I’m going to get personal today. I want to talk about something I’ve avoided broaching for some time. I’ve worried about what people might think. Whether other writers would understand. Whether I’d be criticised or given well-meaning advice. Whether there would be condemnation.
“Writers write. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer.”
Here’s my dirty secret: I’m not writing right now.
Well, not exactly.
It’s time for me to confess. Tell the whole truth. And hope that somebody out there understands. This is my story, but who knows? It could be yours, too. So, please forgive me my transparency. I’m gonna bare it all.
See, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a shy, imaginative kid with my nose constantly in a book and my head in the clouds. So, I wrote. Short stories. Scraps of novels. Eventually, much later, a whole book.
8 years ago, God gave me a promise about my writing. It was one of those goosebump moments when heaven collides with earth and you know without a doubt God has spoken.
He made it very clear that writing was my calling, and that the dream I’d longed for since I was a little girl would come to pass. That soul-deep certainty carried me through years of solitary hard work, rejections and near-misses, sparse encouragement and questioning. I doubted myself frequently, but I never doubted the call.
Positive things happened in that time. I landed an agent. Was contracted to ghost-write a full-length book. Met kindred writing friends. Joined the Alley. Finaled in a big contest. Had a short story accepted by a respected journal I’d courted for years. I felt like I was finally right on the brink of a breakthrough.
Only that breakthrough never happened.
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When I fell pregnant with my third child in the space of three years, for the first time, I hit a roadblock I couldn’t see my way past. I was exhausted, busy and overwhelmed. My first novel had been shelved after being shopped around unsuccessfully for a couple of years, and I was about two-thirds through writing the second. I believed in the story. But discouragement hit me from left-field.
You talk about negative contest feedback? I’d finalled in a contest, and yet the judges tore my synopsis to shreds. They hated my plot.
I panicked. Asked for help from some authors whose opinion I respect. They all hated it too.
Only problem was, no-one could tell me how to fix it. It seemed that everyone except me thought my book was terminally flawed.
Perhaps I was deluded. It seemed increasingly likely.
Fast-forward nine months, and in my post-newborn, sleep-deprived, mushy-brained state, I still couldn’t imagine my way out of this fix. I had three preschool-age kids to mother; writing required a sacrifice of time and energy that I just didn’t have in me at that point. I think I could have done it if I’d been able to sustain the delusion that I was on the brink of something wonderful. If I truly believed that what I was writing was worthwhile and would be snapped up by a publisher as soon as I wrote “The End”.
But how could I pour myself out for something everyone said was flawed? Something that would likely never succeed?
It seemed like an enormous waste of time. Time I did not have. With three little tots requiring all the energy I had to give, I couldn’t seem to find the time to wash my hair or shave my legs, let alone salvage a masterpiece from the smoking wreckage of my novel.
I was stuck. It was more than writer’s block. It was the dark night of the writer’s soul. I’m sure it was a contributing factor in why I suffered from post-natal depression after my third child.
I felt like I’d lost a part of myself, and yet I didn’t have a clue how to find it again.
The amber light
The stuck-ness continued for what felt like forever. My biggest worry? Feeling like I’d somehow dropped-out on God’s plan for my life. I’m not a dropout kinda gal. I still believed whole-heartedly in that word God had given me 8 years before. Still believed my dream would come to pass.
So why was I stuck in this place of failure and shame, unable to see my way clear?
As I prayed it through, I slowly began to see that I’d imposed my timeline on God’s promise.
He never said when my dream would be realised. Just that it would - one day.
And so I sat waiting at a giant amber light, gradually coming to realise I was in some pretty good company.
Joseph was promised he would rule, and ended up a slave in a prison cell.
Sarah was promised a child, and ended up an old and barren woman.
David was anointed king over Israel, and ended up in exile in fear of his life, hiding in a rocky hillside with a band of outlaws.
The Israelites were promised Canaan, and ended up walking circles in the desert for 40 years.
In each case, the dream did come to pass. It did. God is always faithful to his word.
But always, there was a season of contradiction, where for a long period of time, the dream seemed further out of reach than ever. Instead of leading toward the goal, the path seemed to veer in the opposite direction, carrying the dreamer even further away than they were at the start.
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And that’s when I saw the sign I hadn’t noticed before. I was so focussed on the impassable roadblock in front of me, that I hadn’t seen the “detour” sign erected at the side of the road. It pointed away from where I’d been heading. I couldn’t see exactly where it led, and yet if I strained my eyes, I could’ve sworn the two paths met up again somewhere in the dim mauve distance.
I took a tentative step onto the path. Then another. It was different to the road I’d been travelling. Yet somehow, it felt familiar. Right. I walked farther. For the first time in over two years, the dogged sense of failure was beginning to slough away. The inner unrest, the sense of “where did I lose myself?” was turning to vapour and drifting away on the breeze.
I was in motion again. Not on the road I’d planned to walk, but on a different path. And yet somehow, I was at peace.
The new path
Has anyone else been there? Where life has taken you in a different direction than you expected? Has anyone else experienced that detour in the road?
For me, the new path was clear. I felt a strong sense that I am not ready to be published in this season of my life – that God is saying “Wait” to that dream. It’s not a decision I’ve taken lightly. It took me two years of inner turmoil to get to that place. I still believe in the call he’s given me, but I also recognize that he’s given me another, pre-eminent calling: to be a mother. And in these chaotic, overwhelming, joyful, maddening, wonderful years of parenting in the trenches, I’m experiencing life in all the richness that will one day, once again, find its way into my books.
But God is good, and he hasn’t asked me to sacrifice my sense of self on the altar of parenthood. He hasn’t asked me to stand immobile, gazing yearningly into the distance. He’s given me another task, one more compatible with the stage of life I’m in now. It’s a new dream that runs parallel to the first: to write a blog for other mums and home-makers.
This is writing in a new skin. It’s writing in small doses, individual posts. It’s the ability to feel the satisfaction that comes from completing something. It’s immediacy. It’s a new conduit for the creativity that is bursting in my veins. It’s a channel for some other lifelong loves – art, design, interior decorating, working with kids.
It began with the niggling urge that I should be “doing something” to build a platform in this time I have available pre-publication. And so, always, it feeds back into the overarching dream that will never go away – to write novels, to one day have an audience who will turn the pages of a book I’ve written.
So, while it may seem like a divergence, it’s all part of the same river finding its course to the sea. God’s plan can never be thwarted. Block a stream, and it will break its banks if necessary to carve a new water-course. The dream won’t die.
What road are you walking?
It’s been eleven years since I wrote my first book, full of naïve enthusiasm and certainty that it would be the next big thing. That’s a long time for a dream to stay alive, despite all the setbacks and discouragement along the way. And yet, it is alive.
I share all this because I wonder if anyone else can relate. Have you ever hit a roadblock in your writing journey? Have you ever taken a detour off the path?
Is the road you’re walking now different to what you’d imagined or hoped it would be?
I want to encourage you, if you’re facing a roadblock right now in your writing life. A detour is not the end of the road. It’s a way around. A way through.
No matter which direction you seem to be walking, if the peace of God is your compass, then every step you take in faith is one step closer to your dream.
When your writing journey takes a detour: Click to tweet
When your writing journey takes a detour: Click to tweet
Is it ever okay to step away from your dream of writing? Here's why I did: Click to tweet
Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she juggles writing with being a SAHM to three small kids. She's had short stories published in two literary journals and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on her website, Twitter, and getting creative on her home-making blog, A house full of sunshine.