Writing fiction transports me into another time and place. When I write, my mind is fully engaged in an imaginary world, experiencing the trauma and the joy of my people while I weave their actions and words into a story. It’s better than reading.
I don’t even feel my body when I write, so I end up abusing it. When I started writing professionally, I could sit for four or five hours straight without moving. Eventually, I’d become aware of a pain, adjust my body slightly, and then continue to write. This was unhealthy.
Do you recognize your own bad work habits? No one knew then that sitting for that long day after day could be as harmful for you as smoking. I engaged in injury- and illness-inducing writing.
Now we know better, and now I have an autoimmune disease. For the first time, I’m afraid to write a novel. It’s terrifying. I know what drafting this next novel might do to my health.
Remember when we were young? We thought we could do everything. We didn’t know how difficult any of it might be. But reality taught us that things weren’t as easy as we imagined. We limped away with war wounds. Life taught us hard lessons. We learned much, often at great cost.
I now know that writing a novel and getting it published is not a venture for the weak at heart. The mere drafting of a novel has the potential to make me a very sick woman and to wreck my attempts at recovery.
When I was healthy, drafting a novel was a four- to six-week adventure. Once begun I couldn’t turn off my brain. This is how my creativity usually works. It inspires me at 2 a.m. It doesn’t stop neatly at 5 p.m. when my spouse arrives home or at 10 p.m. when I need to sleep.
But now, my body requires rest, and I need at least two hours of routine daily self-care to function. I can only accomplish about 20% of what I once could do. Creativity oozed from me then. But now my body is weak.
As I approach this novel, I have the attitude of the seasoned veteran, rather than the naive ingenue. I’m not gushing with joy as I prepare for the process. My attitude is sober and reflective. I am afraid. This is the dilemma of experience.
How do we age without shrinking back, now that we know the full cost of our course of action? How do we keep from losing the pleasure of a task, even after we know from experience how difficult it will be? How do I settle in and draft this novel?
I’m not looking at this in tiny steps, I realize, but as the overwhelming whole. I’m not focusing on the blessing of the process, but on the trial of the difficult work. I’m not trusting God with my health or the project, but am rather handwringing over it.
To write this novel, all of that must change. This is daunting.
How do we approach the daunting?
- We assess God’s leading. Is He for this? If so, we know He will help us through it.
- Daily we do what we’re able, trust it into God’s hands, pray for strength and creativity, and move forward step by step.
- Like Jesus, we keep our eyes on the joy set before us, not on the difficulty of the task.
- We assess possible obstacles. What must we lay aside in order to accomplish the task the Lord has given?
I have nothing. I cannot write unless I’m inspired and carried through the project by God. In the darkness I tell Him this and beg Him for words. He meets me in my need. Warmth, vigor, and inspiration rush upon me. He gives me more insight upfront than He ever has in the past, clearly aware that I’m more in need of His strength this time around. He is in this.
With heart ablaze, I now have what I need to begin. Here I go!
You may not hear from me for a while. To get this novel done, my blog may need to go silent. I can’t tell from this vantage. I ask for your patience and your prayers.