I haven’t written anything for ages. Writer’s block? Maybe. Run out of steam? That too. Mainly lack of motivation. Lack of seeing the point. After all, why write if nobody will see it? If nobody will say something positive about it? If there’s no end-result?
Let me amend that first statement: I have been writing things for Sunday services. I don’t really count those as writing because they’re designed to be spoken. I tend not to do ‘sermons’ because I just do not believe that today’s congregations enjoy long spiels. They’re used to soundbites and commercial breaks and lots of visual stimulation. So that’s how I package what I do.
And generally, there are lovely people who think you need to be encouraged who will come up and say it was ‘lovely’. Even better you may get some brave soul willing to confront you for talking rubbish (as they see it!). At the very least, there is usually some kind of feedback.
But even when there isn’t, I can rest on what I was taught when I was learning to do the standing-up-front-at-church bit: my job is to do my job as well as I can — prep, study, delivery — then it’s God’s to do with as He chooses. One person sows; it’s someone else’s job to reap. So I spend an hour most Sunday mornings doing the sowing and not checking for green shoots afterwards. (As a peripatetic lay preacher, this is my privilege!)
So why can’t I apply this to writing and just write? I think one problem is that I’ve been living on my own for a long time now and before that I was used to a partner being at least slightly interested in what I was churning out and willing to read it. That audience of one was sufficient to keep me going.
But at heart, the dream was publication. I think the problem here is growing up in a paper-based culture – not only did I spend most of my early years with my nose in a comic/magazine/newspaper/book but I have spent a large chunk of my life working in the production of newspapers/magazines/books – so for me, the correct destination for words is print for other people to read.
My track record demonstrates I can do that with non-fiction. Nine books and countless published articles under my belt. But sadly they in no way compensate for the dusty piles of unpublished novel manuscripts under my bed!
I want to write fiction, published fiction! Or at least that’s what I always thought. I sent out the last two little lambs in February and then set myself to waiting in patience. I told myself I wouldn’t allow myself to get stuck into anything else till I got some kind of steer in the form of a reply. If the historical novel produced interest, I’d launch into the next one. If the contemporary crime novel won a positive response, I’d tackle the second one in the planned series. Meanwhile, I would not tinker, would not push on doors, would not be impatient…
Those of you who valiantly read this blog in the past know about my personal situation – my husband with dementia in a care home. He has now moved to a full-on dementia end-of-life home where he is very happy and settled. He appears to think he’s in a country house hotel where a number of the residents are loopy (his words) but that doesn’t seem to bother him. He appears completely oblivious to the more severe cases. I continue to visit. And this is another situation where what I am doing is waiting, though here it is the timing not the outcome that is unpredictable.
I am not a patient soul. Maybe that’s what this is all about: God decided I needed to learn patience so here I am in a place where patience is badly needed?
Real life is complicated, a web of learning and receiving tangled with serving and giving. And sometimes one turns out to be the other at the same time.
So, back to writing: when is it time to write? When someone wants our output? When the cheerleaders are revved up and standing by? When Great-aunt Ann has left us enough money for self-publishing our magnum opus? Or is it when our soul cries out to sink into what we know comforts us and completes us?
I’m still puzzling over this one. Hesitating on the brink. Tippy-toe at the edge of the water. I think I want to dive in. I think I know which book to tackle… And writing this blog is that tippy-toe in the water.
What do I need to give me the push? Do I need a push? Do you need a push?
Is it time to stop dithering and just jump in?