Thursday, February 16, 2012

to operate at the very edge of my brain power

I think we're often conditioned to grow agitated by the thought of being 'in over our heads' at anything. I admit, my attempts at trying to 'wing it' have made me not merely nervous but also guilty, as if I'm cheating by trying anything new, and pretending to be something I'm not. I imagine that people who discover my basic incompetence have a right to pay me out. "This idiot doesn't know what he/she's doing!" are words we never want to hear spoken about us. It's far easier and more comfortable when we stick to doing the things we're certain we can pull off flawlessly. My problem is, there's not much that falls under that category. Then I get bored enough to want to crawl out on a limb.

Thankfully, I've come across some research on the human brain that convinces me that 'winging it' is no mistake after all. Brain scientist, Dr Caroline Leaf tells us that it's actually healthy for our brains to be stretched beyond their comfort zone. Trying things we're not certain we'll achieve makes our brain environments fertile. It stirs up the lush cells that make us smart and interesting. Effortless performance may feel comfortable but doesn't help our brains to thrive. She recommends that we choose goals just beyond our present abilities. I cry, "YES!" because I've had experience doing that very thing.

In the late 1990s, I dreamed an idea I thought would make a stunning novel. How I wished some experienced Christian author would write it, but nobody did. When it wouldn't leave my head, I decided that I would be the one. I'd get into the heads of the characters and be the girl who found herself the victim of a shocking date rape. Even more nerve-wracking, I'd also be the boy perpetrator who suffered for years with remorse and self-condemnation. I was in my twenties and never had a novel published at that stage. I wrote it by hand in the car when I dropped my pre-schooler Logan off at kindy and had baby Emma sound asleep in her capsule in the back seat. The result was Picking up the Pieces, which won an International Book Award last year for it's second printing, after it had been off the shelves for more than ten years.

Here I am in early 2012, seven books later, but once again, feeling in over my head with an idea that has gripped my imagination. I'm calling the story, Along for the Ride, at least for now. I'm getting into the mindset of a young computer programmer (far smarter than me) who has been given a medical diagnosis that shakes his world to its foundations. As he begins to uncover principles of divine health which have never been taught in his church, and learns what being a child of the New Covenant really entitles him to, I'm busy writing it all out. It all started when I was reading non-fiction books on healing by classic Christian teachers and thought, "People just don't know about all this. They don't understand their rights. I wish somebody would write these fundamental truths in a novel." Once again, 1999 is revisited, as I decided I would be the one. I like living on the edge of my brain power.

Pablo Picasso was right when he declared, "I am always doing what I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it." He also said, "God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style. He just goes on trying other things." A bit irreverent maybe, but it makes me smile. Another wise sage, Star Wars' Master Yoda, said, "Don't try, do!" And, of course, God doesn't call the well-equipped, he well-equips the called. When God's angel greeted Gideon with the words, "God is with you, you mighty warrior!", he'd been threshing wheat in a wine vat to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon's first reaction was, "Huh, you mean me?" That was my reaction when it occurred to me that I might be the one called to write those novels and not some best-selling American author.

I'll finish off with this thought. Dr Leaf said that brains get a good gymnastic work-out when their owners are thinking deeply. Even though my brand of deep thinking is on a far inferior scale to the deep thinking of Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking, I trust it's deep enough for the grey matter that God gave me to be getting a bit of a stir. It seems a reciprocal thing is going on. I write out the ideas I believe God wants me to express, either in my novels or on this blog, and He gives me a more flourishing, better-functioning brain.

If, perchance, you'd fancy a read of the novels I've mentioned, I've made it easy. Instead of visiting shops, you can order them with the click of a button in the tool bar of this blog. They are also available in both hard copy and electronic format from Amazon. (This doesn't include Along for the Ride yet, as I'm still working on it) They are Australian novels full of romance, mystery and drama, and I'd love your feedback.


  1. Love it Paula! You go girl! Looking forward to this new novel. I like a bit of a stretch, too. :)

  2. So challenging Paula. I'm sure my brain needs a lot of stirring. We don't use anything like its full capacity.
    BTW, my ten yr old g'daughter is consuming the Quandaren series. I gave her one for Christmas which got lost in the pile of her reading. She read it last weekend and I was dispatched post haste to buy the other two!

  3. oops *Quenarden* books. Sorry :(

  4. Hi Amanda and Jo,
    Yes, good to stretch ourselves. It's true, isn't it, we only ever use the tip of the iceberg.
    Jo, I'm really pleased your granddaughter is enjoying those books, as I had a great time writing them.

  5. You hit on the main point. When we first try something, of course we don't know everything about it. That's why we try. I felt that way when I started the comics. I worried over things I considered were known by the pros: what size should I make the strips, how many panels, where should I sign my name (yes, I even worried about that!) When you finally push all of these trivialities aside and say, "I'm going to do this," amazing things happen.

    Peace and Laughter,

  6. Paula, I love your books!

    When I get fascinated by a topic or idea, it usually ends up as a non-fiction magazine article. For example, I recently visited Christchurch and was stunned by the impact the earthquakes have had on one of my favourite cities. I wrote & pitched an article to a couple of newspapers in time for the 1st anniversary - no takers unfortunately - but it was something I just HAD to explore in my writing. It will probably end up as a story in Footprints or on my blog with more of a Christian slant to it. I'm sure it will find a home somewhere!

    I'm not a novel writer, but I can imagine how the process would be similar. It's fun going along for the ride and seeing where an interest or an idea can take you :-)

  7. Hi Cristina and Janet,

    Yes, the fact the you are the two who have left the most recent comments just reinforces what Janet said. Cristina's comic strips, Footprints magazine and my novels are all such different creative outlets, and it's so plain that they are all our callings.

  8. I'm a bit of a 'give it a try' gal too, Paula. I loved your Star Wars reference. We recently watched the older three movies and fell in love with them all over again. I think it's the theme of stepping outside your own abilities, gaining strength from a 'force' bigger than you, and allowing yourself to be moulded into what you should be. Very deep. Can't wait to read your new story.

  9. Thanks, Rose. At the moment my brain is well and truly stretched over a part of the new m/s, but I keep reminding myself that in over my head is not a bad place to be.


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