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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing

I don’t like roller coasters. Never have.

Yet writing is one of the most significant emotional roller coasters you can put yourself on in life. Sometimes the writing roller coaster gets stuck at the most precarious of places in my life and I want to jump off and go screaming for the hills.

Take today for instance. The start of a four day weekend. As someone employed outside the home, I am gone for 13 hours each work day and by the time I get home, eat dinner, take care of the dog, do laundry, etc. there’s nothing left of me to give me to the writing life. So I have to make the most of my days off when they come.

Here I have a rare 4 day weekend, three of which I can use to write to my heart’s content (except on Sundays). But despite the fact that I’ve received some wonderful writing encouragement recently, I woke up this morning feeling almost panicked about the writing day ahead. It’s a feeling of utter incompetence; of asking myself why on earth I’m trying to write something as complex as a novel and who am I to think I could do such a thing anyway? A feeling of simply not being equal to the task. The feelings of fear are running high right now. And here half of my first day free has already slipped away. I’ve done dishes, laundry, sorted through some stuff that needed to be put away – basically all I could think to do to avoid that which makes me fearful – writing.

But the dishes are washed and put away now. The last load of clothes is in the wash and just needs to be hung. I’m out of excuses (except for figuring now’s a good time to blog) 8-)

Most of the time I can discipline myself fairly well with the novel writing task. But sometimes the fear feels so great here in my writing office that I could swear I could reach out and physically touch it. But I have to overcome it.

A large part of the fear is because I so deeply love my story concept that I am fearful of doing it poorly. I mean in my head this story is an epic! I can visualize it in screenplay format as well as book form. It is powerful and sweeping and emotional and makes people think about themselves and the ways they relate to one another.

It’s all well and good to have that epic story churning in my head. But transferring the epic to paper is a whole ‘nother thing entirely.

So how do I overcome that fear hurdle? One hour at a time. One day at a time. I was just looking at my Bible and I sought out three particular verses:

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9 (NLT)

This verse speaks precisely to what I am feeling right now. The Lord would never have instilled in me this desire to write if He didn’t have a plan for me. I’ve had lots of other desires and dreams that faded over time, but the desire to write has never wavered. So I need to trust Him to use that desire in the way He has planned.

There’s a similar verse in Isaiah that I have studied this morning:

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

- Isaiah 41:10 (NLT)

I actually printed this out on a sheet of labels and stick them on my notebooks that I use for writing so that I will see it and be reminded of it every day.

And finally, there’s a third verse I draw strength from today – it’s right across the page from Isaiah 41:10. This verse helps me, feeling overwhelmed as I am with a multitude of physical problems that seem to suck the life out of me:

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

- Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

So now the question is – am I just going to read these verses or am I going to live them? Am I going to believe His word to me or am I going to let fear of failure consume me?

I want to see what God will do in the life of a faithful servant, so with His strength, I plan to push on. Fear may attack me again two hours from now. But each time I need to use the opportunity to re-focus my attention back on Him. After all, He is the Creator.

1 comment:

Patti Shene said...

Yes, Brenda, I can relate so well to what you are saying! My 4 day w/e has my working, but on the night shift where I can bring my laptop and write during my free time. However, like you, I find excuses to do all the things I can do anytime. Review records, do audits, even catch up on magazine reading. It is amazing how we writers shoot ourselves in the foot with our procrastination! Thanks for the great scripture references. I will refer to them often to help me gain the courage to continue and will pray the same for you.