Five Ways to Handle Stress in Your Writing Process

Are you overwhelmed with stress in your writing life? The book of Lamentations offers a clear word on how to deal with stress. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lam. 3:28-29 MSG).

1. Go off by yourself. Solitude often seems impossible for me, even with an “empty nest.” But Jesus knew the importance of spending time alone with His Father. When He needed to listen, He would pull away from everyone. Matthew 14 says that after Jesus fed the 5,000, He “climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night” (23).

2. Enter the silence. When we seek God in silence, often the accuser (Rev. 12:10) tries to distract us with fear, like in the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). Hanna’s husband had two wives—talk about stress! And her husband’s other wife taunted her year after year, blaming and accusing God for Hannah’s inability to conceive children. Then, when Hannah prayed, her spiritual leader misunderstood her. “Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk” (13).

3. Bow in prayer. Prayer can be as natural as talking with a good friend or as intimate as sharing a secret whisper. It can occur any time of day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. God promises that if we call on His Name, He’ll listen. “And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours” (1 John 5:15).

4. Don’t ask questions. My questions often interfere with my communication with God—I’m talking, instead of listening. When Jesus taught His disciples, He asked them on several occasions, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (Matt.11:15).

5. Wait for hope to appear. Waiting rooms seem to bring out the worst in me, like my impatience or frustration. But waiting does not have to be hopeless. The psalmist speaks of “waiting” in Psalm 40, “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip” (1-2 MSG).

Reflection: Matthew 6:30-34 advises, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (MSG).

So, remember, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lam. 3:28-29 MSG).

Photo/KarenJordan

What helps you handle the stressful times in your writing life?

 

Embracing Sacred Moments

Lake Cortez at dawn

Have you ever wanted to hold on to a moment in time and savor the amazing experience a little longer?

The radiant fog bank settled just above Lake Cortez at dawn, a stark contrast to the winter landscape surrounding my home. I tried to focus on my writing deadline, but I halted my work to observe the breath-taking view.

The glowing mist at sunrise brought a familiar Bible verse to mind, encouraging me to embrace the moment. “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14 NLT).

Such memorable experiences happen when I least expect them, and they vanish without warning. But I always want to hold on to those special moments longer than possible.

The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat, I tuned out everything else, as I wondered about the new life inside me. Etched on the tablet of my heart, I recall those firsts—feeling him move, seeing his face, and holding him in my arms.

Those rare occurrences happen in my writing life, too. When I received my first contract to write an article for a well-respected publication, I held the envelope close to my heart a long time before opening it. Then, I unfolded the letter with great care and examined every word to be sure I didn’t skip any details.

Another momentous occasion occurred in December, as I shopped for Christmas gifts with my grandson Miles. “Wait, wait,” I drew a deep breath and raised my right hand to stop our conversation, so I could read the e-mail on my iPhone.

Confused by the interruption, Miles offered me a wrinkled brow.

“Seriously—wait,” I exhaled. “I’ve got to hold on to this moment.”

I read the message again, basking in the power of the encouraging words. “They like my proposal! And she wants to discuss signing me as a client!” I couldn’t restrain myself from expressing my thanksgiving and praise. “What a great Christmas gift!”

Later that week, my heart raced again when the agent called to confirm her offer. I found it hard to suppress my enthusiasm and joy, so I could listen to her instructions and tell her about my writing goals and dreams.

When my husband, Dan, asked about the details of my phone call, I still couldn’t gather my thoughts because of my excitement. “Maybe I should have taken notes,” I admitted.

So how can we embrace our sacred moments? We know such blessings vanish as fast as they appear, just as morning fog dissipates when exposed to the first rays of sunlight.

We can capture the essence of our experiences with descriptive words and well-chosen phrases in our narratives. And through this writing process, others will also be encouraged to tell the stories that matter most to them.

Photo/KarenJordan

Did my story remind you of a sacred moment in your life? Write that story!