Writing From Rest
For the last few weeks, writing has been a chore. After writing about 95,000 words, I reached the very end of the novel and realized that the ending wasn’t right. It just didn’t fit. I wracked my brain and my husband’s, trying to find a quick solution. After I’d vomited all my ideas onto him, he said,
“I think you’re trying to do too much with it. You’re trying to force it and its hindering you.”
I considered the fact that he was probably right, but surely a good night’s sleep would take care of it.
No. The next day was the same.
Two weeks later… same thing.
I lost steam. I felt like I didn’t even know how to write anymore.
Setting deadlines I couldn’t meet had worked out quite well for me in the past. I would make so much progress with my writing, that not finishing something by my deadline didn’t even matter. Having a goal and consistent writing mattered most. I was excited about how far I had come. Now I was at the end-end, not just the end anymore. But I was so stuck.
Falling behind on this meant I was falling behind on everything else. I just couldn’t move forward on those other things until this was complete. I probably only had about 20 pages left to write of this thing. I told myself,
It’s not complicated. The first draft doesn’t even have to be good. Just get something on the paper.
At the beginning of week three I was really stressed. It was clear I had other commitments, important ones, that I needed to focus on. One of those commitments was volunteering at a refugee house. I’d be working with a six year- old- girl as an education volunteer for two months. The morning of, I woke up with pressure on the top of my head. The stress was bad. If it were a headache, I would have grabbed my bottle of Tylenol, but I knew that wasn’t it. I knew I needed God more than medication. I needed to slow down.
Also, my husband was right, “Before you were just writing and seeing what came next and you had plenty to write. You need to stop worrying about finishing and just write.”
In the morning, I read the Bible and listened to music. Then we headed to the refugee house. I prayed for God’s help to minister to someone else when I felt like a wreck myself.
The girl greeted us with a bright smile. My three-year-old, always eager to share a snack, handed her a pack of fruit gummies. They were instant friends. As for education, I had no idea what I was walking into: the level of English, where she was at in terms of math or reading. I had brought books, stamps, phonogram cards, ABC and counting tools and a Kindergarten workbook. I certainly didn't pride myself on being the most innovative elementary teacher, but I figured, with Gods help, something useful would come about from the stack of materials I carried over to the church.
Thankfully, she was an eager student. We made name tags, sorted shapes by color, assessed counting, alphabet recognition and began some phonics. The materials I’d brought from home turned out to be just what we needed. A wonderful woman was there to help teach, too. We had a great conversation about letting go of fear to do what God had called you to do in life.
After school with our new friend, I felt less hurried. The air outside was cold, so we sat and had cups of hot tea, the girls playing, Sophia being loved on by the 6-year-old and her mom.
Later, I got to work early, my body still feeling anxious and unsettled, but the pressure in my head lifting. I resisted the urge to work on the novel. Instead, I got a latte, sat down and pulled out my computer. I made a list of some other important tasks I needed to do, and chose one to focus on. Earlier, I had mulled over a new ending for the novel, one much simpler, one that got to the heart of the story. I shared it with my husband that evening and he thought it sounded fitting. But by then, the pressure in my head was all the way gone. My body was relaxed. We talked about the beauty of the day at the refugee house.
When I start writing again, it will be from a place of rest. I'll be mindful of my need for patience and have an open heart for God’s guidance in the process.
Has writing been stressful for you lately?
What are some changes you can make to help you write from a restful place?
Ashley Soden is the director of Write/Create, Inc. She's currently writing her first novel. When she's not writing, she's living life to the full with her husband and three energetic kids. You may also find her making lattes at Starbucks.