The Wonders of the Writing Desert

ACFWAdvice, Authors and writing, Encouragement, Friends of ACFW, writing 13 Comments

By Emily Conrad

Bats whirled through the air as I left the shelter of our car to walk the short path to the overlook. In pre-dawn Joshua Tree National Park, the fluttering creatures were the only movement I spotted.

In a hazy blue distance, the lights of some small city glowed. Opposite that, a soft yellow preceded the sun. I moved on, down the road. I wasn’t there to watch a sunrise over a flat vista. I’d woken early and come to the desert to photograph Joshua trees with the sun rising behind them.

Even then, after hours of darkness, the temperature lingered in the eighties. The high would climb to over one hundred by the end of the day.

I could go on and on, describing my observations about the desert. There’s so much to see and experience and learn.

With some hesitance, I’ll admit that I also have opportunities to see and experience and learn in the deserts of my writing life.

Unlike Joshua Tree, I don’t choose to travel to these deserts. Instead, either I won’t see them ahead of me along the road, or I will, but no turn off will allow an escape.

And so, I’m forced into the experience. Forced, I think, because God knows I wouldn’t venture here if I were given my choice.

Unless, maybe, I knew what wonders awaited me in the desert.

Part of what drew me to Joshua Tree National Park were the descriptions of sights to be seen and the photographs of other-worldly landscapes.

Not that we’ll purposely land ourselves in a writing desert moving forward, but perhaps reflecting on the blessings of the desert will help us through when we next find ourselves surrounded by sand.

Here are three wonders of the writing desert, three lessons I don’t think I could’ve learned as well in a lush landscape:

  1. Sending a fellow writer encouragement is like sharing water with a fellow desert-traveler. Have you ever cried in gratitude at a perfectly-timed compliment? When in a desert, I certainly have. Let’s be generous in passing that canteen along to the next writer. If you’re part of the writing community, you likely know a writer who is in desperate need of a refreshing word.
  2. Deserts are not necessarily a sign we’re off track. Sometimes, I’ve acted on what I felt called to do and then found myself in a harsh landscape. Yes, the Israelites’ stay in the wilderness was extended due to wrong spiritual turns, but the fact that they were there in the first place was part of the plan. Jesus, too, spent time in the wilderness. Certainly, then, we are not exempt from deserts.
  3. Over-exposure can kill, but we always have shelter with Jesus. If you’ve been writing for any length of time, you’ve probably also considered quitting. The discouragement and rejection can bake us alive, but as Jesus followers, we have hope and shelter. Sometimes, when the desert is at its hottest, we struggle to recognize the help and refreshment waiting for us in the arms of our Savior. That’s when we need community to lead us back, speaking truth to us when we can’t speak it to ourselves.

Because of these desert wonders, I come away from writing wildernesses with something much more valuable than what I experienced in Joshua Tree National Park. With each new desert experience, I find my faith in Jesus and my connections with other writers growing deeper.

What have you learned during difficult periods in your writing journey?

We may never enjoy the deserts of the #writing life, but reflecting on the blessings of those hard times may offer #encouragement when we next find ourselves surrounded by sand. @emilyrconrad #ACFWBlogs Click To Tweet

Emily Conrad lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two rescue dogs. She loves Jesus and enjoys coffee. It’s no coincidence her debut novel, Justice, is set mostly in a coffee shop! She offers free short stories on her website and loves to connect on Facebook and Twitter.






Comments 13

  1. I love this insight, Emily. Makes the desert seem so less dry and disheartening! I love how Jesus says HE is the living water, and those who drink of Him will never thirst again. Your post is a wonderful reminder to run to his arms in the desert and to see the wonderful blessings He’s given us for the journey, no matter how hard our path. Number 2 really resonated with me–being in the desert doesn’t always mean we’ve taken a wrong turn. Sometimes it just means God has something great in store for us there or when He brings us through. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Great thoughts! Always love to receive a canteen from another writer and am now emboldened to hand one to others. I like the idea that being in a dry and barren wasteland, a wilderness of difficulty does not mean I’m off track or in the wrong place. It’s almost certain the Lord has me exactly where I need to be. And…He is there. Hebrews 13:5

  3. Great points, Jerusha! I love how John 7:37 specifies that Jesus does more than quietly suggest we can come to Him when we’re thirsty. The ESV says he “cried out” the invitation! May we listen to His voice and trust His leading, even in the desert. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. I love this so much, Emily. I’m so thankful to have you there encouraging me through my desert. And I know you’ve been a blessing to so many other writers too. Love you, friend!

  5. Mary, isn’t it a comfort to know that difficult circumstances don’t mean we misread our calling? So grateful Jesus goes with us into those hard places!

    Robyn, you’ve been a huge help and encouragement to me, too. So grateful to be on this journey with you! <3

  6. Another wonderfully encouraging post, Emily! I loved #1 above. So many times encouragement came from a fellow writer exactly when I needed it! Hoping I’m able to be that encourager for others!

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