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.