Facing the blank page

The next group of students to graduate from the University of Hull’s BA (Hons) in Creative Writing are ordering their caps and gowns as I write… and what have I done with my writing since graduating last July? Unashamedly self-published my short stories collection of course! I’ve also learned (the hard way) about what not to do when going down the self-publishing route. What doesn’t kill you etc, etc…

I am now faced with a blank page – the first in my beautiful new note book (my reward for completing a writing project). My beautiful new pen (another reward) is poised… ready for my next adventure on Writers’ Way: A devotional book of prayers and meditations (with sketches) to open a route into a personal relationship with God (something completely different from my disturbing slice-of-life short stories).

I know in facing this blank page that I’m not suffering from writers’ block… I’m merely waiting for my muse to inspire me with beautiful words with which to adorn the page. I don’t want to waste a first page experience with a sprint writing exercise to enable my words to flow from my head to my fingertips… I want a ready-made perfectly worded piece of prose so that my venture has a beautiful springboard to bounce off and get itself going. Maybe it should be a prayer then? 

Whilst waiting for my muse to wake from its comatose state, my random thoughts search through the unorganised chaos of my imagination and, in a sudden flash, a blink of an eye that I would have missed had I not been waiting idly for something to happen, I discover why I can’t start. It’s so simple that it was difficult to fathom out at first. It is this: I haven’t let go of my characters from my stories yet. After all, I spent hours, days, weeks, months with them and know them intimately… like a second skin. I haven’t celebrated their lives… honoured the dead, as they say, in an official letting go ceremony. I’ve dashed straight on to the next thing without giving myself time to rest and reflect in the process of producing something I’ve created, and bask in the glory of its completion.

I look at my blank page again after my thoughts subside and… it has these beautiful words written on it – haiku style.

Prayers of devotion

embrace a new creation

to honour the dead.

See how it works? You can do a sprint exercise in your mind, not just on paper, and the words will write themselves.

Try it… you’ll see what I mean. You will need…

a blank page.

Have fun!

with love, Julie

PS. I believe a writing block can be likened to a prayer block. Therefore, if your writing’s blocked, pray – if your prayer’s blocked, write. If both should become blocked simultaneously, rest in random thoughts. These thoughts can become a prayer to provide you with words to write (or vice versa).

(Examples of pathways to prayer will be illustrated in my next project… watch this space)

Are you ready for Christmas yet?

We’re barely into December and already I keep being asked if I’m ‘ready for Christmas?’  I simply smile and, instead of saying what’s really on my mind, respond in the usual way with ‘oh I expect I’ll get caught up in the atmosphere soon enough.’  It’s because I don’t want to put a dampener on anyone’s Christmas preparations that I don’t come right out with it and say Christmas can make people miserable.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world and it is more common than we think to feel like an outsider looking in at Christmas – sometimes within your own family.  It’s probably because the commercial aspect of Christmas highlights the family unit as paramount at this time of year.  As a friend of mine once said, ‘For some, Christmas is a painful time of looking round the family table and being aware of absences, of looking back and remembering happier times.’ (Rev. Geoff Bowell, Scarborough Christian Fellowship).  These absences are not always due to death of loved ones either. They can be attributed to other loss, such as unemployment, homelessness, family estrangement – sometimes of many years duration.  The latter of these is true for me.

I make no apology for baring my soul here because, at the same time, I am hopeful for a solution.  My words are the silent prayers of my heart.  A personal prayer that maybe this year my brother will respond to the Christmas card I send him – thus bringing an end to years of bitter separation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the build up to Christmas. The buzz of shoppers, carols in the town centre, reindeer parading around Alma Square, buskers rocking round the Christmas trees spreading merriment.  I love the church activities, being part of a church family, meditating the Advent labyrinth, and waiting… for the comfort and joy that celebrating Christ’s birth means.  I hope that one Christmas Day I’ll awake to choirs of angels, surrounded in bright light, singing a chorus in celebration of the second coming of Christ.

Yet I’m also waiting in hope for my prayer to be answered…

I accept God’s love through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and believe that healing through forgiveness of wrongs (past and present) is a real possibility… for all. I rely on this truth to ensure that Christmas for me is a time to appreciate what I have and not dwell too much on what I don’t have.  I remain grateful for unexpected moments of joy and small acts of kindness that I encounter, which encourages a choir of angels to sing in my heart every day of the year.

I’d like to invite you to pause between your preparations during the Christmas season – when we are often so busy that, when we do find time to talk to God, as soon as we say ‘Amen’ we rush off to the next thing and don’t give God the chance to respond.  Yet, in the smallest gap, God is waiting.  He longs for us to hear His voice in that space.

At the end of this prayer there is no ‘Amen’.  Simply sit in silence and talk to God from your heart… and listen for his voice in the stillness.

Waiting for God

Dear God,

help me to find a silent space.

I say ‘amen’.  Then I think again,
and instead of rushing away
to fill my day with this and that,
I stop. I sit. I wait. I stay
to listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
and your voice fills the silent space.

Dear God,

help me to be still in the silent space.

I don’t say ‘amen’. I start again
because I don’t want to rush away
to fill my day with this and that.
I want to stop. To sit. To wait. To stay
and listen to what you have to say
in-between the tick and tock
of my life’s busy, noisy clock,
as your voice fills my silent space.

Dear God, help me to listen in the silent space.

Dear God, help me to hear you in sacred silent spaces.


(PS.  I have to ask… are you ready for Christmas yet?)


All text © Julie M. Fairweather 2012 – unless otherwise stated