What will this New Year mean for your writing?

It begins again… this cycle of seasons bundled into the whirlwind called Time.  We’re perched on the cusp of 2013, wondering how the past year – for me it’s more like the past decade – could have swirled away so quickly.

The last page of the 2012 calendar will fall away tonight. There’s a new calendar underneath, ready to take its place. Other than that, what’s likely to change around here? Probably not much.

The New Year is considered an ideal time for new beginnings but I’ve mentioned before that I don’t do Resolutions. I can’t see the point of setting myself up for failure by promising to do things I haven’t been able to accomplish during the past twelve months. But not making resolutions doesn’t mean I can’t make fresh starts.

Last week my DD Shari Green posted a Saturday Snapshot on her blog, sharing a photo of crocuses and suggesting the year’s end “is a time of metaphorical crocuses and fresh green growth and signs of life. It is a time of hope.”  I like the metaphor. While my crocuses won’t be visible for a while, the Hellebores buds are showing already and I expect the snowdrops will be close behind. They’re always an early reminder that despite blustery winter weather, a new season is on its way.  As Shari says, there are signs of hope out there.

Last spring's Helleborus orientalis blooms

Last spring’s Helleborus orientalis blooms

I need that hope in my writing life. It’s been as cyclic as the seasons. All year I’ve waffled between determination and doubt, enjoying my storytelling efforts while wondering if I’m wasting my time… one week believing the words have potential and the next convinced they’re total drivel. Then I came upon a comment by Nathan Bransford:

“Terror and joy. Confidence and self-doubt.
The best artists live right in that uncomfortable middle.”

He was referring to a talk by Ben Silbermann, co-founder and CEO of Pinterest, who mentioned that “even after all the success he has had with Pinterest he lives at the intersection of terror and joy.” Nathan went on to explain how that also applies to writing: you have to be brave and confident, willing to risk putting your words out into the world because you believe in them. “But you also have to be self-critical enough to edit your work and fear failure and be worried that your best might not be good enough, which pushes you just that much further. You have to be scared of what will happen if you don’t do your best. You can’t ever get comfortable. Terror and joy. Confidence and self-doubt. The best artists live right in that uncomfortable middle.

I gleaned encouragement and hope from those words. In the New Year I’m going to remember it’s okay to waffle… to teeter occasionally on the edge of uncertainty… as long as I don’t let it discourage me, but rather, make it feed my determination to produce better writing.

How about you? How do you feel as you get ready to launch into a New Year of writing? Hopeful? Fearful? Or…?

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“Rejoice in your hope,
be patient in tribulation,
be constant in prayer.”

Romans 12:12 [RSV]

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Candles & Greenery, Magic & Mystery

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Candles and greenery are turning up everywhere. Sunday being the first Sunday in Advent – and part of the first weekend in December – we began our Christmas preparations… at least a few initial ones.

We put up our tree. I know it’s early, but I’m like a little child when it comes to Christmas. I can hardly wait!

DSC08996Saturday evening our church held its annual Christmas turkey dinner and the mood was set. There were candles at every table.

Then in church Sunday morning we lit the first candle on the Advent wreath – the “Candle of Hope” – and we sang:

You are the Hope living in us
You are the Rock in whom we trust
You are the light
shining for all the world to see…

Jesus, our hope,
living for all who will receive…

Lord we believe *

Our children come from muddled parents. My upbringing didn’t include faith or church attendance and Christmas was a secular celebration. My hubby’s father was a Presbyterian minister and in their household the holiness of Christmas was important. Our children grew up with a heritage that included a little of everything that both of us found meaningful from our backgrounds, and it’s a wonder they ever found their way through the magic and the mystery!

But they did… all the way through to their own solid Christian faith. (Obviously it wasn’t of our doing but the hand of God on their lives.)

Christmas can be celebrated in the silence of an unadorned stable, the holiness of our churches or amid the twinkling lights, greenery and decorations of our homes. The important thing is that we acknowledge the Christ of Christmas, the Hope of the nations, the Light of the world, and during this season of Advent prepare again for the significance of his coming.

As I write this, I’m squinting at the lights on our tree and setting my sights on him.

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* Hope of the Nations – Brian Doerksen

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In his name the nations will put their hope.

Matthew 12:21 – NIV

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We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Psalm 33:20 – NIV

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.

Micah 7:7 – NIV

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When the clouds roll in (or, dealing with disappointment)

You plan a weekend at the lake, but awaken Saturday to unexpected rain. Or maybe you prepare a surprise birthday dinner for your hubby, only to learn that a meeting has come up and he can’t make it home in time. Things don’t always go according to plan.

(A click will enlarge the photo)

I watched several Olympic events over the weekend… saw the hope and great effort that didn’t always achieve the expected or desired results.

Canada’s bronze medal win in the Men’s 4x100m Relay Final was forfeited when the replay revealed Jared Connaughton had stepped on the line, thus disqualifying his team. He was understandably “devastated and disappointed”.

The bigger shock for me was when China’s Qiu Bo hid his face and berated himself for winning a silver medal in the Men’s 10m Platform Diving… because it wasn’t gold.

Lofty goals and expectations are motivators. As writers working towards publication we do our best to learn the craft, write good stories, polish the words, and then search out contests judges, agents and publishers to help us make the dreams come true.

But not everyone’s will. So how do we deal with broken dreams, unfulfilled desires, or letters of rejection?

When clouds darken your skies, what keeps you watching for the sun’s return?

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Hope is tomorrow’s veneer over today’s disappointment.

Evan Esar

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Anytime you suffer a setback or disappointment,
put your head down and plow ahead.

Les Brown

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And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:5 ESV

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Sunshine on Cedars

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A glimmer of weak sunshine makes its way to the cedar trees. Except for the plow’s leavings, the snow is gone. Early February here is that bleak time of year when winter’s frozen glory has retreated and spring’s promise yet to arrive.

I sigh at the rotting leaves of autumn-neglected hostas and alder until I discover rosy peeks of peony tips emerging through the clutter. Even the winter pansies under the boxwood have survived their snowy burial and flaunt sturdy green and purple.

There is promise here after all. Promise enough for hope to flutter its gentle heartbeat on the cusp of wonder.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
[Romans 12:12]
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For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
[Romans 8:24-25]

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Advent Waiting

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There are many synonyms for ‘advent’ – beginning, start, dawn, initiation – but I like ‘introduction’.  Advent marks the beginning of a new year in the Christian church calendar and its four weeks are meant to be a time of expectation, anticipation and preparation for the coming of Jesus the Christ. However, it’s also a time when I’m re-introduced to the significance of my faith – that the whole point of his coming was to atone for my sinfulness.

That makes the whole Christmas story very personal because, believe me, when someone dies for you, it can’t be anything but personal!

On this first week of Advent I begin my annual wait in hope, in awe and in gratitude.

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“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever …
I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” [Psalm 89:1]
 
 “And now, Lord, what do I wait for and expect? My hope and expectation are in you.” [Psalm 39: 7] 
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” [Hebrews 6:19a] 
“But I will hope continually, and will praise you yet more and more.” [Psalm 71: 14]

 

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Waiting in Hope

We sang, “Hope is a Star” yesterday in church, and lit the first candle to mark the start of another Advent season. Wikipedia says the term comes from the Latin word adventus which means coming, and that Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”

Not just “waiting”, but “expectant waiting”. Not a passive sit-back-and-wait-until-it-gets-here kind of waiting, but a time of active participation that gives meaning to our Christian hope.

In my last two novels there are scenes that take place at Christmas. For one character it is a time of anticipation, for the other, despair. While I was writing I had to remind myself that life is like that – different for different people. Not everyone approaches the Christmas season with the same joy that I experience.

But most have hope.

What do your characters hope for? As you enter this Advent season, what do you hope for?

The Various Facets of Hope

At this time of the year we encounter hope everywhere. A child hopes there will be that one special gift under the tree; a student hopes for a passing grade on school exams; an employee hopes for a year-end bonus; perhaps a family hopes a distant loved one will be home for Christmas; or maybe a street person hopes for shelter and a hot meal on a frigid night.

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Writers know all about hope, too. Some days we simply hope for inspiration. Or if we’ve written and revised repeatedly, we hope to catch an agent’s attention or a publisher’s interest. If there is a published book we hope for the support of enthusiastic readers.

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Hope is often a fragile commodity… tenuous. Unlike faith which steadfastly believes, hope wants to believe but isn’t always confident.

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At Christmas, however, we celebrate the realization of a hope that was born of God’s promise — the salvation of mankind by One who was born to die.

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Halleluia! Christ is born!

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Wishing everyone rich blessings and a joy-filled Christmas.