Writing by faith: timing

Pocket Watch Clock Watchmaker Art Time Of Movement

Hi All,

Something I’ve been learning a lot about lately is how to include God in my writing, specifically how to write with Him. I’d like to write a couple of posts on how this has been affecting my life, so I thought I would start with timing.

Let’s talk about it.

When I was in high school, I remember getting super knotted up in editing or writing and just driving myself crazy with wanting to move forward. I would sit at my desk for hours knowing things weren’t working but unable to step back because I just couldn’t stop. The drive to keep going, to fix things, was just too real.

When things got like that, it was always an indication to me that I needed to take a break, that my writing was taking up too large of a portion in my life and that I needed to step back to breathe. Usually, that meant taking a few days off to cool down, sometimes a little more, sometimes less.

Now things don’t usually get nearly that bad. Some of that has simply come with time, the common realization most writers have that sometimes you really do just need rest, a break, or time for your brain to think. Everyone has bad writing days, and that just comes with the territory.

But there’s another layer to this that I’ve discovered, and tapping into it has really helped me whenever I feel stressed out. That layer is trust.

What I mean by that is this: God is the God of all time. He knows what I need, my deadlines, my stories, and my mind. If I put Him and His priorities first, if I listen to Him about when I need to write and focus or rest and wait, I will get done everything that I really, truly need to get done.

If that sounds a little wishy-washy or naive, let me give you an example.

My writing group meets approximately once a month. Since I’m in the middle of editing the first draft of the novel I’m currently sharing with them, that often means I’m trying to edit just ahead of that deadline, with about three weeks to re-write and fine-tune a chapter before I hand it in for review. I also blog twice a month here in addition to whatever world-building, plotting, or editing that needs to take place based on previous feedback. I write 3-4 days a week, 2-3 hours at a time, which gives me about 48 hours a month max. Subtract time for bad writing days, Facebook surfing (*slaps wrist*), or life coming in, and you can start to see how time gets away from me.

So a couple months ago, I was trying to get my chapter in, and the chapter was just not gelling. I was teetering on the edge of panic mode because I didn’t want to miss the deadline (though to be fair, if I don’t have a chapter in, it’s really not a huge deal), it was a busy week, and I wasn’t sure when I was going to have the time.

I had two options: A. Let the deadline consume my thoughts and stress write my way through to the end even when I knew things weren’t working or B. Trust God would give me the time and solutions I needed to get everything done even if me being present for other people, family, friends or activities meant I wouldn’t have as much writing time.

I chose option B.

And, guess what? It worked. In the final hours I had to work on the project, inspiration struck, and I handed my chapter in minutes before having to leave to go to something else.

That experience has been a useful reminder to me since then that God’s timing does work. I don’t have to stress myself out that I won’t get everything done. God knows what I need and if I do things His way, trusting Him, He’ll take care of the rest.

And that’s great in the short term. People meet deadlines all the time, but what about the larger scope?

Let’s talk about that, too.

Enter, as ever, Machine.

About the time I was going to leave for my DTS, I was really struggling with that terrible beauty of a book. I’d been working on it for about eight years, and it seemed the more I worked on it, the less happy I became. Plot problems I’d tried to bury kept popping back up like the undead, character decisions and moments seemed clunky or wrong, and my hope that I was ever going to get it where it needed to be had worn tremendously thin.

It was all I had ever wanted to publish as an author and after nearly a decade of hard work, I was ready to throw in the towel.

Then DTS, transformation, abject desperation, and grace.

During that time I realized just how much I’d been doing alone, how much I’d kept God out.

I also realized just how much was knotted up in that book, and how unhealthy some of that was.

As in high school, I needed a break.

And I did take a break, sort of, for nearly a year. I realized Machine had to be re-written, and even made that announcement here.

But the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became. Several key issues at the start that I’d largely ignored still needed answers, and none would come. I thought I stumbled upon one at one point, but even that would destroy the whole second novel, one of the strongest books I’ve written to date. Something still seemed off, so I decided to wait.

And as I did, I realized something: I still had more to live before I was ready to write that book.

Which is kind of where I still am with it, waiting for that inspiration to come.

Now for those writers of you out there, you might be worried, thinking, “Never wait for the muse to come, you just have to sit down and write!” And that is true, often, that you just have to sit and do it, but with Machine, that’s not quite right. Because I know that in this case, I really do just have to wait. There are more experiences for me to live before I’ll be ready. Who knows what day that will be. I hope I’ll recognize it when it comes.

Letting go of Machine was and sometimes still is one of the greatest struggles I’ve ever faced. I’d heard so many stories of people who had thrown their first book in the drawer and never pulled it out again, feared for so long that if I let it die, God might not bring it back. Choosing to set it down was one of the hardest, scariest decisions I’ve ever made as a writer.

And yet, I have peace about it. I trust God will bring it back. I know that this is one of my passions and that God knows and cares for my story. In fact, when I ask Him about it, the main emotion I get back is usually excitement. He has plans for Machine, and I know without a doubt that I can trust it in His hands. He can’t wait to get started on this with me…whenever it is that I’m ready. I believe this with all of my heart.

In the meantime, there’s been healing. Things I thought were dumb or would have to be removed or redone, God has restored, reminding me why I love and care about this world and these people in the first place. I’ve had ideas about how to market my books; had people speak specific, encouraging things over me about my work, sometimes out of the blue; and even had a general restoration of my passion for these stories. I’m working on another project that I love, thinking fondly instead of despairingly about my other works, and in the back always wishing and hoping for the day Machine comes back.

It’s been a long journey, but I know I can trust Him. The rest will come with time.


So, how about you? Do you believe in God’s timing? Have you had experiences with it? What about times you’ve been impatient? Have you ever had to let go? Tell me in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, follow me here on the blog or via the social media links in the sidebar. Thanks for reading!

Closing the creative gap

Ira Glass has a quote on creativity, as follows:

Now, I know I’ve mentioned this quote before on here, but it’s been floating through my mind again lately, and I wanted to share a few strategies I’ve been using to actually close that gap, to create the volume of work he mentions above.

Make time

This one sounds obvious, but you wouldn’t believe how easy it is for life to tug your time away. Make a schedule for yourself. Find gaps in your calendar, and make them if they don’t exist. If you can, try to find the times that work best for your natural creative rhythms and work doing those.

Protect your time

Once you’ve worked out your creative schedule, stick to it. Now, I know things come up. They do, and that’s fine. But you are the only person who is going to advocate for this time. Nobody else will. So set boundaries. Enforce them. Go someplace else if you’re being distracted or pulled away where you normally work. Don’t feel guilty for following your passion, either. You are the only person who can do your work, and it’s important. Keep holding your boundaries, and eventually other people will learn to respect them too.

Be flexible

All that being said about boundaries and schedules, remember that no matter what your work is, people are ultimately more important. It’s good to maintain healthy boundaries and to be diligent and work hard, but if you’re missing every important event in the lives of those you love, you probably need a break. People will always matter more.

Set goals

For me, this can look like a variety of different things. One example is writing two blog posts a month. Another is having something ready for my writing group whenever we meet. Sometimes it’s as simple as setting a timer and making sure that I write for a solid thirty minutes at a time. Whatever your goal looks like, make sure that it’s reasonable, and give yourself the tools you need to achieve it (for example, scheduling enough time, having people to hold you accountable, or buying a timer). Also, as writer Steven James points out in this helpful article (no really, read it. It’s short), try not to set your goals by something that may not be realistic or within your control. After all, diligence can only go so far when the creative juices run dry, and there’s no reason for you to feel discouraged when it’s just an off day.

Rest

Another obvious one that’s easy to miss, sometimes your brain or body just needs a rest. For me, as a writer, this could mean eye strain, hunger, a lack of tea (of course), needing more sleep, or simply running out of creative steam for the day. For you, it might look different, but learn your signs that you need to take a break. Be especially aware of when you need to take a longer break. For example, when I was younger, I used to get so knotted up and frustrated when I was trying to get something to work on Machine that I would drive myself crazy. When that would happen, when I knew I was forcing everything and getting nowhere, that was when I knew I needed to step back and take a break not just for a few minutes, but for a couple of days, sometimes longer. If your creativity is swallowing you alive and making you miserable, if you’re throwing yourself at the wall until your head is bleeding, consider giving yourself time to recharge. Anne Lamott has a great analogy about the subconscious, a sort of child living inside you that knits things together before passing them up to your mind. Sometimes, you just need to give that child time to work.

Refuel

Tied into the idea of rest is the idea of refueling. For me, that means spending time with family, friends, Jesus, and good art. Each one of these fills me up in a unique way, not only creatively, but also as a person. They also remind me why I do what I do, getting me back to center when I start to stray, and setting the standard for what I hope to do or be. As a recent example, I’ve recently been discovering some new (to me) YA books that I like, and reading them has been reminding me of things like the pleasure of reading (part of what I want to give), why I like YA (purpose), and what good writing looks like (what I hope to do). Other kinds of art stretch my horizons, challenge my thinking, and otherwise fill me up too.

Be accountable

I’ve only discovered the importance of this one in recent years, but it has definitely changed my writing life. If you want to do creative work, having people hold you accountable to do it is one of the easiest ways to make sure you actually get it done. This can look different for everyone. For me, it looks like a list of blog posts on the sidebar, ordered and numbered by month, a writing group that meets monthly, and writing friends that sit in the same room as me to get work done. The last two have been especially helpful in helping me meet deadlines and get work done. This can also look like you holding yourself accountable. Looking at your goals, make sure you’re taking the steps you need to achieve them, and be specific. Make deadlines, tell others what you plan to do, and remind yourself why it’s important that you do it.

Give grace

 

Perhaps most importantly, remember to give yourself grace. As the video says above, you need to work, and work hard, but don’t give up in the middle. Be okay with it if you don’t get in quite as much writing as you’d hoped to, or it isn’t as good as you want yet, or you’ve been rejected again. Keep pushing through, keep trying. Someday, it will come.


What strategies do use to create your volume of work? Anything I missed? Any tricks or helpful hints? Let me know in the comments below, and if you want more content like this, feel free to follow me here on the blog or on social media using the links in the sidebar.