Sunday, July 10, 2016

Back in the (Writing) Saddle Again?

Image of journal (in German) and fountain pen. I wish I could write this neatly on unlined paper!
As I looked for a good quote for this week from among my nearly fifteen years of jotting quotations into my two volumes of Quotation Journals--known at Brave Writer as Commonplace Books--I came across one on writing that intrigued me. 

I have read little by John Piper, a well-known Christian theologian and author, who wrote the hugely inspirational book Desiring God...which, unfortunately, sits unread on my bookshelf. But his thought below on writing, which I copied down more than six years ago, is a truth that needs to be acknowledged.

And is perhaps the best reason we can have for writing, and especially for journaling.

Here's the quotation which I came across in Ann Voskamp's utterly revelatory book One Thousand Gifts:

"Writing is a way of opening our eyes to see what we otherwise do not see." 
~John Piper

As I am spurred on to return to writing again--something I have done in rare bits and snatches since hanging up the "On Hiatus" sign on the sixteen chapters of my unfinished novel, published serially on two different websites eighteen months ago--Piper's insights on writing really strike me as Truth. 

While I look forward to continuing to write two different stories--variations of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice which I have been obsessed with reading for the past two years--I also desire to spend more time "thinking on the page" which is the gift that journaling gives us. 

My current journal and my usual dip pen for writing in it each week
I have kept journals all my life, managing to write daily in small vinyl-covered diaries in my freshman, sophomore, and junior years of high school, and then journaling on and off since then. For the past few years, I've journaled about once a week--sometimes less--but on a regular basis, filling two journals completely and now well into a third. I tend to write on Friday nights, the one night I allow myself to stay up later than usual, with a quiet house beckoning me to write. Sometimes I light a candle, but I almost always write with a dip pen--sometimes a metal-nibbed quill--and bottled ink in sepia, midnight blue, or violet. Perhaps I feel more Austen-ish this way, but I know that if I go too long without writing in this manner, my fingers quite literally itch to hold that pen, dip the nib into the ink, and scrawl away.   

It's a peace thing--writing like this. I feel detached from life's current problems and stressors and write away about the events of my week, line after line in my faux-copperplate penmanship that I've worked very hard to develop over the years. I hate getting to the bottom of a page because not only is it more difficult to maintain neat handwriting, but it's also because my "space" is nearly gone. But often I push onto a second page, delighting once again in filling a page with events, ponderings, wishes. 

I received another journal at the Brave Writer Staff Retreat last month, a pale pink hardcover journal that I would never have purchased for myself as I prefer my journals to be old-fashioned in appearance, classic and preferably bound in leather. But this journal has a message printed on the front that stopped me in my proverbial tracks:

Don't let anyone dull your SPARKLE.

And then I began to think about those I allow to dull my sparkle, people around whom I cannot be myself. Right then I decided that this journal was going to be different. This journal was going to be Truth, not merely what I wrote in case someone read it after I left this earth, etc. And this journal was going to be about writing. It may contain some passages of original fiction or poetry, but it's also a place to plan, to dream, to wander and wonder. 

Most of all, it shall be a place in which I will not allow anyone to dull my sparkle as a woman, as a writer, as a thinking, creating being.

I just started teaching my Fan Fiction class at Brave Writer. I believe that this is the fifth summer I've taught it, and it filled up very quickly, the first time that this class has not only been full but also had a waiting list! I started writing fan fiction novels and stories in November 2010, and my work has become extremely popular on and, to a lesser extent, on On these two websites, my ten novels and stories have garnered well over 4 million "reads" (or "hits"). 
But now I wish to switch fandoms to write JAFF (Jane Austen Fan Fiction). I follow the uber-talented writers at Austen Variations and have read most of their books, many of which I was able to track down through Link+, a California-wide compendium of libraries. Others I have bought one at a time on Amazon for my Kindle, using my online essay grading earnings to fund my obsession. 

A manuscript page from Chapter 11 of Persuasion by Jane Austen
And this is the fandom I want to write this summer. Of course, I started both stories with a quill and bottled ink before finally setting aside the lined pages of faux-copperplate in order to type it all up into Word for editing and printing purposes. I've shared the first few chapters of one story with our local Writers' Workshop which meets the second Tuesday of each month at our county library branch, and thus far the response has been quite positive. 

But I have only had time to jot a wee bit here and a little there because teaching nine online courses of 4-6 weeks each at Brave Writer, teaching a year-long expository essay class to high school juniors and seniors through our co-op Class Days with Heritage Christian School, grading essays quite regularly with my Online Essay Grading Service, and home schooling our fourth and youngest child (well, he's turning 17 in December) who will be a high school junior in the fall and who has significant learning challenges pretty much gobbles up all of my time. In addition, I've been assisting an amazing Christian poet/writer with her first traditionally-published book called Sky Mesa Journal: social media, blogging, and editing/formatting/proofreading. 

And then I teach Fan Fiction at Brave Writer each summer, so I really only have August available for significant writing. At least next year I won't be teaching at Class Day since our youngest has finished taking all of his science lab classes for high school, so we'll socialize through our local Park Day here in our small mountain village rather than driving down into San Diego every other week. But I need to find a way to squeeze in some writing time at least on a weekly basis. And I'm going to figure out how, one way or another. 

Because, after all, John Piper wrote of the revelations that come when we write, and I simply cannot miss out on those. 

Writing with you,


Reina M. Williams said...

Great post, Susanne! I love journaling and writing by hand as well, though not with anything as beautiful as what you use. :) I look forward to reading your JAFF. Happy writing.

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks, Reina! I can't wait to write my JAFF and to also read more of yours this summer!! :)

~Susanne :)


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