Writing In Every Season

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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?

10 Kooky Tips On How To Write A Book

My writing nook at home. Don’t be fooled, it looks Pier One, but really, it’s a hodgepodge of thrift store and Craigslist.

I receive emails from people asking how to write a book.

I have written a book but I haven’t actually published it (yet, God give me patience and faith).

So when I am asked, it feels a bit like someone asking a person coloring a picture in a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book how to paint a still life.

Here are 10 kooky tips that popped into my head about writing a book if you absolutely don’t know how to start:

1) Start with a dangerously low self-esteem

This is vital. If you don’t, you may not be able to handle getting knocked off the height of your perch daily from rejection. It’s much easier to begin writing from the depths of despair.

2) If you have kids, get a lock for your bedroom door

My reasoning is two-fold: 1) my bedroom is where I write, and 2) my bedroom is where I cry when I am convinced that I cannot write, and it seems to upset the children when I cry uncontrollably.

3) YOU PROBABLY NEED TO ACTUALLY ENJOY WRITING

Or at least be able to stomach it, if you want to embark on a long project. Seriously, in order to write a book, you have to spend countless hours writing, which may stop you right there. Luckily for me, I love to write and see where it takes me. I also love to sit!

4) Make sure your writing desk has an economy size box of Kleenex.

I cry when I write. I cry over a beautiful sentence (both other people’s and my own). I cry over the fact that I can’t spell. I cry about God’s work in my life rendered on the page.

5) Listen to Papa Hemingway

I talk about Hemingway often, but I believe the goal is one true sentence.

Sometimes sentences string together perfectly and send shivers up my spine. One true sentence is the payback for locking yourself in your room to write.

6) Read books

Readers usually make good writers. Some of my favorite books include “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo, “Traveling Mercies” by Anne Lamott, and “Twilight” by Stephanie Meyer. (I’m just kidding about Twilight. Sorry, not a teen vampire fan.)

Read books on craft. For memoir, I love Vivian Gornick’s “The Situation and the Story” and Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”

7) Join a writing class

Most writing classes will require submissions and offer critique. This forces you to write. For years, I attended a memoir workshop in Chicago.

8) Buy business cards on-line and slap “writer” under your name

Call yourself a writer.

Even if you don’t have anything published, if you write, you are a writer. You may not be an author until you are published, but by golly, you are a writer. Put it out there! (And if you buy 250 business cards and have no one to give them to, the kids love to make up card games with them.)

9) Call or text or email people who love you, often

Writing is solitary. You show up and put words on paper and wonder if you actually have anything of value to offer the world. Call your mom, or your best friend, or Joe, the creepy guy at Starbucks who saw you writing one day and gave you his business card. Call anyone who loves you (OK, maybe not Joe) and ask for encouragement. You need cheerleaders. Buy pompoms and pass them out to friends.

10) Don’t write for attention

Believe me, an easier route for attention would be to hold up a Seven Eleven.

What’s your advice about writing a book?