"I Had a Little Nut Tree" | Writing When You're in Highschool

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is so sad, and very moving. Also the writing is raw and beautiful. 

"I had a little nut tree, Nothing would it bear
But a silver nutmeg, And a golden pear. 

The King of Spain's daughter, Came to visit me,
And all for the sake, Of my little nut tree."

It has been a while since I've talked about my writing on my blog; I am not exactly certain what's the real cause of this reticence on my part, except perhaps to put it rather bluntly: I have not had much success with my writing in the past several months. I've written very little. Let's not even talk about the quality of that "little" writing, please!

It is not a nice thing to admit, really. For the past year, I've been going through a bit of a rough patch in regards to my writing and inspiration, and really seeking direction to what I am doing. Because honestly, the older I get the more I feel I know less and have no clue as to what I am really doing as a writer and artist. It feels like going back to square one, or to the rudiments of the English alphabet. It's awkward, its painful. . . why did the store of words that seemed to flow like a fountain of inspiration some two years before feel now so stale and dry and lifeless? How could a simple scene that might have taken a week for me to write a while back, now take months for me to feel happy about? Where has my imagination drifted off to? I am trying - I try to scribble things, and my main aim in literary creativity these days is simply to try. It's simply to learn. 

I think I'm realizing that the older I get, and the more knowledge I acquire (as well as more experience), the more difficult it is to learn how to harness the use of words and imagination to the best I can. The more you have and know, the more it is that is required of you (both from yourself and by others). Isn't there a verse in the Gospels along those lines? :)

So. I've been reading. From the classics, history, devotional, a streak of modern authors. Trying to sharpen my mind and spark the embers of imagination again. I thought it was amazing to read Chloe sharing her current literary experience recently on her blog, The Write Solution (When Your Stories Run Dry) ,who seemingly has been running along very similar lines as myself when it comes to where we are in our writing journey. She shares about filling up the empty tank, reading and learning. For example, in the holidays I read Jenny's latest novel. And Plenilune, while rather disappointing morally and story-wise, ignited me with a passion for the fire of words again - it also got me doing a lot of analysing and thinking analytically/critically. I am so used to reading books in my own sphere and tastes that sometimes a totally different "out-of-my-comfort-zone" sort of book is just the sort of thing I need to jar me into using my critical senses. It's good training! On that note - I do plan on reviewing Jennifer Freitag's novel soon on my blog, by the way (just to keep you updated ;). Likewise, watching The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies stirred in me the desire to capture deep emotions, and rich characters, and powerful themes. . . especially about the things that truly matter in life, and about faithful friendship. I pulled out Gaskell's "North and South", just to reread my favourite bits of the heartfelt story of Margaret Hale and John Thornton in all its vivid drama; reading bits of romantic and classic poetry by Wordsworth, Keats and T.S. Elliot; going back to my favourites - The Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien never fails to inspire me), and watching my younger sister get caught up in the grand adventure of Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves in The Hobbit book gets me excited with the sheer passion and love of stories, characters and words. 

My reading pile includes "All Quiet on the Western Front" by Erich Maria Remarque (a gritty, sad look at WW1 from the perspective of the German boys), "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens (I actually really love this story, and love the way Dickens wrote it in autobiographical style!), "The Princess and the Goblin" by George MacDonald (such a delightful tale), and "Secure in the Everlasting Arms" by Elizabeth Elliot (this is very good :)).. I also can't help but revisiting some of my old favourites: "The Fellowship of the Ring" by J.R.R. Tolkien, "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell, and even a little bit of "Chasing Jupiter" by Rachel Coker! 
Bottom hardback: "All Quiet on the Western Front", "The Princess and the Goblin", - that musty grey one is "David Copperfield", "William Wordsworth" poetry, and ha! Beowulf somehow made it into the pile (admittedly, I am not reading it yet, exactly).
blogpost ideas. . . LOTS! (and very little time to write them :)).
The devotional reads. . . "Secure in the Everlasting Arms" by Elizabeth Elliot has been really, really encouraging. I haven't started "The Cost of Discipleship" yet. . .
going back to the oldies. . .  
An Oxford Thesaurus in the flesh!
Gracie caught me writing notes. . .
See, in between the grit of schoolwork, the busyness of family life and time with friends, it can be hard to remember the treasure of words, stories, people, moments and memories; cherishing it all up. Bits and pieces, gathering ideas and images in my mind. Most days, it looks something like this: 

Silver. Grey. Overused. Ancient. Stale. Worn. Dreary. Melancholy. Lifeless. Clichéd. Commonplace. Trite. Corny. Stereotyped. Childhood. Deep-rooted. Timeworn. Previous. Antique. Early. Olden. Primeval. Ageless. Matured. Venerable. Decayed. Sour. Musty. Hard. Fusty. Damaged. Shabby. Tatty. Dog-eared.  Dilapidated. Tattered. Threadbare. Obsolete. Old-fashioned. Archaic. Bleached. Cheerless. Bleak. Routine. Monotonous. Lowering. Dampening. Reducing. Disheartening. Glum. Colourless. Dingy. Dowdy. Limp. Insensible. Comatose. Inert. Unoriginal. Passé. Everyday. Unimaginative. Humdrum. Familiar. Normal. Pedestrian. Unsophisticated. Pigeonholed. Fatigued. Drained. Mind-numbing. Infanthood. Upbringing. Infancy. Deep-seated. Inherent. Entrenched. Subconscious. Frayed. Erstwhile. Vintage. Traditional. Out-of-date. Perpetual. Classic. Unchanging. Mellowed. Seasoned. Full-fledged. Revered. August. Respected. Mouldy. Perished. Corroded. . . 

I pulled out all these words from "Word" thesaurus this past week. I was numb to words, and writing poetically. I needed some inspiration-blitzing rather urgently. So I did that, simply by starting out on the word "silver" and building from there using one synonym on top of another synonym. Ironically, the definition, the whole atmosphere of those words fit into what I am feeling rather well. It felt so good. I am going back to my trusty Oxford Thesaurus from now on to inspire me with the love of words again! 

Out of the pile of lifeless, dingy words I picked up, I wrote these melodramatic sentences which actually make me laugh. I even used the first two lines in A Love that Never Fails, yesterday. ^_^
 Silver was the frayed gleam of martial colour and glory; it was hoary with age, but venerable with respect. . .  The sky dripped with melancholy that bleached, August morning. . . An overworked Pedestrian crossed through unsophisticated seasons in a bleak and cheerless routine of the humdrum. . . She was pigeonholed in the age-old, subconscious traditions of her Elderly forefathers. . . I feel comatose, as if erstwhile I stand in the colourless features of this threadbare world, I am reduced to the corroded frosts of my upbringing. . . 

And then, the story-product:
Tilting her head up wistfully, she watched the pattern of raindrops on the windowpanes. The sky dripped with melancholy on that bleached grey February afternoon.‘Tis the shade of . . . silver, she thought, sadly. But silver was the frayed gleam of martial colour and glory; it was hoary with age, but venerable with respect. . . - A Love that Never Fails.

I know. It's melodramatic to the extreme. I really feel like all I have is a little nut tree, nothing to bear but a silver nutmeg and a golden pear :). But I am okay with that. These days I am not writing a novel with the hopes of publication. I am writing simply because I want to learn. . . because I need a release valve from normal life, a place to write bits of my heart and experience and emotions. Because I have a story that I love deep down, and one-day hope to write as beautifully and accurately to the images in my head as I can possibly make them. Oh, goodness, it is so hard trying to be patient with that. But I am also going to try and enjoy this season of my writing life. Because God has put me in this place and time for a purpose, and I want to appreciate it and gain all I can from it, by His grace. I know the experience of learning will never quite end, but some seasons have the "waiting" a bit more than others. Therefore, for now I will just keep writing crappy, melodramatic synonymous sentences, scenes and novels, and enjoy the process of learning to become a better writer like it's the Theme-Park ride of a lifetime. 

Because it really is. 

Comments

  1. oh, this post is amazing. Lately I've been feeling this way too, I don't find a whole lot of inspiration in just writing. When I was younger, I was positive that I was going to become a New York Times bestselling author. Yeah well, didn't happen. But I'm still writing when I get those short random bursts of inspiration, and who knows? Maybe the Lord can use that someday :) Oh, and I recently stumbled upon your blog and keep up the good work! I loved all of your quotes on the sidebar. They're so amazing. I literally just spent a few minutes reading them. They're so inspiring <3


    - autumn
    http://autumnreadsandwritesallday.blogspot.com/

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  2. Oh goodness! I can so relate to what you are saying - not in writing for me, but in everyday life. Keep up the good work, honey, and I know your lovely story will one day be complete. I can't wait to read the finished version of it! ^_^

    That's a good idea... taking notes for blog posts... might have to try that... ;)

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  3. I love books. : D And this blog post reminds me why I love them.

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  4. You have some good books picked out. David Copperfield is one of my favorite!
    I hope you soon find yourself filled with new inspiration!

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  5. Writing can be hugely hard, and it's good to remember that sometimes we don't have to aim for a NYT Bestseller—it's enough to simply stop and learn sometimes, and know that if we keep at it we'll get better. I definitely feel that way sometimes, but sometimes we have to go through a writing cycle to get back where we want to be. Keep writing! Someday "crappy, melodramatic synonymous sentences, scenes and novels" can become something even better.

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  6. Hello, Autumn!

    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog, and for your sweet, encouraging comment. It's lovely to meet you! Ah, I know exactly how you mean about lacking inspiration in writing. I am glad that this post struck a chord with you as well - I had big ideas of publishing and the work of being an author when I was younger as well; definitely there was much more glamour to being a writer back when you and I first started! But I think now I appreciate those rare bursts of inspiration better - they mean so much more :D. Also I am trying not to put pressure on myself with writing - it's okay if I didn't get a lot of writing done daily, or my story is all a horrible mess. It can be frustrating, but I guess I just need to learn to work "bird by bird" or "step by step" as they say :)). And I trust the Lord for the increase, and His perfect timing too!

    That's a positive way to enjoy your writing! :D

    Aww, thank you! These quotes are some of my all time favourite movie-quotes, but I definitely have so, so many more! I always find them very inspirational.

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  7. Emily dear, thank you so much for your sweet words of encouragement. It means so much to me!! Indeed, I also struggle with this in day-to-day life as well, not just in my writing. Good to know we don't struggle alone, though :).
    I can't wait for that day too! *wistful, happy sigh* Lots of love!

    :D

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  8. Allison, why, that was such a sweet compliment put so simply and thoughtfully to words. Thank you!

    I love books too ^_^. Glad you liked this post.

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  9. Kelpie, I am quite loving "David Copperfield" indeed :). I appreciate that encouragement. Thank you for commenting!

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  10. Heather, thank you so much for stopping by, and for your lovely, thoughtful comment. Lovely to have you on my blog!

    Indeed, writing can almost be a bodily pain - so much effort, sweat and tears are involved; also much learning and practise, and getting it wrong, and sitting up and trying again until it somehow comes right. I am desperately hoping that my writing will improve too - just to always remember, never give up! I also agree about the writing cycle. . . I have noticed that pattern in my writing as well.

    Thank you for sharing, and I wish you all the best with your writing inspiration likewise!
    God bless :)

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  11. Hey Joy! First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. I hope we can be blogging buddies!

    This post was encouraging to me. You are right, so often the beauty that I see in my head just doesn't fall onto the pages in the right way. Once in a while my thoughts will be translated perfectly into words. It is oh so thrilling, but all too rare. As we wait for those special moments (hoping to grow them and expand them from bits of sentences into essays and eventually whole novels), what can we do but absorb good words by reading reading reading and practice practice practice. You are on the road to perfection... don't ever stop moving forward!

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  12. Dearest Joy,
    I read this article a while back, and was impressed by your honesty. In a time when a lot of your acquaintances are getting published and working towards that, it must be challenging and even a little heart-wrenching to know that you aren't at that point yet. Dry writing years are so challenging--I had one last year, and while I still managed to accomplish much, it was painful. Waiting is a painful, painful thing--like Sarah had to wait for Isaac; like Job had to wait for healing--like the Israelites had to wait to get into the Promised Land. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus through the process, and he will turn the desert of waiting into a haven of beauty.

    Whether God calls you to publication someday, or simply uses it to shape your own soul and bless family and friends, it will not be lost or useless. He is taking it and shaping it into something beautiful. You are a vibrant part of this little community online, so don't think that your part is small or unimportant. I know for me personally you are a huge encouragement, and you have used your blog as a platform for helping so many friends. The Lord has truly given you a generous spirit, and we are blessed by it.

    Love you lots, and thank-you for your honesty! <3

    ~Schuyler

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  13. Hi Susanna!

    Aw, thank you for your sweet message. I would love to be blogging friends :).

    I am glad you were blessed by this post - to be honest I wrote it in the frustration of my feelings; I definitely had no idea some of my readers might be going through a similar struggle in the sense of creativity and writing. I know how you feel! It is sad when the images of splendour in one's mind fall flat on the written page - I guess it comes through much trial, practice, tears, and writing heaps; after all, amid the dross, there will have to be some diamonds in the rough there! Also, yes, I agree - reading is a good step in the direction of becoming a better writer. Thank you so much for your sweet encouragement! It means a whole heap to me.

    God bless, and thank you so much for commenting :)

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  14. Dearest Schuyler,

    I want you to know that when I read your comment, your loving words brought tears to my eyes. I was truly blessed and encouraged by your gentle words of encouragement and inspiration... thank you so, so much, dearest friend!

    Yes, I admit - It is heartwrenching not to be able to write in this dry season, to be tied down both in my outward circumstances of studies, but also inwardly in my literary and educational growth, so that I chaff at the waiting, and feel desperate to . . . "write those words", even as I feel like an empty well, and I know the time is not yet ripe. It sure isn't easy to sometimes let the Lord do His work and "wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord". But it is so worth it in the end, isn't it! Thank you for sharing your experiences of when you had to wait in your "dry spell" as well. So glad that the Lord has moved you on, but I totally agree. . . that waiting time has so much pain. I love how you shared the examples of Sarah and Abraham waiting for Isaac - for joy! And Job suffering, waiting for healing and answers. . . and also the Israelites in reaching the Promised Land; it is a wonderful confirmation of what I feel the Lord has been speaking to me lately, as I have been reading and meditating on Genesis and Exodus these days, and the Lord strongly impressed me with the lives of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph in particular. Their journey was hard and long, and they waited for the Promise sometimes with very little outward hope . . . yet they trusted in Him! Amen, Schuyler, let us keep looking to Jesus in our struggles and disappointments and the little trials of day to day! He is our Comfort and Hope, and our eternal Strength! Praise the Lord!

    Your words brought a lovely gleam of sunshine to my day, Schuyler; I am deeply humbled by your words, and I am very happy that my blog is an encouragement sometimes . . . I also think it was just about one of the best thing that happened to me through blogging. You have been such an encouragement, an edification to me. . . I find that I have grown so much through what the Lord has used in your work - both for my writing and reading, but also for my own spiritual life. I am so blessed by your friendship! I can't wait to meet you one day too :)). May the Lord Jesus richly bless you!

    Lots of hugs and prayers <3 <3
    Love you dearly as well!

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  15. This post resonated with me so much, Joy. I've been through dry spells with my writing at many points, and it's so hard to go through those ruts. Luckily, I am currently doing a lot of plotting for a rewrite for my Camp NaNo novel, and I really do have publication in mind for this novel. I think I can attribute this to my reading, as reading a good book always inspires me. I have been feeling a little bit unproductive with my short story writing, though. Short stories are an art in and of themselves, and while I enjoy reading them, they are so difficult to master. I have some ideas, but they never seem to come out the way I see them in my head.

    I hope you get out of your writing rut soon. Keep reading because the best way to learn how to write is by example. Besides, you have some great picks there. David Copperfield, Beowulf, LOTR and Chasing Jupiter are all wonderful books.

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  16. great photos! you have a beautiful blog! :)

    <3 CeCe

    [to check out my blog, click here]

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  17. Ana, thank you so much for stopping by! Your sweet comment put a smile to my face - I also really enjoyed browsing your lovely blog!

    Hmm, me too, I totally understand your struggle with going into those dry-spells in one's writing! I hope you all the best with your Camp NaNo :D. That's great you're in-depth with it, though, like with a second draft and all. I very much agree with you about the challenge of short-story writing. My experience with writing one some years ago for a competition and publishing it was definitely quite a new experience, comparing it with the lengthy weight of novel-writing.

    Definitely reading is a true wand of magic, I believe, to lighting the torch and blazing the way for one's own writing. Mmm, yes, I know. . . these books are truly wonderful.

    Many blessings,
    Joy

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  18. Thank you so much, Celia! :)

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