Saturday, August 4, 2007

Harnessing the Imagination

This is actually Part 4 of a series I started on my old blog. I'll probably get around to transporting Parts 1-3 to this blog soon. It's all about getting imaginative ideas flowing and then down on paper.

Make friends with loneliness
In our western culture, where we're bombarded with subtle cues to behave like the rest of the world, it can be difficult to see a big, ambitious writing or art project through to the finish. I think there is a certain amount of pressure we battle with to give up because of what we perceive as loneliness and lack of support. This is inherent in the occupation. Sometimes we find it hard to avoid these feelings when we think, "It's just me and my scrapbook," or "It's just me and my computer," every day.

I mentioned this at the Christian writer's conference because I think people who live in the Christian culture can find this particularly hard. We always hear about great, upfront things people are doing to actively change their worlds. They're going on mission trips, street-witnessing, caring for the sick, smuggling Bibles into China, preaching and teaching. In other words, they're "out there" and we honour them for it. But sometimes those of us who are pursuing occupations such as writing feel as if people don't care whether we ever finish writing our books or not. In fact, I've sometimes got the impression (often from very extroverted, up-front Christians) that there is a fine line between not caring and disapproval. "People are starving out there, yet you're sitting around writing fantasy novels!"

The first antidote to this is to remind ourselves every day that writing and the arts are equally as important, in their way, as the more up-front, hands-on occupations. God is the author of one just as much as the other. Stories and Art can add beauty to the world and change peoples' entire world outlooks. That's why they used to say, "The pen is mightier than the sword" I found another excellent eighteenth century quote, "If a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation!" That's how powerful such things as writing, art and music can be on the thinking of people.

I took the advice of author Natalie Goldberg, who wrote on the subject of the writer's loneliness, "Just break through these feelings. A bit of loneliness is just loneliness. It's nothing to fear or shy away from. If you're not afraid to face it, it loses its scariness. If you stop cringing from it, it loses its power." I found it great when I began to think in this manner, enjoyed my characters as friends, and accepted myself as a person who enjoys doing something that requires no company for 80% of the time. It's just how writers are wired.

Last year, I read something in a book about Mother Teresa that I took on board and used to change the way I think. She was being interviewed by an author who said something along the lines of, "When I look at all the good you and you sisters are doing, I feel convicted that I'm taking the soft and easy option." Mother Teresa immediately rebuked him, "Don't ever say that! What you're doing is just as important as what we're doing and don't ever forget it. God has given you an amazing gift of writing and you have the potential to do so much good in the world through it. Don't ever make the mistake of down-playing the importance of what God's given you to do." That made an impression on me and I think it's a good place to stop today.


  1. Some great thoughts. I've often felt like I had no practical use for the kingdom of God, being so creatively engineered. But I think that's a lie of the evil one.

    Thanks for your post.

  2. Hi Paula!

    I thought this post was very interesting. I hadn't considered this before but I can understand why a writer/artist might feel that way. (Writing is not yet my occupation but I hope for it to be, someday!) I most certainly feel the way Mother Teresa stated - God can use our talents for His good. Not everyone is (or should be) a missionary. We need the written word and the arts in our world. The Bible is the ultimate example. I guess because I can appreciate writing as an occupation, I never thought that someone else might not feel it's a valid thing to do. Such ignorance! Is there a Part 5? I hope so, I'm enjoying this series!

    I'm sorry Logan needed the dental work - that's a bummer! I just hate the dentist - well, you know that already, I think. I've never heard of a child so young grinding his teeth. Time will tell if Blake grows out of it, hope so.

    Keep up the great writing!


  3. Hi Paula,
    Thanks for the advice, sorry it took so long for me to get back to you. I never even thought about things like ISBN's. I guess I figured that would magically appear when the book was published. ;o)

    I love what you've said here. I think people forget that God gives us talents to use, not to "hide under a bushel basket." Whatever your gifts are, you are compelled to use it or you are unhappy. Notice I've used the plural. We all have many gifts. Sometimes we don't even notice them all. I recognize that I need to focus in on one gift at a time or else, as you pointed out, it can be difficult to see a big project through to finish. I honestly don't know how multi-tasking became so important in our society. I would rather do one thing well than many things poorly.

    I found an interesting group on LibraryThing called writer-readers. They had a discussion topic on self-publishing versus traditional publishing. I thought of you! Let me know if you would like the link and I'll e-mail it to you. You don't have to join LibraryThing. You can just lurk the discussions.

    Peace and Laughter,

  4. God gave each of us the gifts He wanted us to have, not the gifts that others have. I am becoming more and more convinced that being a homeschooling family is being pretty "on the front lines" as a Christian. It is becoming more and more difficult to raise up our children for the Lord in an increasingly anti-Christian world. And we can sure use our creative gifts in raising and schooling our kids or doing whatever else God leads us to do for Him.

    Thanks for faithfully doing what God has called you to for His kingdom!

  5. Hi Paula! Thank you for your comments on my poem. I too self-published to get my poems into print. Would love to read some of your novels. I think we are kindred spirits - even the same blog set up and colors.

    Having spent most of my career working for the Church, I know what you mean about those who do great "out there" kinds of works. That is their gift and their challenge is to see "why" they do what they do. (See Del Mello's fantastic book "Awareness") But we quiet(?) writers have a gift too. And if you doubt the power of the written word, look how many people from all over the world "listen" to your work. Not to mention the crowds I encounter each time I visit Barnes & Nobles. Keep up the good work.