Monday, 12 September 2011

Brave Little Flame

I've always been a bookworm. I thrive on the adrenaline rush a good story give me, and how I can be reduced to tears one moment and begin cheering when I turn the page. I enjoy daydreaming new events for characters I grow to love. After finishing a great novel one evening when I was very young, I sensed a clear question deep in my spirit, prompting me, Why don't you give it a go?

Immediately, I knew I wanted to do that more than anything. My kitchen stove has old fashioned gas jets for its hot plates, which we need to ignite with matches. With a powerful sounding WHOOSH, a beautiful ring of flame shoots up. That was the same effect this question had on my spirit. I quietly responded, Yes, I will, and felt that I was being obedient to God's prompting.

For year after year, that's exactly what I've tried to do. A novelist or author is what I'd tell school teachers I wanted to be. Now I have seven fiction titles circulating out there. Like the Olympic Torch, that flame kept burning strong. But recently, I noticed it beginning to dwindle. Trying to fan it back, I identified several extinguishers.

Financial hardship is a big one, especially as my husband studies, we struggle to make ends meet and I wonder whether I ought to cave in, place my homeschooled children in 'the system' and seek a 'proper' job - meaning one with a steady income. That one is like throwing a damp towel on my flame.

Indifference I face is another extinguisher. A small part of my fire dies whenever booksellers remain aloof or seem to snub me, whenever family or friends disappoint me by giving me the NOT INTERESTED message, whenever I find that people aren't leaving comments on my blog or even bothering to click LIKE when I've placed a link, announcement or review on Face Book. That one feels like dry ash being shoveled right over my flame.

Perhaps the biggest deterrent of all is the undesirable change I perceive in my attitude and personality. I become this praise-junkie, approval seeking, self-promoting bundle of raw nerves who feels uncomfortable every time I try to thrust myself into the spotlight, but understand that this is the way the world dictates it needs to be done if I'm to get anywhere. This is the blast that almost killed my flame; like a harsh jet of icy-cold foam.

I felt that if I have to make myself an unauthentic person who needs to thrive on pride and ambition to get my name known, I'd be far better off dousing the dream. It just didn't seem worth the price I had to pay. I began considering other paths instead. Therapist of some sort, dietician, pastor, masseuse? They all sound like good, helpful possibilities but I have no heart to pursue them for one simple reason. I never sense that same convincing voice, urging me, Why don't you give this a go?

I can't deny that my little flame is still burning steadily. Sometimes it shoots up through the piles of ash and debris and ignites the hot plate in my heart. An analogy between the great outdoors and human nature may occur to me, and the voice will whisper, Write that down, record the beauty. A throw-away remark on the News may fill me with the thought, You could easily get into the head of a character like that. Some hilarious irony may set me off laughing, and the voice is back again, telling me, That'll make a good blog post.

So while the brave little flame continues to burn, I continue to honour it. I know the gentle voice which whispers these things to my heart is good and worth heeding. Whenever I do obey the promptings, I enjoy myself tremendously, like putting all this into words for this blog post. I guess you haven't heard the last of me after all.

Paula Vince is a homeschooling mother and award-winning author of fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her husband and three children. She keeps a wise and witty blog, It Just Occurred to Me, which aims to refresh readers with optimism and encouragement. If you'd like to check out her published fiction novels, please visit her website.


  1. It's so hard to keep going with a smile on your face when those around you seem indifferent. I know as a family, we too have struggled with our situation and whether we should send our son into the system rather than home school.

    I was chatting to a friend recently about those very things, and she reminded me of something important. It was so important, I printed it out and now have it near my computer...

    'I'm writing for the Audience of One'

    Great post, Paula. :)

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  3. Thanks, Lee,
    I love it when something so profound and helpful can be condensed into as few as 7 words.

  4. Well said, Paula! You've given me even more thoughts for my workshop on 'Keeping God in the writing journey' at the Writers' Fair in November!Hang in there! One day soon your husband will be finished his studies and your children will be independent - and then it will be a whole different 'ball game' for you. God bless.

  5. Paula, I think you've touched all our hearts in that ache we experience in the writing life. I guess inventors experience that too. Very little encouragement from those we thought would be with us all the way. But thank the Lord for those who do pray for you...they're special. I've sent you something from Deb Raney's Blog which I'm sure will be a blessing.

  6. Oh Paula, you have touched my heart.

    I am not an author... but I am a blogger and I am a reader and a fan of your books. I am now a Light the Dark distributor too, your struggle is why I wanted to be a seller for promote Aussie authors, I often think "What if it was one of my six children struggling in this market????" How much would I be promoting Australian authors? Selling I believe is sowing....

    I love your faith and tenacity, and your sensitivity as you write.......yet part of me wonders if you will ever "see" the fruit of your labours TOTALLY except in heaven when people tell you your book "fell" into their hands and they were touched and blessed. Or they had this book on their shelves and they just picked it up and it blew them away!

    In the meantime I love this scripture in Eph 6
    12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

    Just stand and not yield!

    Bless you so much

  7. Here's a douse of petrol for your flame, Paula. You're a great writer. I love your writing. Keep at it, and let's know what's new in your project file coming up.

  8. Thanks for your post, Paula, and your honesty. Keep that light shining, and not just in the writing area of your life. I agree with what Cathy said about perhaps never really knowing the end result of your work.

  9. Thanks for your stark honesty Paula, it certainly encouraged me that I am not alone in these feelings. They seem to come with the territory of writing - the agony and the ecstasy.

  10. Isaiah 40:31
    For those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.
    Paula, I have said this verse over and over in times when I have felt what you have expressed. God has been the most faithful friend to me in all circumstances and as I have claimed this promise, I am always refreshed. :)

  11. I'm sure you're speaking for many of us authors, who experience those moments of doubt and insecurity, Paula. But I'm sure it's also true of us that the call which keeps us going is too strong to lie down for long. It's been said that a capacity is also a need and I think that's true of writing. While there are many challenges and even some blockages, the need is a drive which pulls us through those times and pushes us to greater heights,especially when we believe our capacity is God-given. I'm glad we can support each other and give the encouragement that helps us over the bumps.

  12. Hi Paula,
    I understand how you feel. So I wanted to say I loved "Picking up the pieces" and lent it to my daughter who wanted me to write to you the following "Really, really liked it!Was actually keen for them to be together in the end. It totally never bored me". Great work.
    Jennifer Ann

  13. Thanks everyone,
    As I expected, I've found all the feedback overwhelmingly encouraging.
    Jo-Anne, always to happy to indirectly help with those workshop ideas (grinning)
    Rita, I'm sure it helps boost each other when we share our frailties with honesty. Looking forward to reading Deb Raney's thoughts.
    Cathy, what beautiful thoughts. I'm sure we'll all be blown away when we get to heaven, by learning about the impact we've made which we've had no idea about.
    Meredith, that is a nice douse of petrol!
    Penny and Debbie, bless you ladies heaps.
    Lynne, that's one of the best promises to claim.
    Carol, I appreciate your support and encourage you to keep your own flame burning as you write your awesome books.

  14. Hi Jennifer Ann,
    I'm glad PUP delivered the ending you hoped for. I think it would've been so sad if they weren't. Please thank your daughter on my behalf, too :D

  15. I love your heart Paula, and so does God. There is something overwhelmingly beautiful about bare honesty. I find such comfort in drinking in the Psalms, and find solace in that even King David, felt and endured trials a plenty. Thank God we have each other to encourage one another, and in the light that is coming, all will be revealed, how you have played a part, in the renewing of many hearts. You are certainly a great encouragement to me.
    x Nicole

  16. Thanks for that heartwarming post Paula. You write so beautifully and I fully understand what you say. Every now and then there are other voices out there which make us question what we do. But you know deep down that you are doing what you were created to do. So keep on keeping on. I for one am glad you obeyed that still small voice. There's nothing to beat it, is there? Obedience to God brings such sweet joy - and you are a great writer! May God speak to you through unexpected blessings when the temptation to douse that flame knocks on you door.
    Well done on your writing and I did so enjoy this post!

  17. Hi Paula. I for one am glad you keep honouring that flame in spite of everything that is thrown at you to douse it. ((Hugs))The gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit will always reignite the embers when things come against you. XXOO

  18. Paula, thanks for your honest and thought provoking post. I value my writing friends because they understand this crazy writing journey, the ups and downs, the self doubt and anxieties. For me, the challenge is to keep my heart and mind focused on the knowledge that I write for an audience of one, and to seek His glory instead of my own. And to have a servant heart.

  19. Hi Paula
    Writing, like painting, builds a legacy, an inheritance for future generations. Your Christian writing that expounds the love of God will be lying around peoples homes for years, waiting to impact someone's life!
    Only God sees the fruit of the seeds you so faithfully sow. Please keep sowing! Australia needs you! xx

  20. As a reader I think many of us read a great book and talk to others about it but we dont always think to let the author know. I try to write to authors when I read books I dont always do it as I tend to forget or things get in the way. The same with blogs I often read but not comment I know many visit my blog and never comment and even for a not writing blogger this can be disheartening but then I see the stats so know people are reading and get the odd note of the blog about a post. I feel more bad for the author who gave there time when they dont comment. On facebook. I play games so often I miss posts from lots of people so dont comment on many (although your one the other day on telemarketers really touched a cord).
    I guess I am saying this cos even non writers have the same response to lack of acknowledgement. There are some groups I am on I wonder if anyone reads my posts or even cares cos other posts get a comment and mine seem to get missed but I know its not always personal but it does feel it sometimes.
    I do enjoy your blog. (Now to go back to my chair and wallow in self pity again not feeling great)

  21. No wonder your writing is so powerful, Paula. That was a wonderful post.
    I could very much identify with all the hindrances, but mainly the one of having to push yourself into the lime light. That is something I also detest because it's so against my personality (I hate selling)and against what I consider godly attitudes. But...I know that if we want people to read our VALUABLE contributions to this world, it's something we just have to do - but we can do it as unto the Lord, in Him and for Him:)
    Regarding your struggle with homeschooling, please don't give up. We also homeschooled, and in hindsight it was the best thing we could have done for our children, although it meant many sacrifices on my behalf. Our lives are full of seasons, and seasons change, but our God is always faithful. Just keep RESTING in Him:)
    Thanks for being so honest. It's been a great encouragement to all of us.

  22. Just wanted to respond to Jenny (Ausjenny) and say: "Be encouraged Jenny. You are noticed. You are loved. And not just by us writer people whom you support so generously, but by our extravagantly gracious heavenly Father!"

  23. I'm going to hold onto all of your encouraging words. I had a hunch that sharing human frailties on this blog may strike chords in hearts.
    Nicole, you're an inspiration and encouragement to me and many.
    Anusha, encouraging writing such as yours helps incredibly during low moments. I'm so glad we organised that 'book swap.'
    Amanda and Narelle, thanks for sharing the journey and relating to what I'm talking about.
    Jo, we are all leaving a great legacy and Australia does need us, whether or not it knows it :)
    Jenny, thanks for keeping your blog so faithfully despite these barren moments. I'm sorry you haven't been well and hope you're better soon.
    Margaret, thanks for understanding and sharing the journey. I chanced upon your blog just recently (through this tool bar) and loved my visit there. I'll surely return more often.
    God bless you all,

  24. I echo Penny's sentiments to Jenny. And Jenny, I like to make a point of contacting authors too, for the reasons you mention. Almost every time, they've responded to my thanks quickly and warmly. Just proves what we all know, that authors aren't generally inundated with encouragement and every bit helps.

  25. Thanks Penny and Paula I wasn't meaning to sound down. I do know people read the blog but to say we all feel this way.
    I am feeling better tonight I had some food and I think that was part of my issue being hungry but not sure I wanted food. I sure do hate gastric bugs.
    Now I better go and write a letter to an author!

  26. Paula, putting your flame into the context of a campfire, sometimes it needs to die down a little. Then, when new wood is thrown on, everyone appreciates the increasing flame.

    I'm still to be published but the glow never leaves my coals. Your blog is a great encouragement in many ways. Thank you.

  27. Thanks Jackie, that's good imagery. A campfire can smoulder away for a long time and then a bit of unexpected kindling can cause a spectacular flame. That's so true for us all.

  28. I am overwhelmed by your honesty Paula! And the amazing encouragement from the writing community here at CWD!

    Trials never go unused by God. Whatever grieves us, He works in us for His good purposes whether it be for our writing or any other ministry. Already, your bruising has touched many here. Thanks for sharing your heart with us :)

  29. Thanks Dorothy.
    I think sharing the trials is just as important as celebrating the greatness about writing, which is already so well covered by contributors to this blog day after after.

  30. Paula, your post is so rich. Not just with beautiful words, but also with touching wisdom. The hardest part of being a writer for me, has been sharing my work. Putting your labor of love out there for all to see takes a lot of courage. I remember when I finished my first manuscript – it took me over six months to show it to anyone. When I finally did I received an incredible reward – encouragement. Sometimes it comes from unexpected places, and always shows up when the Lord knows we need it the most.
    BTW – my sister homeschooled her three boys. Two are now fully trained tradesmen, and her youngest is in year ten. I know it wasn’t easy for her at times, but each one of her boys is an outstanding young man. I know that this is due to her perseverance, sacrifice, and hard, hard work.

  31. Bravely burning the flame for an audience of One ~ great post Paula.. love your honesty ;D

  32. I love your writing Paula, all of it, the novels, the blog posts, even friendly emails! You just have a gift that shines through with words!

    I write for an audience of one ;)

  33. Thanks Narelle <3 It's one of the few things I've stuck to year after year. I appreciate your affirming comments very much.