Writing Is Not a Safe Journey
Something recently happened in my life to remind me that writing is not a safe journey.
I signed a book contract with Elk Lake Publishing, which is amazing and wonderful …
Because as I started going over my manuscript again in preparation to send it to the editor, I realized I needed to add a chapter. Or two.
Possibly three …
Also, I needed to completely change the ending, and a little of the middle, because the “bad guy” (it’s a romantic suspense/mystery) turned out to be someone I had not originally intended it to be.
I love twists and turns and surprises.
Except when my characters pull them on my me.
Writers are supposed to write every day
If you don’t write every day, are you still a writer?
People fall firmly on one of two sides of this argument. For a long time, I believed that if I wasn’t writing every day, then I couldn’t call myself a writer. I didn’t deserve the label.
Now that I’m a writer under contract, I feel double, triple, quadruple the pressure to write daily. Or else I’m a huge fraud and probably don’t deserve the writing contract I already have, proving that I’m not an impostor.
So, when I don’t write every day? I fail to meet my own self-imposed expectations.
And we all know what we experience with unmet expectations, right?
This, for the writer, can manifest itself in a lot of different ways. For the writer mom, it generally manifests itself as feeling like a failure in everything. Or is it just me?
On Easter Sunday
I had been waking up at around 4 AM to get in a few uninterrupted hours of worktime before the kids got up, and before I had to do basically anything other than write. Those two hours between 4 and 6 AM are my sacred writing hours.
On Easter Sunday, I didn’t wake up until nearly 6.
By the time I had coffee and breakfast, I didn’t feel like writing. At all. And I didn’t have much time to do it, anyway, since we had to get ready to go to church.
After church, I ate lunch and took a nap, and my brain was so foggy, I could barely string a coherent sentence together, let alone a whole chapter or two.
Still, I kept telling myself:
“You’re not a writer if you don’t write every day.”
So, I forced myself to get the words out. I made it to slightly over 200 before my brain gave out on me completely.
Writing is not a safe journey, but it is an exhausting one
At about the same time my brain gave out on me, my husband’s nerves were giving out on him, since he’d gladly taken over the responsibility of keeping the house and the kids going for a couple of days while I was trying to meet a crazy goal of writing and editing 5000 words a day. He’d bitten off more than he could chew, apparently.
Or perhaps it was just Satan’s way of trying to throw a wrench in our relationship, as well as my writing schedule and energy.
He got frustrated. I got frustrated. He went back to fixing dinner as well as he could without my help because he refused to accept it, even after I offered. I sat in the bedroom crying, not writing or doing anything else productive at all.
My word count for the entire day stayed at 200-something. And even though I could safely say that I had written something, who knows how effective those words are? I’ve read over them since, and they seem okay. I’m hoping they stay that way through the final edits.
Still, I felt like a failure-as a wife, mother, and writer. All three.
Later, my husband and I made up, and we explained to the kids that we were not, in fact, going to get a divorce. Arguments don’t equal divorce in our family because we made a commitment to each other to stay married till death. We’re not giving up on that.
But I did want to give up on my writing, until my husband convinced me not to. I signed a contract. I made a commitment to this book and to the publishing company. I shouldn’t give up on those commitments any more than I would give up on my commitment to him.
“Take a break.” He hugged me. “You’ll feel better in the morning, and then you’ll be able to write better.”
I knew he was right, so I set my computer down for the day.
An inspiring quote at exactly the right time
On Monday morning, I started listening to a writing podcast about not giving up, and that podcast led me to some writing craft books.
I recently attended a mini-conference with ACFW’s DFW chapter, which is how I got connected with Deb Haggerty, who signed me on with Elk Lake. The keynote speaker was Kimberley Woodhouse, who recommended that writers should always be reading one book on craft.
I have read craft books before, of course, but it’s been a long time. I thought this would be the perfect time to take that advice. So, I picked up kind of a devotional for authors by Barbara Abercombie called A Year of Writing Dangerously. Daily nuggets of writing inspiration and wisdom.
And it was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my writing journey. Here’s an excerpt from today’s reading:
“There’s no way to glide gracefully into writing, no way to hide who we really are. There’s always that loud space of emptiness and silence when you start to write, whether you’re in a cabin or your bedroom or an office. There’s no way to guarantee a safe, easy journey into words on the page. It’s just you and your memory and experience and imagination. Naked.”
Barbara Abercrombie, A Year of Writing Dangerously
I realized that what I was trying to do Sunday was glide gracefully into the writing, and that just wasn’t happening. Maybe it won’t happen most of the time.
Writing is not a safe journey. Life is not a safe journey, and especially not the Christian life. Why should I expect Christian writing to be any different?
I’m reframing my expectations and my overall mindset. Yes, I’ll show up and write daily, if that’s what God wants me to do. But, more than a daily forced habit, I want my writing to be a daily walk of joyful of obedience.
That, above all else, is what I’m going to shoot for. And if that means resting instead of striving on occasion, then so be it.
After all, as my friends at Revelation Wellness are fond of saying, “Resting is not quitting.”
Originally published at https://mishaelaustinwitty.com on April 19, 2022.