When Emotions Cause the Block

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By Chandra Lynn Smith

I sat at my desk in January writing the blog post and I shared a little about my current project. Then the project was put on hold for a little while. What happened? Life. This winter has been one of heartbreak and my personal grief created a writer’s block. Last Fall I would have told you that even in difficult times nothing blocked my writing, that I actually write more during my struggles. But I had not lost a precious grandchild. And, by the twelfth of February this year I had lost two precious grandchildren.

Progress on that manuscript halted. I did a lot of writing in my journal and talking to, yelling at, turning from, and running back to God. I started writing scenes, the angry scenes or the sad ones or even the frightening ones. I wrote them in first person and poured my emotions, feelings, and thoughts into them. There is some good stuff there and a lot of not-so-good stuff. I will have to ‘mine’ those scenes and put them into third person before placing them within the manuscript. There definitely was some catharsis in the writing. But I still faced a very real block.

Years ago in a class at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference I learned about writing through deep emotions and trauma. The instructor taught us how to use our life situations and feelings in our characters’ lives. But she also cautioned against trying to do so while the heartache, emotional or physical trauma was fresh.

While nothing about my characters’ story related to my current situation, my heart was projecting, which created the writer’s block. I put the manuscript aside for a time and because, as Allen Arnold teaches, I am writing with God, I asked Him to tell me what to work on. I pulled out a finished but not-yet-published manuscript and began working on its rewrite.

And here’s why writing with God is so amazing. I found one sentence last night, just one sentence I wrote a few years ago that spoke to my mourning heart. My character, MaryRose Elliott, spoke these words in her prayer time; “Joy despite heartbreak and sorrow. I want that. I want to find the joy no matter what happens.”

Writing through grief and trauma whether emotional or physical is difficult, heart wrenching, and healing. I’ve learned to not be afraid of this emotional, even when it is raw grief. While those words may not ever find their way into a manuscript the healing only God can provide will work through your characters and thus your readers—even when the reader it helps is yourself.

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Chandra Lynn Smith writes contemporary fiction filled with inspiration, intrigue, romance, and dogs. Her most recent novella, Turtle Box Memories, won the 2015 Genesis Award in the novella category. Her first book, The Light Holding Her is one of seven novellas by seven authors in Coming Home: A Tiny House Collection. Chandra’s career as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer provides her with a variety of canine characters and challenging situations. She and her husband live on a small farm in South Central Pennsylvania. They are proud parents of four sons and grandparents to three, one living and two in heaven with God. Their house is often filled with their two dogs, all four sons, wives, fiancés, granddaughter, friends, and as many as nine “grand dogs.” You can find her at www.amazon.com/author/chandralynnsmith or  www.chandralynnsmith.blogspot.com



Comments 5

  1. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and yours. May God continue to comfort you.

    I’ve often written right away as therapy and other times realized my heart needed a break first. Regardless of the timing, I love that God uses writing to help me cope with my emotions. Writing is such a blessing for that alone.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Chandra, you’re in my prayers. I can imagine few things more readful than what you experienced.

    In dealing with terminal pancreatic cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, I’m using the discipline o writing Shakespearean sonnets to both focus my writing (pain akes me wander) and express things that would otherwise be inaccessible.

    Certainly it’s not a tragedy; it’s only me that’s dying, after all. But still, there are some emotions that are best addresed now rather than later.

    To wit, some of the goofy, unexpected joy:

    They say that I’m too dumb to quit
    and too lazy to learn how.
    I meant to get around to it,
    but man, it’s too late now!
    I thought I’d die with dignity,
    surrounded by close friends,
    and leave my life a legacy
    to good and noble ends.
    But, it seems, I’ve blundered,
    and wholly missed the mark,
    and my mates have wondered
    why I jump the shark.
    My death may not be in control,
    but what the hey, I’m on a roll.

  3. Chandra, thank you for a heartfelt post. You’re in my thoughts and prayers.

    And Andrew, thank you. Through your writing you show us not only how to live, but how to face something we will all face— how to die. You’re in my prayers, too.

  4. Thanks, Chandra, for opening your heart to many people you may never meet. Even so, I’m sure your post will be an encouragement to many. I know this has been a very heartbreaking year for you and have been praying for you. Love you bunches!

  5. Chandra, my heart and prayers are with you and your child(ren) who lost a child. I’ve survived quite a lot over the years, but losing a beloved child or grandchild must be the worst pain. It is certainly the worst I can imagine. Thank you for sharing such honest feelings and using this experience to encourage others.

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