Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Writing Sabbath

We writers constantly bemoan our lack of time to write.

We add up the hours set aside for the kids, for the spouse, for friends, for church activities and community responsibilities—oh, and most of us have jobs outside the home! All of those activities are good. We want to keep doing them, but is there any time left in our schedule to write?
Young moms have been known to lock themselves in the bathroom for twenty or thirty minutes. Some of us hole up in a coffee shop or the library for an hour or so once a week. We write after the rest of the household has gone to bed, or we drag ourselves out of bed an hour ahead of the family.
The daily grind crushes us into exhaustion. We need a break from the day-in-day-out pressures of life.
Writers’ conferences provide for that much-needed break. Once I experienced the creative energy generated by a conference, I was hooked.

Not gonna happen this year.

I’ve signed up for our ACFW National Conference online, and I’ll be attending a second conference also online. I appreciate all the opportunities I have to improve my craft,  but I’ll still be sitting at home in front of my computer. The laundry and the dishes will still call out for attention. It just won’t be the same joy as meeting other writers in person.
But I will be getting some uninterrupted writing time, almost a week of Jesus and me and the beach and  my computer! I’m calling it my Writing Sabbath. Usually, I consider a sabbath a total rest from work, so if writing is my work, how can a week of writing be my sabbath?

The Writing Sabbath

This sabbath is really rest from the daily grind. I’ll be in unfamiliar surroundings. No schedule, no to-do list. Each day can stretch before me with choices for the moment. Shall I take a walk on the beach and talk to Jesus, eat some breakfast, or jump into a chapter? Shall I put a salad together, outline my next book for a while, or take a dip in the pool?
So where might you be able to find a writer’s sabbath this summer or fall? It doesn’t have to last a week. God provided the blessing of a condo rented months ago in anticipation of a family wedding. COVID-19 may have changed my original plans, but Jesus had already made a divine appointment in its place.

A twelve-hour sabbath is better than no sabbath at all.

Even a complete day out of the house and off the job can be a welcome breath of fresh air.
Maybe a good friend is heading out of town for the weekend. Would they mind if you wrote at their house for the whole day?
If you have the spare funds, rent a hotel room for a night or two. You’d have all that time to write from check-in to check-out. Inns at our state parks have the extra bonus of nature walks or kayaks, swimming pools or horseback riding for the hours when you need to move and stretch.
If you’re not sure a hotel room fits your budget, those same state parks allow you to use their facilities with a moderate entrance fee. The common areas of the inn are still available as a place to write in beautiful surroundings.
Some ministries actually provide retreats for Christian writers. I’ve spent time at Shepherd’s Gate, part of REST Ministries, and I’ve visited St. Benedict’s. If you Google “retreat centers in Indiana,” you’ll find many possibilities. Some are free, and those who charge for overnight accommodations and food offer reasonable rates.
No matter how you decide to break away from all the stress of the pandemic on top of your daily grind, I pray you’ll find refreshment for your spirit as you and the Lord enjoy a writing sabbath together.

Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft.
A wife, mother of three, grandmother to seven, Linda regales the youngest grandchildren with “Nona Stories,” tales of her childhood. Maybe one day those stories will be in picture books!
Where Linda can be found on the web:

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Stuck on PAUSE

One of the options I like most about our television-viewing arrangement is the DVR’s (digital video 
recorder) PAUSE option. Need to grab a snack, dash to the bathroom, answer the phone? Just hit the PAUSE button and not a second of the comedy/drama/information on the screen will be missed.

Other features come in right behind the PAUSE button in the handy options category. Didn’t catch that last bit of dialogue? Hit the SKIP BACK button. And SKIP FORWARD may even edge out PAUSE as our favorite feature as it allows us to bypass commercials when watching previously recorded shows. Which brings us to the “R” in DVR. We prefer to RECORD the shows we like so we can view them when we want and repeatedly if we so choose.

But I’m not nearly so fond of the huge PAUSE that has gripped 2020 due to the coronavirus. While my enthusiasm to use the down time to accomplish all kinds of things waxed strong in the beginning, by the two-month mark, I’d all but lost my drive to accomplish anything. Thankfully, in the last couple of weeks, I seem to be experiencing a slow-moving “second wind” of that initial wave of productivity.

As this PAUSE extends, my mind floods with images of the many yearly events and regular summer happenings that have been cancelled, even as I mentally SKIP BACK to review the fun and thrill of summers past. Some days I can’t help but SKIP FORWARD to contemplate the potential impact of this PAUSE on yet another season, autumn. And what about the holidays after that?

I like to be busy, go places, spend time with people, plan ahead for upcoming adventures. But I have to admit there’s been times when I wished my life came equipped with a PAUSE button. Oh, how I longed to slow down the hectic pace of life so that I could catch my breath. But just for a bit. More than a few days of down time has always left me restless and unsettled. 

As disruptions to normal life goes, this one’s been a doozy, that’s for sure. Someday, we'll SKIP BACK to this stuck-on-PAUSE period, and I'm hoping we find some good and positive and beneficial things sandwiched between the challenging, the uncertain, the unprecedented. Which means, I'd better get busy and fan this second wind of productivity into a full flame. 

Saturday, July 4, 2020

"The Book Was Better"

Have you ever seen a movie based on a book you loved? You probably left the theater telling your friends, “The book was better.”

Even if the movie featured some of your favorite actors and jaw-dropping special effects, odds are you remembered the book as a more colorful, emotionally engaging version of the story than what you saw on the big screen.

That’s how I felt when I saw Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby,” starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. The novel was a real watershed experience of my high-school years. It gave me an immersive experience of the “Roaring Twenties.” But the movie was disappointing. Why?

Best-selling author Jerry Jenkins would say it was because the book had triggered the theater of my mind. It sparked my imagination instead of telling me in detail what happened. My imagination supplied a much more vivid picture of the story than what Hollywood could give me in the theater. This is a key advantage that a book has over a movie.

It’s also a clue to what you and I must achieve in our writing. Instead of giving the reader a detail-laden description of every scene and every character, we need to suggest these things to the reader and allow her to enjoy the fun of imagining it for herself.

“The best description suggests just enough to ignite the reader’s mind,” Jerry says.

So how much is enough? Just enough to point a reader in the direction the characters are going, then gets out of the way. Put your reader in the driver’s seat. Evoke the reader’s feelings about your characters, setting, and time period. The reader will see a somewhat different picture than you do—and that’s OK. The reader now owns the story as much as you do.

Your book is the reader’s ticket to another world, not an illustrated encyclopedia of that world. Just point the way and let your reader paint the scene.