Monday, 10 February 2020

Route 2020

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Wallking along a bush track, surrounded by dense scrub or rainforest, we often can't see the how far we've come or how much further we need to travel.

We might feel the burn in our calves and in our lungs as we scramble up a steep incline. We might feel the hunger and the thirst and the tiredness. We might note the changing shadows and other signs of passing time, but we're still surrounded by trees, trees, and more trees.

And then, the trees open up and we emerge into a sudden burst of sunlight. From the edge of the cliff or the top of a tor, we can see the terrain spreading out before us. We can see the ground we've covered, where we are on the map, and how much fruther we need to go.

One of my favourite scenes in Tolkien's The Hobbit is when Bilbo and the dwarves are hopelessly lost in Mirkwood, until Bilbo climbs up a forest giant to the very top branches and looks over the canopy of dense, dark treetops. He feels the sun on his skin, breathes the clean air, wonders at the dance of the butterflies, and sees in the distance the edge of the forest, the end of their journey. Now they know which way to travel.

In the Bible, there are moments of reflection on the way of what has been achieved (often marked by memorials) and bold promises about the tasks ahead. Mount Sinai, the crossing of the Jordan river, Joshua's declaration that he and his house would follow the Lord, and Jesus' call to follow him.

Sometimes I get so caught up with the day to day, month to month details of what I need to be doing as a Indie writer and become so anxious about what I haven't achieved, that I lose sight of how far I've come. At those times, the road ahead seems daunting, even impossble.

Maybe, the start of 2020 is a great time to tke stock, to remember and to re-group, to see the way ahead.

I started writing again less than ten years ago, when I made the decision to enrol in post-graduate studies on creative writing. It's been a steep learning curve, especially as writing styles and reading preferences (for faster-paced, immersive narratives) had changed. It's been frustrating at times (Why can't I use adverbs? I thought I was showing, not telling! But I love proverbs and cliches, etc.) And it can feel like I've put in enourmous effort for minimal results. As year passed year, it seemed like I would never be published, and then (five years ago), in December, 2014, my first short story was published. Now I'm trying to work out how to reach wider audiences and to keep up and increase the momentum of sales, while still writing more books and juggling family and other responsibilities. It's not easy. It can be overwhelming.

Yet, I love writing and connecting with readers. This is what what I want to do. It's what I believe God has called me to do. And I need to trust Him - that He will make a way -  while celebrating what He has already done. And in the end, perhaps it's the journey that counts.

Things we could celebrate:

Making the decision to write
Finishing the first draft
Being brave enough to get feedback from other writers, editors etc (from people other than family and close friends)
Being willing to listen to negative as well as postive feedback
Learning to know when to listen and when to trust your instincts.
Finding your voice
Learning the 'rules', so that you know how and when you can break them and when you shouldn't.
Submitting your work
Getting your first rejection letter (yep, because it means you were brave enough to submit your work)
Submitting your work despite the knock backs.
Not giving up.
Writing your next story, and the next one, and the next one.
Growing in your writing.
Reading your writing to a live audience for the first time.
Having your work published
Getting a positive review
Getting a negative review (yes, because most likely means a stranger has taken the time to read your work).
A reader continuing to think about your characters long after they finished reading your story
An award
Hearing a reader has recommend your book to someone else.
Your first royalty payment.
A book signing
Having a book table at a convention or book fair.
Fans inpatient for the next story
Fans dressing up as one of your characters (maybe one day).
Helping another writer to start the journey or continue along it.
Someone writing to say that your story impacted them, encouraged, inspired or maybe even changed them.
Knowing you have done what God has asked you to do.

Whether you are at the beginning of the journey, or being travelling for years, maybe take some time of reflection at the start of 2020. Remember and then celebrate past achievements - no matter how small.  Thank God for them and for the road ahead. And don't allow the giants in the land scare you and prevent you from entering God's promises.

Photos c. Jeanette O'Hagan 2020  Rendered Realms photo by Wayne Logan

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing.

Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems including Akrad's Children (Book 1 of the Akrad's Legacy series) & the 5 book Under the Mountain series.

Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.


  1. Thanks, Jenny. I needed to hear this. I'm slogging through the list ... Wow! Look how far I've come! Like I said, thanks, Jenny. I needed to hear this.

  2. We're so busy looking ahead at the start of a new year that we csn firget to look back, so thanks for this reminder.

    Congratulations on having a complete series under your belt. That's no small achievement.

  3. Thanks Jenny, for this great reminder. Taking life one day at a time is wise advice, but the moments you mention in which we get to gaze back at how far we've come are so encouraging and important. And you yourself have fitted such a lot of great writing related milestones into less than a decade :)

    1. Thanks, Paula. Your own record is pretty impressive. Love your books.

  4. Still a great word, Jenny, even at the end of the year. Despite the rather unique way this year evolved, your list is still filled with recognisable achievements and goals; having travelled Route 2020, I, for one, can say I am further along the road, thanks to the Holy Spirit's encouragement and that of my fellow CWD travellers.

    1. HI Mazzy, that's wonderful. Yes, who could have predicted how 2020 would turn out. And while I got sidetracked for most of the year, I've made good progress on editing my next novel in the last 7 weeks :) Believing we can both look forward to more progress in 2021.