Dear Overwhelmed Writer

Recently, I got to hear a sneak preview of my sister’s soon-to-be-released third album. When introducing one of her new songs, she reminded me of a favorite moment in C.S. Lewis’ Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is the moment when the ship has been sailing through the dark and they are lost, and Lucy finally calls out to Aslan. The clouds part, a ray of light shines down, a bird flies around the ship, and Lucy alone hears the words, “Courage, dear heart.”

It is a beautiful, poignant moment in fiction.

Perhaps you are in need of such a moment. Are you overwhelmed, dear Writer? November is a time when many of us start to feel the glimmerings of panic.

Perhaps you are in the midst of NaNoWriMo struggling to hit that daily word count. Today marks halfway through November, and this is where the shine and excitement of NaNo can start to wear off… this is where it can be hard to stay strong and keep churning out that word-count every day. Maybe you’re there. Or perhaps you are polishing an entry to the final Rooglewood writing competition and that December 31st deadline is looming with dark menace. Perhaps you are staring at your computer with no ideas, and you fear that you will never be able to write anything as well as you want to. Perhaps you have a hundred ideas, but you cannot decide which one to work on first. Maybe you have a few books out, but marketing is taking up all your time and you don’t feel like you’re seeing any positive results from it. Maybe you are working on the first draft of your first novel, but it’s taking so long that you despair of ever finishing a book at all. Maybe you’re in the middle of a huge re-write and you feel like you’re climbing a mountain that just keeps getting higher, and the summit never gets any closer.

Are you Frodo, scaling Caradhras, hitting obstacle after obstacle? Are you wandering through the Mines of Moria, lost and in the dark with no memory of which way to go? Are you, perhaps, trodging across Mordor, losing hope with every word you write?

Wherever you are at, if you are overwhelmed, I want you to know… I’ve been there, too.

I’ve experienced all of these moments and more.

I know what it’s like to face writer’s block and doubts and uncertainty and feel like I’m on a treadmill to nowhere. And while I don’t have all the answers to every problem you will face as a writer, I do have a few heartening words for you, and they begin with this:

Courage, Dear Heart

“Courage, dear heart.”

God gave you this talent and desire to write for a reason.

I am not promising that you’ll write a best-selling novel and make a million dollars. I’m not even promising that you’ll finish your story. But I do know one thing for sure: God has a purpose for you, dear Writer. And if you feel that He has given you a desire to write something and the talent to do so… then there is a purpose for it. Do not lose heart. Do not be dismayed. Pray for guidance as you write your story, and do not be afraid. You have undertaken a worthy challenge. Writing is not for the faint of heart, but I promise you, if you stick with it, you will gain something from the experience. A finished manuscript, a sense of having put into words a part of your soul, a way to share some of your heart with others, a sense of accomplishment… whatever it is, you will have done something that very few people ever do. So take courage, and keep at it!

We are in this together.

Dear Writer, I am rooting for you. Whatever stage of the process you are in, I am cheering you on and praying that you succeed. Writing is not something we can do in a vacuum. If you are feeling alone, reach out to me. Or find someone in your life who can encourage you in your craft… and it’s even better if you can find someone you can encourage, in return! Don’t try to do it all by yourself. The best ideas I’ve ever had are the ones that originally came from my siblings, my parents, and my husband. My stories are stronger for their combined help and suggestions.

Take a break.

Sometimes deadlines kill creativity. If you are in the midst of Nano and find that you dread writing each day, and feel that what you are writing is garbage… throw that word count goal out the window and go for a bike-ride, binge-watch something on Netflix, go out with your friends, or read a good book. I can’t tell you how many times just taking a break has recharged my creative juices and allowed the words to flow better than ever. If you need someone outside yourself to assure you that it is okay to take a break, then here I am: giving you permission to rest!

Set a deadline.

I know, I know, I’m contradicting myself here… but… different problems call for different solutions. Maybe your struggle is less with creativity than it is with motivation. Set yourself a goal and then work hard to hit it. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful tool… and if you’re looking for a group of like-minded writers, now is the perfect time of year to find them! So what if you’re getting started late? Sign in, set yourself a reasonable word-count goal… and WRITE your story! Some of us work far better under pressure! There’s even still time to enter the Rooglewood “Five Poisoned Apples” contest, which I highly recommend! DETAILS HERE

Write some opening lines.

Maybe you struggle with picking a project. The plot bunnies are attacking you from all directions at once…

…and you can’t decide which one to follow first! Try writing an opening line or paragraph for each idea and see if any of them spark your interest and keep you “hooked” more than the others. If you still can’t decide… throw your first lines up in a blog post or on facebook and ask your readers which one they are most interested in!

Take a marketing break.

Every now and then, we just have to remember what we are… we are WRITERS! If you are like me and writing is a Long-Haul Operation, or at least, not something you depend upon for income… maybe take a break from marketing and just write your next story. I hate marketing with the passion of a thousand fiery suns… and I’ve been told time and again by those with more experience and more books out than me that the NUMBER ONE trick to marketing is simply WRITING MORE BOOKS. So, get off social media, put your blog on hiatus, and focus on writing another story. Your fans will thank you!

Keep trudging.

At times, the only thing to do is to just… keep… plugging… away. I promise, the summit WILL come into view eventually. Push through the fatigue and keep writing, editing, polishing, whichever endless task you are in the midst of, and soon you will see the fruits of your labor.

Mix it up.

If you always write on your computer, go get yourself a shiny new journal and try writing your story by hand. Listen to music while you work. Take a break from your main project and write up a character worksheet, or a short story that reveals something interesting about a character’s back-story. Try writing in a different genre, or write some flash-fiction. If you are artistic, maybe try drawing something from your story. If you’re not artistic (like myself) try acting out a scene, speak your character’s dialogue out loud and see how it sounds. Pick something that your character does and go try it out so that you can write more authentically about it (preferably something not too dangerous…) For example, when I want to be able to describe my characters traveling in inclement weather, I wait until it’s raining and then go for a hike, or just sit under a tree for a while so that I can really appreciate how miserable they would be if they didn’t have a house right there with warmth and dry clothes waiting.

Take heart!

Writing takes courage. It is not easy. What you are doing requires dedication and perseverance. Writing is putting your heart on paper, and publishing is like putting your heart in the hands of the world to do with as they will. It is not for the timid. What you are doing is a worthy endeavor, a lofty goal, a noble pursuit! And I’m right here, cheering for you all the way. Many of you who read this blog are also unpublished writers, and I want you to know that I am so excited to read your books if and when you finish writing them and take the plunge to publish them. And when you do land that publishing contract with a publisher, or if you decide to release your books on your own, I’ll be jumping up and down and tossing virtual confetti and cupcakes your way!

Courage, dear heart. You got this.

 

~ jenelle

15 Comments

Tracey Dyck

*bear hugs* I’m in a better spot than I was a week ago, as far as my writing mindset goes, but I still needed this–so THANK YOU. We’re so silly sometimes, thinking we’re all alone in this. That’s never true. Thank you for offering an oasis in what is sometimes a long and dusty trek! <333

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DJ Edwardson

You are so kind to take the time to encourage us like this. Thank you. I’ll be praying for you as well.

I wish I could say that my obstacles were any of the ones you mentioned, but unfortunately I am still dealing with the effects of post-concussion syndrome. Most days I can fight through the pain, but some days it’s hard to keep up hope.

Still, they say the night is darkest just before the dawn and God is good. That is what I cling to.

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Morgan Huneke

Thank you so much for this. I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed with everything–both writing and non-writing–and don’t feel like I’m actually going anywhere as an author lately, but this really encouraged me.

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jenelle

So sorry to hear that writing and life are overwhelming right now… (it’s that time of year, isn’t it?!?!) but I’m glad I could help encourage you.

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Christine

THANK YOU, JENELLE! This post is EXACTLY what I needed today. Last night writing was just grueling. I could not seem to get the words down, and the ones I did were bland and just awful. I was feeling overwhelmed and stressed and discouraged. But then I read this post and I almost cried. I needed that reminder that God put this passion of writing in me for a reason and I need to have courage and keep pursuing it, no matter the hard days.

Your advice was perfect. I especially loved the idea of stopping to act out your scene. I’m writing some dialogue right now that I just can’t seem to get right, so I think I’m going to do just what you said and act it out. Taking a walk and talking my stories out loud to myself always helps me get out of these ruts. I needed that reminder.

Thank you so much for all of this! This whole post just filled me up. You are a treasure! <3

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jenelle

I’m so sorry that writing has been grueling and awful. :( But I’m glad that I could help in some small way. Thank you for your kind words.

I hope that acting it out helped! Sometimes it’s just nice to “draft” out loud without the frustration of having to put words on paper or second-guess whether or not they’re “good” or “right.” I enjoy taking some time to get inside the scene without the pressure of writing it every now and then.

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E.F.B.

Thank you, so much for this, Jenelle! <3 I've had quite a few writing ups and downs this year, and this is the exactly the kind of thing that helps me stay up.

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Vera Brackenshaw

Thank you for this post! With NaNo and life rushing on, this was just what I needed right now. I loved how you used Lucy’s quote here – it’s such an inspiration and a powerful reminder. (Also – I loved the rabbit video. I’ve been to that island before, and the comparison to plot bunnies cracked me up.)

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jenelle

You are welcome!

You have BEEN to that island!!!!! My oldest daughter is EXTREMELY jealous. She saw the video and announced that she wants to live there. :)

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Madeline J. Rose

Oh goodness, THANK YOU FOR THIS Jenelle!! I soooo needed to hear this! I’m so behind on my writing and I’m struggling to get things ready by the deadline for the Rooglewood contest and I just don’t know if I’ll make it…And I’ve been feeling overwhelmed. XD So, thank you so much for posting this. <3333

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