My last post was titled in part, “Take a Day Off…”
When I wrote it I didn’t realize I was actually going to continue to do it, but that’s what’s happened. Even though I mentioned that I thought the Lord was giving me a vacation — seeing as I’d turned the whole matter of me trying to write and failing, failing, failing, over to Him, and it seemed He was doing nothing, thus it must be a vacation — I guess I didn’t think it would continue to go on. After all, the usual times for a vacation are a week, maybe two. Not a month…
Surely, I thought even as I wrote that last post, I’d been “vacating” long enough and it was time to get back to work.
Apparently not. Because I still haven’t been able to get myself to work. I’ve continued to avoid the office and have spent a lot of time reading news and comment stuff on the internet, watching videos on making cards, actually making cards… and just doing the general things around the house and yard that are always there, and could easily take up all my time if I let them.
Internally, however, I continued to fight the whole vacation concept. Or at least to feel guilty about it, as I repeatedly questioned whether I was correctly applying what I’d been learning in Bible class. Maybe I was actually just deluding myself, thinking I could just throw everything out the window like this and and let God do it all. Wasn’t that a bit flakey? After all, as every “Professional writer” knows, if you want to write you must go into the office and force yourself to write. It takes self-discipline, and you must train yourself to do that. It’s absurd to just “trust the Lord.”
I now think that is the voice of my flesh, which I’ve recently become more and more able to identify. More on this later, but for now though, the fact is, I had already done the “just use self-discipline” thing and it led nowhere. The only thing left was that I trust the Lord to return the motivation to write, as well as the ideas and the direction the story is to take. Even though He’s taking MUCH longer than I think He should be taking.
Which, of course, means I have to trust Him even more to move me and, as I outlined above, it is very difficult for me to do that. I don’t want to rely on Him. I want to take control and get it done myself. I have a plan, a timetable that I think is reasonable, and He’s not following it!
Well, yesterday I was doing a search on the Internet for “effects of too many things to do.” (a subject some friends and I were discussing on Sunday). I didn’t find much on that, but in the course of the search, I did stumble upon an article called, “Recovering from Writer’s Burnout: Steps to Happier Writing.”
Here’s the first paragraph:
Many writers (and other creative people) hit that point eventually: they burn out. They feel tired. They can’t feel any interest in their work, and doing that work becomes harder and harder. “
That was and still is me. Feeling very tired. No interest in the work. I’ve mentioned it before. I kind of like what I’ve done so far, but I can’t think of the right place to go from here, and for some time now it’s all seemed dead. I don’t want to think about it. When I try, I just confuse myself. Should it be this or that? I can’t decide. If I force the decision I can’t write… Or flip back to the alternative the next day when everything after the bit I’ve written goes blank.
I thought I’d already gone through the whole burnout thing. I thought I’d given myself a break. After all, it’s been six years since I finished The Enclave. Of course, that led right into the caregiving for my mother. And then dealing with her estate and all kinds of family changes — my son leaving home, settling in another state, and getting married, the arrival of our granddaughter… in addition to my own health issues …
All of those things, even the happy events, still intruded into the flow of my writing, sometimes for weeks at a time. Does that sort of thing contribute to burnout as well? I”m not sure, but I can say from experience that after a while it gets frustrating… I couldn’t remember what I’d decided the last time I’d worked with the material, stuff that had seemed good before the interruption no longer seemed so good… I lost a sense of where I was going exactly…
The article continued in a second paragraph:
“I started to hit the burnout point last year with my freelance writing. Unfortunately, I missed some of the signs and so I continued taking contracts. Eventually I became almost completely burned out — unable to take interest in all but the lightest, most relaxing writing. That’s a terrible place to go if writing is what you’ve wanted to do all of your life.”
Not just wanted to do, but what you’ve actually done. I’ve been writing fiction for over forty years and the drive was always there. Now suddenly, it wasn’t. And since throughout most of that time I believed it was the Lord who was supplying the drive, the desire, the ideas, the guidance… then it must be that for some reason He was withholding it now, and not just something about me. In other words, I don’t think it’s actual “burn out” so much as me stressing out because God hasn’t come through in my time, and so I keep trying to get back in the game when it’s pretty clear He’s been telling me I need to wait.
The biggest reason I can think of for Him to remove the drive, desire and ideas, is to remind me that it really is Him doing it, and not me. Secondary reasons include forcing me to trust Him for all of it and teaching me to put aside the internal shrieking of my control freak sin nature in the process. He’s also making me take a deeper look at ways I’ve always looked at life and self and my work and finding they are not really in line with His ways… Plus, there’s been a huge upheaval and change of direction in how I’m coming to understand the spiritual life overall. And how can one write Christian allegory/analogies if one’s whole perspective on the Christian life is changing?
One of my friends reminded me of the blessedness of winter concept, when the trees are stripped of their leaves and stand bare and gray, seemingly dead. But inside God is doing a work and before long the new life of spring appears… That He does the same with us.
I know she’s right, and I think that is what’s happening to me. And part of that includes the fact that God really does want me to have a longer vacation than I think is appropriate.
Because in the above mentioned article, the very first suggestion of what to do for the “burned out” state is “Take a Vacation.” 🙂
Here’s what she has to say:
“There’s one thing that, above all, you should try to do for yourself when you start to burn out. If you can afford to, take a vacation. If you’re still finishing off a contract then take a vacation as soon as it’s over. Be lazy. Sit around the house and read thrillers, mysteries, or something equally pointless and fun. Watch movies. Take lots of walks in the sunshine. Relax. You need to be able to approach the rest of all this [ie, her other suggestions] feeling rested if at all possible.”
So, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing, even if by default. I haven’t, however, yet allowed myself to read novels, thinking that would be too great a “time consumer”. But having read this, I decided that maybe I really should treat my vacation as a real vacation, so yesterday, I picked up one of the recent Brad Thor novels sitting on my shelf, Full Black, and am now halfway through it! 😀
Update: I wrote this post in the afternoon, and barely got it done before time for live Bible Class from Lighthouse Bible Church in Florida where Pastor John got up and started talking this very thing! That we keep thinking there’s something good about us that’s going to get the job done (be more loving, be more self-disciplined) when that’s part of the old self that was crucified on the Cross! The words and phrases he used were almost direct answers to things I’d thought and wondered about in the course of not just writing the above post, but over many days. It was one of those times when I knew that God was talking directly to me, and reinforcing my conclusion.
Yes, the writing is to come from Him. No, I do not need to try to be “more self-disciplined.” Yes, it is right to wait for Him to lead, and I do know what that feels like. This very post, for example, I believe was the result of His leading and guiding and moving, because until I started writing it, I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all. I don’t even really know why I accessed my blog in the first place, and initially all I did was check out some of the other blogs I follow. Then suddenly I found myself opening the new post window and the words were flowing.
Here’s a link to the message in case you’re interested. I thought it was pretty phenomenal even aside from the immediate personal connections:
The Activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Church Age believers, part 51