I’ve heard many a writer proclaim there is no such thing as writer’s block. As a writer, I have suffered from something every now and then, but I never named it that. I usually coin it, life block.
I never really thought much about it. I just knew every now and then, something would prevent me from moving forward. Sometimes, it is because I am profoundly depressed as a writer. The task seems too great. I have often said, I have a ten foot story, but I’m only a six-foot writer. It may sound weird, but sometimes I don’t feel up to the task of conveying my own story as best it needs to be described.
Sometimes, I just can’t write. I can rewrite, but I can’t add new pages.
Oh, sure, it’s probably because I’m a pantser. For you non-writers, that’s a person who writes by the seat of their pants. There’s also plotters. They write by outline. I have an outline in my head, but I don’t usually peg it down. Sometimes, the story and the characters lead me where I need to go. And sometimes, they don’t.
I haven’t written an original word in over six months. Like I said, I can pull up an old story and rewrite the dickens out of the thing, but the new story is stagnating.
One of the novels I am writing is tentatively titled, Air Conditioning is Ruining America. In the story, a family has suffered severe financial difficulty and then their four-year-child is accidentally run over and has to have her leg amputated. The fourteen-year-old brother, who was driving the car, runs to the top of a radio tower in an attempt to jump off. His older sister and father chase after him. When they catch up, he is several hundred feet in the air. He sits calm, cool and collected as if spending a day at the beach. He confesses he intended to jump but changed his mind when God told him to become a doctor.
The family loses everything, their home, and their business. Now, the family must move heaven and earth to make this a reality. They are dirt poor, but they have a son who is supposed to be a doctor. And God himself has said to make it so.
For the past six months, I have had this family sitting in a campground. I could not get them out of that darn campground!
And then, in stepped God. That’s right you heard/read me. In more ways that I can count, I have had God urging me on and telling me to keep writing. This is not only what I like to do, I believe it is what God desperately calls me to do. There’s a truth in this story. A truth, a reach, a laugh and a smile that needs to come out.
This Sunday, we heard a sermon on Healing. Our pastor, at West Hills Presbyterian Church in Omaha, NE, Derek Richman, preached from the Bible verse: Mark Chapter 5 24-34. I will quote the last few lines.
34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
The sermon wasn’t just on healing, but believing you were healed. It may not happen overnight but over time.
Pastor Derek advised we could stand where we were and he would hold his hands up and pray for us. Our church doesn’t normally do alter calls, (for you non-religious types, an alter call is when people come forward if they want to make a commitment to Jesus) and we were short on time. After the service, if we wanted, we could come forward and be anointed with oil.
My sister stood. So, I stood too. And you know what, lots of people stood. I wanted help and healing for another matter.
Afterwards, I turned to my sister and I said, “You know, I totally feel my writing problems are over. I feel my dry spell has been healed.” I wasn’t even thinking about writing. I would never ask for prayers for that. It seems so silly. Presumptuous. Pretentious. People are struggling in this life. Why would I ask or need help with something like that?
I wasn’t going to get anointed with oil, but my mom and sister went. I didn’t really need it, but somehow I stood in line. Afterwards, I could smell the oil throughout the day. That sweet smell lingered with me. The sermon had a profound impact on me.
Later, I grabbed my flash drives and sat down to write, but I didn’t have them. I searched the couch and the floor where I was sitting. I scanned the kitchen counter where the flash drives had been, but they weren’t there. I looked on my bed. I actually crawled all over it, feeling for them. I scoured under the bed. I was almost late to work looking for them.
Let me explain what my flash drives mean to me. They have in their hot little memory banks both of the current novels I am working on. They have countless blog posts, short stories and novels I started but haven’t finished. Screenplays, critiques of writing partners, passwords, paychecks, plays, pictures, classes I’ve taken, homework and recipes. When I go anywhere, I bring my flash drives with me, but in my pocket. Should I be robbed, they can take my purse, my wallet, my car keys, but I will keep my flash drives. They are the one thing, I am prepared to fight for. And buddy, I do mean fight.
I was a bit panicked. Oh, sure, I felt healed, but here was the very tool I needed to advance the story and I lost it. Maybe, it was divine intervention. Maybe, I needed to stop what I usually do and not rewrite but just move forward.
A blank page sat in front of me.
A big, white, blank page.
Getting whiter by the minute.
So, I wrote a summary kind of sentence that basically said here we are, sitting in this campground. Then, I wrote. I didn’t finish the novel, but I wrote four or five pages. I’m not even sure of the count. So, this is what I need to do to move forward. Instead of rereading where I’ve been, I need to just look at the blank page. It occurred to me, give the protagonist a boyfriend. Sure, they are living in a campground, but that doesn’t mean she can’t meet someone. And now I have a complication. The story moves forward.
The next day, I said to God and Jesus, thank you for what you did to help me, but I have commitments. I had pages due to a writers group and they are waiting for them.
I figured I wouldn’t look. It seems when you look for something, you can’t find it. I would just start cleaning. I cleared off my kitchen table, which led me to sweep over here and over there. I took the dinner trays at the back of the bed and put them behind my refrigerator.
And there they were. At least a foot from the doorway, behind the refrigerator. Which meant, somehow, while I was walking to the living room, the flash drives leapt from my hands and flew back behind there. I have wondered if the trajectory of merely just dropping them would land them that far behind the refrigerator. I doubt it.
I needed this. I needed to move forward, and I believe God wanted it as well. Is our God awesome or what?
Maybe, he just wants to know the end of the story.