Thursday, 27 July 2017

The Nature of Ideas, by Lucy Mills

Lucy Mills
HOW DO IDEAS COME TO US? How do we engage with them?

Some ideas are only revealed partly; we sense their forms, but it is as if they are covered in a layer of gauze. We need courage and sensitivity to remove that which obscures us from seeing them properly; be determined enough to uncover them; otherwise they may sit, as tantalising shapes, forever. We never find the motivation or courage. Or perhaps we are unwilling to examine more closely – we may find them lacking in some way, only a taste of promise. We don't see their full potential.

Some we need to dig out, brush off – deep-clean, even. We become archaeologists of ideas, old and new; the work is painstaking. Sometimes we can focus and discover something more valuable that we can ever imagine. But often malaise sets in. I find it does. The idea lurks; but I can’t be bothered to dig. As with so much of life, ‘it’s easier not to’.

Some identify with these patches of malaise, of not-botheredness, more than others.  Others can hardly imagine such a thing. How can one not want to dig away to find such treasure? There are times I know this enthusiasm, too.

Malaise can come from a number of things, or a swarm. Tiredness. Overwork. Plain disinterest. Lack of confidence. Disbelief in the value of the task – we feel that it may well be pointless.

Some ideas are like shooting stars; fiery moments of inspiration, sighted only for a moment – if we’re looking in the right direction, that is!  Do we build on this spark? Sometimes.

Some are like waves, we catch them or we lose them. Momentum carries us; or perhaps we never made that initial effort to keep with the idea and it bowls on without us.

Some ideas embed themselves in us. We don’t notice at first.  They seep into our consciousness. They will not be ignored.

The most precious ideas of all – and they could come to us in any of these ways, or by something different entirely – are those infused by Holy Spirit.

I pray I always notice these, that I may have the courage to uncover them, the determination to dig for them, chase after them, or simply to ... listen.


Image (c) Lucy Mills

Lucy Mills
Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 (DLT).
Undivided Heart: finding meaning and motivation in Christ will be coming in October 2017. Lucy writes articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is Editorial Co-ordinator at magnet magazine.

Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
Lucy's Facebook page
Lucy on Instagram: @lucymillswriter

More than Writer posts in 2017:

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Loneliness, by Eve Lockett

            The Word

A pen appeared, and the god said:
‘Write what it is to be
man.’ And my hand hovered
long over the bare page,

until there, like footprints
of the lost traveller, letters
took shape on the page’s
blankness, and I spelled out

the word ‘lonely’. And my hand moved
to erase it; but the voices
of all those waiting at life’s
window cried out loud: ‘It is true.’
                                                   R S Thomas

I came across this poem while I was writing a discussion paper on using words in worship and faith. It struck me immediately as beautifully crafted, spare, profound and honest. The poet is traditionally a lonely figure, along with the writer. But here, Thomas is claiming that loneliness is the universal human condition, affecting us all. He accepts this with reluctance, wanting to erase the word, but has to face the fact that it is true.
Being a writer means being prepared to be truthful about human experience, not write what we think people ought to feel. And being truthful begins with ourselves. It can be one of the hardest challenges to face.
I, and no doubt some of you, have been told that being close to Jesus, having fellowship with God, means never feeling lonely. But R S Thomas pictures himself open to God’s leading and voice, and conscious of the invisible presence of others, and yet still lonely. Their company does not reduce the reality of his loneliness.
Those who experience loneliness know this to be true. It is not just being in company, not even the company of loving friends and family, that takes away the pang; often loneliness is increased by company because it emphasises our isolation. I wrote the following poem years ago while I was surrounded by other Christians at a retreat weekend:

I have not lost my way,
I should be where I am;
a shepherd need not search
for this lost lamb.

But if he looked inside,
he’d see within my heart
the wolf, with cruel claws,
tears me apart.

There is comfort, though, as there is in all suffering – the fellowship of others who also feel lonely. That is why I love Thomas’s poem: because he understands, shares and truthfully expresses my humanity. And there is comfort in discovering that Jesus thoroughly knew the loneliness of the human condition. You only have to read the accounts of Gethsemane to see this, where he is left alone while his friends sleep, even though he has asked them to stay awake with him.
There is also a positive side to the loneliness of being human – it creates in us a sensitivity towards others, an awareness of true love and friendship, and it draws us towards the heart of our Creator. For the writer, it gives us insight, vulnerability and motivation.
We are not yet at journey’s end, we also wait at life’s window; not waiting to be born, but to enter the new society where God and humanity will dwell face to face in perfect fellowship. I met someone once who described her pangs of loneliness and discontent as feeling ‘homesick for heaven’. And that is a feeling to bring us hope and tug us closer to God.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Time for Everything, by Fiona Lloyd

I know I don’t look a day over 36, but as of today, hubby and I have been married for 30 years. Thirty years! Naturally, we seized upon the excuse to have a party, complete with tea, cakes, and the odd glass of bubbly. 

This past week, we’ve also been celebrating our middle child’s graduation – along with her first job offer in her chosen career – so it feels like we’re caught in a time-warp between holding on to precious memories and excitement for what the future holds.

As I was thinking about this, I came across a post I wrote for my own blog a while back. It seems to fit the mood of the moment, so – with apologies to those of you who’ve seen it before – here goes:

Dear Lord, I’d like a few words. 

About this Ecclesiastes bloke…and his “time for everything” speech. 

Of course, it makes sense on one level: I get the idea of our lives running in seasons – well, mostly plodding, these days – and I understand the need for balance. 

It’s just that my life…isn’t. 

Balanced, I mean.

So: could we just go through a few things?

This first one’s okay: “a time to be born and a time to die”. I’ve no quibble with that…apart from the rather obvious one about the being born feeling much more exciting than the dying bit. Yes, I know that’s when I get to be with you forever, but eternity is such a big word that I can’t always get my head round it.

What about this? “A time to plant and a time to uproot”? Lord, you’ve seen my attempts at gardening: more like “a time to plant and a time to feed a family of slugs”. And anyway, Morrison’s is so convenient. 

Then there’s verse four: “a time to weep and a time to laugh”. Surely I’ve done enough weeping now? When does the laughing bit start, that’s what I want to know? Mourning seems inevitable as I get older…but I’ve tended to avoid dancing since my teenagers started giving me despairing looks.

“A time to keep and a time to throw away.” Hmm, I’m tempted to pin this one up in my kids’ bedrooms, although they’d only read the first part. If I’m honest, they’re a lot like me in that regard. You know I hate to get rid of anything if I think it might be useful in the future. (Which doesn’t really explain why my wedding dress is still hanging in the wardrobe, at least three sizes too small for me and hopelessly out-of-date.)

So, could I make some suggestions, Lord? A twenty-first century, middle-aged kind of list?

There’s a time to enjoy being size 10, and a time to understand that stretch-marks are a badge of honour.

There’s a time to nurture your children and a time to let them go.

A time to be their personal chauffeur and a time – gulp! – to hand over the car keys.

A time to hold their hand as they balance on a wall, and a time to wave goodbye and pretend to smile as they move into student digs.

A time to be young and full of energy and a time to realise that sitting down with a freshly-brewed cup of tea is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

There’s a time to have big ambitions and a time to recognise that not all of them will be fulfilled (and that that’s okay).

There’s a time to make plans and a time to acknowledge that your plans are always better, anyway – so maybe my plans weren’t that important to begin with.

A time for confusion and upheaval and a time to see that if I have you, then I have everything I need.

Fiona Lloyd works part-time as a music teacher, and serves on the worship leading team at her local church. Fiona blogs at and at You can find her on Twitter at @FionaJLloyd. Her novel, Diary of a (trying to be holy) mum, will be published by Instant Apostle in January 2018. Fiona is vice-chair of ACW and is married with three grown-up children.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Wannabe Writer

‘I always wanted to be a writer.’

Well, sometimes. I think there were other ideas. But being a very impressionable young person, every now and then I got excited about Writing A Book.

When I was about nine, I heard a programme on the radio about a child called Daisy Ashford who had written a novel, The Young Visiters; extracts were read from it. The idea that a child could write a perfectly respectable book from which extracts were seriously quoted on the radio was electrifying. I decided to write something myself. What I managed to produce was The Problem Solver,  a series of scenes in the life of a man called Matthew Sturrock, who tried to solve the usually ridiculous problems that people brought to his door in response to his newspaper advertisement.

I can’t remember what inspired the next thing I wrote. In it three friends travel by magic carpet to the Land of the Dead in order to resolve a disagreement which only an acquaintance who’s died and gone there can settle. The Land of the Dead is very concrete and not in the least supernatural, as far as I remember. To my huge satisfaction, a family friend typed  out all this nonsense with five carbon copies, which was almost as good as a print-out in those days (1962).

In early teenage I started reading Evelyn Waugh. It was either Scoop or Black Mischief that inspired me to write two stories about the adventures of an incompetent carpet salesman, Arthur Pickering, and his assistant Sam Handwich (groan), as they try to sell their wares in various ruritanian countries. By this time I was fascinated by Eastern Europe, Slavonic languages, archaic military uniforms, and peculiar political systems.

But already the fateful shadow of Tolkien had fallen on my life, and things would never be the same. Two or three dire and dismal attempts were made to write sub-Tolkienian fantasies. On the plus side, they led to two interconnected fascinations: drawing quantities of maps of invented lands, and devising names and scraps of language to support them. They also led into devouring legend and mythology and history. The influence of Narnia was strong too, so a children’s story featuring a structure through which the characters went into another world filled a few pages before grinding to a halt (and before many talking animals appeared). The problem was, I liked memorable characters and ingenious situations but I couldn’t think of a decent story.

My university studies largely answered the need in my life for epic, saga, romance, mythology, and ancient languages, some of which, indeed, I started to teach. And the job I ended up in was the logical outcome of these interests, but seemed to be miles away from writing imaginative fiction. It required the careful collecting of factual evidence, paying attention to the most mundane and trivial written sources, and dealing with discourse that was sometimes neither uplifting nor inspiring.

And yet… I have spent the last forty years helping to write the colourful biographies of thousands of words that form the vocabulary of the English language: effect, rorty, first aid,  of, do-it-yourself, get, unravellable, blue moon, toilet, cheers, rapture, not, existentialism, god, sh*t. The list goes on and on. Each one has parentage to be investigated, though all too often it is untraceable. Each one develops additional meanings as it repeatedly issues from the mouths of speakers. Some words remain small shrubs, while others develop numerous branches, dominating the language like ancient forest trees. Older meanings wither and drop off unpredictably. Words get interwoven, singly or in phrases, with other words. They become fossilized, specialized, rare, or totally obsolete. But every word’s life story is different, and fascinating.

Moreover, researching these biographies takes you to all places and all times: a raging Reformation controversy, a scene from Only Fools and Horses, Apartheid, a moment in Huckleberry Finn, a very rude passage in Chaucer, a very much ruder passage in almost any modern writer, a letter from Jane Austen, an Anglo-Saxon charter, an eighteenth-century West African trader’s accounts, a surfing magazine. You get to revel with the highest literature and grovel with the lowest.

And the supporting snatches of evidence are often rich in character. ‘It is better to trust in the Rock of Ages, than to know the age of the rocks,’ said W. J. Bryan, prosecuting at the famous Scopes evolution trial in 1925. Or Dorothy Parker in 1938: The two ladies were trying to get out of a doorway at the same time. Clare [Boothe] drew back and cracked, ‘Age before beauty, Miss Parker.’ As Dotty swept out, she turned to the other guests and said, ‘Pearls before swine.’ Or P. G. Wodehouse (1923): I never know, when I'm telling a story, whether to cut the thing down to plain facts or whether to..shove in a lot of atmosphere.

Providence has been kind. My fortieth anniversary in lexicography fell on 4 July, and that is why you are getting this rather egocentric blog post.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

How do we use our Writing? By Wendy H. Jones

Psalms 45:1
My heart is stirred by a noble theme
as I recite my verses for the king;
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.

The title of this blog suggests that it is a blog by, and for, writers. This is the case, and I am sure you will be breathing a sigh of relief knowing you are in the right place. As a writer I am always struck by this verse. However, like many others I am sure, I usually focus on the last part of the verse.

If creativity has been given to us by God then, we should do everything in our power to ensure that we are good at what we do. We spend time learning our craft and developing it so that readers enjoy what we read. We attend courses, writing workshops and devour writing books. Quite rightly so. As writers who are Christian, like all writers, we want to present our work in its best light. 

As Christians the part we often forget is for whom we write. We are writing for ourselves, and our readers, but ultimately we are writing for God. Our hearts are certainly stirred by a theme and from this our writing grows into, articles, short stories, novels or factual books. Whatever our preferred genre or sub genre, whatever we are writing, our words should bring Glory to God. 

Now, don't get me wrong. I am not advocating that you suddenly write Christian books and nothing else. Heck, I write contemporary crime books, and my characters are not Christian. Some of my unsavoury characters should probably go straight to hell without passing go.  However, as I write for a crossover market I do like my book to reflect moral values.  What I am saying is give your writing to God. Allow him to guide you. Pray about your writing before you start for th day or start a writing session. God does not ask us to shy away from difficult themes or to ignore the issues which are prevalent in society. I am sure he would want us to tackle them. The bible certainly does. But always remember God is guiding your words.

It is an honour to be part of an organisation such as The Association of Christian Writers, who is the owner of this blog. The help, support and networking I have gained, has been invaluable to my writing life. If you would like to know more about the organisation you can do so through their website 

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning author author of the best selling DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series of crime novels set in Dundee. Killer's Crew, the fifth booking the series was released in November, 2016 and won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016 and is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017. She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017

Shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017

About the Author

Wendy H. Jones is the award winning author author of the best selling DI Shona McKenzie Mystery series of crime novels set in Dundee. Killer's Crew, the fifth booking the series was released in November, 2016 and won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. Dagger's Curse, the first book in her Fergus and Flora, Young Adult Mystery series was released on 10th September, 2016 and is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers Choice Award 2017. She also has one non fiction book, Power Packed Book Marketing: Sell More Books.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Happy Birthday, Grandma! By Emily Owen

Today, maybe even as you read this, I will be at a tenpin bowling party.
At the beginning of this year, there began to be talk in my family: ‘What shall we do for Grandma’s 90th birthday in July?’  Eventually we decided to ask her and I was duly deputed to do so. One day in April, after having lunch with my Grandma, I broached the question: “What would you like to do for your birthday, Grandma?  We could book a weekend away, or go out for a meal, or…”

My flow of ideas (such as it was) was interrupted.

“Nothing. I don’t want to do anything for my birthday.  I might not be alive by then anyway.”

Stumped, I chickened out and suggested we turn our attention to the crossword.

A month or so later I mentioned ‘the birthday’ again and, this time, Grandma was a bit more forthcoming: “I don’t want gifts and, whatever we do, the only thing I want is for my family to all be there.”

Once more, I reported this back to the family and we all co-ordinated diaries to be free on 22nd July.

We discussed what to do on the day and it came down to two alternatives:

1 (me): Take Grandma out somewhere nice for lunch.

2 (everyone else): Have a tenpin bowling party.

I put these ideas to Grandma in reverse order – I didn’t want to seem to prioritise my own – and determinedly refused to let my doubts about the tenpin bowling idea show.  I was quietly confident she’d prefer my idea anyway.  Anyone I’d told about the bowling possibility had basically said, “bowling? For a 90th birthday?  Are you mad?”

In the event, I didn’t even get to mention my lunch idea.  As soon as I mentioned the bowling, Grandma’s face lit up: “Oh yes, that’s what I’d like to do!”

So that’s what we’ll do; maybe even are doing. All 15 of us, aged between 1 and 90. And we’ll be having a great time, I know.

But you’d be forgiven for wondering why on earth I am waffling on about bowling on the ACW blog.

Well, it strikes (sorry!) me that there are similarities between tenpin bowling and writing. 

The thing about bowling is that it’s not essential to be an expert, you just have to give it a go; from my one-year old niece being helped to push her ball slowly down the ramp to my brother-in-law hurling his ball down the lane so fast it blurs.

People often ask me how they can get started in writing. My reply?  Start writing.  As with bowling, it’s not essential to be an expert (I should know); just give it a go.

And maybe there’ll be others who churn out books so fast that the words blur, and maybe there’ll be others who need help getting started, and maybe there’ll be others who…..but maybe you’ll be different, and maybe that’s ok.

The last time I went bowling, my nephew, who was about 2 or 3 at the time, would take ages when it was his turn.  He stood there, inwardly debating whether or not to release his ball. In the end, he did.  And sometimes the ball missed its target completely.  But sometimes it knocked some pins down.

Anyone watching us congratulating him would have been forgiven for thinking we were congratulating my brother in law for getting a strike.  There was no difference in celebration of the two. Yes, the results were different but that didn’t matter, because the people we were celebrating were different.  And that was absolutely fine.

Keep going.  Wherever you are with your writing – or anything else, for that matter – if you do what you can do, that’s great….

Friday, 21 July 2017

Now is the time.......................Ruth Johnson

 "And the Lord answered me and said, 
'Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets 
that everyone who passes may (be able to) read 
(it easily and quickly) as he hastens by.  

 For the vision is yet for an appointed time

 and it hastens to the end (fullfillment); 
it will not deceive or disappoint.  
Though it tarry wait (earnestly) for it, 
because it will surely come; 
it will not be behindhand on its appointed day."

                                           Habakkuk 2:2-3. (AMP)

I’ve written three books averaging 175,000 words each and published over a five year period, and yet the fourth book, having started in 2013 a continuation of the third, still isn’t finished. I know the beginning and the end of all six books in the series, but weaving the storyline together is always a mystery, and one I really enjoy.  Last August I put time aside to write the final five chapters and prayed for inspiration. I awoke one morning with an extraordinary idea, discovered it would fit with the area and previous book, but needed research and help from the fire brigade.  The Lord then fulfilled a Jer.33:3 “When you call I will answer…” for within minutes a friend told me she was in contact with a man who in the 70s was a fireman!   

Little did I know how difficult it would be to write several scenes at the same time, and had to consider timings, where each group was, what they knew, heard or saw.  I’d one character making a suggestion, only to realize he’d left the scene earlier!! 

The Lord knows our beginning and end, and in writing I’m seeing the complexity of being a creator as I work out the plans and purposes for people with diverse characters and personalities. I have had to invent backgrounds for the main characters, a family tree of names, dates of birth, marriage, death, and remember their particular speaking nuances, personalities and past experiences.

Then I ask, who will read my books?  Why do I put aside hours to create?  Publicity is difficult or expensive.  Opportunities to sell books seem to shrink.  Yet this month I have been drawn to the above verses Habukkuk 2.  And the aim of my books is to take ordinary lives and show through difficult times our loving heavenly Father is always with us.  Through an easy and quick read my desire is to reveal He loves us, and, in retrospect, we will see how ‘all things work together for good for those in Christ Jesus’ (Rom.8).   

I am sure as Christians our writing desire is to touch peoples' hearts and see lives changed by the knowledge of God.  For many of us that vision has indeed tarried.  So I was greatly encouraged when a friend sent me this excerpt from a prophetic word written in Charisma Magazine on 13th July.

 "I saw angels scavenging through trash cans, old filing cabinets and  dusty warehouses, picking up rejected manuscripts of books, songs, screenplays  and artwork, and then declaring, "These have been written and created ahead of  their time—but their time is now!  I saw "publishing angels" sitting on stacks of books, but these angels are now arising! These authors were strongly anointed as those who were seemingly born out of season, and their divine projects were ahead of their time, but their time has now come to be  published and to be heard abroad.  Some writings will ultimately end up in kings' palaces as well as the prisons and rescue missions of the earth, for kings sit in both  places. World leaders will find these divine writings in their laps delivered by the hands of "dignitary angels."