We’ve talked for a few weeks about hearing God and although, it’s far from exhaustive, I think I’ve made my point. God talks. We have to learn how to listen and hear, to understand. I’ve heard some warm-hearted stories about God speaking to people through dreams, visions, through learning to be quiet in heart. I love reading people’s stories. It helps me to see I’m not alone.
I’ve recently started a new novel and I’m getting ready to publish another book, one I’ve been working on for three years. What is it with me? I am a slow writer. It drives me crazy. I’m determined to write this new one much faster. But you know what they say about the plans of mice and men… The novel I’m hoping to publish in the next couple of months is called An Ordinary Love. An Ordinary Love is all about ordinary love. Ha! Big surprise. I’ll share more in the weeks to come.
However, I’d like to say something about this new project. It’s significant because for the past two years, I’ve suffered from what I can only describe as Writer’s Block. Every time I came up with an idea to write a novel, I’d start taking notes and a couple days into it, I’d declare myself a failure and agree that the book was stupid, the idea dumb, completely unoriginal, and then I’d throw it in the garbage and despair. Not to mention, I didn’t have creative energy. This sounds more New Age than I mean for it to. I mean, I didn’t have the internal resources to create something new. I was working on starting a new life, dealing with culture shock, trying to find my way here, and all the creative energy I had was used up going to the grocery store and trying to understand Chilean – the words that are underneath the words … the language of people’s hearts. That’s where culture reveals itself. And it was a language I didn’t know, one I really didn’t understand. The Chilean language. Two years later, I at least understand that it’s foreign to me and can accept that we approach life from a completely different vantage point. And yet, even in that cultural divide, brokenness and heartache really look the same, don’t they?
Anyways, about this new book. It’s not that anything revelatory happened that I think everyone should know. It’s that one day I woke up and said, Okay. Now, I can start this book. And I did. I didn’t have to make myself sick trying to do it. It was there. There was water to draw out of the creative well.
I think this can be applied to almost anything in our lives. Transition and heartache, change, new beginnnings, painting, prayer, raising children, being pregnant, getting married … all those things require creative energy. They all require that we be present to them and attend to their needs. Sometimes we can’t do anything else but live today. Be present in today. It’s enough.
It’s fairly common for me to hear people’s unspoken dreams. The wishes and I-would-have-if-I-could-have statements. And I used to tell them that anything worth doing in our lives takes discipline. I get up and write every morning. Except … all of a sudden, I couldn’t. Sometimes, I got up and wrote but it was chaff, stupid – I was truly blocked. For two years. I blogged, journaled all that, but I didn’t write a novel, which is what I love to do.
These last two years has given me insight and have tilled great compassion inside me for anyone struggling with creative blocks. You want to paint, you want to design, you want to write, but it’s not there.
Isabel Allende struggled with writer’s block after her daughter Paula died. She wrote Paula, the memoir, and then afterwards pretty much went dry. It was in a bookstore that she came across Anne Lamott and told her of her struggles and Anne Lamott just said, “The well has gone dry. You need to go out and fill up your well again.” So Isabel Allende went to India and traveled and grieved her most beloved daughter and gave herself time. Then, one day, she was ready, and she wrote.
Some of you, my friends, are ready. But you’re afraid. You want to write, you want to show your work to someone but you’re afraid they’ll tell you your work sucks. Find better friends if your best friends tell you that your creative work sucks. But whatever you do, you must share your heart. It’s time.
But there are others who don’t have the energy or the strength or the time and you feel shamed when you read that there’s always time if you really want to do something, that it takes discipine. And I think there’s truth in this. So maybe, just maybe, you really don’t want to do it yet. And that’s okay. It’s not time to paint or sculpt, or write. It’s time to be present to the people right in front of you and they are enough. That’s what I finally had to say to myself. It’s not the time to write a new novel. It’s time to be present. And when it’s time to write a new novel, it’ll be there.
The fear was that it wouldn’t be there ever again. And well, that’s just one of those things I had to wrestle with. Maybe it wouldn’t be there ever again. And that was finally okay too.