Ask the Authors: Tuesday
How can you concentrate on writing when you are in the midst of difficult emotional trials?
The reality is that, for some, writing can serve as an escape from emotional turmoil by "taking us away" from our surroundings. As we become immersed in the fictive world we've created, we can forget--or at least temporarily put aside--the difficulties we're going through. For me, the tough part is to will myself to work "in spite of" a situation. Once I get started, I'm able to keep going. --BJ Hoff
I have to say that writing is often the thing that keeps me sane in the midst of difficult trials. It's also helpful, even theraputic, because the Lord helps me find answers for my own problems even as He guides and teaches my fictional characters. --Angela Hunt
Writing has, for me, always been therapeutic. It has actually helped me get through some tough times by lifting me up out of my own world and taking me to a safe place of my own making. I do think, though, that life could throw some trials my way that would basically shut me down for a while. I imagine that’s true for just about everyone. That would be the time when I’d stop trying to work, sit myself down in the presence of God, and soak up His healing grace. Some things are more important than meeting a deadline. --Ann Tatlock
I have gone through a number of difficult emotional trials during the years I've been a full-time writer, and my only answer is that you treat your writing as you would any job. You show up and you work. You probably won't produce at your usual rate or your usual quality, but you show up because your employer is counting on you to be there. When I was in the thick of an emotional trial recently, I counted myself as successful if I could produce one or two good pages in a day. It isn't much, but it helped me stay in the story. -- Robin Lee Hatcher
Writing is a balm to my soul when I am struggling with other situations in my life. Entering a world that I'm able to control gives me relief when I'm in an uncontrollable difficulty. When I'm sitting vigil at the bedside of a dying loved one, when I'm under unfair attack from others, when the struggle becomes too great, I can always retreat to the place I've created, where the characters will do what I want them to do (sometimes) and where I have more control. Writing creates a wonderful hideaway. --Hannah Alexander
Great question. The mark of a professional is the ability to work
under all conditions. As a lawyer, I couldn't leave my client sitting
in court because I had the blues or a case of "lawyer's block." But I
well know there are times that are SO tough, the fingers my not
respond at all. On such occasions, treat yourself well. Don't take
yourself to task mentally. Take some time off, and don't stop writing.
Instead, journal. The act of writing out your pain, like David in the
Psalms, will work hand in hand with your determination to rely on God.
If you keep writing like that, eventually you will be led back to your
fiction. -- James Scott Bell
It’s not easy. I have a very hard time compartmentalizing emotions. Too often, if I’m going through a difficult emotional time, I discover that I take it out on my characters and they might “overreact” to what’s happening in their story world. On the other hand, it’s sometimes helpful to project my own emotions about something going on in my life onto my characters. -–Deborah Raney
On one hand, it is slightly theraputic, a way to get away from it all. But speaking from experience, it's still very difficult to do. In every life crises I've had, it's been in the middle of writing a comedy. To this day, I still don't know how Boo Hiss had anything funny in it. Well, yes I do. God worked through me when I couldn't work my way into a smile. And I think one of my most poignant and powerful passages is in Boo Hiss, during one of the hardest moments of my life. Scoop was also written during a very difficult time. I think the key is to allow yourself to escape. For me, there were times when I almost felt guilty for not thinking about the trials, for wanting to leave it all behind. It's okay to go, as long as you come back. Also, it amazes me how often what I'm going through at the time actually applies to the theme of my book, or even creates a new one. My trials have created more depth to my characters, more strength to my themes. Use it as a tool. And pray. Lots and lots of prayer. -- Rene Gutteridge
It seems that there are always difficult emotional trials. I’d like to know what it’s like to write without them. No matter the trials, the writer has to commit to the responsibility of the creative work. So concentration is mandatory. Maybe the truth is that when I’m focused on the character and her situations and trials, it makes mine seem a light and momentary pain. --Patty Hickman
Oh, my. Good question. Especially with fiction, I find it almost impossible to write when I'm emotionally distraught. And yet write we must, and so we do, through tears and gnashing of teeth. I'm never more dependent on the Lord than when I'm emotionally or physically drained and yet must keep writing. And perhaps, when all is said and done, that state of dependence is precisely where he wants us to be. --Liz Curtis Higgs
I find that during those times, writing is like praying for me. It's where I can go and experience the Holy Spirit moving within my heart so that I can know I'm not alone. My characters sometimes help me work out the issues within my own life. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer and then developed TB, it was being able to walk across the hall and write that allowed me to come back to give to him what he needed and for me to trust that God was with us. My prayer is that God will help me write and He does. --Jane Kirkpatrick