Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Red Thoughts, Green Thoughts

Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Our thoughts can affect us more than we realise sometimes. I often find myself in a dark and depressed place when I allow negative thoughts to consume me. Negative thoughts can hold us back and weigh us down; they may even cause physical symptoms like stomach ulcers, headaches and other stress related illnesses.

Our oldest son, now 10, can be quite an anxious boy who worries about all sorts of things. Today is the first day of school for 2012 and he has been anxious for days. Back in 2009 his anxiety was causing many problems and my husband and I had run out of strategies to help him so we took him to a child psychologist. 6 sessions later, he was a new boy! I just wanted to share with you today the biggest strategy we learnt as it's helpful for adults too.
Consider your worries and concerns as 'red thoughts'. They are thoughts like, 'I can't', 'I'm no good at...', I'm hopeless’. Red thoughts are all the negative things we think about when faced with an issue or event. Our son used to be so worried about some aspects of his schooling he would be physically ill some mornings.

Is there anything you worry about that causes a physical reaction as well as the emotional reactions? Next time you face that worry, here's what to do.....

Change the red thoughts into green thoughts.

Once you have identified exactly what the red thought is, take some really deep/slow breaths to calm you down (which also reduces any physical reactions) and try to think about all the positive or 'green' things about your worry. As my son was younger at the time of his counselling the Psychologist used the terms red and green to explain his thoughts, but for older children/adults we can refer to them as 'rational' and irrational' thoughts.

Here's an example to explain what I mean. My son is so worried about starting school tomorrow. We can easily identify this as his BIG read thought but we then ask him to tell us some 'green' thoughts about starting school, like the fact that he knows his teacher, he has some friends in class with him, the school is not new to him, he knows most of the teachers in the school as well as where everything is in the school..... Breaking down the worry and doing some deep breathing helps our son deal with his worry in a rational way. Sometimes finding the 'green' thoughts can be tricky but they are there and it just helps us shift to more positive thinking. It doesn’t take the worry away entirely either but it certainly helps.

Now when faced with a problem, instead of saying 'I can't do that', our son also has the skills to break it down and deal with one step at a time until the problem is solved. He is training his mind to see positives instead of negatives that make him sick and stop him from trying or participating.

These simple techniques have made the world of difference to our son – even though he needs a refresher every now and then. Hubby and I even find ourselves using them when we face a stress or issue. I should also add, that as a Christian family we always emphasise the importance of prayer in combating worry.


The verses above from Philippians instruct us to think about things that are pure, noble, lovely and true. I don't know about you, but thinking about those things is easier for me if I aim to keep my mind full of positive thoughts.

We may not know what a new year at school holds for our children, but we face it head on, with positive thoughts and God on our side!
Blessings to you,
Narelle Nettelbeck

Monday, January 30, 2012

For the love of letters.

Those of you who know me, or who have been following the random comments that make up my Penny Drops, will know I am a sucker for snail mail. I love the postman, anticipate the parcel lady’s arrival and drool over note-cards and paper sets in my favourite store. I’ve even found a blog/store called the Letter Writers’ Alliance and am wondering if Australia Post would be able to handle their Pigeon Post option. I love it!

But seriously, letter writing – that ancient art of pen and paper in a literal envelope, decorated by a stamp and carried by a number of vehicles over a period of days or weeks to its destination – is the very essence of what it means to write. Writers write to be read; one person to another. And this is exactly what letter writing is: raw, relationship driven communication.
Some people may draft their letters to friends. I don’t. And here is an interesting fact I learned recently: a letter’s copyright belongs not to the writer but the recipient. This highlights the trust implicit in letter writing, a trust not so present in the world of social media.
Despite the many relational opportunities offered by email, facebook, twitter or texting, there is something about the act of writing by hand that makes a letter more of a gift than plain communication. Perhaps it is the slowness of it for those accustomed to high speed typing, or the thoughtful recipient driven approach to word formation. When I write a letter, the person I am writing to is in my thoughts from the moment I write (okay, scrawl) Dear... to the time I drop the letter in the post box and count the days till the letter may be received. Perhaps I approach the process slightly religiously, but this is the luxury of friendship at snail mail pace.
And it’s this same thought and time that allows the letter to be a powerful tool for approaching politicians. Emails just don’t carry the weight that a physical letter does. One initiative our family has been involved with is the Micah Challenge Offering of Letters. It is a beautiful thing to read the letters written by my children asking their nation's leaders to make decisions considering the poor.
Historically speaking, the letter has always been used to carry important messages. The majority of the Bible’s New Testament was written as a letter. Its personal form is perfectly suited to carrying the enormous, life changing news about Jesus as seen and experienced in the writers’ lives. I’ll admit my letters are not divinely inspired as those in the Bible are, but they do give me the opportunity to share my faith and encourage those I love.
Letter writing also reminds me (as one who considers herself a writer by vocation) that I don’t just write for myself, for publication, for approval, for blog comments or facebook likes. I can and will put pen to paper just for one person.
And, if I ever needed more justification than that, I’ve always got a Jane Austen quote to back me up: “A person who can write a long letter with ease, cannot write ill” (Jane Austen via Miss Bingley in pride and Prejudice. )
So, fellow writers, share a story about a letter that meant a lot to you. But here’s the catch; you are not allowed to comment until you write a piece of snail mail first. Happy letter writing!



Penny Reeve is a children’s author currently living with her family in Western Sydney. This week she hopes to weed the front garden, read something other than the big truck book to her toddler and write a decent letter to an overseas friend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Aussie Writer on the Journey: What I’ve learned from entering Writing Contests


by Narelle Atkins

In January I sit down and plan my writing goals for the coming year and this process includes thinking about writing contests. I enter writing contests for a number of reasons. I want to receive honest and helpful feedback from experienced judges to assist me in revising and improving my story. I also enter contests in the hope of being a finalist and skipping the slush pile by getting my work in front of editors and agents. I have received valuable feedback on partial manuscripts from final round editor judges and also a full manuscript request from an editor at my target publisher.

The first manuscript I wrote was a finalist in the Faith, Hope & Love Inspirational Chapter of Romance Writers of America’s 2007 Touched By Love contest. This was only the second contest I had ever entered and I was beyond excited by the news. Being a contest finalist gives you validation that you can actually write and also the encouraging knowledge that others can see potential in your manuscript. As well as receiving helpful feedback from the first round judges, I received five excellent critiques from the published author final round judges. I learned an enormous amount about writing craft from the judge’s comments which helped me to revise and strengthen my story.

I’m selective and usually enter contests sponsored by writing organisations and their chapters eg. Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers of Australia, American Christian Fiction Writers. I enter contests to gauge how the quality of my story compares to stories by other aspiring authors. I want to discover what is working and what isn’t working in my story, and ascertain whether or not my manuscript is ready for submission. I look for contests with scoresheets that provide feedback on the various aspects of writing craft as well as numerical scores.

Entering writing contests has helped me to grow a thicker skin and learn how to accept constructive criticism of my work. It’s good preparation for the inevitable rejections from editors and agents. Writing is subjective and I have come across judges who don’t like my story or my writing style. If two or three judges comment on the same problem in my story then it’s probably an issue I need to address. I ignore feedback that doesn’t resonate with me, or put it aside to review later when I’m not feeling so emotionally attached to my story.

I tend to focus more on the comments than numerical scores. A numerical score provides an indication of the quality of my story. But it’s the comments that are gold because they can help me understand why a judge didn’t think a particular aspect of my story worked and provide ideas on how to fix the problem. I try not to let low scores or critical comments discourage me and instead view them as an opportunity to learn and grow as a writer.

Have you entered many writing contests? I’d love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.




Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. She can also be found at the International Christian Fiction Writers blog. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to attract a Black Dog into your working life




None of us want a black dog of depression or discouragement. Here are a few deterrent tips I've presented at workshops recently. I've done each of these ten things at different times and decided that if I want to stop being shadowed by this nuisance, I should start doing the opposite. I'm not talking about the menacing, clinical sort of black dog which requires medication and/or counseling but the black dog which artistic and creative people find gatecrashing their peace of mind. Perhaps they are simply different sized variations of the same beast.

1) Compare yourself to other authors and keep a close eye on their success.

2) Assume that slow periods of time prove that God is not blessing you.

3) Tell your family and friends about each of your writing projects and expect them to brim over with enthusiasm. Size up everybody you know as potential customers to buy and promote your books.

4) Race impatiently through each of your writing projects with the incentive of sweet success, warm accolades and piles of moolah to spur you on.

5) Dismiss compliments but take it for granted that all criticism must be true.

6) Assume that setbacks are typical and will keep recurring.

7) Turn up your nose at the small blessings each day brings.

8) Keep anticipating bad things which may happen so you can prepare yourself for them in advance.

9) Get impatient when things seem to be moving slowly and either grit your teeth and try to force things to happen or give up completely.

10) Never think beyond what you can see or hear. Don't take time to imagine the people your writing may touch now and way into the future who you never hear about.

Paula Vince is a homeschooling mother and award-winning author of faith-inspired fiction set in Australia. She believes stories are a powerful tool to bring goodness and hope to the lives of readers and loves invoking tears, laughter and cheering. Visit her at www.appleleafbooks.com or her motivational blog, "It Just Occurred to Me."

Monday, January 23, 2012

P O V ... What's That? by Rita Stella Galieh

Can you quote what this little gal is thinking from her POV? She'd definitely got attitude! But in case you're a little unsure, those initials simply represent Point of View.

It's something we writers really need to understand and work on if we want our readers to get into the heads of our fictional characters. And to a certain extent non fiction. If we're a reader then we'll want to know who is actually telling the story.

If you're writing in first person, you'll use I. me, mine pronouns to tell the story from this very personal POV. That means you can only allow the reader to know what your character can see, hear, feel, and touch. Chicklit and often detective stories are written in this POV.

Third person uses he, she pronouns and proper names. So you tell the story from his or her POV.  The reader should experience things only from that character's POV  You can also write multiple POVs which I favour as I enjoy giving my main characters and maybe a couple of secondary characters their POVs.

Nowadays ( especially in the US market) Close POV seems to be preferred  for current fiction. This focuses on internal thoughts and is worked in the dialogue and action scenes.

Here's 2 examples. 1. Third person distant POV: Annie knew it was time to leave before things got too embarrassing, especially if she said too much. You are reading about what she's thinking. 2. Third person close POV: She'd better go now. Things could get embarrassing if she stayed. She'd be sure to say too much.  A subtle change, yes, but now you are in Annie's head. You are free to show thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and not tell about them. And that way you're fully engaged in the story by feeling what the main character is experiencing.

For Down Unders only. Here's an exercise just for fun: Write a short caption for what this intelligent babe is thinking in Close POV. Leave your email using (at) and (dot) and I'll choose what I think is the cutest. The  winner will receive a copy of  my first book, Fire in the Rock. sometime after the following weekend.

Rita Galieh is now putting the finishing touches on THE TIE THAT BINDS, the second book following SIGNED SEALED DELIVERED of the Watermark Women Trilogy.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'm in love...





...with Bento boxes. Not only are these Japanese lunch boxes practical...but they satisfy my hunger for beauty. Each one is a study in creativity and simplicity.

Our family spends quite a deal of time at our local swimming pool. My husband coaches while my little salamander joins the others in swimming around nine kilometres a week. After each session he clambers from the pool and while dripping water over everything, immediately goes on a search and destroy mission in my bag for nourishment. Getting sick of seeing him eat the same old things, I started searching for different ideas to make for him and came across Bento boxes.

I was entranced.

In fact I was so entranced that I set about making my first one the next day. My husband’s initial amusement faded and before long joined me in the kitchen. Soon the enticing aroma of Japanese cooking filled the air.

As we worked together transforming slices of cheese into stars, and eating more than we made, I realised creating this bounty for my son was just like writing a novel. Okay, it doesn’t take quite as long or result in wanting to throw a computer across the room…but you get the idea.

First I layered steamed rice into the chosen receptacle. Just like our initial ideas this forms the base of our dish. It needs to have substance and be easy to manipulate if needed. At this stage nothing is set in stone.

Next we added Teriyaki beef for the sky and scrambled eggs for the ground. These layers added depth and allowed the ‘story’ to come together. Using different seasonings we created something that was not only had our tastebuds asking for more, but was also filling.

Finally we assembled sliced meat, cheese, carrots and tomato on the top. By arranging these finishing touches, we completed the picture into our ideal. It’s those little touches that appeal to our senses that take the dish, or book, from being ordinary-everyday-fare to being a creation worthy of The Master Chef.

That's mine in the picture above. It may not be the most creative thing you've ever seen, but can you imagine the 'ooh's and 'aahs' from a very hungry swimmer? Needless to say it didn't last long. :)

What is it that you’ve discovered recently that has your juices flowing?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Writer's Prayer


On a recent adventure, I accompanied my Beloved on a business trip to Malaysia. He did his thing in the corporate arena, and I got to spend my days at the keyboard, spitting out those words we all love to chase. 


I had no internet. (Gasp)


No household chores beckoned, and there were no kids to drag me out of my writing world. I did have a very kind 'butler' (I know... don't hate me!) who serviced the hotel's lounge where I spent my hours. 


She delivered a steady stream of coffee whenever my cup ran dry. She replenished the buffet, where tropical fruits and sinful pastries winked at me all day. And, she smiled her encouragement when I took laps of the room to stretch my legs and roll my author shoulders. 


Can you imagine a more perfect writing day? Food and drink on tap, and total quiet. Once the breakfast traffic faded, I was glad to call that lounge my own for the rest of the morning, and well into the afternoon. I know you will not be surprised to hear, my word count reflected the benefits of full-time writing. I slammed that word count, and doubled it for good measure!


And then I had to go home. 


Home to the real world, which in my case, is sadly understaffed in the butler department. 


In my real world, words come slower, chased by the many demands no one could ever juggle, as well as I'm meant to. Here, my words are couched in the realities of life which dictate mood and enthusiasm. Tempered by commitments. Shadowed by my other loves. 


So how do we reconcile the requirements of writing, with life as we know it? From where do we snatch the minutes to add to our chapters?


I know from experimentation, an hour of my time is worth between 600 and 1000 words. But what if I sit for my allocated writing time and my head is not in tune with the task? How do I find 'Author Dotti' when 'Mama Dotti' is still in the room with a basket of washing on her hip? How do I dismiss 'Friend Dotti' when she still needs to cry for a sister, or 'Real Dotti' when her own burdens are too heavy?


I have found the best way to secure myself for writing, is to centre myself in Christ. Over the years I've collected writer's prayers which help me face the writing hour under the banner of Him who loves me most. 


So here's my prayer for 2012, penned by Sandy Tritt. Better than a butler, it's a New Year's gift, from me... to you. Be blessed. 


The Writer's Prayer

Open my mind, Lord. Grant me the talent to write with clarity and style, 
so my words go down rich and smooth, 
like fine wine, and leave my reader thirsty for more. 

Open my heart, Lord. Grant me the sensitivity to understand my characters...
  their hopes, their wants, their dreams,
 and help me to confer that empathy to my reader. 

Open my soul, Lord, so I may be a channel to wisdom,
 and creativity from beyond my self. 
Stoke my imagination with vivid imagery and vibrant perception.

But most of all, Lord, help me to know the Truth,
 so my fiction is more honest than actuality, 
and reaches the depths of my reader's soul. 

Wrap these gifts with opportunity, perseverance,
 and the strength to resist those who insist it can't be done.  

Amen

..................................

Dorothy Adamek writes Historical Romance. Visit her at her blog Ink Dots.




Monday, January 16, 2012

Writing Goals

It is the beginning of a New Year and I for one, love to set aside some time to reflect on what I achieved last year and then prayerfully set goals for the new one. I believe that setting goals helps to keep purpose and direction throughout the year. I don't like to look back and regret time wasted.

So I am curious. Do others tackle life this way? Do you plot our your year roughly and write down what you wish to achieve? I want to encourage you to try it if you haven't done it before. (Ok, I'm hearing "but if I set goals and then don't achieve them, I'll feel like a failure." I used to feel that way too, but if you push past the fear and don't put too high expectations on yourself, it will be beneficial.)

Here are some of the areas you can set goals in:

Spiritual Life - What changes do I want to see in this area of my life? Better prayer and devotions? Better self-control in some area? Learning to trust God in some situation? It could be any number of things.

Marriage/Family Life - How can I improve my marriage and what are some step I can take to achieve it? How can I improve relationships with my children? What can I impart to them this year? Are there any relationships that need some reconciliation and healing? What can I do to help this happen?

Personal Growth - this is to do with physical/mental/emotional well being. Do I need to exercise more? Do I need to shed a few kilos? Do I need to take more time out so I don't wear myself out so much? Do I need to find a job, or change employment?

Skills Development - What can I do this year to improve my skills for my career or for my ministry? It is important to invest in your gifts and abilities.

Writing Goals - Being an author, I add this to my list. I write down all that I wish to achieve for my writing career. How many words per day or week will I write? Do I just aim to finish that manuscript and write "The End"? Do I need to work on editing a draft or put together a submission? Do I need to find the courage to actually send something to a publisher? To I need to work on promotion and what events/articles can I plan to achieve this? How often do I want to blog?

There are so many things you can set goals for. I personally, set at least one in each section, and heaps in the writing one. But it is an individual thing. You do what works best for you. One thing is important - be specific. Rather than write something like "I want to read my bible more," quantify it - make it measurable. Eg "I will read two chapters of my bible per day."

Another way to step it up a notch, if you are not terrified of the whole process, is type out your goals and hand them to someone close who can follow you up every couple of months. That way you keep accountable as well and can get encouragement along the way.

Do any of you already do this? Please feel free to share your own tips and experiences. :)


Amanda Deed resides in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne where she fills her time with work, raising a family, church activities and writing historical romance novels. Her new novel, Ellenvale Gold was released at the beginning of November, 2011. For more information, see:
http://www.amandadeed.com.au/
http://amanderings.wordpress.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Year, New Chapter

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

New Year, New Chapter

A week or so into the new year and I'm still a bit dazed that it's actually here. I love to have goals set for each year and to review the year past, to think about what I've learned, achieved, discovered. However the end of last year was a bit of a blur for me, My husband retired just before Christmas, so leading up to that we had lots of events, celebrations, goodbyes etc. It was a great climax for him after many years working in disability services and achieving some wonderful things. I'm very proud of him. But the idea of retirement - while we've thought about it a great deal - is still a little surreal. It's been harder for me to plan for this year and to set goals knowing that Neil's retirement will bring changes for us both, and waiting to see what he want to do in this first year. So it really is a whole new chapter of our lives and to be honest I have mixed feelings about it. While there will be great opportunities for us to do things we haven't been able to do before, I have grown used to many hours through the week where I can decide what to do; write, read, spend time with friends, work around the house, reflect, pray. I'm not sure how having a man around much of the time will affect all that, and I'm praying that God gives me grace and understanding and patience. Looking back there have been other periods of time in my life where changes have brought a new chapter of living and as I reflect on them now I'm grateful for the new things that God has done in my life through them. One of them of course is writing, and I cannot now imagine life without that, so in a very real way I'm excited about what God may have ahead for me as well as for Neil.  
One of the things I am pleased to have achieved in the past couple of months is a re-edit of my very first novel, Suzannah's Gold, and now thanks to Rochelle that is available on Kindle. So that's one of my goals achieved and a pretty good start to my year! As I reread Suzannah's story I was struck again by the tumultuous changes that were forced upon this young girl who was transported at the age of 12 to the other side of the world. It was the terrifying and seemingly hopeless situations that Suzannah found herself in, that inspired me as I wrote that story about my great great grandmother eight years ago. Her challenges make mine seem insignificant. And so I will face this new year, this new chapter  of my life, with excitement, gratitude, curiosity and faith. If I must let go of some things, if I get frustrated or impatient, I will remember 
Suzannah, and I will be reminded of how blessed I am. 
I'm sure you will all have your challenges for the year ahead as well and I pray that there will be many blessings for us all. 
I will not be around in February as Neil and I are going to the Antarctic for a month. That's been his retirement dream for quite a few years. No doubt it will be a wonderful experience for us both and I'll probably be full of news about it when I next blog. Carol  

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Innocence of Youth

It's December 31st (I know you won't be reading this until January 9th). I just packed up all the Christmas decorations and tree. I always do on December 31st. For me, Christmas is strictly for December. But as I was folding the lights up, and pushing the tinsel into the big red bag, I felt a little sad. I had enjoyed the soft glow of the Christmas fairy lights reflecting from the tinsel dressed Christmas tree. And all the little things I have bought over the years that reminded me of my childhood Christmases. Christmas in the 70's was the most exciting time of my childish year. All of the traditions, stories and fun.

This morning as I put the tinsel in the bag, I sighed with a sense of sadness knowing that those times are gone. I sometimes try to recreate them using the same tastes with Christmas food, and the same kind of decorations, but things are different now. I'm all grown up (and then some), and the delights of childish innocence, and magic of Christmas just happening are finished. Now if Christmas is going to happen, the Christmas fairies don't seem to be there anymore. It's up to me to make it happen. In days gone by it was the tireless efforts of my mother, grandmothers and aunt that made Christmas what it was. As kids, we just indulged and enjoyed.

That made me think of my childhood in general. Being a kid in the 60's 70's was great! I didn't think about the ills of society, the troubles of economics, the fears of a degenerate population. I think I heard whispers of some trouble in Borneo, and floods in Queensland, and perhaps some thing awful had happened in New Guinea. But I was a kid, and it didn't effect me. I wasn't too worried about the world around. I lived on a farm, and I had 300 acre home property to wander about on, with my horse, dog and pet sheep. And I didn't have a mobile phone so my parents could contact me at any moment. When I got home, I didn't jump on facebook and update my status. I was lucky if I used the telephone plugged into the hallway wall more than once a month.

Ah, the innocence of youth. What a wonderful thing.

Then that makes me think, what about our youngsters today. They have war, murder, riots, rape and drug deals pumped into their living area just about every evening around news time. There are stories of economic woe, doomsday is threatening, if not in reality, at least in the movies - after all, the Mayan Calendar finished in 2012.

Are our kids living an innocent carefree life, as I did when I was a kid? I'm not sure that they do. We don't let them outside very much to explore unattended, because of our own fear. That's a shame.

Perhaps it is up to us story tellers to get our kids reading at least, and bring them into a world that perhaps might be fairyland to them, but was a reality to generations past.

Hope you all had a great start to the New Year, and wishing you all the best in your endeavours for 2012.

Meredith Resce

Author - Period Drama Romance (and other stuff too. This year might be different, so watch this space)

Friday, January 6, 2012

CREATIVITY IN THE IMAGE OF THE CREATOR


Where does a writer’s urge to create come from? While many answers are possible, I can’t help but wonder whether one factor is that we have been created in God’s image—and God is the ultimate creator.1

Most of us in this group seem to be fiction writers, and we assume that fiction requires more creativity than non-fiction. Having tried my hand at both, I’d say this is true. However, writing non-fiction still requires creativity: as a minimum, it involves communicating information in a new way (if it didn’t, it would be plagiarism). Decisions must still be made about structure, grammar, etc. Ergo, all writing is creative: it involves bringing into being something that didn’t exist previously.

Obviously there’s more ways for people to create than through writing. However, with a bit of dodgy exposition, we can make a tongue-in-cheek case that writers are closest to God in this regard because of their chosen medium. Everything God created was created through the Word (John 1:1–3); everything we create is created through the word. Of course, the Biblical concept of logos (‘word’) is not to be taken too literally, so this parallel is little more than a play on words (so to speak).

While considering the parallel between God’s creativity and ours, we might bravely ponder whether God’s creation is fiction or non-fiction. For centuries, philosophers have been arguing about whether everything is actually real; ie, true and therefore non-fiction. I feel that the creation is real in the sense that (in my opinion) it exists—yet I also feel that it is artificial in the sense that God’s realm, to which we aspire in eternal life, will allow us to see things as they really are (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12).

In addition to having the desire and ability to create, God derives satisfaction from the results of his creative efforts; eg, ‘And God saw that it was good.’ (Genesis 1:10). This, too, is reflected in the writers’ experience. I’m reminded of a quote from Gloria Steinem: ‘I do not like to write—I like to have written.’. On a bad day, I know what she means! (Presumably God didn’t have any bad days and enjoyed the process as much as the product.)

Obviously, Christians are not the only ones who desire to write, or to create in general. However, I don’t think this observation invalidates my hypothesis, since all people are created in God’s image. Hopefully, as Christians, we are more in tune with that image and more desirous of aspiring to it.

So, next time you put finger to keyboard to create, perhaps you could derive some satisfaction from the thought that you’re reflecting God’s image.

Footnote

1. I’m not meaning to imply anything about the processes that God may, or may not, have used to effect his acts of creation. I’m only assuming that, as Christians, we believe God to be the ultimate cause.


Peter McLennan

http://writer.catplace.net

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Obstacle Course


On the 29th of December 2011, my husband, son and I, packed our bags and began a 400 km drive to Mildura, Victoria. We looked forward to welcoming the new year in with our extended family from Whyalla, Sydney and the Blue Mountains. Our plan was to converge on neutral territory and to enjoy 5 days of relaxation, adventure and family times together. Very exciting! We found that the roads were packed with many other holiday makers, both before us and behind us. Our speedy passage was often interrupted by many a slow moving vehicle.

Shan would overtake a long slow road train and breathe a sigh of relief as we moved again at the appointed speed limit of 110 kmph. But ever so frustratingly, just 10 or 15 minutes later, we would catch up on yet another slow moving vehicle. And then…. more overtaking was needed by swinging out to the lane of oncoming traffic. It always made me hold my breath and pray fervently that we would not have a head on crash!

Obstacles! No matter where you drive, there are often obstacles to overcome, don’t you think? I got my driver’s license only a year ago. Driving hazards seem to pop up every time I drive. A car on the right of me; a roundabout in the front of me; an impatient tailgater on the back of me, a parked car on the left of me….! Whenever I get behind the wheel, my road seems to become an obstacle course!

Come to think of it, every time I start walking on the road of life, obstacles seem to drop down right ahead of me. Know what I mean?

In fact, hazards and obstacles pop up all over the place on our Writing journeys too, don’t they? A writer’s life is not an easy life. Needing agents, but never finding them; needing publishers but getting rejected by them; needing ideas but losing them; needing readers but being rebuffed by them; needing luck but losing the same; needing encouragement but often discouraged…..! Need I go on?

You and I know that we are often energised by our calling. That we have purpose and passion as we write. That nothing excites us as much as the stories that grab at us from the inside. That life at the keyboard, or life with a blank piece of paper and pen is truly invigorating. That there is lots of good stuff inside us that needs to get out there and be seen and heard and read by the world!

We also know that we rarely have a smooth ride. Other professions seem to have it easier. They may not spend half the time we do on their work, but they actually earn good money from it. We don’t. We work hard; we write into the wee hours, we burn the midnight oil. But to what purpose? Our should-be-world-famous manuscripts are often not picked up. They sit idly on a slush pile at a Publisher’s desk somewhere out there for many dreary months. And then we get that dreaded letter from the Publisher, which politely informs us that we didn’t make it this time! Perhaps we do publish our books. But then have to spend many hours and lots of energy figuring out how to sell our books.

As we were winding our way towards Mildura, my mind went catapulting towards obstacles, not just as a Christian writer but also as a Christian. I don’t know about you – but as for me, my Christian life is jam packed with obstacles. One day I walk around without a care in the world; a song in my heart and a smile on my lips. The next day I wonder what hit me. I crash into a huge roadblock on life’s journey. It badly impedes my progress; it quickly steals my joy!

Wouldn’t it be great if life’s highway was one beautiful stretch of country road with no obstacles, no difficulties, no hard to live with folks, no nothing that impedes our progress? Then, we would be singing all the time. Our purses would bulge. We would hold it all together. We would even be successful, well known authors. Life would be wonderful!

But you know what? That’s an illusion! Yes, an illusion. Dare I say it? Yes! I do believe that without those very obstacles, life would not be half as good it is now! Without the difficulties and the huge mountains that block my progress, I would not be half the writer I am today; or half the woman I believe I am!

As I reflect at the start of a brand new year on the year that is past, I feel a warm glow welling up inside of me. The glow isn’t all about success that follows the world’s definition of success. The feelings of well being that bubble up inside me overflow out of a different kind of success.

When I chalk up my successes of 2011, the ones that I feel most ‘proud’ and glad about are nothing to do with my “achievements”. No! I am full of joy today because I re-discovered this past year that God and I are always a majority. That God alone is always enough. Full stop. I feel successful not because of success. But because I chose His way when times got rough. Because I jumped over many hurdles with His help. Because I am still going.

Because I deliberately chose a better pathway when an obstacle loomed in front of me. Because I decided to take a detour when God suggested I needed one. Because I felt my soul growing muscles each time I overcame an obstacle! And yes, I even felt God’s cheering me on from the sidelines as I jumped over hurdle after hurdle in His strength! And you know, He sometimes gave me Eagles wings, so I could fly high over some of those obstacles!

On Jan 1st 2012, as I sat in an unknown little church in Mildura with my family – many miles away from home, my heart was bursting with joy. I felt God’s love and peace in my heart. I knew that any difficulties I’d encountered to date in my writing journey were all good – they had challenged me; and they had helped me. They had made me appreciate the good things I had accomplished. And so I didn’t take them for granted. They spurred me on to write better.

I knew also that life’s obstacles of the past year were stepping stones to character growth, to refining my spirit. Lessons in learning to love God. Lessons in learning how to live in freedom as His beloved child. Lessons of doing things God’s way and not mine.

So the very things I thought of as obstacles to a happy life were in fact the source of my joy today. I believe I have a new confidence. A new spring in my step. A new smile in my heart. I did have a year filled with obstacles. But the obstacles were blessings. Seeming hazards that refined me as a writer. That grew me as a person. And so I rejoice today with all I am. And praise God for an obstacle filled year which brought me closer to Him and His purposes for my life.

Is your present life as a Writer an obstacle course? Is your life as a Christian filled with new hazards each day? Fear not my friend. Those very obstacles are the stepping stones to better things. I say this with confidence, because His word says so. And I found it to be true. He has shown its truth to me over and over again.

The obstacles I’ve surmounted and overcome through God’s amazing love and God’s amazing grace, have brought me where I am today. I do love the new ground I stand upon today. I am excited about the new pathways that beckon me enticingly. So there is something to say about this Obstacle Course called Life. It’s great! Take my word for it!

May every obstacle in your writer’s journey bring out the best in you! May every hazard in your Christian journey be the stepping stone to enjoying abundant life – today and every day of 2012!

A very Blessed New Year to you all!


Anusha enjoys many things in life – music and song, poetry and prose, writing and writers, family and friendships, creation and The Creator. She’s finds joy in simple things, in quiet moments, in life led by the One who died for her.

She’s been writing all her life for pleasure. But 5 years ago, God tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to get on with His plans for her. Since then she’s been writing also to fulfill her purpose and calling in life!

Her first book 'Enjoying the Journey', a collection of 75 little lessons from every day life, is available from her Facebook page "'Enjoying the Journey' by Anusha Atukorala".

Sunday, January 1, 2012

STRANGER THAN FICTION

Have you ever had anything happen to you that is so strange, people screw up their faces and scratch their heads when you recount it?

That has been my recent experience.

It started when my trusty old computer which had served me well for quite a few years began to weary me with its slowness, its increasingly frequent freezes, its stubborn refusal sometimes to follow commands.

Besides, it was located in a dark, cramped corner of the lounge room where it could be easily connected to the phone outlet, and I had to squeeze between the piano and the sofa to get to it. The thought of buying a laptop entered my head, and once there it grew. I envisaged myself writing at the big, oak table in the cheery light of the dining room, or the quiet seclusion of the spare room, depending on how the mood took me, or even sometimes in bed at night.

Finally, with my husband's encouragement, I bought one.

"Better take an axe to the old one," I told him, following the advice of a technician. I would have taken perverse pleasure in doing it myself, but he had the muscle so I left him to it.

The day after I got my laptop, I began installing software, transferring files and generally playing around with it and getting to know it. It was everything I'd hoped for - fast, efficient, modern, lightweight and easy to carry around. Now and then I stopped to chat to someone who passed through, enjoying the company and the view from the dining room window. After awhile, I became vaguely aware that I was getting a very dry mouth and my lips were burning as though I'd been out in the sun. I have fair, sensitive skin, so I berated myself for failing to apply lipscreen that morning. As the weeks passed, though, it dawned on me that this dry, stinging sensation happened every time I sat down at my laptop. Furthermore, I was developing a faint, red rash that itched terribly.
My husband stood me in the light and inspected it with wonder. "It's right down the center of your face," he said, bemused.

What a nuisance, I thought. Why is this happening? And is it dangerous? I became wary of using my laptop, but I had no choice to at least do a minimum of things like deal with my emails. The red rash produced little hives, my nose started streaming, my chest felt tight. One day when I was catching up on browsing my favourite web sites, my throat constricted. I shut it down immediately and vowed that I would never use it again.

I was allergic to my laptop!

Now I was in a fix. I was an aspiring writer with no tool of trade. I'd wasted a considerable sum of money on a good quality laptop, and couldn't just go out and buy another computer. Besides, what if all the modern ones had the same effect? I decided to ask around and see if anyone had an old computer that they wanted to get rid of. The good news is that I have recently been given one, quite similar to my original. The bad news is that my immune system seem to have kicked off a permanent reaction, and I am still experiencing some troubling symptoms.

I've discovered through my research that I've quite likely developed a radiation sensitivity. In this case, a computer apparently emits a much lower level of radiation when it is cabled rather than wireless.

So guess what? I have put my computer back in the corner of the lounge room, near the phone outlet.

Isn't life full of ironies?

What about you? Do you have any 'you wouldn't believe it story?'

Debbie Ryan