Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Seasons of a Writer's Life

Ruthy here.... When I e-mailed Sara Mitchell to tell her how delightful her Christmas novella "Mistletoe Courtship" was, I didn't know that single act would bring us to today, or that she'd open her blog post with my most favorite verse from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1.

But God knew. He always knows, and those intersections, those "vee's" in the road, the bends, the angles, the forks, the flat tires...

He knows. He cares. He loves.

And then expects us to work with the gifts he's given us. Sweet job, God! So here is Sara, a delightful gal I had the honor of meeting in Orlando at my first RWA book signing... you know... The one I was late for!

Oh my stars. Without further digression, I give ye Seekerville:  Sara Mitchell, sweet woman and delightful Steeple Hill author.

“What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun?” offers a modern paraphrase of the question posed by the writer of Ecclesiastes. A few verses later the Teacher adds some of the most well-known passages of the Old Testament, largely due to the secular song rendition performed by the Byrds several decades ago: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

...Which brings me to my blog musing for today—the Seasons of a Writer’s Life. For some reason autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. I love the smells, the soaking autumnal rains, the crisp cool nights and the eye-aching colors. But I also tend to grow more introspective in autumn. More...nostalgic. Have I been a faithful steward over my craft, or do the flaws and failures outweigh the joys and successes?

So I thought I’d invite everyone on a brief “seasonal sabbatical” through my own writer’s mind. Today is September 29; fall has officially arrived. My next Love Inspired Historical, A Most Unusual Match, comes out Jan. 2011, and I have the major characters of another book clamoring to come to life. I ought to be melting the computer keys. Instead, I feel more like...well, the hunkered down survivor of a winter ice storm. Winds of urgent tasks to be addressed “right now” sweep me from my office out into the storm....

Well, you get the picture.

On the other hand, winter can also be a cozy season, where plot threads germinate under the ice and God’s peace seeps into your pores like the warmth of a well-stoked fire. Those storms that break branches and fell trees also cleanse our minds of weak characterization and poor plots.

Then spring arrives. This messy season provides moist and fertile ground if your writer’s mind never stops sprouting metaphors. Are you in a spring fever of deadlines? So distracted by life you can’t keep your mind on your latest project? Or are you suffering from spring floods with so much to do that, like the winter wind, those floods sweep you into their grasp, bearing you away from the pages you meant to write that day? Of course, you might be budding with a new contract, about to burst forth with the best story you’ve ever written. Your creative mind soaks up the spring rains of possibilities, the sunshine of God’s Presence—and your agent’s expert direction!

Then there’s summer in all its sweltering glory. Slogged out revisions and re-writes, weeds of distraction, slugs of doubt that kill the root of your God-breathed gift. Parched brains shrivel because a drought of exhaustion, life, and personal/professional expectations have sucked your creative well dry. Only banal clichés survive—and no writer who loves his/her craft can survive on clichés, dried-up, lifeless plots or shallow cardboard characters who wilt under the hot exposure of a critical marketplace. Yet summer also offers fresh fruits and vegetables, roses and sunflowers, vacations and picnics. The nourishment of a great conference, the fragrant bouquet of an understanding friend, the dizzying delight of a first sale; a gorgeous cover; a new contract; the warm satisfaction of knowing you’ve persevered. You’ve written every writer’s favorite phrase: “the end.” writer or observant reader...count how many clichés I’ve used in this blog, but count as well how many expressions struck a responsive chord in your heart. Hopefully they’ll be at least one or two of the latter! See how many similes, metaphors or other useful devices you can construct in a self-examination of your own writing life. Regardless of the date on the calendar, chew over what season you’re currently living through. Perhaps the mental exercise will bring a smile to your face, or crack an ice flow in your frozen or drought-dry brain. As I have come to learn over the decades of my own life, you’ll realize writer seasons change like the weather. Time really does pass and birds do continue to sing. God gifts you with the cherished asset of patience. A stranger smiles at you, or the florist gives you a coffee mug you admire while you’re waiting for her to fill the get-well helium balloon you’re purchasing. (Yes, that just happened to me! That mug lifts my heart every time I enter the kitchen.)

I confess that merely through writing this blog I moved from a bleak autumn with dried-up lawns and tired trees to the anticipation of jewel-tone leaves and blue skies alight with hope. For me, part of the joy of writing is not only putting words together to create a story, but knowing that throughout every season of writer weather God Himself is working out His perfect path for my life. (Great. Now I can’t stop babbling like a mountain creek at the height of the spring runoff...) Seriously, though, I do believe the faith lived every hour by Christian writers provides added strength to their writing lives, and through the Lord’s mysterious alchemy that faith seeps into our written words.

Whatever the season in your life today, may you all experience the delight of a word aptly written like apples of gold in settings of silver. (The first person who can provide the source of this revised quote deserves a bushel of ginger gold apples, a species native to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. They were discovered after one of the worst winter storms in Valley history, and are the sweetest apples I’ve ever tasted.) While I can’t send a ginger gold apple, there is a drawing for a free autographed copy of one of my backlist books, which I hope the winner enjoys. Thanks for stopping by. And thanks to all the ladies of Seekerville for inviting me. Ya’ll are a delight to my soul.

Sometimes God does calm the storms in our lives; sometimes He raises us above them on wings of eagles. Sometimes He allows the storms, and calms the child who lives inside us all. And all the time, through every season, He walks beside us, holding us close whether we soar or slog.


Eva Maria Hamilton said...

I can't help myself; I believe the quote is Proverbs 25:11

And now I can't wait to go apple picking :)

Vince said...

Hi Sara:

Just as there are circular seasons in our life, so too our life follows the four linier seasons. Spring comes many times and yet it comes but once. All the summers of our memory make but one summer from which there is no return, Fall, with all its gold and amber, displays a beauty all its own: a last hurrah...the grand finale…just fireworks that fade into the long winter’s night.




vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

BK said...

Been thinking about this a lot this summer while the ashes of creativity have been dead cold--the day job blew out my fire. But today I found myself feeling guilty, b/c for the first time in AGES, I was having creative thoughts that were distracting me from my work.

Traditionally October has always been one of my favorite months of the year. Hope that bodes well for creativity too.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

BK, prayers going up for you for the return of your head-people...

It takes time to get used to going back to work and there's a whole lot of feelings and emotions involved. It will come. Promise...

And snatch bits of time when you can. You'll be amazed how much you can do. Hugging you from upstate NY.

Eva Maria, I'll get my hoodie and join you in the orchard. I want some fresh Cortlands for pies and Honey Crisps to munch on. YUM.

Vince, Vince, Vince...

No coffee?

Such a guy. ;)

Coffee's on. Food's due to arrive around 6:50 EDT. Surprise breakfast this morning, so be prepared and bring napkins...

Dianna Shuford said...

Very inspiring, Sara! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I'll have to come back later this evening and read your post once more when I have time to absorb is better (and I'm more awake).

Debby Giusti said...

Ah, Sara...

Your writing is balm to my bone-weary Muse! Such lovely, lilting prose that flows like a bubbling brook on a summer day.

We all can write. But some have the gift of touching the soul. Your words have touched that inner place within me.

Thank you for sharing your gift with Seekerville!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Thanks so much for this calming reflection to start my day. I have always loved autumn as well with all the colors and coolness.

Stayman Winesap apples for me! Grew up with them in a near by orchard. Loved em so much I ended up with many a bellyache.

Peace, Julie

Tina Russo Radcliffe said...

What an absolutely lovely post Sara. Thank you so much. And thank you for being in Seekerville.

You've caused Walt to wax poetic too!!

KC Frantzen said...

Welcome Sara.
Ahhhhh. For me this is cliche. That is short for "Selahhhhh".

Vince! Splendid. Are you and Gary Larson roomies?

Ruthy - napkin at the ready then I'm off to rewrite land.
(With fond memories of you since I just passed that phrase you enjoyed so much when you critiqued. Made me smile...

Seekers are living proof of Grace.

Project Journal said...

I am so happy that you're here today! You truly brightened my (unfortunately very long) day that I have to look forward to! Lol...

I live in New England, so fall is gorgeous here. Fall and spring are probably my favorite seasons - transition periods. Also, it's not too hot, not too cold!! Lol! There's something invigorating about the crisp air, clean smells, and vibrant colors all around. Fall truly is a magical time where we can see God's work, isn't it!?

I love all the covers of your books, by the way : ) I'd love to read something by you, thank you so much for the chance!
Talk to you later today,

Jessica Nelson said...

Thanks for sharing Sara!

Kirsten Arnold said...

Beautiful post, Sara! My mind is currently swimming in a soupy fog of cold medicine as my co-workers string “quarantine” tape around my cubby. Thank you for all of your lovely imagery reminding me of why I usually love autumn. Even if it is cold season.

This morning I’m reviewing what I wrote last night to make sure the story didn’t take a strange turn into another season under the influence of Alka-Seltzer cold and cough.


Project Journal said...

Oh! I forgot my email...heehee!


Thanks agaiN!

Julie Lessman said...

Thank you, Sara, for your truly inspirational post! I especially loved the line:

I do believe the faith lived every hour by Christian writers provides added strength to their writing lives, and through the Lord’s mysterious alchemy that faith seeps into our written words.

AMEN to that, sister!!! Why should we just read a "great romance" when you can read a great romance with God at the center??? One that uplifts and encourages while it's racing your heart?

Now I ask you -- is there a better calling than putting our hearts on paper for Him??? Uh, not for me ... :)

Great post, Sara and Ruthy!! Happy Wednesday, all!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Sara, I am definitely slogging right now! "So distracted by life you can’t keep your mind on your latest project?" Yes! Unfortunately.

Your descriptive phrases are perfect, Sara. My first book came out two weeks ago and it's so strange. I discovered that it's much less fun to market than it is to write and revise! Marketing is so distracting and seems to sap my creativity like the sun sucking up water in the desert, turning it into heat waves that make your vision go fuzzy.

I would love for life to slow down and the distractions to go away, but being a realistic person, I know I'd better just learn to write in spite in those things. Figuring out how to do that has proven very tricky so far!

Digging for Pearls said...

What a beautiful post of encouragement to us writers, in all stages of the journey.

Loved the covers of the books. They look interesting!

My road to publication (still not there yet) has seemed long and arduous, but as I look back I can see how God uses experiences and trials to make me a better writer.

Jodie Wolfe

Digging for Pearls said...

What a beautiful post of encouragement to us writers, in all stages of the journey.

Loved the covers of the books. They look interesting!

My road to publication (still not there yet) has seemed long and arduous, but as I look back I can see how God uses experiences and trials to make me a better writer.

Jodie Wolfe

Sandra Leesmith said...

Ahhh Ruthy, You found a pearl of encouragement today.

Thank you Sara for your lovely words. Enjoy your day here at Seekerville.

Those golden delicious are lovely.

Vince, you're amazing.

Pam Hillman said...

What a wellspring of encouragement, Sara!

I needed that.

Thank you so much.

Personally, I loved all the metaphors and cliches in this blog post today. I know we aren't supposed to use cliches in our fiction, but for some reason, I like them, and reading them occasionaly (even in fiction) doesn't bother me.

Am I the only one???

Sara said...

Good morning to all, and I am truly amazed and touched by the kind words everyone has posted. As the quintessential (did I spell that right??) shy author, Ruthie and Debbie and a few other Seekers more or less lovingly bullied me into doing this blog when we met in Orlando. Ruthie is magic with a computer, providing all those perfect pictures I didn't know how to provide. Hugs to all of you. Once again God has taught me a lesson: offer yourself to others, and He showers you with blessings! But...I still think Ginger Gold apples are the best. :-)

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Ah, Seekervillians!

Sara is having Internet troubles and a tech is on the way...

We can only hope he's efficient and really good-looking.

(I didn't say that out loud, did I????)

Susan Anne Mason said...

What beautiful words, Sara. You sounded like a poet!

Fall is always a time where my writing picks up - maybe it's the cooler air, having the kids back in school. Who knows? But it's great!

Thanks for the lovely images.

sbmason (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Pepper Basham said...

Beautiful post, Sara - and it did leave me introspective.
Autumn is my favorite month, a burst of colors and possibilities, but I feel like I'm living through a blizzard.
My writing life is a flurry of biting wind with a foggy view of a glowing fire through a cottage window.
I know the cozy, warmth is nearby. Close. Waiting to wrap me with a sense of completeness, but sled through the icy frenzy first. 'Fall' a few times and try to enjoy the ride - even though my fingers are getting numb :-)

Thanks for the introspective moment. Now I'm going to stare out my window for an entire minute.

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful made my day :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Victoria Bylin said...

Hi Sara! What a joy to wake up to your post this morning . . . My own creativity is in "March" mode. The snow is melting. The streams are beginning to fill. The water is still ice cold and I'm only tentatively touching it with my toe, but every day the stream is widening, warming and wending its way to a lush valley.

LOL! Yes, dear friend, we are writers!!!!

cynthia said...

I feel like I'm in the winter season of my writing journey right now. It feels kind of barren and I don't have any inspiration right now. But I'm hoping that God has some things in store for me so I can continue on my quest to write. I don't feel very inspired right now. Funny though, as for real seasons, I do like the holiday season for winter though--just remembering why we celebrate and celebrating with family and friends (remembering wonderful Christmases of the past.)
cynthiakchow (at) earthlink (dot) net

Ruth Logan Herne said...

The winter season of the writing life...

Cynthia, I'm turning this around because I'm that brazen and a friend and I talked about winter just the other day because we love it.

The lowered expectations. The hush of peace. A raging storm. A calm, snow-swept horizon, ice-coated farm-fields.

I don't have to garden, mow, trim, paint, sweep, weed, and no one knows how ugly the veins in my right leg are because I'm wearing jeans.

When those barren thoughts accost me I turn on country music. I know, I know, most writers in my genre would say they turn to the Bible and that's my backbone, but for inspiration I marvel at what a country singer can say in 16-20 lines... Surely I can do as well given 60,000 words???

Two recent snips from current songs that say way more than you'd have thought possible:

"The careless man's careful daughter..."

Taylor Swift's new song "Mine", the lament of a young woman who doesn't dare find love because of her parent's break-up and the scars that break-up left on her heart, her soul, her psyche...

Kimberly Perry, another very young songwriter (The Band Perry) "If I Die Young": "The sharp knife of a short life..."

How amazingly poignant is that phrase, how perfectly does it catch and tag the loss of a child as she talks about how people would react to losing her, losing a child...

When I hear phrases like that, so perfectly drawn, I know I can create around them.

Billy Joel often said when things were going to well, he'd go stale. He wrote from angst and pain and longing....

Interesting perspective.

Audra Harders said...

Sara, thank you for sharing your lyrical heart with those of us in in the autumn slump.

This is my favorite time of year, too. But it gets so easy to let the dead flowers and browning grasses dampen your spirits, rather than the vibrant colors of fall bringing a smile to your face.

I loved all your analogies!!

I've brought bubbling apple cider for those who'd like a break from coffee. Mmmm. Just a hint of cinnamon. And fresh apple turnovers along with applesauce donuts.


Casey said...

Wow, I can only imagine what your books must be like, because that was simply beautiful, along with those covers! Oh my stars (since Ruthy is hosting today ;) they are breathtaking. Thanks for posting, absolutely lovely!


Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Sara! I love your books so the beauty of your inspiring post doesn't surprise me. Thank you for giving validity to so many of the feelings that the business of writing produces in this writer!

Fall is my favorite season too. :-)


Anonymous said...

Love those Honey Crisp apples....wonderful for GERD!
Please enter me. Thanks!!

Myra Johnson said...

Lovely, lovely post, Sara, and thanks for visiting with us in Seekerville! You really captured the essence of the various seasons in a writer's life.

As I've said here before, autumn is not my favorite season. Something about the increasingly shorter days, watching the leaves turn brown and fall, and feeling that nip in the air just makes me sad. I long for the fresh green of springtime, the flowers, the dewy grass, the lengthening days!

Kav said...

In honour of this blog post I am going to go home and make an apple crisp this evening. :-)

I'm definitely an autumn girl. I'm a slug in the heat of the summer in every aspect of my life but when those cooler days and chillier nights are here to stay I come alive! Shorter days just mean longer writing nights, right?

Carol J. Garvin said...

Oh, so perfectly put, Sara. Thank you for this. I love that God works within the seasons of our soul, rounding out the cycle of creativity.

Mary Connealy said...

Such a great post, Sara. And I love your covers. They're beautiful.
Thanks for being on Seekerville and giving me some CALM today.

I badly need it.

Sara said...

Sara here, amazed that my first comment actually posted, even more amazed by the waterfall of creative minds here. As for my second post (if it works)...the electrician just left, the Verizon guy still hasn't shown up, so I can't leave the house to go get the new cell phone Sprint told me I'd have to get...AND when I tried to log on just now my computer told me there was a problem with my email!!! Yes, Ruthie, I definitely a technocassandra as well as a technosaurus.

You might say I'm definitely either in the middle of an autumn thunderstorm, a spring blizzard, an arctic winter day with sub-zero temperatures or a summer...yikes. My brain sizzled. :-) Thanks to all of you for reminding me that all writers share these seasons. And somehow with the grace and divine humor of God we manage to create anyway.

Wish I could remember everyone's names to thank each of you. Oh--Eva Maria's post is right next to where I'm typing, so--congrats, Eva! You found the source of the quote. Enjoy your apples!

Now I need to go back to unpacking book boxes so I can try to get my office back in order, so I can get back to writing a book! I'll try to stop by later and eat some birthday goodies. Got any apple cider bread??

Debby Giusti said...

I had the pleasure of first talking to Sara over the phone when I called to announce she had won the Maggie some years ago!

The Christian category didn't have enough entries so her book won in, as I recall, the single title category.

I still have VIRGINIA AUTUMN! It's a keeper.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Apple cider bread???

I'll get right on that.

But first there are some bulbs to plant. Roses to trim. Flies to kill.

Why are there so many flies in September?

Rule of mathematical progression, perhaps?

Kelly Freestone said...

Great post.
I can attest to the heart strings being pulled with this one, dear.

I really feel myself in the summer season, and I'm ready for fall!


Walt M said...

I get vary analytical during the fall, but that's only because it's football season and I'm overanalyszing my beloved alma mater. (Yes, I'm Southern. I live and die on Saturdays in the fall, especially when the team still hasn't lost a game and there's an outside shot at the NC)

And, of course, I always love a good LIH.