October 30, 2022

Stalled in the Middle: Shy Away or Seize the Day? By Sandi Somers

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 topray, 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 throughBob 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 quittingyou’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.


October 25, 2022

Stuck In the Middle With You ~ Valerie Ronald


Have you ever experienced an ear worm, a catchy piece of music that gets stuck in your mind, annoyingly repeating over and over? This month’s prompt has given rise to such a pest drilling into my head until I decided if I use it, perhaps it will go away.

The song, Stuck in the Middle With You, topped the pop music charts in 1973, the year I graduated from high school. That was a long time ago, yet surprisingly I remember most of the words. If you would like a friendly, tenacious ear worm to take up residence in your brain, listen to it here: Stuck In the Middle With You 

The lyrics have nothing to do with writing, yet some lines could be applied to the writer’s quandary of getting bogged down in the midst of a literary project.

“Yes, I’m stuck in the middle with you, 

And I’m wondering what it is I should do...”

“Trying to make some sense of it all,

But I can see that it makes no sense at all.”

Don’t give up hope. Pull your manuscript out of the document archives, dust it off and try again. Like the song title says, we are not stuck in the middle on our own. Who better to be stuck with than God?

Being stuck in the middle is a good time to step back from your desk, take a breather and think about the bigger picture. Do you believe God has gifted you to write so you can glorify Him? Does it fill you with joy and purpose when He inspires you with fresh ideas and words? 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.

We are not called to write alone. Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, guides our thoughts and words so we write under His divine direction. If that is so, then why do we get stuck? There are a myriad of reasons, such as distraction, procrastination, loss of confidence, time pressure, trying too hard and many more. Over my years of writing, I have gradually discovered a pattern of practices which help me push through when I am stuck in the middle.


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. Practicing the craft for many years has taught me to recognize when He speaks to the creative part of my spirit, though sometimes I wait a long time to hear from Him. Openness, sensitivity, observation ˗˗ these attitudes are heightened as I wait. I have faith He will answer because He has never failed to provide the next step.  

Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and prayerful always.- Rom.12:12 TLB


Though not always on paper, I am a planner when it comes to writing projects. Before beginning, I think through the project, making mental note of the theme, direction, illustrations, key points and take-away value. I also gather research or helpful ideas before beginning. If it is fiction, then I mentally plot out the story, characters, settings and conclusion. By doing so, I know what comes next, which helps me move forward when I get stuck. Sometimes I find it helpful to work on a different section of the project, then go back to the troublesome section later. Having a plan makes this doable.

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. - Proverbs 24:27 TLB


Writing is understandably a solitary endeavor, however, a little help from our friends can often get us over the hump. For several years now, God has gifted me with a writing mentor who is knowledgeable in aspects of the craft where I am weak. She points out ways to strengthen my prose as well as bringing fresh eyes to areas where I am struggling. With her objective viewpoint, hurdles are often surmounted in ways I miss seeing myself.

The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out. - Prov. 20:5 NIV


In my early days as a writer, I gave up too easily when faced with a road block in a project. Many a ball of crumpled paper found its way to the trash can back then. As time went on and my experience and knowledge grew, I recognized that it takes perseverance to properly develop a good idea.

Acknowledging God’s inspiration for the idea helps me stay on the job until completed. Desire to obey God in fulfilling my calling is a powerful incentive to carry on, even when I can’t see my way through a difficulty. The frustration and slogging try my patience, but I refuse to give up if I believe the project is from the Lord. I know from experience that He will eventually give me a break-through, as long as I persevere.

For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power. - Phil. 4:13 TLB

Being stuck in the middle is not a permanent problem, as long as we are there with God, our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble. (Psalm 46:1 NIV)

 More of Valerie's work can be read on her blog:


October 24, 2022

Staying Focused by Lorrie Orr


I have so enjoyed all these posts this month on getting through the middle. It seems we all have much in common - projects abandoned for one reason or another. I could write about not listening to my inner critic, or creative strategies to push through, but I've chosen to focus on the ultimate reason to finish a project. 

In my late forties I began studying for a B. A. in French. My teaching credentials were way out of date after spending 21 years overseas, and I had to begin again if I wanted to teach in Canada. I started my course work (online) with enthusiasm and energy, but after a year, I quit. I decided it cost too much, and I wasn't certain that I wanted to teach. Other things called to me.

Over the next few years I stayed busy with children finishing their university degrees, leaving home, and all of them marrying. I volunteered in the church. I dedicated time to writing and had some moderate success, but hated the marketing and isolation. 

When our youngest daughter graduated and spent the summer in Scandinavia, the house felt very, very empty. I asked myself the question posed by Mary Oliver "What is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life?" The answer came quickly and definitively, in answer to prayer - teach! 

So I buckled down and finished that degree, and quickly found a job teaching French and Spanish. 

It was that final goal, the carrot of a teaching position because of the degree, that kept my focus on grammar and vocabulary during those years. 

My current project is writing a book about our years as a family in Ecuador, focusing on God's faithfulness. I probably would have never chosen to start this project, but my children have asked me to. My late mother-in-law saved every letter I wrote;  those letters, and my journals, are the basis for the book. 

Emotions run the gamut as I re-read the letters, and mentally re-live those years. There are often tears and sometimes laughter. Some things I would rather not write about. What keeps me going is the knowledge that my children and grandchildren will have my account of how God led and kept our family.

Making the goal close and personal helps me to keep going. I don't aspire to broad publication nor fame. If I did, my inner critic would whisper negative thoughts in my ear. Putting a time line on the goal helps me, too. My husband will retire in the spring and I want to have the book mostly finished by then. I'm aiming for a first draft by December 1. It's doable, and I get up in the morning excited to get to my desk. There's another project beginning to simmer in the background of my mind, but I'm keeping the end goal of the present one firmly in front of me.

Lorrie Orr writes from Vancouver Island where she enjoys boating and hiking with her husband. Gardening, sewing, reading, and spending time with her five grandchildren fill her days with happiness and contentment. She is newly retired from teaching high school Spanish. 



October 21, 2022

Switch It Up - Tracy Krauss

I've had my fair share of feeling "stalled" while working on a project. I think it happens to every writer, no matter if you are prolific or not. 

I tend to have more than one project on the go at one time, so one of my strategies has been to switch to something else if I feel uninspired or lack motivation. The fact that I also write in more than one genre is also helpful. If long-form fiction isn't working for me, I can switch to non-fiction or a different format like a play. It's true that the "middle" is often where we tend to get stuck, so letting it rest for a while--no matter what the format or genre--is important. I find that 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. 

I haven't got a lot of other sage advice. (Sorry!) I subscribe to the old, "Just sit down and do it," mindset which says once you start writing, the muse will kick in. 

I have been known to get distracted, though, with what Joy Bailey called "procrasti-work". (Reread her post! It's golden!) But, I like her strategy of doing something else creative which then transfers into more writing creativity. I've found this to be true. I can paint, draw, sew... There are so many ways to get the creative juices flowing. 

In fact, all of the posts this month have listed great ways to get unstuck. Getting outdoors, going for a walk, exercising, listening to music, reading other books...  I've used them all! Then, of course, there's prayer--the thing we should all be doing FIRST. 

Tracy Krauss
writes from her home in northern BC. Fiction on the edge without crossing the line: https://tracykrauss.com

October 20, 2022

Trust the Process and Know the Voice by Alan Anderson


The Project

I began a book project near and dear to my heart almost two years ago. A project dedicated to the theme of grandparent grief through the genre of poetry for the most part. My original title for the poetry was, “Plant Them A Garden,” but I saw the need to change this. Through my interaction with grandparents the title became apparent. I call the book idea, “Hidden Poetic Voices: A Reflective Work of Grief, Faith, and Poetry.


This labour of love has taken me into dark places and places of joy as I write the poems. There are poems written to draw out the horror and life changing sadness grandparents experience. I try to balance the horror with glimpses of hope.


To date I have over one hundred poems in progress. There is a process I use as I bring my poetry together. The poems all depend on the stories of grandparents who grieve. Most of the stories I hear or read focus on the death of a grandchild and how this grief impacts the lives of grandparents.



The Process

Please allow me to explain an idea of my process for writing my poetry. This process is like how I make soup as the cooler months come upon us. I often make a broth from a cooked turkey or chicken carcass. Bring the water to a boil and remove the carcass bones. Fresh as possible vegetables, as well as leftover turkey or chicken meat are added to the broth. Salt is added to the mix to taste. I never serve the soup on the day I make it. The soup is cooked on a low heat overnight. The next day the soup is tested for taste. Once I am satisfied the ingredients are ready to party the soup is enjoyed.


The illustration of how to make soup serves well as I write poetry. Each poem is a result of hearing stories of grandparents who grieve. Once a story is explained I take time to process the person’s grief experience. The story is the stock of the poetry. I begin to write a poem to capture the essence of the grief story. The words, thoughts, emotions, of the stories, are the ingredients of the poems. In time I will know when the book, the soup, is ready to serve.



The Voice

The most common opinion I hear from grieving grandparents is, “we don’t have a voice.” This need for a voice is my motivation for this project.


Grandparent voices are often hushed by the grief experience of their adult children. This is often a result of the grandparent’s attempt to be, “strong,” for their children. They believe their grief comes second to the grief of everyone else. When grandparents speak about their grief, they use few words. Their few words are often poetic and find their way into hearts and ears ready to listen.


In a culture known to deny or evade death and grief we must be gentle as well as real with our words. Every poem sent into the world through, “Hidden Poetic Voices,” is meant to comfort and heal those who grieve.


Although I am two years into this project I am not frustrated, neither do I have any intention of laying it aside. 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.”

Alan lives in Deroche, B.C. with his wife, Terry, and their poodle, Charlie. He contributed stories to Good Grief People by Angel Hope Publishing, 2017; Story by Story: The Power of a Writer, Unstoppable Writers Publishing, 2018; Easter Stories & More by InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship, 2021. He is currently working on a book expressing the grief of grieving grandparents entitled, Hidden Poetic Voices: A Reflective Work of Grief, Faith, and Poetry. Alan periodically writes articles for FellowScript Magazine. He has written posts for our InScribe blog since 2015. Blog: https://scarredjoy.ca.

October 17, 2022

In the Middle of Excuses by Lorilee Guenter


There are many projects on my work in progress pile. I am convinced I always will have a long list of projects. In fact, at least for me, this is a good thing. If I no longer have an in progress list, I am no longer trying new things and starting new writing or art. 

There are many ideas I never started. Some of those ideas I can no longer remember even vague details. I assume they are not important for me to work on at this time. I may have missed a window to work or they may just have been random ideas. I don't need to remember every idea. They are not all for me to work on. I also have unstarted projects or unaddressed ideas that continue to surface, as if nagging me to give them attention. I think these projects, though not officially started, belong on my work in progress list because I continue to give mental space to them.

The middle contains the mess. I need to make choices with regards to this list. I have made many excuses over the years for why things are not finished. My excuses often masquerade as good reasons. The need to finish research has stalled a few projects. The need to clean up a space to spread out a sewing project is another excuse dressed up as a reason. If I really wanted to I could make space long enough to finish, instead I hold back and hold onto the excuse. If the research isn't started; if space is not made or time set into the schedule; they all become an excuse. I am good at making excuses and disguising them. A few years ago I read a book that challenged me to test each reason and consider if the reason is really an excuse. In other words, does my reason have an excuse or a series of excuses holding me back from taking the next step. Almost always, the answer for me, is yes. 

Now that I have analysed down to the root of why projects remain on my work in progress pile, I can take steps to remove the excuses and work back up the chain until I have what I need to move the process forward. I wish I could say I recognize the excuses and root them out with action. I don't until I begin to become frustrated with a lack of progress finishing anything.

Excuses are only one cause of unfinished projects taking up space in my house and on my computer. Some things are not meant to be finished. This a category for me to use because it can excuse a lack of follow through. I have writing that when I pull it out to work on, I find it is not worth finishing. It was an exercise I needed at the time I started it. It taught me something. I return these to the unfinished pile in case God prompts me to go back to them to add to them or pull out character ideas from them. Mostly these are finished because they served their purpose, I just did not recognise that purpose at that time. It is easy for me to let fear move too many things into this category. Once that happens I have moved back into the territory of excuse. 

I am a work in progress. I make excuses. I let fear hold me back. I choose to let roadblocks stall projects that need to be completed. I hold onto project too long once they need to be released. Thankfully my Creator doesn't stop part way, he knows what to hold onto and what to release. Philippians 1:6 reminds me that God doesn't stop. He works on and with His creation until it is complete. He walks with me through the messy middles of life and writing. When I let Him, He resolves the tension of the messy middle by showing me the fear and excuses holding me back. Then He guides me through them.

Today I'm letting Him guide me and teach me through the projects I work on. Tomorrow I will have a choice to continue or to try to do it my way. Each day I choose to let God remove the excuses it is easier to hear His voice and follow His leading so that when tomorrow becomes today, I will once again let Him guide and teach me.

October 16, 2022

Help. I'm Stuck! By Carol Harrison

To be honest, I’ve been stuck so many times. Sometimes it’s happened in the middle of a project which is what our prompt is about this month. Yet there are times I can see the end in sight and inspiration fades, ideas hide, and I’m as stuck as when I’ve ended up with snow too deep for the car to continue moving forward. Once in a while, I’m stuck before I begin to put a great idea into practice, unable to move ahead. This often happens because of fear grabbing hold and walls of resistance rising up.

Right now, there’s a huge task called marketing demanding my attention. The thought scares me and I’d rather avoid it. But God recently reminded me that to be a good steward of the abilities He has given means not only writing the stories but also letting people know they exist. The self-promotion scares me to the point of inaction. At the Inscribe Conference in September, Grace Fox told us to quit worrying about building our platform and begin to think about feeding God’s sheep. This mindset adjustment focuses the attention off of me and onto God.


But how does that help me get unstuck from this need to market my books so readers will know they exist? How can I connect with them? I’ve begun to try a few things like having a booth at a craft or trade show and talking to people during the day. But there are other suggestions to consider such as starting a newsletter. I know it’s an idea which others have used. I receive some newsletters and enjoy getting to know the author through them. But to do one myself—I’m stuck.


I’m stuck in the muck of fear. When our cars get stuck, we rock back and forth as we attempt to resume our journey. Inches at a time we try and gain momentum. Sometimes that’s all it takes but at others we need some extra help. We need a push. It’s no different in our writing or marketing projects. Sometimes we just need someone to bounce ideas off of, glean knowledge from, or even get their expert help with technological issues.  

I’ve been rocking back and forth on the newsletter. Legitimate questions have been asked like how to even begin, what to include, and who to send it to. I admit I need help to get from idea of the newsletter to a trial run and finally building an email subscriber list. Help showed up as I spun my wheels and I’m grateful.  

Many questions now have answers. I’ve jotted ideas of what to include in my newsletter and a format for consistency in them. Those technological issues such as setting up Mail Chimp and learning how to use it have been taken care of. Everything is ready to proceed except me and my fear of beginning.  

A stronger push by a group of fellow writers to take that next step and do a mock up newsletter to send to myself happened this week. Encouraging words like, “You can do it. and just take one step at a time” means accountability. I don’t have to accomplish everything in marketing. I don’t even have to perfect a newsletter but I need to try.  

When the car is stuck and help has arrived to push as you rock the vehicle forward, you still need to keep your foot on the gas to gain that forward momentum and keep it going until you reach solid ground once again. I need to remember that analogy and keep taking the next steps, allowing the forward motion to propel me on to complete the next step and the next. It will bring a sense of accomplishment, quiet the negative voices playing in my mind, dispel the fear, and help me connect with others which is something I enjoy.  

No matter how stuck I am in a project, these steps of rest for a bit, rock back and forth with researching the answers to what has me stuck, and then accepting help to push me forward while keeping the momentum going will be what helps get unstuck.  

Now for the next step in this newsletter journey. If anyone is interested in receiving a monthly newsletter from me, just send me an email at carol@carolscorner.ca. Eventually I’ll get that technology of a subscribe button installed. But until then one step at a time.  



Carol Harrison often gets stuck and chooses to not follow what she knows has helped in the past but wiles away her time with reading or playing with her paper crafting both of which she enjoys and do help the creativity begin to flow again.