Karen Ball is the bestselling author of five novels and four novellas. She is also the editor behind several of today's bestselling Christian novels. her powerful style blends humor, poignancy, and honesty with God's truth. Karen lives in southern Oregon with her husband and their mischief-making Siberian husky.
Favorite Verse: Habakkuk 2:3- "But these things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed."
TAKE A REST, By Karen Ball
"Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs."
" By words the mind is winged."
"The turn of a sentence has decided the fate of many a friendship, and, for aught that we know, the fate of many a kingdom."
Amazing, isn't it? Something so small as words can have such huge impact.
The right word in any circumstance can bring peace, comfort, laughter, tears. It can elicit emotion, stir action, deliver forgiveness, change lives. For generations, words have moved and motivated. Writers, steeped in the wonder of words, have poured their hearts out on empty paper, only to have those pages come to life in ways they never imagined, living on long after they've been read in the hearts and minds of readers.
At least, that's what we hope for. Pray for. LONG for.
A writer's group I'm part of was just talking about this. The yearning, deep within our hearts and souls, to write something that matters. That will change lives. That will stand the test of time. For us, the writing is novels. Stories that transcend genre or time. That transport.
Stories that matter.
Odd thing is, when you're writing to a deadline, it's hard to do that. Because too often you get focused on just that: the deadline. So what becomes foremost in our minds? Daily word count. Getting the story down. Getting Done. Finish it off. Hand it in. Don't be late!
Talk about creativity killers.
It's an age-old struggle for writers. How do you take time to craft a story--to steep yourself and, as a result, your readers, in the story and characters--when you've got bills every month to be paid? How do you let the story germinate when you have to keep books on the shelves to hold your readers? Hey, I'm an editor first, a writer second. I know how important it is to keep your books in readers' hands, to not make them wait too long between novels. To not let them forget why they love your books over others'. But I also want the best my writers have to offer. Just as I want to give my best writing--my best efforts at craftsmanship--to my own readers.
Well, for one thing, I remember that my best doesn't happen when I'm stressed or guilt-ridden or rushed. Which I often am because I've missed deadlines.
And then there's that ol' enemy: insecurity. So well fed by that ol' weapon: comparison. How do I stop comparing my writing, my novels, with those others are writing? How do I find my own voice as a novelist, and what if that voice isn't what I thought it was. Or wanted it to be.
I learned a valuable lesson about this after my first novel, Reunion, published. I was at the Christian publishing trade show--now known as ICRS (International Christian Retail Show), then known as the CBA Convention (Christian Booksellers' Assoc.). I'd been attending this annual show every year since starting in publishing, always to accompany my authors, helping them get places on time, handing them books at their signings. I'd roamed the aisles for years, as an editor, with my authors (such as Francine Rivers, Gilbert Morris, Karen Kingsbury, and Angela Hunt). But now, here I was, a published novelist myself. As I stood there, someone came to stand beside me. It was Francine Rivers. She grinned at me and started handing me books to sign. It was great. Many of those waiting in line for my books didn't realize it was Francine standing there. So you can imagine my reaction when one woman leaned toward me and whispered, "I confess, I was disappointed by this book." My poor little insecure novelist's heart took a nosedive. "I'm sorry. Why were you disappointed?" She leaned back a bit and answered with a sigh, "Well, I just expected your book to be more like Francine Rivers's books. After all, you're her editor!" I couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh or cry. Nobody--and I mean NObody--writes like Francine. Before I could react, though, Francine leaned forward and whispered to the woman, "Yes, but this is a Karen Ball book. And no one can write Karen's stories like Karen Ball can. And some readers think they're even better than Francine's books."
It's no wonder I love that woman so much. Because I knew what she was saying. Not that my books are better than hers. Not at all. She was simply pointing out two truths I needed to hear.
One: God's task for me was to write the stories He gave me. Not to write like someone else, but to write the way He's gifted me to write. Because no one can tell the story He's given me like I can.
And Two: Not all readers like the same thing. Some will love Francine's books (okay, LOTS will love Francine's books). But others will like mine. So both are needed.
All of this has been rolling around in my head and heart of late, until finally, just today, it coalesced (isn't that a great word?) into one simple bit of guidance: Rest.
Rest in Him--in the One who breathed the story deep into your soul. Who equipped you to fulfill the task He's given of creating a story, told as only you can tell it, that will move, inspire, and challenge. Don't push, don't fret, don't let the tyranny of the deadline destroy creativity and passion. Don't try to write like anyone else. Just find your own, true voice and let that shine forth. Do what's reasonable, to the best of your passion and ability, and leave the rest to Him.
Rest in what you know--the story, the characters, the truths you need to portray. The fact that your readers have told you, over and over, that they love what you write. So that deep-seeded insecurity that you can't do it again, can't come up with a story that will engage, can just take a hike. You're doing this because you love it, and because your readers love what you do. Forget the critics and reviewers. Focus on what you know really matters: the story and those for whom you tell it.
Rest the Story--Yes, get it down as best you can. But then? Set it aside. Give yourself the gift of time away from it. At least a few weeks. Even better, a month or more. Get completely away from it, maybe even from writing. Take a break. Go for a walk. Focus on something entirely different. You can be sure, if you do this, that when you come back to it, you'll read with new eyes. Eyes that see the weak spots, to be sure. Eyes that can better discern how to fix what isn't working. And eyes that will widen as you discover those periodic gems, where you sit back, wonder washing over you, as you realize Almighty fingers rested over your own as you wrote. Because none of us on our own can write a line, a scene, a TRUTH as powerful as you've just found on the page.
Rest. Be at peace.
And let creativity flourish.