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.
Here are three wonders of the writing desert, three lessons I don’t think I could’ve learned as well in a lush landscape:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 www.acfw.com/blog 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.