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Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

I have a friend, Dale Harcombe, whose first general fiction novel Streets on a Map is due for release this month from Ark House Press. Dale lives in South Coast NSW and, prior to Streets on a Map, has had seven children’s novels and Kaleidoscope, a book of poems, published. For more information, please visit Dale’s website  and her own blog.

Recently, Dale asked several author friends to write a guest blog for her on the topic ‘The map I use for writing is …’. Here is my effort on Dale’s behalf:

When I write, I always use the same large-scale map, without which I would inevitably lose my way and give up. I do also begin with a more detailed one, yet while displaying many of the twists and turns of my proposed journey, it does have one distinct drawback. It has a tendency to change regularly, with landmarks being added and removed, streets shortened or lengthened or even disappearing altogether and narrow lanes, over time, becoming major highways. So I need to ‘zoom out’ frequently to my large-scale map, if I am to keep my bearings at all.

What does my large-scale map look like? Well, there are only four main roads marked on it – but they are extremely important and form a strategic crossroad right in the centre. 

The name of my first road is Experience. I have travelled this road for some years now and learnt many things that invariably find their way into my writing. I love this road. It makes me feel secure, as I know where I am going and can easily describe it to others as well. It is a rich road, full of memories – and I am so thankful for it.

My second road is called Imagination. I particularly love this road and always enjoy travelling along it. The journey is invariably interesting and exciting, with unexpected vistas opening up almost at every corner and serendipitous events that often take my breath away. I can tend to forget where I am at times as I journey through the somewhat uncharted territory this road traverses – but I would definitely be the poorer if it did not exist.

My third road has a slightly dull sounding name. It is called Perseverance. At times, my feet lag as I step out here, but I know the route this road covers is essential in getting to where I want to go. I try to walk here with my head held high, looking straight ahead and not being distracted by the various tempting turnoffs along the way. I know if I wander, I may never reach my desired destination.

And my final road is the most important of all. It is called Inspiration and is a beautiful highway, fashioned by Someone with much more experience, imagination and perseverance than I will ever have. If I am dispirited as I journey here, I know I can stop for a moment and breathe in fresh ideas and phrases that seem to come from somewhere above and beyond – perhaps even from another place altogether. I am uplifted and encouraged every time my journey takes me this way.

But whichever route I take, I always eagerly head for the crossroads in the centre. That’s where I come to meet the one who always understands, who believes in me and loves me, who helps me find my way again. Jesus, who himself is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

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Someone once said that novelists are like bowerbirds, continually collecting glistening treasures or colourful scraps of material wherever they can and storing them away in a safe place, ready to weave into that next wonderful, creative piece of writing. Yet this isn’t something they necessarily do on purpose, I believe.  More often than not, it’s as if these treasures force their way unbidden into the writer’s mind and imagination and remain there, ready for the picking when the moment comes.

Two weeks ago, my third novel ‘Laura’ was launched.  ‘Laura’ was inspired by the life of a friend who happens to be blind.  Many early events in the novel grew out of snippets of information she shared with me about her own growing up years as someone with a perceived ‘disability’ – times when she learnt to be strong and to live life the same as her sighted brothers and sisters did.  But these facts are woven together with others gleaned from research, along with people, places and events that I created from my own imagination.  Now, three years after completing the novel, at times I find it hard to remember what came from where and to tell the difference between fact and fiction myself.

On the other hand, I’ll never forget where the ideas for some specific events later in the novel originated – for example, the moment when Laura first hears the words of the old hymn ‘Be Thou My Vision’.  You see, I was there when my friend did just that.  Then there’s the occasion when Laura helps a friend choose her wedding dress – and again, that is very close to the truth.  Let me tell you what really happened, as I remember it.

While visiting my friend where she now lives in the States, I needed to find a dress to wear to our son’s wedding.  One day at a huge clothing store, I tried on outfit after outfit, becoming more and more frustrated and embarrassed in the process.  Then my friend, who cannot see at all, held out a dress with matching jacket she had chosen from one of the racks and suggested I try it on.

It was not quite the kind of outfit I had in mind, yet, reluctant to offend her, I put it on – and immediately loved it!  I wore it proudly to the wedding and have kept it as a reminder of God’s grace to me ever since.  You see, while I know my friend chose the outfit by feeling the lovely soft fabric of the dress itself and the trimmings and pattern of the matching brocade jacket, I know too that all the time she was praying for just the right dress for me.  And God heard her prayers – and mine.

So yes, novelists are indeed like bowerbirds – but with good reason.  That’s how God made them to be, I reckon.  And if that’s the case, then I’m happy to join their ranks and admit to being a ‘bowerbird’ any day!

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