Tag: calling

When the Passion is Gone

Passion is the stuff of romance and marriage, right? It’s also the heart of great creative endeavors. So what do you do once the passion jumps a train and head south?

I know it sounds like this could be the title to a bad movie. Or maybe another Bridges of Madison County story line.

But this is the tale of the life I’ve been living for the past five months. And I’m beginning to wonder if it has a happy ending. Or if the only way out is to quit being an author.

Notice I didn’t say quit writing. Although I don’t get much joy from it these days, I know I’ll always spill my innermost thoughts onto the page. That’s the way the good Lord made me to process things.

What is Passion?

Passion is not just for love, romance and sex scenes. If you’ve got a gift, passion should be part of your daily life.

In this case, I’m referring to dictionary.com‘s sixth definition of passion: a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.

In my case, the passion is for creating stories. Writing words into a string of compelling sentences that form paragraphs and chapters the evolve into a story.

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been working on a series of biblical fictionalizations for the past year or more. These stories are finished and will be rolling out on Amazon and other major sites over the next few weeks.

I mistakenly thought I would be able to begin a new project. The final phases of rewriting and polishing the two new stories in the series sucked all the passion for writing from my heart, mind and soul.

Where did it Go?

Did the passion dissipate into thin air? Did it get captured within the pages of those books I struggled to finish?

I hope it didn’t vanish. I pray some spark infused the words of those books. Otherwise, all the slogging through hard days and making myself finish will have been for nothing.

I do think artists (and I rarely consider myself one) can complete works without passion. But I do think it shows through.

I pray that I prayed enough while hammering out those last edits, making those final rewrites and polishing those four hundred printed pages. Because my prayer was the God’s grace would shine through, not my passion for the subject. I prayed that God would receive glory for every jot and tittle on the pages.

Mostly because I didn’t have any passion left.  But also because He called me to that project. He gave me the seeds for those stories.

I think the passion dried up. I did so much of the work in my own power, rather than relying on God’s strength, that I ran my creative well dry. I don’t think it’s God’s fault, either. He was hanging around at the edges of my furious activity, offering to partner with me, to grant me everything I needed for each day’s work.

Truthfully? Writing romance has become so easy that I don’t really rely on the grace of God for it.

But this wasn’t romance. And there was no writing these projects without God’s empowerment.

Can I Get it Back?

Some days – like the day I’m writing this – I want to say: “Nope.”

But that would be giving myself more power than the One who created, called and gifted me to create stories.

Instead, I’ll take a page out of the Apostle Paul’s manifesto. “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

If you’re not familiar with the context of this quote, here it is. Paul had some affliction (much debate about what it was, but I’m inclined to believe it was his poor eyesight since they didn’t have the technology we do to improve such things) and Paul asked God to remove it. In fact, he asked the Lord three times to remove it.

Finally God said, “Paul, I’m not going to take that away because my grace is sufficient to help you overcome the limitations it causes” (2 Corinthians 12:9a – my rendering).

God’s grace got me through this hard project. God’s grace is sufficient to refill the well of my creativity.

But God works in His own time. There’s no rushing Him or putting deadlines to His plans. So, while I’m waiting for the rush of passion in my soul’s creative well, I’m doing being proactive, too.

I’m starting a book about writer’s burnout today, and I’ve chosen the word “Rest” for 2020 because I know I need to refill my well. But that doesn’t fulfill the contracts I already have.

I’ve pulled back from submitting a new proposal to my publisher because I honestly don’t know if I could write three books for her this year. But I have a novella in revisions. I wrote it in 2018 during National Novel Writing Month, and it’s got a few dozen holes. This means I need about six to eight new scenes to fill them, and I’ve been shying away from that.

Not because I don’t have ideas. But because the very idea of creating sucks all the energy from me. I know I’ll need to take it slow, write one scene per day.

I keep hoping the joy for writing will flood back to me. But so far? Nothing. When the passion is gone, it’s gone.

Have you ever lost your passion for something you knew was your calling? How did you get it back?

The Wide Angle Lens on Helping

It didn’t surprise God that Adam needed a companion. The Creator of time glimpses each moment of it in the same instant. The thought boggles our minds, I know. So let’s move on to something we can comprehend.

Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him – Genesis 2:183

If God recognized this problem, we shouldn’t doubt it.

A Lesson from the Garden

Read Genesis 2:18-25.
Have you ever wondered why God didn’t make the woman right away? Verse 19 tells us God made the animals and birds. Look at verse 20. What was the true purpose behind God’s parade of livestock?

You’ve heard the saying: “dog is man’s best friend,” but that’s not a truth from scripture. After God made all the animals and Adam named them, there still wasn’t a suitable helper for him.

List the ways a wife helps her husband in our world.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
I don’t know how things work in your household, but my husband and I share all the domestic chores. If I cook dinner (which is usually a minimum of five nights per week), he does the dishes and cleans up the kitchen. When our kids lived with us, they shared this responsibility. On weekends, he cooks breakfast and sometimes I clean the kitchen up afterward. What can I say? Dishes aren’t my thing.

I keep the house clean. We both do the laundry. He takes care of mowing the lawn and weeding the flowerbeds. (Praise the Lord! I detest yard work. And remember my black thumb?)

We help each other take care of our home. It’s a team effort.
That’s exactly what God created in the garden.

Read Genesis 1:28-30. What responsibility to God give to Adam and Eve?

How does that look in the 21st Century?

Obviously, the Earth is “replenished.” However, reproduction guarantees that humans will continue to be able to share the Gospel and shine the light of Christ in our dark world.

Lessons from Godly Women

You can’t read a woman’s study book without turning to Proverbs 31, right? King Lemuel’s mother described the perfect wife. This Virtuous Woman shows us more than we want to see. (It does me, anyway. Does this woman ever sit down and take a break?)

Read Proverbs 31:20-25. How does this woman help others? Who does she help?
v. 20
v. 21-22
v. 23
v. 24
What is the result of her helpfulness (v. 25)?

Copy Proverbs 31:31.

How does that verse motivate you to be more helpful?

Read Acts 9:36-39.
Who is the godly woman named in this passage?

How is she described (v. 36)?

What did she do to help others?

What did Peter do (v. 40-41)?

Why do you think he did this? Is this what the two men who brought him to Joppa expected?

I believe Tabitha’s death left a hole in the church and community of Joppa. Her helping heart ministered to many people and displayed the love of God for all to see. Even though I can’t sew a lick (and don’t want to learn), I admire this saint. Will I ever be described as “full of good works” like she was? I don’t know, but I believe helping others should be every Christian’s priority.

Lessons from Jesus

Consider the life of Christ. He was always helping others, putting their needs before his own.
List some ways Jesus helped people during his earthly ministry?
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Read Matthew 25:31-46.
When will this separation of sheep and goats take place?

It’s important to note that the sheep didn’t inherit the kingdom because of the works listed in verses 35 and 36. Just as James 2:17, 18 & 26 confirm, authentic faith in Christ produces works.
The children of the kingdom, sheep, were characterized by many good works. What sort of actions does Jesus say they do?

What is the key to this kindness in Christ’s eyes (v. 40)?

Jesus came to minister to others and give his life. We should pattern ourselves after Him, which means helping others on a daily basis.

This Bible lesson was first published in FINDING FOCUS THROUGH THE LENS OF GOD’S WORD in 2016, copyright belongs to Sharon Hughson

Writing in a New Direction

Which-Way-is-the-Right-way-for-Satellite-Web-Browsing-Sometimes directions are clear: “Turn left at the next stop light.” Other times, the directions can be convoluted: “Take the next right. Keep left.” (My GPS often says this, in fact. Amazingly unhelpful.)

In 2013, I started in a new direction. I quit my job with the school district to pursue a writing career full-time. I finished my bachelor’s degree and wanted a change.

Immediately thereafter, I finished my first young adult fantasy novel and had begun writing its sequel. I took a class on antagonists from Writing Jedi Master Kristen Lamb. When we spoke on the phone about my story, I learned it was gobbledygook without a clear purpose.

Back to the drawing board. For another young adult fantasy series, which Kristen and I had discussed during the heart-shattering call. Her advice: write the entire series before going back to edit book one. That way I’d know what the “real” story of the series was by the time I was rewriting.

Six months later, I had three complete novels in very rough first draft form. The summer of 2014, I attempted to market the first book in the series. By the time I’d gotten the final rejection back, I knew the first book was crap needed work.

But I had this amazing idea for a contemporary young adult fantasy. Dragons, erupting volcanoes, teenagers with special powers and the end of the world at stake. Who wouldn’t want to read that?

Or maybe the question should be: who wants to read it?

I’m still waiting for the rest of the rejection letters to roll in, but I think I finally figured something out.

What I Can Sell

As much as I love young adult fantasy, I’m not going to break into publishing with those stories.

No, I’m not giving up. I’m not copping out.

I’m being realistic.

Young adult is the fastest growing and most competitive fictional market right now. And fantasy has to have a certain bent to even get a look.

Sadly, dragons aren’t it.

Dragons: so TEN years ago.

Short fiction: I have sold three short stories. Two of them are sweet romances written to a new adult audience. The third is a young adult dark biblical retelling.

Bible studies: These are independently published by me, and I don’t price them to make a bundle. However, I do have a small following who enjoys my quirky teaching style.

Writing that Grows Me

In the end, writing the biblical fictionalization and Bible study books challenge me as a person. They require a slightly different writing voice and tons more research than most of my fiction stories.

In short, they stretch me out of my comfort zone.

And if people will buy them, I should produce them.

My Big Dream

During November, I wrote the first book in another young adult series.

I know. I know. I never learn.

What’s different about this book? It uses the short story I’ve already sold as a springboard into my post-apocalyptic universe. I continued the story of Scisco Irons, a sixteen-year-old blacksmith who dreams of discovering the technology destroyed in his homeland during the Demon Wars. And escaping the backward region he’s lived in forever.

I introduced a snarky teenage girl with major trust issues. Added in a “mentor” character with a pile of his own secrets.

The best part, I pitched the outline to the publisher of the short story (at her request, because she liked the world introduced in that story and saw potential for the story to continue). She wants to see it.

I have a professional editor who will help me content edit the first draft and polish the second draft to get it ready for submission. She’s employed by the publisher but has offered to help me because she believes in my story.

The dream:

I submit this manuscript in May 2016. The publisher adores it and offers me a three-book contract (that will finish out the series as I’ve envisioned it).

During our conversations, I mention my four other manuscripts. She asks for outlines of each of them. Why not, right? It doesn’t cost her anything.

She sees the potential in all of them and offers me another contract on Doomsday Dragons and asks to see the first Gates of Astrya book before deciding on that series.

Of course, the Age of Apocalypse series will appear in bookstores everywhere during 2017-2019. I’ll have an enormous fan base. They’ll scarf up anything I write.

The rest is J.K. Rowling’s history.

Where I’m Going Now

As often as I’ve been accused of being a dreamer, I’ll argue that point. I’m a realist. Yes, I’m a realistic optimist, but I know better than to float on the puffy vapors of “hope it happens.”

I’m going forward. I have a novella releasing in a collection with nine other independent romance writers in February. And I’ll say this, romance rolls from my heart onto the page. Nearly effortlessly (and then the editing torture begins).

All those years of sneaking my mom’s romance novels into my room to read when I should have been sleeping are paying off. Unfortunately, those royalties aren’t buying too much at the moment.

I have another study book in the works. There are ideas for sequels to Reflections from a Pondering Heart, but I’m not convinced that’s where I should invest my time.

My biggest project idea is a grief memoir/Bible study combination. I’ve got this baby outlined, and I’ve started amassing research. Am I ready to tap into my personal losses for the memoir vignettes? That’s the big unknown.

I’ll keep subbing short stories to anthologies – romance, young adult and fantasy. My crazy ideas will find their way into the spiral notebook I have dedicated for them.

Writing is more than my passion or my dream. I’m convinced it’s my calling.

And I’m saying “yes.” Even if I’m unsure of the direction it will take me.

Any advice? What would you like to read from me?