Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Writer YIELDs by Jane Kirkpatrick

I read an interesting and encouraging post by author Jane Kirkpatrick and asked her to share of version of it here. (Don't you love her friends Bo and Caesar?) -- Sandy

Jane: My friend author maryanne radmacher has a saying: "In all seasons, harvest." Another word for harvest is "YIELD." As writers we can't wait for publication to be our harvest; we need to find that yield in the every day. Here's how I define it...

Y = "Yes!" A writer's passion and enthusiasm must come first. I get vexed with writing sometimes. All  I have to do to get out of it is to read the want ads and then my Yes! is loud and clear. Get back to doing what you're privileged to do and find a Yes! in every day.

"I" stands for Incarn, an old medical term that means "to grow new flesh." From the disappointments of a manuscript rejection to those terrible reviews, writers can't allow ourselves to be defined by the wounds.  I grow new flesh by remembering why I write in the first place: I want to bring healing and hope to a troubled world; I want to memorialize a particular period in history or one of my characters based on a real person; I feel called to do this work.  Hurt feelings  is evidence of our compassion. Writer's need that compassion to help readers feel.

"E" means Engagement. I struggle to engage. I'd rather be in the 1850s, writing. But my writing is more authentic when I tumble myself into the daily needs of living. How can we as writers do what Kafka suggests a story does, "be an ax to the frozen sea within us" if we live disconnected from the world? Our harvest will be ice.

"L" stands for Letting go. 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, my passion for storytelling. I have to learn to let go and be wherever I am: writing or connected to others.

"D" stands for Donation. A group of colonists I wrote about had a "Diamond Rule" that urged followers to each day make someone's life better than their own. Dr. Karl Menninger the famous psychiatrist noted that generosity was the single most important indicator of a person's mental health. "Generous people," he wrote "Are rarely mentally ill." So to have a great yield, finding time to give to someone else promises a mighty harvest down the road.

As ranchers, we kept diversifying to find the right harvest. But every day we found a reason to be grateful, even the years the harvests were lean. I'm not wealthy as a writer; we weren't as ranchers either. But we have a privileged life being able to do the things we love and we learn something new from each endeavor. On this journey called life we will often have to yield, let others go before us; and we can still find the harvest in every season.

Have you allowed yourself to YIELD as a writer? What has your harvest looked like? 


Jane Kirkpatrick is a New York Times Bestselling author of 25 books including Where Lilacs Still Bloom (a
Carol Finalist) and her latest One Glorious Ambition, The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix. For 27 years, Jane and her husband lived on a remote Oregon ranch seven miles from their mailbox on a road called Starvation Lane. They raised watermelons and grapes, alfalfa and cattle and learned much about harvests and yields. You can receive her Story  Sparks newsletter by visiting


  1. Oh, I LOVE this, Jane! But I'm wondering how you could possibly neglect those cuties?? Thanks for the encouragement today!

  2. Hi Dora, they let me know when I'm neglecting them. Bo puts his face on the keyboard and Caesar, the spaniel, jumps into my lap. Time to yield for them they say. Hope your writing goes well today. Warmly, Jane

  3. Thank you for a great article! I love how you used the two meanings of yield to work together so beautifully :)

    1. I'm glad you liked the double use of YIELD. Now when I'm entering the freeway and the sign says "Yield" I'm reminded of letting others make their way but also of the importance of a harvest in all seasons.

  4. The hardest part of YIELD for me is "letting go." It's hard to ignore the guilt within me and you were right: there's guilt if you do write and guilt if you don't. It's hard to find that balance we need to be effective writers and effective wives, mothers, daughters, etc.

    Thank you for the new word, too. I'm guessing "incarn" is the root of "incarnate?"

    1. Hi Angie. Yes, as far as I can determine "incarn" is the root of "incarnate." I think it's fascinating that by itself it has that "growing new flesh" or medical sort of essence. As for quilt: one thing I've found to help me is that when I feel guilty about not being able to let go, I try to imagine a personal change I can make. that's what got me started writing early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep. Then I'm not taking time from my husband or our grandchild when she lived with us for a time. I'd set the alarm for 4:00 and make the commitment to be at the computer by 5:00. I've had other people tell me that they take their laptop to the library of coffee shop so they don't feel guilty about the unfinished housekeeping! Making a personal change can sometimes help us let go. Thanks for commenting.


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