New Year, New Decade
On Christmas Eve I had one of those milestone birthdays with a zero at the end of it. OK, it's the one between 30 and 50. It's handy in a way, when you spin over another decade just as the calendar spins over another decade. I've been told my due date was actually January 2nd, 1970 and wish I'd gone the distance, because Christmas Eve isn't a good time to try to fit a birthday into. I'm usually too busy along with everyone else. But there you go! And this year, I took the time to reflect because I don't want to go into my forties without some nostalgia.
First, I can see that it's an illusion that you're old or even middle aged when you reach it. In my heart of hearts I feel just the same as I did in my teens and early twenties. But back then, 40 did carry a middle-aged stigma. I wouldn't have wanted to write about them then, because I would have thought I had no idea how they think and feel. Now I know that they think and feel not much different as before. Now I'm not afraid to try to write convincingly about the elderly, because although I haven't got there yet, I'm willing to guess that it'll probably be the same.
40 years is a big chunk of time. The Israelites were wandering around in the Sinai Desert during a slab of time the duration of my life span. No wonder they thought God was slow to move. If I'd been a new-born baby during the Exodus from Egypt, it would have been the only life I'd ever known. Although 40 years is a snap in the grand scheme of things, it's definitely long enough for a person to become set in their ways.
I've seen extremes in my life. I've been chubby and I've been too skinny. I've been afraid that I could never have a baby or carry a pregnancy full term but I've also been surprised by a completely unexpected pregnancy. I can stand back and see that I've wasted a lot of energy fearing or worrying about things which never happened. I'll never have that emotional energy back again but at least I can launch into this season of my life with my eyes open.
New Year's Resolution
This is similar to all the advice you've probably heard to keep a Gratitude Journal, yet it's slightly different. I was thinking how I'd tend to get hurt feelings or sad if people overlook my efforts. Feeling unappreciated or unnoticed is not pleasant. On the other hand, when people do give us unexpected encouraging feedback, it gives us an instant lift. As God created us in His own image, He would surely feel the same. I found myself standing back and wondering how often I took the time to actually notice His efforts. He's made a fantastically beautiful world, and it's so easy to breeze along taking it for granted or not even noticing.
I've often been striving to make my own mark in the world and impress people. I'm tired of that attitude now. I want to begin to notice the beauty and say a sincere "Thank You Lord," for no other reason than warming His heart because somebody is acknowledging Him. Living in the Adelaide Hills is enough to give me a head start but beautiful things are everywhere. Babies and children, smiles on the faces of friendly people, images written in books. Yesterday I went for a walk in the Mt Barker wetlands near my home and started my new habit. I saw a great pelican sticking his neck under the water, tilting back his head and having a huge drink. He sort of shook it down his neck. And I sat still and watched a tiny wren flit into a bush and trill a little song that sounded like clear bells. What a huge difference there is between the pelican and the wren, yet they are both birds! I said, "Wow God, thank you for your magnificent variety." And at home, I wrote it into my journal and I felt good too. I think noticing the beauty is a habit I'll definitely keep up.
What I've been reading
In the week before Christmas I bought "The Book of Tomorrow" by Cecelia Ahern. She's only young and already a bestselling author, who wrote "PS, I Love You" which was made into a movie. I picked up her most recent book because the title drew me, and then the blurb on the back convinced me! I'll write it down, to show the impact a great blurb makes.
Tamara Goodwin has always lived in the here and now, never giving a second thought to tomorrow. Until a travelling library arrives in her tiny village bringing with it a mysterious, large leather-bound book locked with a gold clasp and padlock. What she discovers within the pages takes her breath away and shakes her world to its core. A mesmerising story about how tomorrow can change what happens today.
There you have it. An intriguing blurb needs to be paired up with an eye-catching cover to say, "Buy me!" My opinion of the book itself is that it was pretty good. I was interested enough to stay up late at the end of Christmas Day to finish it off, although the cheeky heroine had a mouth on her that I found a bit wearing on my nerves. It left me more enthusiastic to keep on with my own fiction for the Christian market because Christian readers deserve similar exciting and intriguing novels without having to wade through all the swearing and casual sex. And I have to add that this book is pretty mild compared to some I've read, including those which have been on the University English syllabus reading list.
Anyway, it's encouraging in a way to notice that the occasional bit of average writing can slip past the editors even in a best-seller like this. I found the following sentence:- "She had become grey in the face and lost all her colour." Now I've been assessing and tearing up my own work long enough to know that one of these two descriptive phrases should have been deleted. This sort of thing is a tautology. It's saying the same thing twice in different ways. Alison, my old editor who worked on my Quenarden books with me, used to refer to them as "wet water" and sometimes she'd jot "WW" in the margin of my manuscript with an arrow pointing to the tautology. When even bestselling books miss a few basic mistakes like this from time to time, it makes me think we can be easy on ourselves. We're all human!
Writers talking about other writers
Long ago I read some scathing comments that Louisa May Alcott wrote about Mark Twain, calling him vulgar and full of himself. She said that nobody should ever deign to read crass rubbish like his. Of course it was written in her polite, lady-like sort of way but I don't have her actual words in front of me. Anyway, a few days ago I came across a book which quoted Mark Twain himself slamming Jane Austen. He thought she was trite, affected and wrote books in which nothing meaty and interesting happened whatsoever. On his way home to America after his English tour, he complained that there was nothing better than her books in the ship's library. This proves that writers have always taken digs at each other. But it also proves that we should take lightly what other people say, no matter how great their credentials seem to be. All three of these authors are still enjoyed as classic geniuses with not just books but many quotes to their credit. People just have different tastes, that's all.
It also proves that there'll always be books you come across that you don't like much. You might consider them a waste of your money and time spent reading them. But maybe we should consider that if we didn't invest in books we don't enjoy from time to time, we probably wouldn't come across the rare gems either. And when you put them back into circulation by donating them to Goodwill Shops, somebody with different taste to yours might pick them up cheap and actually like them. Apart from my very favourites which I'd never part with, I'm beginning to think that books are like money. They are meant to be circulated and not hoarded.
A similar principle holds true for writing. Over time, I've ripped out or scribbled out lots of scenes that just seemed superfluous or not to fit. They were scenes that I'd worked hours on. That sort of situation has made me groan and think, 'What a waste of time and effort!' But it wasn't a waste because writing them was an integral part of writing the whole book.
That's all for now but I thought that in a few days I'll post some birthday and Christmas photos on. I might be posting more than just once a month, if I have anything good to share.
See you soon.