The Write Death


They raced through my brain going Mach 5. Brilliant ideas and heart-grabbing experiences I felt called to share. They screamed to be captured for the multitude, so write I must!

Lassoing the brilliance and transferring it to paper would be a piece of cake. C’mon, I’m from Texas. Throwing a lasso comes naturally.

Full of self confidence with excitement electrifying every nerve, I arranged my desk just so. Lamps dimmed. Candles glowed. Laptop waited. Coffee brewed. I knew something epic was about to happen.

My fingers hovered over the keys. I took a deep breath and slowly typed, “Chapter One.” I stared at the screen at those wondrous words. Enraptured. Savoring each letter.

This was a glorious moment. I had embraced my calling as a writer! And now…time to write. Let the brilliance shine!

Blink. Blink. Blink went the cursor.

Blink. Blink. Blink went my eyes.

Repeat 30 times.

And then it happened. My brain’s hard drive melted like wax. (It must have been all the self-induced brilliance.) The ideas tangled like rubber bands. The mental beavers built a dam at lightening pace – smack dab in the middle of my brain.

My lasso kept missing. The brilliance was just an illusion. My coffee grew cold. In tears, I blew out the candles and turned off the laptop. Those two words were all I typed that night.

And so began the journey of writing my first book. Thrilling, right?

That evening something died, and rightfully so. Ego. Writing a book isn’t about me. It never will be. It’s about an unlasso-able God who desires to communite to me, through me, and oftentimes in spite of me.

In my eagerness to stand as a published writer, I forgot to kneel before the One who called me to it.

That night drastically altered my writing perspective. I don’t care if my desk is tidy. It doesn’t matter if the candles glow softly. It doesn’t matter if the coffee gets brewed. If I don’t start in prayer, I don’t start at all.

Today, Chapter 1 has successfully passed through the hands of my editor. But God accomplished something far greater that night. He caught my fall, reminded me of His love, and encouraged me to start again.

Something epic did happen. Instead of allowing me to capture the perfect phrase, He
re-captured my heart.

Thank you, God, for your brilliant grace.

Let’s chat: What did you experience as you launched into writing your first book? At what point did you have a meltdown (or did you)? What kept you writing after that?

51 Replies to “The Write Death”

    1. What a great perspective, Dustan. “Too much time” cannot happen often enough. Blessings as you write and travel.

  1. Donna, I loved reading this. I can’t agree more, every chapter begins in prayer because it isn’t about us! Although, I do kinda like the coffee brewing! 🙂

    1. I love how you broke it down to praying before every chapter, Jessica. And coffee keeps our eyes open as we write (especially pumpkin spice this time of year)! 🙂

  2. It is a continual. Write and edit until your eyes want to pop out of your head. Rest a few days and then back at ’em. Obviously an addiction. Did you know writers are addicted to pain?

  3. Beautiful words of wisdom, Donna. He is my Audience of One, but at times, I forget to acknowledge His presence on the page. During those times, my words are a jumbled mess. Love the word imagery you created in this post!

  4. my meltdown moment was when i realize the book i wanted to write wasnt the book that was coming out. i kept wondering why the book sounded off. i though maybe because i was in denial about doing an outline but it turns out i didnt want a Bella, which was what i was writing.i wanted my unsure of herself, questions everything Savannah. the more i wrote the more iwas like, “no thats nit right.” so i stopped working on it and just sat her aside……untill, i found the right background for her andi knew then, i was on to something.

    1. Tedra, thanks for sharing your meltdown story! We all need “space” from our writing, so putting it aside for a while is a great discipline. Blessings as you keep writing!

  5. It wasn’t a meltdown, but rather a reality check. As a young twenty-something in an era when jobs were plentiful, I quit mine to go on spring break. Upon returning, I set about pursuing an idealistic and romanticized life as a writer. Three weeks into it, having written nothing, I went out and got a job.

    1. Peter, I grinned from ear to ear reading your response. About working, my Dad used to say, “We’ve all got to sleep inside somehow.” Talk about a reality check! Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  6. I get you on this. Whenever I sit to write to try to come across like a good writer, I basically produce weak prose. But when I lose myself in my writing, caught up in it like a form of worship…that’s when the goods come.
    ~ Wendy

    1. Wow, Wendy! When we use our God-given gifts to fulfill our calling it is most certainly a form of worship. What a wonderful way to phrase it. Thanks so much for the incredible word picture!

  7. Well, technically my first book was started when I was 9 or 10. It was also finished within two years, which I understand is rare at that age. At no point did I have a meltdown, because at that age, everything you write is brilliant (and there are some people who still want me to rewrite that old story into a children’s book).

    My first writing meltdown came when I decided as a teen to learn something about what I wanted to do. I spent hours researching on the computer. Then I opened up the last thing I had been writing. (Yikes.) For quite some time afterwards, my writing life followed the pattern of: *learns something new* “Everything I’ve ever written is awful. I need to fix this.” 3-6 months later: *learns something new. . .*

    1. How wonderful that you started writing at such a tender age, Kathrine. And you’re right – It is brilliant! My young niece writes and I’m constantly amazed at her uncluttered, fresh view on life. A teenage meltdown must have been so hard for you with everything teenagers go through! Those cycles can be brutal, but so necessary to shape our writing. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Donna,
    You are so right! Giving all the glory to the Lord is most certainly the key element in my writing. I give it to Him before I touch the keyboard or my efforts are fruitless. A sure sign that I have taken it back is when I get stuck and my words have no life. At that point, I go outside lie in the hammock and look up into the His creation. Clearing my mental slate with His creation, pure blue sky and green trees overhead I give it to Him once again. It’s valuable time for me and I always come away with fresh ideas and the “write” perspective.

    1. What a wonderful way you have with words, Bonnie. Your beautiful imagery just had me climbing in that hammock, too! I share your love for His incredible creation. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. If that one experience was all it took to rein in ego issues, then I’d say you’re well ahead of the rest of us on this one. I’m still working on the issue… lots of meltdowns, lots of humblings. Just when I think I’m about over myself, there almost always comes a reminder that (on my best day) there’s still an awful lot of “me” involved in the process.

    Love your work, Mary. Your Jesus-heart shines through…


    1. Elaine, I love your humility. God certainly has a way of keeping us humble. Ego may have been slain that night, but there are other hairy “me” gremlins that sneak up on me with ninja moves. I’m right there with you. Blessings!

  10. I got through my first draft very easily, but I nearly quit multiple times during the editing process. At one point, I lost all drive entirely. My husband said, “You can quit if you want to, but if you continue at least all of the time you took away from our son and me won’t be wasted.”

    Ouch. But true.

    1. Ouch, indeed! But I’d rather loved ones tell us the truth in love than hold in resentment. Gotta love him for that! Thanks so much for sharing that great reality check, Scooter.

  11. I love this post. So often we take the raines of Gods plan and then wonder how we ended up in the wrong place.

    My biggest obstacle is knowing what His plan is for my writing. He obviously gave me this passion. Dud he give me the skill also? That I do not know, for after the second book the rejection letters still keep coming. Why did He give me this passion if it’s not meant to be published? And if it is meant to be published then what am I doing that is hampering it? Too many questions, that ismy roadblock Wondering if my work is good enough to be published and if so when? And if not why am I so compelled to write? Only time will tell. Unt then I just keep writing!

    1. Sandy, I can hear your frustration. I also see that you are still seeking Him and listening for guidance. You are SO far ahead of many in that critical area. Keep seeking – He IS listening and will guide you when He has moved everything into place. Until then, I wholeheartedly agree, keep writing! Blessings on your writing journey.

  12. Donna, thank you for your post! Twenty-five years ago, before I knew God or even wanted to know Him, I wrote my memoir at the suggestion of a therapist. I sent it out and got personal letters back from agents, for the tale of my abuse and my foray into the occult was interesting. It wasn’t until I got saved, worked with my pastor, and let God heal me that I could really pull the pieces of my memoir together. I pray before every chapter as I write my rough draft, because I want to know what He wants me to share. I had a recent meltdown when I wrote about my abortion, and sunk deep into despair. While this was the one decision I wish I could change, it was also the very thing God used to bring me to Him.

    I had to make an appointment with my pastor to sort things out before I was able to write again. I think the enemy tries to stop us from writing — in my case, I’m a few chapters away from salvation.

    But the writing also gives blessings. My pastor’s wife reads my chapters and encourages me. I joined a group called Critique Circle and I have people who read and give suggestions for my story. Some are Christian (and God be praised, they came to minister to me as they read my story – I let them know I was saved, so now they are rooting for salvation). But I also have new agers who are coming and reading – right now (since my story is first person) they assume I am a new ager (even though my blurb hints at God). They have accorded me credibility and I can minister to them, and I am praying that in a few chapters when I share my reasons for being a believer and leaving the new age they will keep reading.

    By the way, my book is titled Tell me what He did. I gave it that title 25 years ago to mirror the question my mom asked me every night after my father came into my bedroom – I heard him in your room last night, tell me what he did. But by changing the he to He – it shows what God did.

    Writing is a blessing. Sorry for such a long response, but your post struck a chord.

    Have a blessed day.

    1. Heather, what an incredible story God has worked in you to share. Wow! Those hard times hurt, but our Savior takes our scars and turns them into our story for His glory. Keep writing! Blessings.

  13. Donna,
    Your post made me think of my experience writing my nonfiction book. I had a contract. An idea. And one ve-ry thin, ve-ery lousy rough draft. Less than 20k words. I went to my critique group and whimpered, “Help me.”
    How humbling.
    Which is just where I needed to be: humbled.
    And my wonderful crit partners helped me. Brainstormed with me. Prayed with me. Believed in me when I didn’t. They kept me going–their faith bolstered mine.

    1. Beth, thank you for articulating the truth that for God to use and grow us in our writing we need an amazing community of authors who’ve walked where we desire to go. Your humble, teachable heart is such a sweet reflection of Jesus. Thanks so much for sharing. Blessings!

  14. Great post, Donna! I’ve had something similar happen almost every time I’ve tried to sit down and start working on one of my fiction ideas. You put it so brilliantly: “That evening something died, and rightfully so. Ego.” I’ve found that to be true in my case as well, and it’s a wonderful reminder next time I’m stuck to stop and consider if God is first place in my life, or if my manuscript is.

    1. Lizzie, the last line of your comment boils it down so well! Which/who is first in our life? I’m tucking that behind my ear so I can keep that question close. Thanks so much for your wonderful, affirming words of wisdom. Blessings!

  15. Ok, I have written down two quotes from this post that I want to remember and keep in site at my desk. First: “In my eagerness to stand as a published writer, I forgot to kneel before the One who called me to it.”

    And: “If I don’t start in prayer, I don’t start at all.”

    I may quote you on those later, but for now they are such a powerful reminder to me of why and how I write and who it is to glorify. Thank you, Donna.

    1. Sherri, I absolutely love how you choose to keep God actively at the center of your writing by arranging your work area to remind you of Him. Wow. Abundant blessings as He pours His words into you!!

  16. There are moments when a great idea for an article or a story “pops” into my head, only to disappear forever. So far, I have written only history books. They are not so hard to write. I hope to take on writing a novel, someday, but when? The thought of trying to be “creative” scares me.

    1. Thanks so much for joining the conversation, Paul. One of the most helpful disciplines I’ve learned from veteran writers is to always carry a pad and pen with me to jot down those ideas before they get lost in the day’s chaos. That’s awesome that you already write history books. It means you have the skills in place so that when (yes…WHEN) you write your novel, you can focus on the story, not the mechanics. Blessings as you write!

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