Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Persevering in the Writing Life When Life is Upside-Down

Got trials?

Who doesn't. A pastor of a church we attended years ago used to say, you're either coming in to a storm, coming out of one, or in the midst of it.

That's not to say we don't have seasons of celebration. And sometimes the most joyful times are found right in the eye of the storm sensing God's nearness.

How do trials affect your writing life? Through the years I've been through counseling several times and was told that writing was an essential part of my journey. When I write and express my creativity, my heart finds a new sense of rest at His feet.

Writing makes us who we are. God intended us to pick up a pen. One writer here shared that our words make Jesus smile. I've often thought of that small phrase knowing on some level writing brings a grin to my own face and makes me feel as energetic as a toddler playing with a puppy.

The storm of my life at times feels intense and the breaks between thunder peals milliseconds. A family member is struggling through a health and healing journey that has brought change rippling through at breakneck speed. I'm caught gasping for breath.

And now I need the writing life more than ever. Not publishers or contests or assignments or articles nor blog posts. But the simple prosaic act of putting words on a page. Right now its not about hitting 1K in an hour.

I believe all of us write because even in the middle of all the hustle, our soul finds rest in the white spaces. We lack margin in our lives, but we can find the white space on the page and somehow its enough to help us suck in that quick breath. For five minutes, thirty, or four hours our pain is poured out and released at the rate of 50 words per minute.

How can you keep the writing momentum in the midst of hard times?

1) Morning pages: I've found myself journaling first thing in the morning. Sometimes my thoughts aren't even coherent, often what I write out is halfway between prayer and reflection. What if you spent your first few moments with God's word and your notebook? Waiting to see if he has any words to share with you, before pouring out your own.

2) Notebooks everywhere: When I go through a busy season, I tend to rely on little notebooks, journals, scraps of paper, even post-it notes.

3) Car rides: Because of my husband's health challenges we are currently driving together. So yes, that's a whole lot more time in the car. In the past I've recorded ideas on a handheld, but its broken. I love using a simple notebook app on my android phone to take small scribbles of notes. When your brain is full, its a great way to jot the ideas for later.

4) Don't waste your wait: I've spent countless hours in various waiting rooms. Why read magazines? Keep a notebook in your car full time. I'm surprised at the quiet or other times I learn I can write in the midst of the tumult.

5) Don't depend on perfect conditions for writing to happen: Make it happen! The value of this season is learning I don't need silence or a computer to write. Nor do I need a hot beverage or anything but my fanny in the chair. In the past most of my writing took place when the family was asleep but during these trials I need more rest so I'm focusing on how I can make writing take place right where I am.

6) Read, read, read: When time is short, often reading is the first thing to leave my plate. Yet reading good literature is fodder for my runaway imagination. A dry spell in my reading leads to one in my writing and vice versa.

What about you? Any good tips for consistency and growth in your writing life during trials?

Julia Reffner is a Yankee transplant who makes her home in beautiful central Virginia. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres and is a writer and reviewer for Library Journal. You can also find her writing at Wonderfully Woven, where she blogs about spiritual growth for women.


Jeanne Takenaka said...

Julia, such a good post. I have my own set of stuff in life right now. Writing has been a challenge, because there simply hasn't been much time. Your suggestions are great. I usually keep a notebook in my purse so I have one with me wherever I go.

I often write a response to something God's showing me in His word. Sometimes that turns into a blog, but most times, it's something for me to ponder deep in my heart.

I think your being intentional to write in the white spaces of your day is brilliant. :)

Joanne Sher said...

Other than morning pages (and writing in the car while it's moving - I am the only driver in my house), this is EXACTLY how I handled writing during most of my husband's health issues. I still write while waiting in line for carpool (and I miss the time when the kids aren't in school LOL). Using the time in the margins is SO crucial when things are busy.

But it is also SO important to feel like it is okay to NOT write when you are insanely busy or stressed. In the heat of Marc's health issues, I just plain stopped for a few months. I was channeling all my creativity into surviving and getting through the day. There was nothing else left. And that was okay too.

Super post, Julia. Thank you!

Cara Putman said...

Great advice on how to capture your time and words!