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My Writers' And Artists' Yearbook might be well out of date, but I haven't given it to a charity shop yet.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

Comments

  1. Oh wonderful Helen, I lived this post with you! I'm so glad you're finding writing fun again. And thanks for giving me hope today x

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  2. I'm glad it helped. I wonder if things are actually much simpler than we think they are?

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  3. I always feel down at this time of year and it doesn't help that my book isn't being advertised by my publishers at all and I can't. But like you, Helen, I have decided to chill and am doing a new short story writing course. I too was inspired to write a story just for fun and really enjoyed doing it.

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    1. I'm glad. That's great. So odd that something that is such a blessing can turn into a burden. We are strange creatures, are we not?

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  4. Thanks, Helen. What a lovely blog post. You write with such feeling. Eva brought me a 'Write everyday for year' book about 5 years ago and there are still so many pages empty. This has inspired me to complete it this year, so thank you :) What is your prompt book called? It sounds great.

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    1. Thanks, Martin. It's called '642 Things to Write About' and I'm really enjoying it. Good luck with yours!

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  5. I really enjoyed this post today. There was so much I could identify with. My Writers'and Artists' Yearbook was some 20 years out of date, when I gave it away, but there is an up-to-date reference copy in the library! I enjoyed writing a story yesterday. In the past I have used WordPress' writing prompts for blog posts, but these have dried up at source. In any case daily blogging becomes overwhelming after a while.
    The main thing I enjoyed about your post was your positive attitude. It cheered me up. Thanks, Helen.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I'm glad it cheered you up. I'm starting to feel a bit more positive about things; it's been a while! Well done for yesterday's story. x

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  6. Superb post, Helen. Really useful. Thank you

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