I (Gem) recently turned in the first draft of my second book. Writing is such a weirdly organic dynamic that has its own dramatic progression. Way back at the beginning I gathered some notes, tried to organize them, and even wrote new material for the introduction.
Then I had an idea that shifted me away from my original outline, and I got confused. I could no longer feel or see the form of the book. I was at a standstill. The shape was shifting inside me but I couldn’t grasp it. That is a very scary part of writing, especially when you have a deadline. It feels like a black hole, and making your way back out into the writing space seems impossible.
Slowly, over the course of many weeks, the original outline began to make sense to me again and I reworked the form. But I was still missing that intangible “connection” to the project. It’s so subjective, I know. But there is a place inside me that desires to see the whole before I can make progress on the parts.
Thanks to a writing retreat in Utah, I was able to focus on the project, and I finally achieved a settled sense of the whole and of the flow. I was finally able to prune and order my content and compose a few thousand words.
Writing is hard work. Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently. A friend shared the following quote from Henri Nouwen with me:
“Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust. We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.’ Writing is like giving away the few loaves and fishes one has, trusting that they will multiply in the giving. Once we dare to ‘give away’ on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath those thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches and resources.” (Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction, p. 99)
This is exactly what the writing process feels like to me. An exercise in trust. And even if you aren’t a writer, my guess is you will recognize the dynamic Nouwen speaks of.
We all create something. Whatever our job or responsibilities, we are all called to bring forth life from within us to share with others. It may be baking, podcasting, speaking, painting, or other creative hobbies. The creative process is alive and it takes time.
I want to encourage you to keep holding on. If you are at the beginning, enjoy the excitement of a fresh start. If you are in the messy middle, hang in there and let the process continue to unfold. If you are nearing the finish line, let me say, “You can do it!”