about writing and life and God

When is it time to write?

on April 28, 2014

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 But sadly they in no way compensate for the dusty piles of unpublished novel manuscripts under my bed!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.

Digital Image

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?



7 responses to “When is it time to write?

  1. Just do it! Write for your own sake, if for nothing else, write for the joy of writing, write because there are stories inside you wanting to come out. And see what does come out!

  2. Have you had feedback from either of your tentative offerings? I sympathise entirely with the feeling that a book is only a book if it’s paper, but SO many people are going the Independent route now that it is almost routine. No writers grp in Norwich,Southwold or similar? Don’t one of the publishers have a website where you can submit your work – I think chapter by chapter – and people comment on it? merrilyn might know or one of the other ACW forum folk.Remember it won’t write itself, but if it is written then you’ve got something to work with.

  3. Pat williamson says:

    Hi Dorothy, I think you know what I feel. Forget paddling, go for it!


  4. Hello Dorothy,I am glad you have posted another blog I thought you had stopped. I started following your blog in Feb. It came about this way; A friend of mine who wrote poetry had alzheimers and died last year, another friend contacted me proposing to make a compilation of his poetry with a view to publication. During the course of our conversation I asked my friend if he knew that our mutual friend had been influenced by Studdert Kennedy whose poetry I was very moved by in my younger day. (you will see by this ramble I am not a writer) After our conversation I decided to google Studdert Kennedy and your blog came up. I was quite intrigued and started reading. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I came across a photo of a steam drifter! My father who was born in 1903 was a steam drifter fisherman who spent his life on the drifters from Peterhead to Yarmouth and I know he was converted when a young man and I think it was at Yarmouth during the 1921 revival so I will be very interested in your book and hope very much that it is published.I myself was converted during the 1955 Billy Graham Tell Scotland campaign and have struggled on through the years (almost 60 of them!). I recently joined the Street Pastors movement in Peterhead – a whole new experience during which like you we are learning patience. The seed may be sown by one but reaped by another.

    • Dear George,
      Please forgive me for being so tardy in replying to your lovely message. Life’s been a wee bit tough of late and I got burnt out so haven’t been writing or doing anything much really! It’s making a big difference and I’ll maybe get back to blogging before long! (And there’s another ‘starting in Scotland’ historical novel itching to get written!)

      Your message touches so many points: Studdert Kennedy – I’m a great fan both of the man and his poetry, and I have used his life as research for the army chaplain in my novel; steam drifters and Yarmouth and the 1921 Revival: how lovely to hear that your father was converted then. I was a 1967 convert at the local mission hall in Wick (built by the lads converted in the 1921 Revival when they came home and wanted somewhere to meet) but several of my friends came to faith through the Billy Graham campaigns.

      We’ve got street pastors in some of the big towns in East Anglia. It’s an important and very valuable role. Well done, you!
      Again, thank you for getting in touch. I hope I’ll get back to blogging and provide good things for you to read!
      kind regards,

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