Writing, while fun and deeply rewarding, is also a difficult, even overwhelming task. You might have guessed as much or even experienced it yourself. Before I started writing, composing a whole book seemed insurmountable. Now here I am on Book 5 of my series, and I can tell you writing comes with a set of difficulties I hardly imagined when I set out on my journey. I have picked five of the more common and problematic issues to talk with you about.
Of course, there is time management. My schedule is jam-packed with full-time work, motherhood, household tasks, mentoring, church, getting together with friends at least semi-weekly, and some other regular appointments I must keep. I somewhat expected this problem to arise. It was probably the main reason I felt I could not complete a project like the one I am on right now. Writing is a long-term commitment and requires devotion and set-aside time, something I was not sure I had when I started planning these books.
Given everything going on in my life, I do not know how I find time to write. I only know I have made it a priority to do so. Writing helps me sort through my experiences and feel more human, more me, and thus it is my go-to when I get home from a hard day and need some time alone. It takes the place of watching Netflix and other hobbies, such as crocheting, and I must make a conscious decision to use my time in this way. As I said earlier, writing is a commitment, and I must devote myself to the task as others devote themselves to sports or practicing musical instruments if I am to succeed.
Writer’s block was the other problem I foresaw when I began planning these novels. It comes up for two reasons in my experience—an emotional block or mental exhaustion. Being prone to depression and anxiety, when these conditions ramp up, I have a hard time concentrating and connecting with my characters. I am too much in my head at that point to funnel my emotional energy in any other direction. In addition, when I have written thousands of words or am tired from work, my mind is so scattered I cannot think about what my characters would say or do in a situation.
What do I do in these when this happens? Most times, I give myself a break, or at least that is what I ought to do. There are occasions I try to write anyway, which ends up just frustrating me and discouraging me further. Sometimes I try listening to my Children of the Glaring Dawn playlist, attempting to reconnect with the characters and scenes I have written or plan to write. Other times, I drink some coffee and find myself re-energized. In the end though, I need to be okay with doing something else. It is not disastrous to miss a day or even a week of writing. Sometimes it just takes a little space to reorient myself and dive back into a writing spree.
Coming Up for Air
One thing I did not suspect was how much my characters would mean to me or how deeply I would get caught up in their world. They are playing out the stories I tell myself, the narratives I have about life and people, and thus they are fascinating to me. They are the way I sort through my own experiences and understandings, and thus I can get lost in them. Then I must come back to the real world and interact with real people (who I do not know as well as my characters, mostly). I must face the fact that these other people have not the slightest idea of the adventure I have been on.
How do I reconcile this? For one, I feel like I am carrying around a beautiful secret, cherishing it until the right person and occasion comes along to reveal it. The times when someone shows a genuine interest in what I have been writing have been some of the most treasured moments of my life as I am sharing my heart, my very soul, in the form of a story. Second, I must continually make connections between reality and what I am writing to not lose myself for good in the story. I must reflect on why I write what I write—why a character says something a certain way, why a certain function of the world works the way it does. This way I ensure I am connected to the real world even in my creativity. I never want to lose that connection.
One of the most tempting things to do as a writer is to compare, whether it be our past work to our present or our work to someone else’s. I have fallen prey to this often, yet no good can come of it. Once you have published a work, you cannot change it, so comparing it to your present work after months or years of growth will only make you miserable. Comparing with others’ work leads to either a woeful sense of shame and inferiority or a haughty sense of superiority. Neither has served me well, making me blind to either the merits or faults of what I have written.
How do I avoid this, as tempting as it is? First, I make sure not to read my own past work or others’ work when I am feeling depressed or off-kilter. I know that I will draw unfounded conclusions based on my emotional state rather than on reality when I feel that way. Second, I go into every reading with a desire to appreciate and honor and laud the excellencies and worth and value of what I am reading. This is much easier said than done, and I can go into something with the best of intentions and end up bemoaning my writing flaws and shortcomings, anyway. Nevertheless, I must at least try to approach whatever I am reading with a positive and appreciative attitude.
Forget Where My Worth Lies
The final difficulty I will discuss, though far from the last difficulty of writing, is remembering where my worth lies. It is easy as a writer to define myself by what I produce, but as Jackie Hill Perry tells us at the end of this video, we are more than a commodity. It is easy to define myself by the value of what I create and by other people’s opinions. Online reviews and others’ responses to my writing can make or break me sometimes. Whether relief and pride or discouragement and shame result, this is an unhealthy mindset.
How do I break myself out of it, though? I reframe things in my mind. I am not a writer, rather I write. I am not an author, rather I compose books. I do things, but I am not those things. They are not what defines me. Rather, I am a daughter of God, loved by my Creator, redeemed by my Savior, and set to create for His glory. Ultimately, this is not about me, I must remind myself. This is how I combat this problem of forgetting where my value stems from.
Not Giving Up
You might have noticed that I did not include wanting to give up in my list of difficulties of writing. Strangely to me, this has not come up often, hardly at all, in fact. Even when I took a year and a half break after writing the first 100,000 words, this project was always on my radar. I would take my computer with me wherever I went just in case I got a sudden inspiration. My patience and devotion paid off, and I began writing again almost two years ago. I have never truly considered surrendering to incompletion.
Why not? I believe it is because I have seen the incredible value of writing in my life and also the merit in what I am writing. I am passionate about this project and about writing, the reasons for which you can read about here. The Children of the Glaring Dawn series has captured my attention and devotion. It is my art and my way of displaying the beautiful, sometimes heart-rending reality I find in the Story of all stories, and I pray you might discover something just as worthwhile in it yourself.