Writing In Every Season


I don’t know about you, but as a writer, I struggle with managing my time.

I work full time. Serve in my young adults ministry. Belong to a community group. Spend time with my family. Juggle a writing contract. Spend free time with friends. Find time to work out. Sleep somewhere in there.

For those of you who have children, I’m sure this list is much longer. Somewhere in the middle of juggling that mess, I hit seasons of extreme burn out and discouragement. Everything seems to pile on at once, and ultimately my writing suffers.

I once heard that it is vital for a writer to be mentally, spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy. To be honest, I don’t know how that is humanly possible. I am rarely completely healthy in a couple of these areas at a time, and healthy definitely hasn’t described me the past few months.

In January, I received a three-book contract. I couldn’t express my excitement! But, it went down hill from there. Work demanded all my time, I wrecked my car, edits came in right as I hit the most demanding couple of weeks on the job, and conflict rose in several friendships. With all the stress, I lost my appetite and my ability to sleep. Talk about unhealthy in every area.

I wondered how I could possibly finish the edits. I couldn’t concentrate. Creativity escaped me. But I stubbornly kept plugging away. Signature

Then something clicked. My broken emotions began to pour into my character’s painful moments to a greater degree than they ever had before. Not only did I understand what the editor was requesting, but I finally felt like I could pull it off and be proud of the result!

The Lord used my weak moments to breed creativity. 2 Corinthians 12 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”

Thankfully, the call and standard of a writer is not to be healthy but faithful. In times of emotional struggle, the Lord uses that brokenness to translate a truth someone can relate to in my writing. I love what the psalmist said in Psalm 139, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” If God knows our hearts inside and out, surely He can make beautiful writing flow from the inward parts of who we are, for His glory and the good of others.

Just as we labor to create a masterpiece, Jesus is in the process of molding us into His image. Sometimes He uses desert seasons to chip away excess. Sometimes He uses the mountain tops to create epic scenes. But He uses every piece of our story for His glory. We are never disqualified as writers when we can’t get it all together. Trust, obey, and write. Those messy seasons may just be used to encourage a reader, creating a mountain top moment in their life.

The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24

What areas do you need to focus on in your own life to be healthy? How has the Lord used rough seasons in your writing?

The Bloody Page

I received my first critique of my first book (from someone other than my mom or husband) in the spring of 2008.

After much fear and trembling, I’d joined a small critique group through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers.) Pushing send on that first submission made me feel like I was walking the plank on a gigantic pirate ship, destined to plunge into the shark-filled waters, causing my poor words to be slashed and slaughtered.

What if they hated it? What if they came back and said it was the worst thing they’d ever read? Worse, yet, what if they said it was fabulous but silently snickered behind their cyber-mail back and plotted ways to kick my sorry rear-end out of the group?

But then a thought came to me. What if they really DID love it? What if my work was utter brilliance, and they begged me to critique their work because of what they felt they would glean from my writing prowess? (Think jumping off the plank only to be rescued by friendly dolphins who let me ride on their backs while those on the ship hoot, holler, and applaud!)

I’m sorry to report, the reality was somewhere in between, leaning toward option A.

The critiques I received back were a bloody mess. And I’m not swearing in a British accent there. Comments overwhelmed the pages, words were sliced everywhere, whole paragraphs were victims of the brutal attack.

At first, I was left numb. But as I read through the notes, the wheels in my head started to unthaw and turn. Their notes to a very novice writer started to make sense. Show, don’t tell. Don’t explain here. Explain this more. Adverbs in every sentence is not a fab idea. Adjectives after every noun doesn’t help the cause. Beats, not tags. The list of my faux pas goes on and on.

After a day of mourning, I got to work.

I’d love to tell you that I rewrote that chapter and it was perfect. No such luck. I’ve edited that chapter about 100 times since then, even getting more dripping red critiques.Much of my problem was that I was trying to put Barbie Band-aids on very large holes that really needed antiseptic ointment, gauze and an ace bandage, if not amputation all together.

Fast forward three years. My original manuscript is sitting, bandages still intact, in ICU.

A new baby was born a few years ago and survived the plank a little better. In September, I was tickled pink to sign my FIRST publishing contract. Sandwich, With a Side of Romance is set to release September 2012.

But very, very soon, my poor sandwich book will be dripping in blood again, but from a new source. A publishing house editor!

I’m getting ready to walk the plank again. On one hand, the safety of the boat sounds really nice. To live in my-book-is-wonderful land is tempting! But I’ve survived many massacres now, from critique groups, to rejections, to contest results. And I’ve learned that what doesn’t kill my book will make it better.

Discussion: For you unpubbed out there… who do YOU have to “bleed” your writing? Have you survived, or did the coroner have to get involved? For you pubbed among us… *gulp* does it hurt too badly???

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