There comes a time in every writer’s life when he or she begins to despair of writing, when everything that has been produced seems like a collection of empty words, and where the desire to soldier on in pursuit of publishing seems to be a wasted endeavor. I recently went through a weird little writing distemper that took a bit of a toll on my mind and heart. In the past I’ve written about writer’s block but this was much different. When I have writer’s block I still desire to write; it’s just that at that particular moment I can’t. This was much more intense. I experienced a deep sense of loss over my writing – a feeling that nothing of what I had written before had ever really mattered, at least not in an eternal sense. I felt a total lack of desire to write anything of consequence for the foreseeable future, as if the muddy well of ideas within me had gone dry. There were a number of factors that contributed to this. The first was a prolonged period of work-related sleep-deprivation where I was getting only 3-4 broken hours of sleep a day. Added to that were rejections and non-responses from publishers about work I had submitted several months before. There were family issues and a host of household chores that needed my attention and the accompanying guilt that came from knowing I was not giving either my best. To top it off, there were stresses and changes at my work that were thrown into the mix for good measure, and the whole thing just led me to a deep and dark writer’s despair.
For weeks I was too tired and overwhelmed to even approach my keyboard, nor did I even have the desire to do so. I attempted to spend time reading my bible and listening to music, focusing on an upcoming summer hike and throwing myself into exercise, but these activities did little to lift my spirits. I was stuck in a pit of despondency of my own making and was in no mood to do anything as sensible as finding my way out of it. I knew on an intellectual level that writing would help break the cycle as it always had in the past, but emotional and physically stresses won out over the truth. I spent time on one of the writer’s websites I frequent looking for a distraction, but found too many collections of “random” thoughts from authors who were in a similar state of mind. Their brief, negative expressions of angst began to tear into my overly-empathetic soul, dragging me down to the places they now were sitting, adding to the already overcrowded pity party I had been throwing for myself. I thanked God that I didn’t give into temptation and begin writing my own collection of 187 three-lined free-verse poems about how miserable I happened to be feeling at that moment. It wasn’t that the poetry I was reading was meaningless; it’s just that in my inner madness such cries for significance were not what I needed at all.
So how did I break out of my little silly, sleepless, downhearted, dejected, whiny writing funk of which I spoke? The slow and steady beginning came when I made a deliberate choice to focus outside myself, something that seemed counterintuitive to a writer’s mind. My mind, however, needed a serious reboot and remaining in a self-centered state was not what I needed at all. I began by reinstituting family devotions with my wife and children; and to my surprise, I found that they took to them with great enthusiasm. Their insightful comments and beautiful prayers lifted my spirits and gave me a sense of hope. I also forced myself to attend the men’s weekly prayer times at our church, even though I found getting up at 5:30 in the morning a little difficult. Hearing my brothers sharing their struggles and raising their voices in praise broke through to my stubborn soul that was starved for something new. After that I started writing little love notes for my wife and buying flowers and going the extra mile to honor her in all she did for our family; and her response to my efforts was beautiful and gratifying – more than I deserved. Each time I put my melancholy self aside and ventured out into the world of other people’s feelings, I found myself talking another emotional step toward recovery.
We often forget that in order to rediscover the Spirit within that moves us to write, we must visit with Him where He lives and breathes in the lives of other people. We need to recognize Him in the music that each heart sings in its own unique way. We need to hear Him in the laughter and love of our families and friends and touch Him as we reach out to the sorrows and unmet needs of hearts that struggle to fill the emptiness within. We need to soak in the splendor of this world, broken as it is, but beautiful too. We need to get away and become still so that we can listen to the whispering words of the Savior who died to draw us to Himself in love. It’s a matter of reawakening those eternal memories, planted within us by an awesome and ever-living God, so that we can rediscover the timeless truth that we are loved with a perfect love, and that the voice inside us that usually blazes like a fire, can be fanned into a full flame once more. It’s in the connection we make to the world, to our purpose as agents of inspiration, and to the plan of our Great God set forth in time from timelessness, that we find the impetus to write with power and precision once more.
I’m back, writing with a new perspective, searching my soul for new songs and stories and uplifting words to stir hearts and lead weary souls to places of rest and refreshment. I may never be the author I sometimes dream I could be. I may never inspire more than a handful of hearts here and there. If that’s the case, I’ll continue to write anyway, for it’s in writing that I come closer to the One who places those words within my heart and moves me to share them with any ear that will listen. I’ll be content to let them flow out into the ether of the Internet until they find their way to the ones who were meant to read them and find hope and healing. I hope that those of you who write and have found your way out of your own writer’s despair will allow these words to resonate within your fiery hearts, and I hope that you’ll keep on “writing the good write” and pressing on, even when the dark times come and you find the words, “I quit!” bubbling up from within. Together let us fill this broken world with words that renew and refresh as we cause a few quitters to change their minds and chose to start again! God bless!