Here’s my response to Sarah Reinhard’s challenge to four questions she threw out to her readers who are writers:
1. What are you working on?
With a couple of trips coming up, I’m blogging ahead using my huge Blog Ideas folder. I need to reorganize it because I found a wonderful quote on holiness yesterday and couldn’t decide which of the three holiness files to put it in. Need I say more?
In the long term, I’m working on the last two chapters of a book about generosity while I wait for a publisher to accept my proposal on this gem. I’m also waiting to hear from another publisher about a proposal for two books I’ve worked on for the last few years. Whether this publisher accepts the proposal or not, I plan to revise it yet again after Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference, using some new perceptions.
In the near term, I’m writing a short piece to bring to our local writers group next week. Then I need to critique two book chapters from our non-fiction critique group while they critique a chapter of mine.
2. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?
The mission of my blog and my books is to explore conversion, Catholicism and Christian community, the three sources of lasting joy of my life.
- Conversion: Unlike Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary, my blog is not my conversion story. (Who could ever do that as good as she can?) My big conversion decades ago and ongoing renewal experiences drive my approach to life and spirituality in book manuscripts and spill over to my blog. I collect conversion and reversion stories to highlight on the Joy Stories blog tab.
- Catholicism: My books and blog differ from teaching, apologetics or current news publications about the Church. My Catholic print media experience taught me to write short inspirational stories, review Catholic books and interview authors. Sharing spiritual insights about Catholicism in my books clarifies what I’m learning through prayer, the sacraments and ministry. The books I am writing emphasize surrender to the Lord, the Eucharist, and the joy of Christian life as a Catholic.
- Christian Community: Many family, social and spiritual aspects of my life revolve around my commitment to the Catholic covenant community I have embraced for 40 years. I write about what I’m learning in ministry there as well as at my parish. I delight in writing about healings and miracles in my life and those of my beloved extended family.
So JoyAlive is not a Mommy blog like cool Mama Sarah Reinhard over at Snoring Scholar, and so many other great role models for mothers. My children are grown, so no diapers, tantrums or teenage dramas in my house, or on my blog. But sometimes the grandchildren invade my blog space or a book chapter.
3. Why do you write what you do?
Interwoven within my identity is my vocation as a writer, so writing deeply involves my relationship with God, my loving husband, and everyone else. Writing is how I explore and express who I am. Writing is how I relate to God. Writing is my charism and always has been, even when I didn’t know what a charism was. I escape from the noisy world and just feel the arms of the Lord around me, and the Holy Spirit helping me explore spiritual truths that don’t come from that world. It’s prayer time supersized. Writing about spiritual insights fixes them deep in my heart.
4. How does your writing process work?
I’ve written in notebooks since high school, decades before laptop computers. I still scribble down my ideas wherever I am. My journal is a hybrid of writing ideas, deadlines and dialog with God. Reading a couple of pages that I wrote a few years ago brings new meaning to what’s going on today in my life and my writing. I surprise myself — and my readers — with anecdotes I’ve forgotten until uncovered in a journal.
I transcribe journal insights and type current thoughts into my MacBook Pro, dumping ideas and experiences into topic folders. For my book chapters, I work in two-hour segments for continuity. My editing is fierce, using my “Red Pen 10-Point Clipboard Checklist – How to Edit Your Draft” (available on request)that I shared at the Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference. I attack a hunk of text as a sculptor approaches a hunk of marble, chiseling off everything extraneous, bit-by-bit. The unessential fragments cut from a book manuscript often evolve into great blogs. Vinita Wright’s “Art of Spirituality Writing” gives me lots of wisdom from the publisher’s side of the editorial desk.
I love the rare opportunity to write in solitude. This takes planning, perseverance and flexibility. For a Christian writer, God has to come first, and then family, and then writing—even when writing is part of a ministry. Scheduling time for the first two priorities doesn’t necessarily guarantee writing time. But when I’m writing, the urgent needs of the first two priorities are not interruptions, but pauses in carrying out the third priority. I guard my writing time just as diligently as prayer time and family time. Inspiration comes from each of these times and flows back into them with the grace of the Holy Spirit. What greater sources of joy?
I’m tagging three favorite writers of different genres to see what-why-how they write what they do:
- Connie Rossini at Contemplative Home School
- Margaret Rose Realy at Morning Rose Prayer Garden
- Patti Maguire Armstrong
Writers: How would you answer the four questions?
(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)