1 - Ruth Johnson

“…with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  Romans 10:10

In writing of God's invisible gifts, I ended last month with the above scripture. In 2008 the words of Ps.27 so reflected my heart I daily confessed them over my life. I'd no idea then, that this would prepare me for what was to come.
On 31st August 2010 a lump found to be benign three years earlier showed up on a mammogram, was tested again, and to my surprise found positive.  The surgeon suggested a mastectomy. At my refusal he rescinded to just removing the small lump I could see and feel! I didn't want to rush into anything, and talked to people I knew who’d been through this.  One told me of pills that shrunk her lump before surgery.  I asked the Lord to guide me, believed He’d a strategy, and felt incredibly peaceful.  
Next morning these verses in Ps.27 stood out!. "When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, My adversaries and my enem…

Nuts and bolts by Sue Russell

Among the writers' groups I belong to, I have a number of nicknames. 'Commander Comma' and 'The Nitpick Queen' are the politer ones. It's true: spelling, grammar and punctuation errors leap out at me from a text, waving 'Here I am!' banners. I also once had a long, heated (but not acrimonious) discussion with a group of friends on the use of the hyphen.

Spelling, grammar and punctuation are, of course, just conventions. Normally I am happy to flout convention, tradition, anything that restricts (within reason and mercy.) In other centuries capital letters abounded, punctuation marks were scattered liberally where today we would eschew them, spelling was often quite different and not necessarily consistent, and such things as paragraphs and indentations were barely thought of. So I admit that my piffling obsession isn't something of ultimate importance, and in a hundred years' time no doubt much will have changed. Happily I won't be around t…

Is eating people wrong? by Veronica Zundel

Are you a cannibal? No, I’m not referring here to missionaries boiling in a pot, but to the writer’s habit of squirrelling away little bits (and sometimes big chunks) of her and her family’s everyday life to use in her writing when appropriate, and sometimes when inappropriate. Obviously, if your everyday life is the main subject of your writing, or you're writing biography, then it’s mostly appropriate, but do you also cannibalise daily life, its ups and downs, its humour and tragedy, for other kinds of writing?

Not long ago I was writing my monthly column for Woman Alive magazine, and I found myself composing several paragraphs about a neighbour who has suffered a huge trauma and is very slowly recovering, and whom I have been trying as best I can to support. I even sent off the column to the editor. And then after several days or even weeks, I realised something: my neighbour reads the magazine, or at least has a subscription which I bought her. She is also a very private perso…

How to free the writer within by Joy Lenton

I'm sharing an example of free writing to reveal how it can lead to freer thinking. It's received wisdom that writers do free writing of first thoughts when barely awake because this helps stir their latent creativity.

Mine would be a blur of fatigue and brain-fog in the morning hours, so these free writing exercises are last thoughts done at day's end.

The potential benefits of free writing are to increase a natural flow of words when blocked or stalled and unleash deeper, natural creativity.

This is an inspiring suggestion made by Natalie Goldberg in her acclaimed book, 'Writing Down the Bones:Freeing the Writer Within'.

These unedited exercises tend to be building blocks I set aside for future use.

Here are two examples of the results of timed free writing exercises I have undertaken. I offer them with a little trepidation and with the hope they will encourage you to have a go...

"Susurration of night sounds hisses in my ears. I can feel the creep of cold from wi…