Friday, September 9, 2011

Writing by Living

I get very frustrated when I'm not able to write. Sometimes life is too busy. Other times, like recently, I'll carve out time to write, but then just kinda sit there. Everything I write feels flat or unoriginal. The voices of self-doubt are pounding louder than usual.

Right now I'm suffering from some creative burnout. My initial reaction was to be angry. I would growl at myself that I just needed to suck it up and keep going. And if I know in my heart that I'm just being lazy, this is an okay thing to do. But I'm not being lazy. I'm tired. Run down. Weary. Creatively dry. Whatever you want to call it.

It is okay to not be writing - that's what I'm having to remind myself. It is okay to need a vacation. It is okay to need a break. The best thing to do, the fastest way to get my creative muscles back in shape, is to take the time off that I need.

I don't know where you are at the moment. Maybe you're in that glorious place where writing feels fun, where your thoughts are always wandering to your storyworld, where the words are coming so quickly, you can hardly get them down. Good for you! (I made myself put that exclamation point there. In reality - please forgive me - I'm jealous and saying that through gritted teeth.)

Maybe you're like me, in the desert, and you need some space from your work. Take it. If you're honestly burned out and not just being lazy, take the time away and don't come back until you feel the pull back to your story, the longing to be with your characters. (Unless you're under contract. If you like your job, I don't recommend telling your editor that you won't be making your deadline due to a creative drought.)

Or maybe you're in that frustrating place where life is too full for writing. Where you can squeak in a blog post or maybe 100 words a day, but you've got 3 AP classes this semester, you're in the fall play, and you just started dating this great guy (or girl) and that's taking up a lot of time...

In those busy times, I encourage you to think of being in a "story gathering" season. You're spending time living and that will only strengthen your writing. As an example, these people take up a lot of my time:

But they are also my life. Aside from all the other wonderful things they are to me, they, in many ways, are the words on my page. I know that's a little cheesy, but it's honest. Even though they are the people who demand the most from me (especially those two little ones) they are also the ones who color my world, who help make my characters and their situations matter to me.

In my early drafts of  Me, Just Different, 15-year-old Abbie Hoyt miscarried. During my third rewrite of that story, I was several months pregnant with McKenna. I could not make Abbie miscarry. It made me cry every stinking time I tried to write it that way. 

In So Over It, when Amy Ross is sharing about a baby she lost when she was 20 weeks along in her pregnancy, I was 20 weeks pregnant with Connor. I bawled my way through that scene (and the research for it!)

If you're like me, it's very easy to get frustrated when writing time isn't happening. But even if you're not putting your pen to paper every day, if you're out there living, you're doing something for your writing.


  1. So true. Ignoring our need for refreshing and renewal will do nothing but make us more parched and tired. There's a reason God gave us rules for taking sabbaths and holidays!

  2. That's a great post. I often have to remind myself that it's OK to take some free time and spend it, well, freely. It makes me feel better knowing someone else sees it the same way too :)

  3. Loved reading this, Stephanie! Sometimes I push so hard, I kill my creativity. Thanks. :-)

  4. Great post! This is actually something that I've been learning recently as well. I'm a senior in high school now going to a a Christian school, but up until now I've been homeschooled since 9th grade and focused on nothing but writing. Since going to school, and since I started dating this guy a couple months ago, I've barely had any time to write. However, I've been able to come up with many story and character ideas just by putting writing to the side for a couple months and living my life.

    By the way, I'm currently reading "Out With The In Crowd". Love it! Can't wait to read more of your books. =)


  5. College is keeping me way too busy to write anything (non-assignment related) right now, but seeing all the lost people there (it's a secular college) has reminded me of how many people need to hear about Christ's love. So, when I have time to really start writing again, I can keep them in my mind to motivate me. :-)

  6. Just read your post. I will not cry. I will not cry. I'm back on track and writing -- quite a bit actually. However, I have to say, I was SO WHERE you are talking about not long ago. I'm not a violent person, but I sure can beat up on myself something fierce when I'm not living up to my own expectations. And with writers' conference coming up, I feel as if I've failed miserably because I'm not going to meet the goals I set before myself. I so hate disappointing people, even when it's just me.

    So, thank you, dear Stephanie, for sharing your heart and in the process -- touching mine. You've managed to somehow make me feel validated and understand my own feelings a little more.

    Thank you. God sent you and your post to bless me today.

  7. Very awesome post. :) I need to take this to heart more often.

  8. This post is very true, and something that I constantly need to remind myself.

    I've been a home schooled my entire life, I graduated highschool this last school year. Because I graduated in three years, I decided to take this "leftover year" just to write, to see if this is what God is calling me to do. Now, that everyone else is starting school, I feel like the pressure is on for me to start pumping out the stories... yet, my brain has not totally been working with me as of late. It's frustrating and annoying, but sometimes that's exactly when God speaks to us the most-in the annoyances of life. Okay, and now I'm starting to ramble... ;)

    Thanks, Stephanie, for the reminder that by
    living you can write. :)

  9. I really actually was in a play -- our school just did four shows of "Oliver". I had a solo, eek, but now that I've lived something new, experienced something different -- it's a new emotion, new knowledge to write about. Living is definitely a majorly important part of writing. If you just sit at your desk all day, well, we'll most likely find ourselves writing the same things over and over!

  10. I suppose everyone at one time experiences writers' block. I remember I had it seriously bad when I was little(r). Thanks for the post :) It made me realize that you don't have to be writing on paper to get ideas. :)

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  13. I was out "living" when this post went live (as in, I was on vacation) so I wasn't able to respond to your comments, but I did enjoy them!