Every writer (or ANY creative, for that matter) has struggled with the disappointment of not having the time or energy to write.
*hugs* I know how hard it can be.
This post is for you. I hope it encourages you.
Note: This blog post was inspired by my sweet friend, Joellen Kemper. I was talking with her about this subject last week. Every conversation with her leaves me filled with inspiration and insight. She is such a treasure. Go follow her! And then read on.
As a writer dealing with health issues, I’m not always able to write as much as I want to.
I am often frustrated and saddened because of this, and overwhelmed at the pent up feeling of stories bubbling inside me that can’t get out.
So how do we find peace about this? How do we find satisfaction and perspective?
We need a new mindset.
There are several practical ways that writers with chronic health issues (or writers who are strapped for time in any capacity) can embrace a better mindset towards their limited writing time.
Learn to Accept A Broader Definition of Storytelling.
I have a very bad habit of compartmentalizing my writing. If I’m not drafting on a fictional story, I don’t count it as progress. My Instagram posts, my blog posts, my newsletters, editing – I don’t count it as “real writing.”
This, obviously, is rather foolish and puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on me.
But I don’t just compartmentalize my writing, I compartmentalize my life. When I’m going about regular life, cleaning or eating or praying or whatever, I don’t count that as writing.
But I think I should. I think all of the parts of our life that we don’t think of as “real writing” should not be dismissed, but placed respectfully in the category of “experience.”
In the days or seasons when we’re not writing, we don’t stop living, we don’t stop learning and growing. All the things that are “distracting us” from what we really want to be doing, are actually part of the story we are going to tell. Life is the raw material, the mold, the classroom. The times when we aren’t writing are still shaping us as writers.
For instance, I have a story that I hope to publish in T Spec Fiction’s second issue that I consider the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s called Out of the Ashes and the heroine is struggling with wanting to give up on life. I never could have written such raw depression or hope if I hadn’t gone through some of the things that I have experienced. I needed that “real life” to help me write that story – it was vital material that I could recall when I was finally ready to put that kind of pain on paper.
We aren’t losing time when we’re not drafting, we’re researching.
Another way we can stop compartmentalizing our writing is to embrace the idea of non-fiction and “micro fiction.”
A story doesn’t necessarily have to be fiction.
A story doesn’t have to be long or complicated to be powerful.
A story – simply put – is relating a truth beautifully, skillfully, and in a way that captures and impacts your audience.
A brief bedtime story whispered to a child. Telling a funny dream to a family member over breakfast. A blog post relating something wonderful. An Instagram post talking about a beautiful sunset.
They’re all stories.
Conversations and comments can change lives just as much as books. Words, in whatever way they are used, are powerful. We need to see ourselves not as writers, but as word warriors. Once we expand the definition of storyteller, we become less frustrated, gain a clearer vision of our calling, and become more satisfied with what we are able to accomplish.
But I know how hard it can be to hold on to satisfaction. Most of the time, writers are never satisfied.
We abandon projects, we don’t really finish them. While struggling to wrangle one into submission, we are thinking yearningly of another. And, no matter how much we write, there is always more, beating at our backs and shouting in our ears for our attention.
But the sad fact is, I will never, ever, be able to write on all the ideas currently rattling around in my head. Nobody has that kind of time.
To gain peace about our limited writing time, it is imperative that we do the following.
We must pray about our work, and seek God’s guidance on what we should be working on while we’re here on Earth. AND, when we should be writing.
Let me put it this way.
We all need to eat, and God gave us a natural desire to do so. He gave us the sensation of hunger to let us know that our body requires more energy. Let’s call it the hunger drive.
Just as the desire to eat keeps us interested in eating, the endless imagination of a writer works as a sort of hunger drive, keeping us writers doing what we’re meant to do—write.
But natural drives and instincts can be bothersome if they’re not disciplined. Tthe crazed need to eat a Twinkie when we’re supposed to be fasting has to be conquered, at least for a time. The desire to overeat has to be overcome for the sake of our good health. In the same way, the story drive must be conquered, disciplined, corralled, and, at times, ignored.
Just as in eating, we need to be regular writers, to keep ourselves full of energy and life. We need to be disciplined writers, not given to gluttony (I want to write this, or I want to write now, or I want to write more, etc). And we must learn that, some times, there are more important things that temporarily supersede our desire to work on our stories.
Because writers are part of a bigger story. The Earth is a stage, and we are the ensemble cast in the most complicated epic that was ever written. We are part of a bigger story that encompasses far more than just our own goals or stories or imaginations. Though God designed us to enjoy telling stories, He had a purpose in mind for us when He gave us the gift of words, and it’s up to us to listen to Him and to obey His leading.
And that purpose is to tell the world about Him.
No matter how many times writers deny writing allegories, they can’t change the fact that every story IS an allegory. Every theme we’ve ever known is based off of some part of God’s character – redemption, justice, true love, etc. All stories, in the end, are either about God Himself , or our relationship with Him.
As Christian storytellers, our task is to relate eternal truth through stories, whether they are fiction or non-fiction.
But that doesn’t have to cause fear or pressure. God knows exactly what words He wanted us to share when He dreamed us into existence. He already has a plan for our writing. If we surrender to Him every day, if we seek His wisdom and ask Him for guidance on what we should be writing, and then obey when He answers us – then, we don’t have to be afraid of missing the mark.
We must believe and trust that whatever words God wants us to speak or write WILL be spoken or written in our lifetime. If we remain in His will, we will not die before our purpose in life has been accomplished.
It could be one single work of fiction. It could be a conversation or a blog post or even a live stream. It could a series of books or a devotional. Whatever words God ordained for me to speak, will be spoken, if I obey His leading. He is the Giver of Words, and it is up to me to be an open channel, to ask and to want Him to speak through me.
“But what about that feeling of frustration of not being able to write everything?” you might ask.
I think, that too, will one day be taken care of.
I’m a writer now, but I believe that this is just the beginning of what it means to be a writer. I believe that what I do now is a mere reflection of some greater purpose and job reserved for me in the future.
I believe that our talents in life, the jobs that we are really good at, are what we will be doing in the new Heavens and the new Earth. Only it will be bigger and better than anything we know here.
A little frustration on Earth for a limited time can be endured when we know we shall one day be filled to the brim with stories. Our souls will finally be satisfied and satiated by perfect art and perfect creativity—because we are no longer separated from the Source of Creative Perfection.
One day, I shall tell perfect stories. They shall be unmarred by human sinfulness or ignorance. I will be relating things I’ve never dreamed of, perhaps even using words that I’ve never known before.
I shall finally be the writer I most want to be. There will be no more ambition, no more dreams about fame and fortune, no more neediness for an audience to like my work, and no more comparison with other storytellers.
What storytelling might look like in Heaven, no one can say, since “the eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has planned for those that love him.”
But, since I am a storyteller, I can’t resist speculating.
Perhaps we will be telling angels stories about our times of worship with God the Father. The Bible tells us that “Even angels long to look into these things.” Will we be the living stories that angels eagerly watch; their only way of learning more of the mysteries of what it is to be a child of God?
Perhaps we will be the greeters at Heaven’s gates, urging the newcomers in and telling them about the wonders ahead, like the man in C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.
Praise is a form of storytelling – our praise tells stories about our Creator and Savior. Sometimes praise is a communal form of storytelling, sometimes we’re telling the stories to ourselves, and sometimes we are telling the stories to God himself, for His glory. Perhaps we will be leading heavenly praise teams! –expressing truths to our fellow brothers and sisters in ways we never have before.
You never know. At least, not yet.
But we will.
Maybe today, right now, you have to wait, and it’s hard. I know how heartbreaking it can be when the stories simply can’t get out due to our busy or difficult days.
But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Whether I am agog with joy on a good writing day or learning to surrender on days when I can’t string a sentence together – I never want it to distract me from my ultimate career goal: a storyteller in the courts of Heaven or on God’s new Earth, finally telling the greatest story of all for His glory.
In the end, God is the one who gives us the words, and He is the one that allows us to write at all. And, ultimately, He wants my heart and soul, not just my words.God is the Ultimate Author, and He’s writing my story with a vision and a clarity that would put any plotter to shame. But, as the character, I don’t always see where it’s going, and sometimes it feels too fast or too slow. But God’s timing is the perfect pace.
Sometimes He’s outlining on me, carefully constructing a structure for my future. Sometimes He’s leading me through back story, making me pause and reflect on what He has already done in my life. Sometimes He’s word sprinting on me so fast I can’t keep up and sometimes He’s editing me, with a precision that can be painful.
Just look at the pages of the books besides you or the blinking cursor on your computer. It’s not easy for your main character, is it? We put them through all kinds of trials, because we are looking forward with delight to what this character will become at the end.
In the same way, Christ is leading us through a character arc to a happy ending, one of pure satisfaction and fulfillment, where we finally reach our true potential and become what He intended us to be.
If we are true children of Christ, who have humbled ourselves as sinners and clung to Jesus as our only Savior, then our stories never end, they are only ever “to be continued.”
Turn the page—and trust.