Just Show Up

ACFWAuthors and writing, creativity, Encouragement, Faith, Perseverance, Procrastination, writing 8 Comments

By JPC Allen

I thought nothing could be more difficult than writing a novel during a pandemic. Trying to make sense of the world at that time dried up most of my creative juices. And what little that was left was consumed by becoming a teacher to my children.

Was I ever wrong.

I began to write my latest cozy mystery, A Storm of Doubts, in December of 2021 when my first novel in the series released. Not a good time for my family. My brother-in-law died after years of declining health. In January, I pushed myself to write but the paltry words I put on paper seemed more suitable for a fire.

Then a friend and I decided we would hold our own National Novel Writing Month in March. (Digression: I think November is a terrible month to try to write 50,000 words. The holidays in March don’t demand the attention that Thanksgiving does unless Easter pops up at the end and most people don’t travel for Easter.)

I set a goal of writing 100 pages because I usually write my first drafts by hand. By the time April rolled in, I’d written 50 and only 40 of those were any good.

During all those months, I prayed for guidance. Since I had so little inspiration, I thought maybe God was telling me I wasn’t supposed to write any more. For years, I’ve labored under the delusion that adversity or obstacles are God’s way of telling me to veer off the path I’m following. Maybe the two short stories and one novel were my total literary contribution, and He had something else in mind for me. If that’s what He wanted, I had to be willing to follow, although it was hard for me to imagine not being a writer. Since I was a child, I’ve looked at life as potential material for fiction. But writing had become so painful that I wasn’t opposed to leaving it behind. And by painful, I don’t just mean creatively. If I wrote too much, I developed pain in my neck, upper back, shoulder, arm, and hand.

I set aside the second novel to write a mystery short story for an anthology my ACFW chapter was assembling. Because I wrote the short story from the POV of a completely different character, I found my creativity bubbling again. Except when it came to my second novel. Then it leaked away.

I just needed to sit down and write, whenever I could, and work with God as I wrote. #writing #Christianfiction #ACFW #writingcommunity #JPCAllen Click To Tweet

But God didn’t seem to be telling me anything, either to write or not to write. I finally decided since writing wasn’t a sin, I just needed to sit down and write, whenever I could, and work with God as I wrote.

I’d love to say that once I decided this, the story flowed effortlessly from my fingertips.

Not even close.

I have never written a rough draft that was so much agony. And not just the physical pain I couldn’t get rid of if I wrote for more than a half hour. While still writing the middle of my novel, I spent four months feverishly trying to concoct the last clue, the one that clinches my amateur detective’s conclusions. The relief I felt on July 23, 2023, when I finally got the last word of the chapter down on the page, pushed such a heavy weight off my mind that I felt like a different person.

Once I began to edit, I was pleasantly shocked at how well my novel came together. I actually liked it. My beta readers said it moved better and held their interest better than the last one. Another shock. When I began the novel, I felt like my skills weren’t progressing at all.

So when you aren’t sure what God wants you to do, but you know what you’re doing isn’t wrong …

Just show up.

JPC Allen started her writing career in second grade with an homage to Scooby Doo. Her Christmas mystery “A Rose from the Ashes” was the first Rae Riley mystery and her latest Rae Riley novel, A Storm of Doubts released in March 2024. Follow her to her next mystery at FacebookInstagramBookbubGoodreads, and Amazon.

Comments 8

  1. This was extremely helpful. For years on and off I felt that nothing I wrote was at good. I thought I was going to be just a hack. But in recent months a friend told me something that gave me renewed love and encouragement for writing. She told me about Eric Liddell the marathon runner. His sister wanted him to stop running and concentrate on his education and future ministry. He knew his calling was to be a missionary. He finally told her he knew what his goal was but he said, I feel Gods pleasure when I run” I feel that meant for me that He feels pleasure when I write. After all didn’t He give me the gift. I hope that will encourage other writers too..

    1. Those lines from “Chariots of Fire” are some of my favorite, and I’m a movie buff. I usually hate my first drafts because there are so rough. But there are times when the ideas flow and the words seem to sing and I feel like I’m doing what my Father made me for.

      1. This is the first time I’ve come to the “almost finished stage.” I have several novels, barely started in my compost folder but this time it’s different. The novel I’m working on is to be the first of a trilogy. Some chapters aren’t easy. They’re like cutting open a vein, as another writer once said. It’s hard but sometimes easy. But I’ve decided to go with I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. So I say to all of us struggling writers. Trust Him to help you get you through those troubling times and keep writing!

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