Thursday, November 24, 2005

JK: Harvest and Yield

Harvest. One definition is “the product of any effort,” meaning one’s efforts can yield strain and pain as well as gain. I just spent a long weekend at a book event, caught a terrible cold, and don’t really know how many new people I introduced to my work. But I had a harvest, I believe, in meeting new people, sharing stories, adding to my mailing list, letting myself be encouraged by the words of readers who find strength for their own lives inside my stories.

Samuel Johnson once noted that “to be happy at home was the result of all ambition.” I think he spoke of a writer’s harvest.

Another word for harvest is “yield” and it seems to me that sometimes, in order to have a harvest, we do have to yield, to let another go ahead of us, to step aside while another merges into life before us. We haven’t lost our goal or our plan to move ahead; we’re just yielding for a time. This happens in the lives of characters I write about, one story rises over another or falls back for a time .

This blend of yield and harvest describes my writing life of late. I yield to the needs of my family and their health and mine as well and try not to feel guilty that I haven’t sat to write for several days now. I yield computer time to my granddaughter while we seek scholarships so she can attend an art school she wishes. Her grandfather and I have discussed what we’ll “yield” in the years ahead so that she can have this chance to go to go on to school. Except for these contributions to the blog, I haven’t written much at all this month except letters and brief emails. I’ve been promoting instead, attending writer’s fairs and book signings, recovering from bronchitis, reading to research the time period of the book I’m “writing” (read “thinking about”), the one I’ll begin putting on to paper before this year is out. I’ll await the copy-editors comments on the manuscript I turned in last month, have agreed to read colleague’s works with an eye to endorsement. I consider that part of my writing life even though I’m not actually “writing.” But I’m home, stepping back into my space on Starvation Lane, sitting like a frog on a lily pad surrounded by books and notes and timelines and photographs and letting my imagination roll me into another place and time – when the time is right.

For me, there is always a level of guilt about writing. If I write all day long and enjoy it, then I feel guilty for neglecting my family, the dogs, cooking meals. If I don’t write all day long, I feel guilty for neglecting a gift, a ministry, my passion for storytelling, for pushing aside the lives of these characters, perhaps not listening to what God wants me to do.

My only hope is that this kind of guilt can be addressed by confession AND by making a personal change.

So I’ll yield this month, pray, set sleep aside and start rising early to write so I won’t feel guilty of neglect of either family or passion. As the sun rises, I’ll have devoted some hours to what I love and believe I’m called to do and can then spend the rest of the day on the harvests that make me “happy at home.” It seems to be my rhythm of harvests and yields.

Jane Kirkpatrick,


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