Forgiveness – The Path to Inner Peace and Healing

Forgiveness – The Path to Inner Peace and Healing

You’ve been deeply hurt. Someone has blackened your name. Deserted you. Your mind is churning. You can’t sleep. Like Macbeth, your mind is full of ‘scorpions’. You’re desperate for the poison to stop doing its work, but you’re powerless to block damaging thoughts that are flooding your brain.

How do you find peace? How do you still your mind? How do you heal?

Self-Reflection

Difficult though it may be, the first step is to take a long, hard look at yourself. Have you ever hurt anyone or gossiped about them? Should you be darting accusations at someone else when you yourself have been guilty of the same thing? If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll admit your own failings and remember Jesus’ warning about taking the plank out of your own eye before you try to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Consider examples of forgiveness in the Bible.

You only have to read the story of Joseph in Genesis to marvel at the power of forgiveness and how truly healing it is. Despite the fact that his brothers sold him into slavery, he forgave them from the bottom of his heart. His words to his brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives, (Genesis 50, v.20b), reveal how completely he had forgiven them. What an inspiring example of the power of forgiveness.

Look to Jesus

The next step is to look at Jesus himself. Consider how His own family didn’t believe in Him, how all His disciples abandoned Him when He was arrested, and how His name was maligned. He was even accused by the religious leaders of casting out demons in the name of Beelzebub. Yet Jesus remained dignified; He spoke truth to power, prayed for His enemies and in His great love for sinners, He even gave His life for them in the most sacrificial act that has ever been performed in the history of the world, dying on the cross to shield them from God’s wrath and taking the punishment for their sins. He taught His disciples to pray for their enemies, too. And as He was hanging on the cross in agony, He cried out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” What an inspiration and what an example to model.

Think about Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness.

Jesus taught his disciples to forgive those who had wronged them, even as much as seventy-seven times. He was emphasising how generously we should forgive others, but he also warned his disciples that if they didn’t forgive their brothers, neither would His Father forgive them. An extremely sobering thought.

The path to forgiveness

Of course, forgiveness is hard, sometimes almost impossible if we’ve been hurt deeply enough and still bear the scars. But no one could even come close to being hurt as much as Jesus was: betrayed by one of His closest companions, abandoned by all his disciples when He needed them most, brutally scourged and crucified by mocking, ruthless, sinful people. Yet He showed all of us His incredible love and His vast capacity for forgiveness.

So if we try to follow Jesus’ example, we’ll feel our heavy burdens being lifted from our shoulders. When we forgive from our hearts those who have wronged us, we’ll feel liberated. There’ll be a lightness in our step and ‘peace like a river’ flowing through our souls. Unburdened and free from resentment, we’ll find the great gift of forgiveness is a balm not only to our souls but also to the souls of the people who have hurt us. If they could be freed from their guilty feelings, they could be liberated, too.

What a worthwhile journey it is to embark on the hard road to forgiveness. Wonderfully, you’ll experience deep inner peace and healing. No more restless, damaging thoughts. Peaceful sleep. Balm for your soul. May you be blessed as you walk with Jesus on this difficult but restorative road.

Empower yourself on your journey of forgiveness by exploring the following must-read blogs:

Mastering Your Manuscript: Top 5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Christian Authors

Mastering Your Manuscript: Top 5 Essential Tips for Aspiring Christian Authors by Gillian Leggat

Faced with the vast range of titles in all sorts of different genres, how do you even begin to write a book that people will want to read? What can you contribute to the world of literature that hasn’t already been done? How can you be original…unique…interesting?

The good news for us writers is this: a fellow writer once said: ‘There are no new ideas; only new ways of presenting them. I would agree. For example, the number of ideas for stories is finite. There are only so many plot arcs. But the structure of the stories keeps getting re-organised. So don’t try to invent a brand-new plot. You can’t. It’s all been done before. But never fear. You can still be original. It’s not what you write but how you write it that makes all the difference.

So how DO you write a publishable manuscript then?

Tip number one: Get started

Don’t dither or procrastinate; whatever you do, don’t keep feeding your head with negative nonsense. You can be a writer, even a published one if you try hard enough. The only difference between a published and an unpublished writer is – the unpublished writer gave up. So put on your writing hat and begin.

Tip number two: Persevere

Once you’ve begun, keep at it. Write often. And persevere. Write every day if you can, no matter what. If your schedule doesn’t permit it, set aside particular times for writing, where you go to your favourite writing place. Don’t make excuses. No matter how busy your life is, if being an author is important to you, you will find the time to write. You put aside time for other tasks, some of them very mundane. So why wouldn’t you set aside time for something you’re passionate about? Although a challenging discipline, even the mere process of writing can be very rewarding: you’re exercising your brain cells, exploring possibilities, and going on an amazing creative journey that so many others have gone on before you. It would be a shame to throw in the towel when you’ve barely begun this journey. My father once told me some facts about Thomas Edison that I’ve never forgotten. The story goes that his assistant said to him one day: “Mr. Edison, we have now tried 365 experiments and all of them have failed. We haven’t had any results.”

“But we’ve had wonderful results,” Edison reportedly replied. “We now know 365 experiments that don’t work!” He and his assistant then persevered, trying many more experiments until, voila, one day, they finally did an experiment which did actually work. They had discovered electric light.

Although this anecdote may not be directly relevant to your writing pursuits, it illustrates perseverance's value. Don’t be concerned about your failures. Just keep refining your writing skills.

Tip number three: Don’t keep comparing yourself to other writers

As a writer, you have a unique style. The way you express yourself is not the same as any other writer’s style. Celebrate this. Who knows, you may even start a new trend. Think about James Joyce’s lack of punctuation in his famous novel, Ulysses. Who would have thought that his unusual work of art would become such an important part of our literary history?

Keep enjoying your writing. Keep editing your work and improving your writing. But realise that your particular style may be a gift to the world of literature.

Tip number four: Plan your manuscript carefully

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you must structure your manuscript carefully. Some of the methods you might use are: story-boards, chapter outlines or multiple spider diagrams in the case of fiction.

Timelines, chronological sequencing or detailed plans for a particular period in the case of non-fiction.

Whatever method you use, it’s good to have a rough idea of where you’re going before you begin your journey – even if the details change, which they often will.

Tip number five: Add conflict/ tension to your writing

Readers like to be kept on the edge of their seats. This tip is more relevant to fiction, but even non-fiction pieces will be more intriguing if something is at stake. So make sure you structure your writing to build tension and drama, adding interest to your piece, whether it is fiction or non-fiction.

Above all, enjoy your writing journey. The journey itself can be ultra-rewarding if you have a positive attitude. And how amazing it is when a publisher recognises the fruits of your hard labours, and you can finally hold your completed book in your hand.

Happy writing!

Navigating the Digital World: A Christian Author's Guide to Using the Internet

In our 21st-century world, it’s very difficult to contemplate what the world was like before the arrival of the Internet. How did writers do their research? Going to physical libraries? There, too, they would have verified their facts. Or maybe some of them had huge tomes at home, like the complete Encyclopaedia Britannica in goodness knows how many volumes. How did they connect with other authors, readers, and publishers? By phoning them or using snail mail, I’m assuming. And where did they find new opportunities? By chance, meeting on a street corner? In a supermarket? At the school gate?

In this blog, I will restrict myself to talking about three, albeit rather obvious, uses of the Internet for Authors. Nothing new in the zoo!! But it’s good to be reminded of these things.

1. Research

Mega-articles, blogs, books on almost any topic under the sun! You don’t have to search very far to find just the information you’re looking for. And just the fact that you were trying to check up on it. Or just the data to prove what you were trying to say. You’re writing a historical novel, and you want to find out about the costumes of the time. Boom-bang – all the information you need is right there on Mrs Google. You’re setting your adult thriller in a foreign country you’ve only visited once, and you need to check on some facts about restaurants and street names in a particular city. Voila! There it all is. Right in front of your very eyes, including maps. Your biography about a scientist has some statistics you need to check. Hooray. You’ve found just the graph you need, including a detailed explanation of the significance of the data.

How wonderfully useful the internet is for checking up on your facts, fleshing out the details in your book, finding more information about a place and being inspired by many different examples.

A word of caution

Of course, like any good researcher, you’ll have to ask yourself questions about the source of the information in the article, blog, or snippet. Much of the information you’ll find on the net is written from one particular point of view, so you do have to be discerning when scouring through the net. You also have to be careful of plagiarising. Just because it’s not a ‘book’ you’re copying from, it doesn’t mean that you won’t get into trouble for taking chunks of information and using word for word in your next book. Please don’t go there!! It’s definitely not worth it.

2. Connections and Opportunities

Being a member of the older generation myself, I feel totally inadequate writing about this topic. So I’ll be very brief! In any case, I’m sure that in the next couple of years, all the platforms people use now will already be outdated!! But of course, your personal website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email lists and so on are useful ways of connecting with other authors, readers, publishers and the general public. Many authors use these platforms and opportunities to great advantage.

3. Tutorials and Lessons

If you want to learn how to do anything, the internet is your oyster. Tutorials a-plenty about any topic under the sun, including the ones relevant to writing skills:

I have to smile because some of the blogs I’ve been writing cover similar topics.

              But my advice, in a nutshell, is: use the internet with discernment, sift out the unnecessary, keep what might be useful to you, and never take shortcuts on research. It might, after all, be advisable to visit your local library – to check on the facts you gleaned from the internet!! How ironic is that?

Enjoy the benefits of using the internet.

And most of all, happy writing.

Overcoming the Challenges of Writing Young Adult Fiction

Overcoming the Challenges of Writing Young Adult Fiction by Gillian Leggat

As the world is changing so fast, and young adults are faced with so many challenges and distractions that weren’t around merely a few years ago, I would argue that this is the most challenging group of people to gain interest. Forgive my generalisation, but I suspect that a vast majority of this group doesn’t read very much. They’re too involved in sports, connecting with the opposite sex, or preparing for their host of exams. Where would they even take the time to read? Put a book in their hands, and they’ll probably either skim it, yawn and put it down after the first page or drop it on the table and leave it there for somebody else to pick up. There are exceptions, of course – thank goodness for exceptions or writers of YA fiction would be out of business!!! Some avid readers amongst this group read a great variety of fiction – books I’ve never even heard of – and some non-fiction as well. Thank goodness, also, for the huge variety of books in this world.

So, how do you attempt to write for this age group? And what genre do you think would interest them most? I’ll answer my second question first…because it doesn’t really have an answer. Readers' tastes in any age group, I believe, are as wide as there are genres. The type of book they’ll prefer will depend on their personalities, experiences, what they’ve been exposed to before, and what their favourite books were as small children. So, I really am going to pass on that question. My first question I will attempt to answer by giving would-be YA writers out there three tips.

Three tips on writing Young Adult Fiction:

Tip One: Plot

Make sure your story is a good one. Take time to develop your plot. Add plenty of twists and turns to add interest. And you must have a hook near the beginning of the story. That is absolutely essential. And a hook or two further on as well to prevent your reader’s interest from flagging. Whether you are writing a more realistic story where problems and emotions are being explored, a thriller where exciting turns keep happening, or a fantasy where your reader needs to suspend their disbelief, it is important to keep the story pacey. Add cliffhangers to the end of each chapter, keep the reader guessing what will happen next, and allow your readers to go on a rollicking adventure.

Tip Two: Characters

Make your characters REALLY convincing. This is particularly important for this age group. Gone are the fairy-tale stories of beautiful, perfect princesses or grossly ugly, evil witches. Your heroes need to have flaws, and your villains need to have redeeming features. That is if you want your readers to believe in the characters you create. Then, their dialogue also needs to sound authentic. Make it sound like ‘teenage-speak’ if you can. I’m not suggesting that you include slang, where new words fly out of the window with each new fad. Nothing can outdate your story than using the ‘current’ slang – bearing in mind that it usually takes at least two years to produce a book. But make your characters talk about issues that young adults might be interested in. And make their speech sound natural. Use contractions, break off their sentences in the middle, and do whatever you must to make their speech sound natural.

Tip Three: Theme

Carefully consider your theme. What is your story REALLY about? And why would the themes in your story resonate with your readers? Why are the ideas you’re writing about important to them? Are the ideas in your novel thought-provoking? Will they inspire your readers to ask questions long after they put down your book? Is your story memorable? Or will they forget about it the minute they put it down?

I enjoy writing for this age group. My recent YA trilogy(The Golden Highway, The Diamond Pathway and The Emerald Treasure Chamber)  I would describe as a ‘rollicking fantasy adventure’, while my stand-alone book, The Seekers, is more reflective, dealing more with some of the problems that young adults face, their relationships and how they cope with them. I have two more YA books coming out this year, so I’m not giving up on this genre quite yet, despite its challenges.

Enjoy your writing adventure.

The Importance of Research in a Writer's Journey

The Importance of Research in a Writers Journey scaled

If you want to be appreciated by your readers, it’s absolutely essential that you get your facts right. Not only does this apply to non-fiction writing, but also it’s very important for fiction writers. So, whatever genre you are writing in, make sure you sound authentic. Your readers need to suspend their disbelief for a few hours as they are drawn into your story or non-fiction piece. Even authors of fantasy need to be grounded in reality. Your story needs to be believable so the reader can identify with your characters and be drawn into your story.

How can you sound authentic?

The Role of Active Research

First prize is to visit the place you are writing about yourself. Once you’re there, jot down details of colours, shapes, sounds – in short, notice the detail. Absorb the atmosphere. If you can, re-visit the place if you haven’t had time to take in all the details. Four of my YA novels were inspired by memorable places I had visited: The Seekers was written after visiting the fascinating town of Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo, where Helen Martin’s Owl House boasts a range of iconic striking cement and glass sculptures. Whilst the settings for the three books in my YA trilogy were written in response to my holidays in Namibia and Egypt, respectively. Although all four books were written many years after I had been to these places, I enjoyed drawing on my still vivid memories of my unforgettable trips.

Library and Internet-based research

Of course, visiting a place in person is not always possible. So the second prize is to visit your local library or search Google. For example, if you are writing historical fiction or a family history, you need to be careful about getting your facts straight. What political events of the time were impacting your characters? How big were the towns, cities or villages where they lived? Who else lived there? What did the buildings look like? What clothes did the people wear? What food did they eat?

              One of the qualities of an author is a curious, inquiring mind. If you’re setting a story in a particular place, you’re bound to ask a host of other questions regarding the places, people and historical background so that your characters will sound real as they draw you with them into their story. Every detail needs to be correct, so if you can’t visit a place or if the events in the story happened a long time before, then meticulous research is an important factor to authenticate your book. Readers will love it if they can get a true and believable picture of events and characters. They’ll love it even more if, after reading your book, they feel they’ve actually visited the place for themselves. How satisfying to have a travel adventure when you haven’t even left your house.

My Own Experience

Since the early days of my writing career more than three decades ago, I’ve been researching people, places and events. I’ve ventured into places I wouldn’t have dreamt of setting my foot in, like township schools in Soweto and Alexandra during the early ‘90s. Friends thought I was crazy going into ‘unsafe places’, but, like journalists, I was looking for genuine stories that would touch the hearts of my readers. I backed up these expeditions with library visits and Google searches.

              One of my most challenging recent projects was to extensively research the bible to capture some of its key concepts – from Genesis to Revelation – in as few words as possible. A ‘summary’, if you like, on which to meditate. And so, my book, Mighty Master Plan and Significant Signposts, was born. The minimal words – which include biblical quotes – and strikingly meaningful illustrations don’t necessarily suggest all the careful research that was involved in writing that book – or how many times I read through the bible before I created my four characters, a small girl, a pastor, a sceptic and an angel, who debate significant issues and interact with each other.

Even though it may seem like an overkill to you, make sure you do diligent research for any book you write so your readers can be on the same page.

Happy researching – and happy writing – in that order!