Difficult Deadlines

As writers we know all about deadlines, don’t we? They are entwined with commitments and are equally unpopular. There’s something about seeing a big circle looming on the calendar that automatically turns off my enthusiasm. At the very time when I need to be productive, I often can’t dredge up the necessary words. As the deadline draws closer I can become panicky. Nothing kills creativity like panic! But we don’t have the luxury of submitting to that panic if an editor is waiting for our work. We must write and we must do it now. So how do we accomplish the seemingly impossible?

William Faulkner once said: “I write only when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” How does a person “get inspired” when the words aren’t coming?

In the book “Take Joy”, Jane Yolen suggests one way. She speaks of “priming the writing pump”. It’s a common analogy in the writing world, but I love her imagery:

“My late father-in-law had a cabin in the West Virginia woods. There was no running water, only a pump that needed to be primed each morning with river water…. Pouring the river water into the mouth of the pump, I would then lower the handle, lift it, lower it again. The gurgle of the unseen machinery alluded to the sympathetic magic taking place: like calling to like.

     “The pump would wheeze, snort, pull, the handle becoming harder and harder to push. And then suddenly water–not the river water laved into the pump, but fresh, earth-chilled, underground, sweet-as-spring water would gush forth.

     “Everyday writing starts that way. The old river water thrown into the pump is metaphorically your letters, revisions, journal entries… and then that sympathetic magic takes hold. As water calls water, so words call words. Up they come from the unplumbed depths, what some call inspiration and some call talent and some call soul: sweet-as-spring new ideas. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories. Poems. Gushing, flowing, even overflowing. The writer’s day starts.”

For a Christian writer the added ingredient is prayer. Long before I begin trying to prime the pump I have engaged in conversation with the creator of all creativity. Only then do I check the clock and settle in to write. I don’t have many deadlines, but I haven’t missed one yet.

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Feathers and Friends: a Comparison

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Feathery bursts of colour, delicate clouds of white, pink and red, punctuate the mostly green garden beds in our back yard. Whether you call it false spirea, meadowsweet, false goat’s beard or astilbe, this hardy perennial is one of my favourites. The plumes rise above lacy, fern-like leaves and last for several weeks, still attractive even after they’ve faded.

Astilbe plants wave below the evergreens and cozy up to our hostas, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons without the slightest objection to the soil conditions, which I admit are less than ideal. And although the plants appear fragile, the stalks are sturdy and not easily knocked over by our dog when he happens to romp through the garden bed, as he frequently does.

They resemble some of my friends – beautiful, uncomplaining, sometimes appearing fragile, but strong and enduring despite adversity, because their faith is well rooted. Overshadowed by towering challenges or concealed amid the mundane, they continue to offer what they have — living out the fruits of the spirit — wherever they are planted.

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For those of you called to cope with challenging obstacles today (Marcia, Joel, Jennifer and Billy), my prayer is that the strength of the Lord will help you endure and overcome.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:6-7]

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Whose Deadline is it, Anyway?

As writers we know all about deadlines, don’t we? They are entwined with commitments and are equally unpopular. There’s something about seeing a big circle looming on the calendar that automatically turns off my enthusiasm. At the very time when I need to be productive, I often can’t dredge up the necessary words. As the deadline draws closer I can become panicky. Nothing kills creativity like panic! But we don’t have the luxury of submitting to that panic if an editor is waiting for our work. We must write and we must do it now. So how do we accomplish the seemingly impossible?

 

William Faulkner once said: “I write only when I am inspired. Fortunately, I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” How does a person “get inspired” when the words aren’t coming?

 

In the book “Take Joy” that I mentioned yesterday, Jane Yolen suggests one way. She speaks of “priming the writing pump”:

     “My late father-in-law had a cabin in the West Virginia woods. There was no running water, only a pump that needed to be primed each morning with river water…. Pouring the river water into the mouth of the pump, I would then lower the handle, lift it, lower it again. The gurgle of the unseen machinery alluded to the sympathetic magic taking place: like calling to like.

     “The pump would wheeze, snort, pull, the handle becoming harder and harder to push. And then suddenly water–not the river water laved into the pump, but fresh, earth-chilled, underground, sweet-as-spring water would gush forth.

     “Everyday writing starts that way. The old river water thrown into the pump is metaphorically your letters, revisions, journal entries… and then that sympathetic magic takes hold. As water calls water, so words call words. Up they come from the unplumbed depths, what some call inspiration and some call talent and some call soul: sweet-as-spring new ideas. Sentences. Paragraphs. Stories. Poems. Gushing, flowing, even overflowing. The writer’s day starts.”

 

For a Christian writer the added ingredient is prayer. Long before I begin trying to prime the pump I have engaged in conversation with the creator of all creativity. Only then do I check the clock and settle in to write. I haven’t missed a deadline yet.

Shared Decision Making

Impulsiveness isn’t one of my traits. When there’s a decision to be made I agonize over it; I second guess every possible outcome of it; occasionally I even stay awake nights because of it.

 

It’s not that I don’t believe God knows what’s best for me. The problem is that I’m often slow to ask his opinion.

 

Is it human nature or lifelong conditioning that convinces us independence is admirable? “Stand on your own two feet.” “Think for yourself.” How often have we heard such admonitions? Only when I hit overload mode do I “take it to the Lord in prayer”. Trouble is, when I’m done praying I pick up the concern again and tote it off with me to continue fussing over. Maybe there’s something about God’s omnipotence that makes me think my everyday decisions are too petty to deserve much of his attention.

 

And yet now as I watch a nondescript song sparrow chowing down at our birdfeeder I am reminded that there is nothing too insignificant for God’s oversight — not a single sparrow*, nor any trivial aspect of my daily doings.

 

I’d get a lot more sleep if I’d act on that knowledge sooner.

 

* Matthew 10:29