Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Getting unstuck

The title of this blog post is actually not quite the truth. As I write this, I still feel stuck. 

Very stuck.

In the past six months, I've started five new books, but finished nothing. In the past three weeks, I haven't managed to write even one new chapter of my current story. 

If I was a car, I'd be up to my axles in mud. Spinning my wheels. Digging myself deeper into the hole. Getting nowhere, and the harder I try, the more stuck I get.

It's messy, frustrating, and no fun at all. 

Writing and releasing my first three published books in less than six months required that I put in a load of hours, but they were easy. I just did the work. Wrote the stories, sent them off to my editor and critique partner, did my edits and revisions, published the books. I'd been writing on and off all my life. This was just a lot more on, and very little off. I knew God wanted me to publish the books, and so I did it, with a single-minded focus.

Then, with book four, things went wrong. Real life got in the way of writing. My husband was ill, and needed my attention. A beloved pet died despite weeks of careful nursing and so much fervent prayer. I missed deadlines. Writing became a struggle. The book did release, eventually, but six weeks late. I lost all my preorders. Sales of all my books, which had done way better than expected, crashed. 

Angry with God, I forgot all about the deep spiritual lessons He'd made me teach my characters writing books two and three. Lessons about what truly loving others means. Lessons about putting Him first. Lessons about His purposes being far higher than our own plans. Lessons about what it means to truly trust in Him, and surrender to Him. 

God didn't forget. He had other ways to teach me those lessons.

From book 2: Let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18 
God is teaching me that I wasn't truly living His love. He doesn't want me making writing the most important thing I do, giving it the biggest share of my time. He wants me to truly love the people He's placed in my life. To not just say I love them, but to show it, by giving them time, by listening, by putting their needs ahead of my writing and my to-do list and my own plans. 

From Book 2: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:29
I thought I trusted God, thought I wanted to do His will. The problem was, I still wanted to do it all myself. I wasn't leaning on Him or surrendering anything to Him.  I trusted in my own strength and my own plans. I had to be broken to let go of that, to truly allow Him to take my burdens and learn what it means to rest in Him. 

From Book 3: I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2 ESV
God had to show me that He has other purposes for me besides writing. I write to share His love, but I need to live it, first. He is fulfilling His purpose for my life, in His way, and it's better than mine. 

From Book 4: And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart. Ezekiel 11:19 NLT
I never quite understood why God gave me this verse for this book. It fit my heroine, who had a hard heart, not trusting God or love at the start of the book, but the context of the verse is about choosing to worship God rather than worshipping idols. I'm only just coming to realise I'd made an idol of writing, of my business plan, of Amazon rankings and sales figures. 

God had an answer for that. Take away the sales, and my release schedules, and my earnings forecasts. Take away all my plans. That hurt. I felt such a failure. I cried, a lot. 

But now, I'm grateful. If the big plans I made last year for my writing career had worked, I never would have learned to trust God. I never would have handed my burdens over to Him. I never would have known His rest. I'd be truly stuck, trying to write a book every six or seven weeks, without a break. Eep! Instead, he taught me to look to Him and rely on Him.

It's funny. Last week, when I first asked God for guidance on what to blog about, just the title came to me. I figured I was supposed to write about overcoming writer's block, and researched a load of links on timed writing and the psychology of creative blocks. Instead, God wanted me to write a post about looking at being stuck in a different way. 

The owners of these boats could struggle to push their boats back into the water. It would be hard, but if they worked enough, they'd do it. Or they can simply wait for the tide to come back in and float the boats for them. 

Sometimes the answer to a block isn't to try harder, to push more, to beat ourselves up for not doing the work, or for giving in to resistance. Sometimes, maybe far more often than we realise, the answer is to look to God and wait on His timing.

Knowing that, suddenly I don't feel stuck at all!

But I stand silently before the Lord, waiting for him to rescue me. 
For salvation comes from him alone. 
Psalm 62:5


  1. Autumn, what a powerful set of reflections. And all when you thought you'd be writing about writer's block.

    I'm sure one of the causes of writers block for we Jesus lovers is to do with taking our eyes off Him. Whether it's that we've forgotten that He's our co-author and really aren't very good writing without Him or we've taken our eyes off Him as regards the rest of our life.

    It's wonderful, Autumn, that Jesus brought you through this "stuck" season of writing and demonstrated just how much He loves you and life is sooo much better when we walk with Him by our side rather than trying to rush ahead of Him.

    BTW … incredible how productive you have been though - just amazing.

    1. That's it exactly, Ian. I notice when I get stuck is when I take my eyes off Him. Not that I'm at the water-walking stage, but a story that really resonates with me is how Peter could walk over the water when he kept his eyes on Jesus. The second he looked at the wind and the waves instead, he started to sink. The second part of the story is even better - immediately Peter called out to Him, Jesus was there to lift him up. Love that!

  2. I agree that we can sometimes put our writing ahead of other things God wants us to do. As a missionary, I've have to face that issue more often than I'd like. And I'm still having to face it.

    1. It's a tricky balance, Karen, and God probably has different plans for each of us. I don't think we ever stop facing that conflict. Seeking to walk closer with Him and do His will will take us down paths we didn't expect.

  3. It's interesting how we, as writers, also have to face the shortcomings we plant in our characters. I also like " The writing of many books is endless and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body." --Eccl. 12:12 Wishing you rest and a full well to write from.

    1. LOL! Great verse, Laurel! I know I've read it, but a long time ago. I've never applied it to writing but it's so true.

      "Excessive devotion to books" is somewhere a lot of writers find themselves, even though we're writing for Him.

      "The last and final word is this:
      Fear God.
      Do what he tells you." Eccl 12:13

  4. Autumn, beautiful and honest post.

    "Sometimes, maybe far more often than we realise, the answer is to look to God and wait on His timing."

    This has been so true for my writing journey. Thanks for sharing your heart with us :)

    1. It's really easy to get thinking we have to make things happen. Write books, chase contracts or publish, promote. We do have to do all that, if God calls us to write. But what I'm learning is I don't have to do it all. And also that fallow seasons have their purpose, too.

  5. Thanks, Autumn. What a great perspective.