Taking Care of the Author in You

This year was difficult for me. Unlike other writers who produced a few books during the pandemic, I went into sleep mode. My productivity wasn’t what I wanted. Even after retiring from my job in August I still struggled to get my productivity to the level it needs to be.

The one writer’s conference I attended this year had a week-long class call Soul Care for the Writer. I so needed that encouragement. Most of the time I would choose a continuing class on writing craft or marketing. But not this year. There were four of us in that class. Four women, who were honest about their need for spiritual refreshing. I came away feeling not only reconnect with Jesus but reconnected with who I am and why I write.

Quiet time

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The instructor encourages us to take time for ourselves. For me as a believer it is so easy to forget to spend that time in God’s presence when I’m trying to get writerly things done. When I sit before the Lord my day is better.

Journaling

She encouraged us to journal the insights we get during our quiet time. And have a prayer journal. Taking the time to write our prayers down slows my racing mind and makes me focus on the words on the page and the things in my heart I am praying about. Going back to The Word of God reminds me that I am His and His peace and confidence rest on me.

What a difference that time with the Lord makes in my focus. God gave me the gift of words. Now I am more connected to the source as I write. Even as I write fiction He is there with me easing my doubts and fears.

Tackling the Giant

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The biggest giant a writer faces is Fear. We start our writing journey as a wide-eyed optimist expecting everyone to love our words. We believe it is a best-seller. Then our critique groups shows us weaknesses. (We feel they hate it.) Editors reject it with out explanation. (We feel unworthy.)

Now we listen to The Voice in our head that tells us everything we write is crap. It’s a waste of time and why not just quit. This is the personification of the fear within us. We get so focused on what others think or say (our interpretation of what they said with a negative spin.)

This is the time to shine the light of truth on the fear. Spending time in prayer, listening to His voice helps build a wall around our hearts. Affirmation from His Word will help change our thinking. Friends who support our chosen vocation and support us in prayer are priceless gifts.

Failure is an option

The only way to fail at writing is to stop. Stop learning the writing craft. Stop exploring new markets and marketing. Stop going to your critique group. Throw your writing away and don’t look back.

Path may change

We may have the great American novel in us or on our computer. But God may direct us to write something else. A fellow fiction writer was at a Book Expo checking out fiction publishers. She noticed an academic publisher’s table and the germ of an idea came to her. She pitched it right then and there to the publisher and got a contract to write a cookbook. The notoriety she is getting for this book is building her platform. Platform is essential no matter what you write. In the future, her novel has the potential for good sales with her established cookbook fan base. All because she listened to the prompting from God and willingly walked a new path.

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Don’t feel guilty

It is important to have time away from your laptop. I am so intrigued by my friend Pegg. She raises sheep for their wool. Then cards it, spins it and knits it into wonderful items. She also cans many things she grows on her farm. All this while writing novels and editing others. Her hobbies keep her grounded. Another writer friend does photography and uses her photos as part of her social media platform. She loves taking a walk with her camera.

I know me and I am not crafty and I often forget to photograph events I attend and the beauty of nature. I love reading and being taken away to new places for a few hours. Do I truly have a hobby? Something that relaxes me and allows my subconscious to tackle story points while my heart listens to His voice.

I color. Yep. You read that write. I enjoy turning on background music and getting out colored pencils and coloring books and spends some time using my hands doing something unrelated to writing. Lately, I’ve discovered Word Find puzzles. I prefer them to crossword puzzles because I don’t have to guess the answer. The hobby doesn’t have to be making gifts for others or something you can sell. But it does need to be something you enjoy. It can be something you share. I love walking with my husband.

Closing thought

This writing life is stressful enough. Add the pandemic and other unexpected disruptions in our lives and we feel bogged down. I hope these few suggestions help you refocus.

What do you do to refocus?

Penning Words on a Page Helps Heal Grief

This past weekend my brother-in-law passed away. He had been very unwell. My husband felt peaceful at his passing. There were tears as well. Then Charley took the time to pen the following on Facebook.

My brother-in-law Kenneth Huff loved to fish.

My brother-in-law Kenneth Huff loved to fish.

As a writer I am expected to be able to find the right words to express what is in the heart. Today as my brother died and slipped into the pages of ancestor lists and left me the lone survivor of everyone who completed my family when growing up (not counting cousins), I have no words to explain what I feel. I can only say it is nothing like I had imagined. I am thankful I am not alone, and I know I will never be alone. In a little while I will stop looking back at the ones who have passed, will turn around, and with the biggest smile look for what still lies ahead. I refuse to believe that I will ever reach “the point where life takes away more than it gives.” (Co-professor to Indiana Jones, last episode)

It may never win him a Pulitzer Prize but it does bring healing and closure for him. When my sister died I wrote her eulogy. It was only read to a few people who cared about our family. But it too brought healing.

Not everything writers pen sees the light of publication. Our gift of words serves many purposes. In times of loss it ministers to our souls. Even in times of trouble, trials and loss don’t desert your gift of words. Fill your journals with your emotions and memories. Let the grief and anxiety and confusion fill page after page.

When I pen my grief I feel a connection with my Heavenly Father that verbal communication can’t reach at this time. My lips may be silent but my heart is full. The grief needs to fall out of me onto paper. Some thoughts and feelings need not be expressed to another human. But my God sees those words and caresses me with understanding. Then as I write my impressions of that caress and the words I hear him whisper into the ear of my soul I find peace.

That peace may evolve into something publishable. If not. No matter. The sorrow of others will be easier to empathize with because I have written my secret needs in a letter to my Father in heaven. I know he can carry my friends and family through their grief as well.

Write for yourself while you go through tough times. Let your words be the key to your recovery.

Charley in the foreground with his older brother Kenny a Christmas in the 1950s.

Charley in the foreground with his older brother Kenny a Christmas in the 1950s.

RIP Kenneth Huff.

Do you use your gift of writing to sooth your own hurts or anxieties?

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