PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
This past year has been very challenging in many areas of life. My husband went from being the director of a car business to working as a full-time photographer; we built a new house, produced two new books, travelled extensively, my mother passed away and we faced numerous other challenges.
Sometimes life pushes us to our limits, and, often beyond.
Early this year, in the midst of immense change, I decided to apply for Summer School at Oxford University.
|Christ Church Oxford|
I had three major reasons for going (besides always having the dream of being an Oxford Scholar).
One was to give my writing a much-needed boost, to push my own boundaries and move forward. My fiction writing was pedestrian and I knew I had to do something to make a significant leap.
Another reason was to see if I was capable of writing at a level recognised by one of the best universities in the world. If I were to continue to pursue fiction writing, I needed to know whether or not I could stand on the world stage and be good enough.
The third reason was to figure out whether I should write for the Christian market exclusively or the general market. I wanted to find a way to write that was true to my identity, the craft and God in a new way.
My expectations for these goals were to be met in a three-week crash course in fiction writing in ways I never expected. It was intense, stretching and amazing all wrapped up in a 700 year-old building in a town populated by students and professors.
The history and tradition of the university, along with the quality tutors made it an experience I will never forget.
Were My Goals Achieved?
I was pushed to write the beginning of two novels (in two genres) in two weeks. 3000 words were required in each, as well as completing other homework and attending classes. Writing in two genres at the same time was a challenge in itself.
Handing in those assignments was nerve wracking. Would I gain the affirmation I was looking for? Would I feel flattened if I was told my work wasn’t up to scratch? I was surrounded by brilliant people from all over the world, many of whom were in their twenties studying at universities. How would my work stack up?
Reading your work in class and getting critiqued constantly by the tutors and classmates stretched me too. It’s not like being in a critique group with people who know you and your work. This was one of the most helpful aspects of the course. It confronts you and makes you accountable so you produce your very best work.
My grades exceeded my expectations and I felt very proud and happy with my work. The feedback shows even more work to be done, however, being told your work is publishable gives you incredible affirmation that you are on the right track.
Faith and writing in an institution such as Oxford has a profound history. CS Lewis, one of my heroes, was one of a number of writers whose faith shone in their work. Today, secular post modernist writing is more likely to be endorsed and valued.
However, the idea of a post modernist Christian perspective in my writing was birthed in my thinking. I’m not sure where this will lead, however, I will pursue this thinking and ponder as I write.
|The 'Adult Learners' Graduate|
I think if we stay the same and never push ourselves beyond what we are capable of or stretch our thinking, we can become stale or stall progress in our writing skills.
I’m only beginning this fiction-writing journey and I am determined to keep pushing the boundaries. God hasn’t brought me this far to give up or become complacent. He’s called me to be the best I can with what he’s given me.
The hard work is up to me. I rely on Him for the inspiration and strength to keep on pushing the boundaries.
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
#If you'd like to read more you can see The Oxford Files at http://www.beautifulbooks.co/node/104