By Jennifer Sienes
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us that there is a season for every activity under heaven. I believe season is the key word in this passage. As writers, we go through seasons – seasons of struggle to find just the right words to create story, carving out the necessary time to do so, and, God willing, those moments when the words flow with seemingly little effort. But, as writers, I also believe we should impose an occasional season of inactivity.
By inactivity I don’t mean lounging on the couch to watch endless episodes of Friends or Castle or whatever shows you might default to (personally, mine would be NCIS – Mark Harmon’s Gibbs is a great character study.) Of course, my inactivity might look nothing like yours. As a type A personality, I’m riddled with guilt if I’m not accomplishing something tangible. And since my husband and I live on a large piece of property, there is no lack of work. Fortunately, most of those tasks don’t take a lot of thought.
It’s amazing how God allows the brain to work when engaged in mindless tasks, such as pruning rosebushes, preparing garden beds, or, with the crazy warm weather Northern California is experiencing right now, hanging laundry. Those structural flaws in my latest WIP smooth themselves out when I’m not pressured by a blank computer screen. Book titles flow and blog ideas materialize. New scenes play themselves out in my head and dialogue zings.
And this isn’t even my goal for taking a break from structured writing. It’s a litmus test of sorts. I’ve yet to receive a book contract, and I’m not getting any younger as the years I’ve invested in this endeavor speed by. So, I need to be sure that I’m still operating in God’s will. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of writing as a career – blog posts, social media, conferences – I’m not sure if those seasons of struggle are a nudge from God to go back to teaching or just another test of my commitment to Him and His plan (whatever that may be.)
But what I always discover when I step away from the computer for a week or two (or three or four…) is that I can’t not write. My characters, those in my WIPs and those not yet fleshed out to star in their own stories, won’t be silent. They whisper come back, come back. Yeah, I’m well-aware how nutty it sounds, and I pray I’m not the only writer who experiences these somewhat schizophrenic episodes. If so, I’d rather not know. Even so, a season of not writing renews my passion for this crazy gift God’s given me, to spark the excitement once again and come at it with His perspective. And isn’t that what we need to push through those times of doubt and struggle? To know that we don’t travel this rocky road alone, but we have a merciful, loving, all-powerful Father who carries us along.
Jennifer Sienes has a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education. She was a 2013 Genesis Semi-Finalist and a 2014 Genesis winner. She has three short stories published in Inspire Faith and another short story A God-Colored Lens in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury. She is represented by Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Literary Agency. Connect with her at www.jennifersienes.com, Facebook and Twitter (@Jennifer_Sienes)