Ask yourself what motivates you to write and what "jumper cables" get your creativity running on all cylinders.
Steph Beth Nickel
In this month's topic, we come to the “muddle in the middle,” to use Wendy Macdonald’s expression. The writers of this month’s topic raised many issues and suggested so many creative solutions that I decided to include wisdom from all our writers (including links to their posts).
I recognized that our writing progresses through different seasons. The Preacher’s words came to mind: “For everything there is a season, and a time for everything…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). So here goes.
In every season our first priority is…
A time with God and prayer. Valerie Ronald encapsulated all our thoughts: “Prayer is an absolute necessity before and during all my writing projects. I go to Him for inspiration, direction and help to navigate the tough spots.” Her writing has taught her “to recognize when He speaks to the creative part of my spirit…He will answer because He has never failed to provide the next step.” Pray that God will release the treasures He wants us to give to the world.
Next we need a season of mind shifts …
A time for wisdom breaks. Even a few minutes away from our daily projects enhances creativity. Sharon Heagy suggests: “Stare out the window, do a few menial chores…Just to get your head in a different place. Often while we are not thinking directly of the problem, the answer…comes to our mind in a moment of the ‘aha’ variety.”
But sometimes we need to let a project rest longer. Tracy Krauss switches to a different writing project when she feels uninspired or lacks motivation. Over the years she’s discovered an important principle: “once I've had time and distance, I usually come back with fresh ideas which couldn't be forced if I'd tried to slog ahead.”
Joylene Bailey introduced us to a new word. She procrastiworks—she quilts as a second creative project. Doing so opens “new creative pathways in the brain so that when you go back to the page, creativity…is refreshed, and you can come to the problem in a new way…it excites and fulfills me to know that while my hands might be doing something else, my brain can still be working on my writing project.”
A time for self-care. Giving ourselves compassion is so important when we succumb to illness, when tragedy hits, or when we experience emotional pain. Steph Beth Nickel writes that during these times “we may be too physically or emotionally exhausted to even think about sitting down to write.” We need to rest in God's comfort until restoration comes.
When we give ourselves compassion, we discover that sometime later God may ask us to write what we’ve learned from our pain. It’s a powerful gift we can give our readers—it connects to their own heartbreaks and assures them they’re not alone.
A time for renewal: Martina Keast emphasized that engaging in research, rest from writing, and rejuvenation, “will help bring my head and heart into a state of coherence…where the creative flow will freely stream.”
Then we come to a season where we face deeper issues…
A time to test our motivation. Steph Beth said we need to ask why we find ourselves “sputtering and coughing and coming to a grinding halt”. She advised us to “pray, consider why we began the project in the first place, and seek wise counsel.” We need discernment. Does our core idea have meaning? Bob Jones asked: “Is this the book I want to love and live with for the next two or three years?” Valerie concurred: “Does it fill you with joy and purpose? Are you aware of His presence with you as you write? An affirmative answer to these questions is reason to push through until you are unstuck.”
To help answer these questions, Carol Harrison knew that we need input with other writers and friends. “Sometimes we just need someone to bounce ideas off of, glean knowledge from, or even get their expert help with technological issues,” she wrote.
Wendy Macdonald agreed. What helped her was “to write past the messy middle because I had a set of eyes who were reliable and offered constructive criticism balanced with encouragement…The messy middle isn’t as dark and lonely when you have a good-willed critique partner.”
A time to let go of excuses. Sudden “urgent” needs can trigger us to avoid writing. Lorilee Guenter admitted that excuses lay at the bottom of much of her unfinished work, disguised as “the need to finish research…The need to clean up a space to spread out a sewing project.” With wisdom, she concluded: “Each day I choose to let God remove the excuses…so that when tomorrow becomes today, I will once again let Him guide and teach me.” Wise advice!
A Time to face fear. Fear can be our greatest challenge, and it can come in many guises: “I’m not a good writer. Is this idea any good? Is it relevant to people's lives? Will I be criticized after I’m published?” Have courage. Stare fear in the face, and write scared.
These guises are also Satan’s lies intended to keep us from God’s purposes. Refute him and rest in God’s promises. “He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and power and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
We come to a season where we keep moving forward...
A time to trust the process. Alan Anderson is two years into his project of writing poems on grandparent grief. “I am not frustrated, neither do I have any intention of laying it aside,” he wrote. “I am not going to rush the process. My current part of the process takes time as I review and revise the poems. I love this part. Through this process my hope is the poems will speak with one, ‘voice.’”
A time to push through – Bob Jones completed a painful marathon one step at a time. My runner friends have told me that nearing mile 18, they hit “the wall”. They're trained to take one step, then the next, until they get their second wind and complete the race. So it is with writing: one phrase or paragraph or page at a time.
Bob shared his secret: “the decision to finish any project is made for you before you start. When you settle on never quitting…you’ll find the mojo to keep going when your momentum is gone. Pause. Embrace the pain. Start again. And again. Finish.”
A time to finish: The ultimate reason to write is to finish a project, Lorrie Orr said. “Making the goal close and personal helps me to keep going.” If another project begins to simmer in the background of her mind, she keeps the end goal of the present one firmly in front of her.
Personally, the Lord has recently impressed on me to finish a major project. A deadline, a promise from God, and a prayer team bolster my commitment.
And finally, we’re in season when we focus on…
A time to honour God. You are standing on holy ground. Right now. Know that He is working in and through you in whatever time and space you find yourself. Susan Barclay wrote: “I want nothing less than His best for me…God has good plans for me…When the time is right, He will show me the next step(s).”
Give your writing to God—your dreams, your creativity, His purposes for you. Be faithful and do the next thing in the power of the Spirit. Pray for joy and peace to renew your passion so you can finish your work. Looking unto Jesus, you can seize the day.
PS After assigning this theme last year, I realized that five years ago we blogged about not finishing. Here are strategies you might find helpful.