(Tricia and Robin Jones Gunn, at our joint booksigning.)
Last week, I was going through my bookshelf, looking for a new journal (I'd filled up my old one), when I found one dating back to 1998. The beginning of the notebook had notes from the Mount Hermon writing conference. I was amazing how the notes I took then still ring true to me today.
One set of workshop notes came from my dear friend and mentor, Robin Jones Gunn. I'd signed up to take her class hoping for some ideas on how to write better fiction. Robin helped do that by first pointing us to our own hearts.
"All great books come from the heart of the author and from the essence of the author's life experiences" said Robin. Though there are part of our lives in which there are spaces of silences, there is also "rough stuff" we must draw from in our writing.
Robin encouraged us to see writing as not just "all about us." But to instead see where God has been working in our lives. Two questions she encouraged us to ask were:
What purpose has He given me?
What is His desire?
The next thing Robin had us do, in class, was to write our personal story, starting from our birth to present day--hitting the high and low points. After that was done, she asked us to highlight certain areas with different colored markers. These points were:
This was a life-transforming activity, and these themes could clearly be seen:
Unwed pregnancy (both me and my mom)
Love of books and reading
Intimacy and Heartache
Longings for love
Teen in the 80s (media influences)
God's liberation and transformation
Raising a godly family
Heart-connections with people in my past
Above is my expanded list--it has grown since 1998--but major themes continue to resurface, especially themes of liberation and restoration.
Looking back on the time between now and 1998, it was amazing to realize I've had ten books published since then, and ALL OF THESE BOOKS deal with one of these themes. Even my fiction novels include children born out of wedlock, women abandoned by men they loved, and liberation--both internal and external. (External being WWII/Spanish Civil War.)
I've written many other book proposals, of course, but none of those have been accepted. Maybe even the publishers were able to tell those book that came from my heart--because my heart was touched by the issue in some way?
So what about you? Where major events have touched your life? Where can you see God at work? As David Crowder sings, "Wherever you've been, He's been there."
I would highly recommend you try this activity. After all, the message God speaks in your life are often the same ones He desires to speak through your words.