Through the Maze

Through the Maze

Through the Maze

As a child, I loved working my way through fun activity books, ones with colour-by-numbers or dot-to-dots. If I followed the instructions, a completed picture would emerge. Seeing my efforts come to fruition was such a thrill.

My all-time favourites were the MAZES! Helping Fido find his bone, or helping the lost bunny find his way home was more than fun; it was satisfying. I confess I rigorously planned the route in my head before my pencil touched the page, so I wouldn’t end up drawing messy detours.

Those fun activities reinforced important life lessons, like the wisdom of following directions, the blessing of assisting others, and the value of planning. These principles have helped me negotiate life with satisfaction and some success. They inform my efforts and habits as a writer.  

Writing, like many of life’s activities, can be fun, but it is not always child’s play. At times, connecting the dots is complicated and messy. Putting the ‘right’ colours in the ‘right’ places doesn’t always work out, especially when numbers are missing, or your green felt-pen runs dry halfway through the leaves. Fido bites your finger on the way to his bone. Or, like Alice in Wonderland, you chase the bunny and fall down a rabbit hole into a whole world of confusing encounters and unexpected challenges.

When it comes to life’s mazes, some walls are so high, planning the route is impossible. Dead ends leave you backtracking, or stuck in a corner, puzzled, stunned, confused and exhausted. Where’s the fun in that?

During the seven-plus years (!) of writing, editing, and upskilling so I could indie publish my debut novel, Licence to Die (GRUnGE.001), I’ve had plenty to hinder my writing progress. Midway, I had major surgery, with complications that injured my brain and left me with ‘neural neglect’, a condition where my brain lost contact with some of the nerves on the left side of my body. Two weeks after that, I discovered my left wrist was broken (how did that happen?).

I spent months stuck in a confusing maze, struggling to link the simplest of thoughts together; the big picture eluded me completely. I found myself thinking thoughts like … I don’t have to write. No-one’s making me. I could just … stop.

Then again, where’s the fun in that?

Writing may not be child’s play, but it does bring joy and satisfaction. Writing creates images with words. It orders our thinking and colours our world. It helps us connect the dots when it comes to important issues of life, faith, purpose and destiny. Writing helps us make sense of the journey, keeps us on track, and moves us forward. When we write right, we help our readers enjoy these things too.

Pushing onward through that frustrating maze produced surprising results for me too. Continuing to write whilst also developing new design and technology skills, helped rewire my brain, creating new pathways where ideas could flow. I reviewed my novel with fresh eyes and perspective and actually enjoyed giving it an overhaul. Although the messiness of life hindered my progress and satisfaction for a time, it also gave me breathing space, and permission to go easy on myself for a while. Most importantly, it reminded me that writing truly is worthwhile. And … it’s fun!

(Adapted from my original version posted on Christian Writers Downunder September 2017)

Photo images from Pixabay.

My Coach and I

My Coach and I

My Coach and I

‘Last piece of assessment—complete! Happy dance!’

Those words, posted as my Facebook status over eight years ago, marked the final strides of a marathon I began in 2011, when I enrolled in Tabor Adelaide’s creating writing program. For seven words that were so easy to type, winning the right to type them took much disciplined effort, many taxing training sessions, and even more unruly bouts with angst.

Writers constantly line up at the starting blocks. Sometimes we’re running a fast blog sprint or a 200-metre short story dash. Some jump hurdles by writing outside their comfort zone; others embark on a cross-country exploration of history or memoir. Long distance bravehearts pace themselves to finish that novel, or series. Some of us are crazy enough to try a literary decathlon.

One thing is certain—every race takes preparation, inspiration, dedication, commitment, and the support of others. We’re more like relay runners than individual athletes. We pick up the literary baton and run with it, producing the best text we can. Our fellow writers, friends and family members urge us on from the sidelines. Editing moves the text forward in an effective slipstream. Publishing increases its momentum through polished presentation and aggressive marketing. All this, just to get that important baton to—not the finishing line, but its starting position! It’s our readers who pick up our literary batons and run with them. Our task is to make sure they enjoy the run, making it a win-win experience for all.

To be honest, when I signed up for this creative writing gig, I envisaged more of a fun run than a marathon. I wanted to try tertiary study and creative writing seemed far more appealing than … well, just about everything else I could think of. Tabor offered external study options and dedicated, qualified lecturers. My choice to enrol seemed like a no-brainer—until that first day in February 2011, when I sat alone at my computer, sporting a stylish set of headphones as my new fashion accessory, poised to listen to the orientation lecture. As I positioned the mouse on the starting blocks, ready to click ‘play’, the enormity of the task ahead exploded like the shot of a starter’s gun. I was off and running, but did I have the wherewithal to reach the finish line? Maybe. Maybe not.

What I needed was a strong, central motivating factor, a personal coach if you like, to inspire me as I ran. In literary terms, I needed a strong chiasmus, a central point of intersection to connect the beginning of my study story with a successful conclusion. As I tackled my first assessment task, a chiastic poem, the perfect Chiasm offered to become my writing coach:

And after that study marathon? The practical application of all the wonderful things I’d learned beckoned me forward to the next starting line … and the next. Submission opportunities for poems, creative non-fiction, short fiction, devotions … blogs to encourage fellow writers … novel outlines called me to the starting blocks. Each new race would require renewed enthusiasm, more preparation, and stamina. Could I keep going?

So far, the answer to that question is yes—thanks to the consistent training and input I receive daily from my faithful, enduring Coach, who also has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people.

This post (and original comments) was published on the Christian Writers Downunder blog in February 2012.