by Kathy Harris
I recently read a quote from bestselling author Nicholas Sparks. It said, “You can’t be a writer if you don’t write.” While I don’t disagree in theory, I do believe we will all eventually come upon a season when we can’t write.
I’m not talking about an occasional bout of writer’s block or the dreaded ‘dry spell.’ I’m talking about an extended period of time, perhaps a few months or even a year, when our twenty-four hour clock is chock-full of extraordinary priorities that leave us no time for anything discretionary.
It may be when your child is leaving for college or getting married. Or it could be when an elderly relative is in need. For those who work day jobs, and most of us do, your boss might surprise you with a huge project, or a promotion, that blows your schedule to smithereens.
Whatever the reason, when you experience a long-term lull in #AmWriting, you will likely become frustrated. Okay. Let’s be honest, you will become frustrated. Because when a writer isn’t writing, we’re…. well, grumpy. Out of sorts. Feeling deprived of our right to write.
Is there a storyteller anywhere who doesn’t relate to the ache of an unfinished plot pounding inside his or her head? If you’re an outliner, you may already know the name and purpose of every scene in your story, but when you don’t have time to flesh out that unfinished manuscript it feels like a weight that’s far too heavy to carry.
#NotWriting can be even more frustrating for a seat-of-the-pantster, who has a puzzle inside his or her head waiting to be solved. The pieces are scrambled, and it’s not until you’ve spilled them out onto paper that the shape, size, and color of your plot begins to emerge.
So, what can you do if you’re in a season of not writing? Is there a way to ease your frustration? I’d like to suggest a five-step plan that begins with taking a deep breath and ends with remembering that our Creator also rested (on the Seventh Day).
When you’re #NotWriting, try this:
Relax. Give yourself a break. Admit that there are only twenty-four hours in each day. Disparaging yourself for not finding time to write when circumstances are out of your control is self-defeating.
Refocus. Concentrate on the priority at hand. If your child is going off to college, or getting married, jump into the planning with unapologetic abandon. Care for your loved one in crisis. Rock your day-job career goal.
Redefine what writing means to you at the moment. You may not have time to pound out a full-length novel, but you can journal. Or write an occasional blog post. Or daydream a plot. As writers, daydreaming really is part of our job. Embrace it. And take notes.
Resolve to get back to actual writing as soon as possible. Visualize yourself writing again. Pencil it into your calendar maybe three to six months down the road. Working toward a specific date will help alleviate some stress, as well as the fear that you may not write again.
Recommit your life to the One who is, and always will be, in charge. As Christians, we know that our needs are met — and our priorities are established — by our Father’s hand. We also know that His plans and His timing may not always be the same as our own. Trust that He will move in your life — and your writing — when the timing is right.