Not long ago I was trying to work on a piece of fiction that sounded nice, and I really, truly like - in theory, that is. When it came down to writing it, though, my brain always felt sluggish, slow, leaden. I couldn't seem to make the sentences turn into paragraphs, and even when they did, they just felt... wrong.
Pregnancy? Yes. For sure. I've been so brain-cluttered and numb that sometimes it seems like I can't even read aloud to my three-year-old son without goofing up the words.
But it was more than that. For whatever reason, the plot and setting I was working on just... didn't... move me. It didn't do it for me. Six months from now, it might (if I'm not strapped to a rocking chair with a nursing baby and trying to untangle my son's feet from the same pants leg). But at that point it just didn't get under my skin enough - excite me enough - to give the emotional depth I needed to write from my heart.
What to do? Press on valiantly, hoping I can at least get a few pages under my belt? (Which might make me feel better about my pregnancy/post-move slothfulness that's turned into months of... well, not really writing)?
I'm finding - every day, as I cut up my son's pancakes and water the dying autumn garden and search my closet for something, anything, I can actually FIT that is warm enough for fall in South Dakota - that the secret is something like this: Love.
That one tiny word, with the greatest impact of any four letters in the English language.
Love - not only what you write, but where you are, who you are, exactly NOW. At this point in time. Not tomorrow, or when your children are grown, or when you finally get around to cleaning out that room full of baby stuff that's so cramped you can't walk - but now.
What's on your heart right now?
What do you miss?
What brings you joy, and what has changed in your life in the past months?
Life is never static. We are always changing, always growing, always learning. Always becoming new people. Sometimes that "work in progress" on your computer screen isn't wrong, it just isn't right for you NOW. Perhaps in a year from now it'll make more sense, resonate more clearly.
Put it aside.
Unless you're contracted and really have to stick to THIS particular story, pick it up later - a month from now - two months from now - a year from now - or never.
And in the meantime, find or create something that suits who you are now. Something that makes you excited as you are, this day, this way. Write something new, something fresh. Or don't write at all. Yes, don't write at all. Take a walk instead, and savor all the new yellows and marigolds and pumpkin-oranges in the leaves - that particular coolly autumn breath of wind and slant of honey-apricot sunlight - and those amazing veil-like clouds floating like long-lost memories in a cotton-candy blue sky. Let yourself breathe, think, feel, love - and the stories will come. The whispers will return to you, stronger than ever, like bubbles filtering up from the bottom of a spring.
For they are part of you. They are in your blood, and when you give them permission to speak, they will nudge you toward a story like this - or toward a plot or setting like that. Or perhaps, simply, a "feeling" that you will recreate with joyful abandon in your novels because yes, this is it!
As I write, our tiny unborn son is twitching in my belly like butterfly wings, reminding me that he - like so many things in life - is also growing. He is never the same. Every few days my belly expands again, and I can no longer button my blouse or fit my shirt.
I pant for air, my legs curiously strained by this unexpected new addition of thirty-five (at today's reading) heavy pounds on my smallish body frame, and I maneuver myself up and out of bed, or out of the passenger's seat of the car, with difficulty and calculated movements.
I wonder what he looks like - who he will resemble - what color his hair is - who he will be. This little one, the incredulous answer to my son's believing prayers, and our years of hope and prayer for more children to fill up our house and our souls with smiles and hugs.
And yet even my baby is not the same today as he was yesterday. He is practicing breathing, flexing his limbs, blinking unseeing eyes. Developing stronger bones and more and more complex nerve passageways and webs of veins. He will continue to grow and stretch out his walls, pushing my abdomen into a rounded cradle.
In a few short months, by God's providence and grace, I will know him face to face. I will see his fine, soft baby hair, watch in wonder as he opens his eyes.
But I will never again carry him, as I do now, close to my heart, lulled to sleep by the rhythm of my heartbeat and breath, sleeping silently within the cradling arms of my belly.
For he, too, will grow.
Will learn, and yes, will love.
Life is too fleeing to force a project that isn't working, isn't right. Let it go. After all, writing is to be a joy, not a chore - a delight, not a drudgery. As my wonderful late professor Dr. Gayle Price told me years ago, "A doesn't write to be published. She writes because she can't not write."
Even she has changed - gone on to be with the Lord she loved, and is knowing Him as she always desired. For nothing - and no one - ever stays the same.
Surely this something on your heart today - something bubbling up into little stirrings, little whispers and memories longing to break forth on the surface. Listen, and listen deep. Find out what it is, and give it words - wings - roots and leaves and buds.
And find what stirs your soul today - what makes you feel joyously alive.
Then go and write.
Every day of your life, for as many months and years as God gives.