Upon my word (a rather common expression in Emma, which is my current reading book), I’ve been absent for more than three weeks! The first week I was enjoying the visit of a dear friend and getting ready to be in a wedding (one of the best weeks of this year so far!). The week after I was “recuperating” (more on that in a minute). And earlier this week, I just couldn’t think of anything to post. But what has also bothered me is that I haven’t been very faithful in commenting on my friends’ blogs…and I apologize for the neglect!

I’m going to share some honest thoughts. I haven’t exactly gone through a crisis in my writing—nothing that drastic. I’ve just tried to set things in order. I had been getting so far away from actual writing on any of my projects that my creativity felt dry. Once general, outside-life busyness was over each day, I still wasn’t making any headway, but getting distracted by social media and other internet attention-grabbers. I was getting burned out in the “author has to market” mindset and not writing, which is why I’m even online doing this sort of thing. So I put much of that aside and just worked on my projects (I have three), resolving that even if I have to start over with marketing when I’m ready to jump in again, it’d be worth it. I needed to rediscover my love for writing and not worry about marketing (which I’ve never really known if I was doing it right anyway). Worrying about becoming known made me stop writing. Inadvertently, but still, unfortunate and pointless.

From now on I’m going to take it slow. I may not post as much on my blog, but that will (or at least should!) be because I’m actually writing soon-to-be books. My goal is not to allow the author business to overwhelm the writer business. Other people know how to handle it, but I’m still learning. If you are going through a similar reassessment (in writing or something else), I hope that this is encouraging to you. It’s okay to not be able to do everything you think you should do; it’s okay to draw back, pray, and straighten your priorities according to how God is leading you, even if that means you have to say no to some things.

Have you ever felt that busy-work was crowding out your creativity? Do you have any advice?

This past weekend, I was blessed to be able to attend a Christian writers workshop at a local church. Getting out my door that early on a Saturday morning dignified the day right from the outset. I was nervous (new places always do that to me) but extremely excited. This was to be the biggest gathering of writers I’d ever joined in person. Something sparks when you get face-to-face fellowship with like-minded people. That’s why church and camp and other such places are so important, and can make you feel vibrantly refreshed. It’s infinitely more impacting than hearing a recording or reading words on a screen.

Even though I’d basically heard what Tricia Patterson, an incredible speaker and blogger, had to say before (from other people who put it differently, of course), it sunk in so much deeper to hear it spoken in person by her—infectiously energetic and passionate for the Lord. She emphasized the reason we write, which is to glorify God. Her perspective was encouraging. I’d been drifting away from the simple, pure reason I write, and her words tugged me back, slicing upstream through my narrow, dogged focus on just getting stuff written. It’s not about writing because I’m a writer, and writers write. It’s so much bigger than that—people who can say things on a page have a gift from God that He wants offered back to Him. It’s an exciting calling, full of purpose and influence, even if we only reach one person with any one thing we say. Since every person is precious in God’s eyes, reaching him or her is worth every effort. That reminder also destroyed a fear I’d been struggling with—that perhaps my writing wasn’t worth much. But this assured me that indeed, it is worthwhile, because it’s meant to serve my King and the people I can reach. (Let me take this opportunity to thank every one of you who read my words and get something out of them. You are a blessing!) My confidence isn’t so much in myself as it is in God.

I was so energized by Tricia Patterson’s talk that I couldn’t wait to get home and write. But there was still half the workshop left, which was definitely a good thing! During intermission, I met a few other local authors. I hope I get to know them better, perhaps through the weekly classes the church will be having for the next two months. The second speaker for the workshop was Kurt Kaiser, an extremely gifted songwriter, who shared his experiences of writing lyrics with us. As an extra blessing, he played his beautiful music on the piano.

If you ever have the opportunity to fellowship with other Christian writers, please take advantage of it. You can encourage and inspire each other far beyond any contact online. And if you are ever discouraged about your writing or any talent God’s given you, take heart—He gave it to you for a reason, and He wants you to use it, for His glory. And that infuses life with excitement, purpose, and discovery!

It’s funny, isn’t it—a lot of times when the most life is happening the least gets written down! Sorry for inexplicably neglecting my blog last week. Between all life’s activities, and my only computer time going to copy editing (I love copy editing!), it had to be omitted. For my birthday on January 20, I had fun things to do with friends on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And then I got sick. With a 72-hour stomach flu. Now, recovering from it (my memory will be scarred for a while yet), I have a renewed enthusiasm for life. And the thing I missed most was writing. I’d been away from it the longest, after all, doing plenty of everything before I got sick, except writing. I’m at the awkward place where a WIP’s first draft is done but not quite ready to be edited, so I’ve been an itinerant writer, never working on any one thing for a while and feeling dissatisfied because of it. I don’t like writing breaks.

Although I hate being sick, recovering from it is one of the best feelings! I thank God it wasn’t worse and didn’t last longer, and I’m thankful for the energy I now have. For all you who are or who have been sick this winter, my empathy extends to you!

And now, on to another part of my post. For some time now I’ve been dwelling on the Victorian age. It’s one of my favorite periods in which to immerse myself, so while it wasn’t wholly planned, one thing led to another, and here I am, submerged. I read Idylls of the King and am finishing up a selection of other Tennyson poems (Tennyson was England’s poet laureate from 1850 to his death in 1892); I’m reading Cranford (by one of my favorites, Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell); recently listened to some Sherlock Holmes mysteries on Librivox; watched the most recent Sherlock (The Abominable Bride, set in the 1890s; I watched it while I was sick); and am watching the BBC miniseries Little Dorrit (set in the 1820s, but written by Charles Dickens in the 1850s. I love it!). 

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All this makes me contemplate the era, of course. It reaffirms my sense that if I could ever apply myself to intensively study any one historical time and place, it would be 19th-century England. I would love to gain a better understanding of what it was really like back then, and trace how what they did then affects us now. Plus it’s just plain fascinating!

What have you been into lately? Have you dabbled in anything from the Victorian age recently?

Whew! We’re already almost two weeks into the new year. It feels fresh though, as if I’m still only on the first page or so of the book of 2016. Perhaps in part because I’m still reading the books I started on or before January 1—Idylls of the King and Pursuing Justice, respectively. Books are something I commonly use to measure the passage of time. I hope to post about each of these two once I’m finished with them.

It’s funny how something small can affect you so much. A week ago Monday I slammed a car door on my left index finger. If you’ve ever performed a feat like that before, you know how much a swollen and bruised finger protests afterward with everything you do. There’s a lovely dark purple-blue blood blister around and under the nail (the exact color of my lavender soap!). Being swollen, it still looks like it belongs to another hand besides mine, but at least I can type with it now, make a fist, and play the piano, things I couldn’t do the first week! Lavender oil helped quite a bit. For the most part, though, it’s learned to stay out of the way when my hands are busy.

This has given me a glimpse of how people can compensate with worse injuries—take one day at a time, one activity at a time, modify how you do something or don’t do it at all (like shadow punch instead of hit the punching bag full force in martial arts class). Plus, it’s just been interesting…I know what a smashed finger feels like now, so I can write about it in a story someday! (*Cue absurd grin.*)

But isn’t it funny how easy it is to focus on our own small problems, and forget about the troubles in the world at large? I can guarantee you that silly little finger bruise has taken up more room in my mind than a host of vastly more important issues. God convicted me of that, so that every time I was tempted to mourn my finger, I would pray for someone else going through something far worse. It helped that I was reading Pursuing Justice by Ken Wytsma and D. R. Jacobsen. Talk about a mind-blowing book! I’ll get into it when I write my review, but it’s making me think about the world in a (hopefully) not so selfish, narrow-focused way.

I pray your new year has been happy and healthy so far! Has God been showing you anything lately? Have you ever been laid up with an injury or bad sickness? How did you cope? (When I hurt my Achilles tendon last year, that was an ordeal that brought with it lots of lessons. I still live with repercussions today.)

It’s the first post of the year on Kelsey’s Notebook! That means I should have some resolutions or goals to share, right? Or at least something insightful to say in general about entering a new year and leaving the old one?

I won’t be very insightful, I’m afraid, but I’ll have a look back on some highlights of 2015…

1) England Adventure published in March.
2) Suit and Suitability’s first draft finished. (I think that’s the first time I’ve finished a full-length novel draft in less than a year!)
3) Made wonderful memories with friends that warm my heart every time I think of them.
4) Visited Ohio in September and did on-location research for the first time.
5) Started “officially” editing novels.
6) Made a baby quilt (my first) from start to finish…

7) For my nephew that I’ve been looking forward to meeting for half the year!

As for 2016, I haven’t made many goals; I have ideas of what I’d like to do, but life can be so unpredictable that I don’t want to tie myself down to anything. I guess if I were to put out a list, it would look something like this:

1) Utterly complete Suit and Suitability, down to fixing the last typo.
2) Make a lot of headway on whatever my next serious writing project is (I’ve narrowed it down, but still not 100% positive on which it is).
3) Do volunteer work.
4) Read more classics than I read last year (I only read six “true” classics, so hopefully that will be easy).
5) Make memories with friends, old and new.
6) Travel.
7) Spend time with my nephew.

Basically I just want to be available for whatever the Lord has for me to do! Things can change as fast as 2015 turned into 2016, but God is with us every step of the way. I pray He directs my paths.

Thanks to Deborah O’Carroll for giving me the idea to a looking backward/looking forward post! What are your past highlights of 2015 and your future highlights of 2016?

Happy New Year! May God Be With You And Guide You!