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.
Kathy Harris writes women’s fiction/romantic suspense and is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency. Read Kathy’s Divine Detour blog or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for this post, Kathy! What an encouragement. This subject resonates with me, though I’m in a season of #AmWriting at the moment.
Overcoming writing-related guilt and grumpiness has been on my heart lately–so much I wrote my ACFW blog post about it, which goes up this month on the 12th! Though I wrote and submitted my post last Wednesday, the similarities between our articles are uncanny. We both even have five points alliterated with “R’s”!
The Lord must must be trying to tell us something with this subject going up twice this month! It’s definitely been on my mind and in my prayers. God used your post to speak to me, and I know to many others as well. Thank you for your words of wisdom!
Thank you for this, Kathy! I’m just coming out of a season of #NotWriting. There’s definitely a measure of guilt during that period, but what I’m struggling with is finding that joy in writing I once had. As long as I keep Him as my focus as I press on, I do know that joy will return.
This was really encouraging to me right now, Kathy–thank you! I’ve been in a season of #NotWriting much of this past year, as I got a high school teaching job and was getting ready to get married all at once. I’ve struggled with guilt and some of the other feelings you mentioned for #NotWriting, but it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one this has happened to, and that it’s okay to have seasons like this. Now that I am married and hopefully settling into a new rhythm, I am excited to get back to a season where I #AmWriting, Lord willing. 🙂 Blessings!
Natalie, I can’t wait to read your post and your list of 5 R’s. That definitely sounds like a God thing! Like you, I #AmWriting right now, but I know the other side very well. I remember several years ago reading the testimony of another ACFW member who took time away from writing because of the need to take care of family — and how happy she was to finally be writing again. Remembering her testimony helped me during my time away from writing. Encouraging each other is what it’s all about. Thanks for your note!
Brenda, it sounds like we’ve walked the same road. It’s nice to meet friends there.
First of all Kiersti, congrats on your marriage! So excited for you and your husband! Starting your new life together is a very special reason to take time away from writing. And I know you’ll get back to it, because you love writing. Thanks for all you have done for #Transformfic.
Excellent post, Kathy, and so true. Life can throw curve balls, and I’m one of those authors who has occasionally been on the receiving end. A non-writing season doesn’t mean all is lost, that you’re washed up. Instead, it might prove to be a season of soaking up feelings and experiences that will later become fodder for fiction.