Facing Distractions and Discouragement

How do you respond to distractions and discouragement when you’re seeking direction?

Writing my first book initiated one of the most intense spiritual battles of my life. I worried about my family—especially my seven grandchildren.

I had not been available for their needs with all my blogging, speaking, and writing. Guilty thoughts saturated me like a heavy rainstorm. And worry encompassed me like a dark thundercloud overhead.

Then, a Word broke through the storm clouds like a ray of sunshine: “[T]here is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1 NLT).

My husband, Dan, had scheduled his retirement date just weeks before the deadline to turn in my book manuscript. So my direction faltered, and my thoughts were like a honeybee, flitting flower to flower. Lord, how will I ever finish this book in time?

I completed my book, but not without spiritual battles. Ephesians 6 offers us this truth:

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life.
God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. (Eph. 6:13–17 The Message)

What scriptures have helped you during the spiritual battles of your writing life?

The Perfect-World Writing Room


They’re a writer’s worst enemy — they’re this writer’s worst enemy, at any rate. In a perfect word, my writing room would be absolutely quiet with little internet connection.That way, I’m not checking e-mails every five minutes, and Facebook in between.

That’s just not the way it works most of the time, though, is it? I spent a good ten years of my career covering the traveling circus known as NASCAR. Believe me, you’ve never lived until you’ve tried to file on deadline, two hours after a race, in room full of tired and grumpy fellow reporters. Or better yet … during practice, with twenty or thirty high-powered race cars roaring around the track and another twenty more in a nearby garage tuning up their engines.

Headaches? There are headaches, and then there are filing-on-deadline-in-a-NASCAR-media-center headaches. Working in that kind of environment seems as far from the perfect-world writing room as it is possible to be.

Come to think of it, the room would be sound proof. My wife and I have twin sons, Adam and Jesse, who are 13 and in the eighth grade. When they’re out of school in the summer and home all day, it’s almost as if I’m back in some NASCAR media center somewhere and trying to write.

Stop that, Jesse!!!

Stop what?!? YOU stop!

A few minutes of relative peace and tranquility are again interrupted by a blaring video game, enhanced by our sound system. Is there anything more aggravating than trying to write with a Minecraft soundtrack playing full blast in the background?

Actually, there is.

A couple of years ago while working on my book Wheels Stop: The Tragedies and Triumphs of the Space Shuttle Program, I had the opportunity to do a telephone interview with former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin. The man has like seven different academic degrees, was the top guy in the uppermost echelons of the agency, and had been named one of Time magazine’s 100 most important people in the world at one point.

There I was, trying to ask questions that sounded a little more in-depth and intelligent than, “Boy, that Space Shuttle sure is neat, huh?”

I had the speakerphone turned up in order to get a good recording when Jesse chose to walk through the kitchen, just a few feet from the open door of my home office. It could have been his Asperger’s — or just being a teenaged boy — but he announced at the top of his lungs …

I just FARTED!

Dr. Griffin surely heard Jesse, because he paused in mid-sentence, evidently waiting for me to go strangle my son. Mercifully, after just an awkward moment or two, he continued on and never mentioned my son’s digestive issues. The interview turned out to be a productive one, and an important addition to the research for my project.

And I didn’t even have a perfect writing room. Go figure.

Around The Block With Writer’s Block

do-not-write-in-this-spaceSome people say that writer’s block is what gets the housework done, but if that were true, my house would sparkle and shine.

My vitamins would be alphabetized from A to Zinc, my nightstand drawer would contain no crumpled tissues of questionable provenance, and the frisky lint bunnies behind the dryer would now be reproducing in the rubbish bin.

For me, writer’s block doesn’t get the housework done, but it is what keeps the Internet humming along. And I don’t only turn to the Internet as a writer’s avoidance behavior, either. Hanging out online may prolong the blocked condition somewhat, but if I give the Web even half a chance, it eventually provides the cure I so desperately crave.

First, of course, there’s Facebook. Like other writers, I’m lonely. Ye Olde Writer’s Cave is dank and dreary and its stalagmites stab at my soul. But scrolling through my news feed–replete with photos of gregarious dogs who say funny stuff, sullen cats pictured splayed across Other Writers’ Keyboards, and videos of friends’ new grandbabies–brings me to my senses fast. There are worse things than loneliness.

Like wordlessness. And booklessness. And publisherlessness. Oh, my.

If Facebook somehow fails to snap me out of writer’s block, I click over to Pinterest. Within seconds, I’m immersed in a fantasy world of exotic locations, bohemian wardrobes, hunky men (some of my Pinterest friends are edgy with their pinning!), gorgeous homes, and just desserts.

It’s the desserts that get to me, if anything on Pinterest can. I’ve read that even viewing a luscious treat can cause–in some susceptible individuals–an insulin response with corresponding weight gain.

Let’s just say I’m highly susceptible.

When I literally feel my bottom-in-chair growing larger while innocently viewing the ingredients list for yet another bacon-intensive appetizer, I know I’m a site closer to loosening the block’s grip on me. One more stop on the Internet and I’ll be home free and back to cranking out another chapter.

I know exactly where to go, too.

If I truly can’t find two words to put together, my fingers click over to Craigslist, the piece de resistance in breaking the back of writer’s block.

Now, not just any category on Craigslist will do. I skip the ads for RVs and energy-deficient major appliances and ancient treadle sewing machines. I have no use for the personal ads, and discussion forums about dying and haiku aren’t really my thing.

Instead, I wallow in the hundreds of jobs on offer, immerse myself in the positions I could be applying for that might surreptitiously scratch my writer’s itch, that might anesthetize the pain I experience when I’m not doing my real job. The job I’m meant to do. Putting down glorious words, one after the other, preferably in the best possible order.

Can I hope to find employment as satisfying as writing is on a bad day, a job that could truly replace my need to write?

I pass over the ad for an exotic dancer for bachelor parties, but not without thinking of that Facebook poster that shows two gals dancing—one young and agile and the other old and clumsy. The captions read, “How You Think You Look” and “How You REALLY Look.”

Then I skim this heading: “Bilingual Interpreters Wanted! Spanish and Many Other Languages!” But somehow “many other languages” seems like Triglingual Interpreters Wanted. Or perhaps Quadlingual or Quintlingual, not that it matters. I only speak English with a smattering of adorable French phrases thrown in, mostly on the topic of finding the salle de bain closest to my train’s platform.

Being reminded of my obsession with locating the bathroom (in as many languages as necessary) draws me to another ad, this time seeking a participant in a medical study about urinary incontinence. It offerers $1200 compensation for time and travel expenses, plus a generous Depends allowance. I shake my head in dismay.

“You’re all wet,” I say to myself, a victim of my own dry wit. “These jobs aren’t for you. Maybe you should start with finishing this blog post, and then see what happens next?”

Before I shut down Craigslist, my eyes fall on one last ad.

“Surrogate Mothers Needed! Earn $28,000 and Up!!!!!” I feel a visceral (if latent) nurturing instinct flow through me while reading the job description. The money is certainly tempting, but then it hits me. They’re probably looking for someone with a uterus. There’s always a catch.

So that settles it. I’m a writer, and getting caught in a bad job won’t fix that. Only writing will. Once again, the Internet’s cured me of a vicious case of writer’s block.

This time, I hope, for good.

Do you suffer bouts of writer’s block? Any cures you’d like to share?