When the Words Went Away

I don’t keep a diary.

I journal my prayers, if you want to call it that, but mostly as a way to stay focused. (I get distracted very easily, especially when I am talking to God in my head.)

yellow tulips

As far as keeping a record of daily happenings, though, I don’t do it. Every now and then, however—especially before I got back into writing regularly—I’d sit down at the laptop and pound out a paragraph or two about whatever pressing thing was on my mind at the time. When I was done, I’d give the file a name I’d be sure to remember (ahem), close the document and forget about it.

Until I stumbled upon it later, that is.

Which is what I did recently when I found a little gem I wrote on Sept. 3, 2010.

To put it in context, this was about four and a half years after we uprooted ourselves from a very comfortable life in Arkansas and moved back to my home state, roughly 12 miles from where I grew up. Before we moved, I had a steady freelance writing/editing job. When we moved, I gave that up to focus on being a full-time mom and homemaker, and I hadn’t really written much of anything since.

I thought about writing a lot, and wondered when I would start again, but I never actually did. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s exactly what I wrote:

There’s no time like the present to start writing again. For years—yes, years—I have been waiting for the perfect scenario. I would be all caught up on all projects that I’ve been putting off for months—Molly’s [adoption] scrapbook, all the family photo albums, cleaning the house from top to bottom, organizing all the drawers, etc.

I would have called all the friends I have neglected for four years and had long, meaningful conversations with them. I would have arranged my schedule to include at least three complete mornings a week with no plans—no shopping, no cleaning, no meetings, nothing. I would be in my most creative phase, hormonally. I would be well rested. I would be coming off a productive quiet time.

My flower beds would all be weeded, supper already in the Crock-Pot at 8:30 a.m. and nothing else left to do. I would sit down with all the pieces of paper that I have scribbled notes on for the last eight years. I would organize them all into a perfect outline. Then—then, I thought—I would start writing. Not a blog, not an article, but a complete book, from start to finish, without stopping. I did that once, you know. Why not again?

OK then. That may be the funniest thing I’ve ever written. Or the most pathetic—I’m not sure which.

Apparently, I wrote it because I thought I was about to stop waiting for the perfect scenario and just start writing again. But as you’ve probably guessed, that’s not what happened.

I finally wrote Molly’s scrapbook in January 2013 (seven years after we brought her home from China), but I’ve penned no more books from start to finish. I have written an extensive outline and a couple of chapters, but neither that nor any other writing of much substance happened for at least three years after I wrote my little proclamation.

As a person who used to make her living writing, my season of no writing used to stress me out. When am I going to start writing again? I’d wonder. What if I can’t do it anymore?

During this time, I’m sure I broke every tried-and-true rule about writing and writer’s block there is. Just write through it. Write at the same time every day. Write for 15 minutes a day. Start a blog. Join a writers’ group.

I did none of these.

It wasn’t a matter of mechanics with me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t a “real” writer anymore. My problem was emotional, spiritual, hormonal, even physical.

I hadn’t forgotten how to write. I just had nothing to say. And whenever I tried, my neck tightened up and I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

This pattern continued well after I wrote that little bit on Sept. 3, 2010.

Then one day, I just decided to stop worrying about it.

I will write again—I know I will. I told myself. It’s what I’m trained to do. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I’ve always done.

This season in the wilderness has a point. Some day, I will write about it, and it will help someone else.

I then went on about my life without a writing schedule, believing that when the time was right, I would know it.

And I did.

I started small, with a toe dip here and there. I’m still going slowly (much to the chagrin of my husband who just wishes I would hurry up and finish that book I started last year).

Yes, I have some work to do in the procrastination department, but I’m not in a hurry. If there’s one thing I’ve realized over the years, it’s that words cannot be forced. They need to simmer until they’re done, however long that takes.

There’s also a difference when I write now. My neck doesn’t hurt when I think about it. The words are coming more easily. I can write with music on in the background, or not. It doesn’t matter what the house looks like, or whether I have concrete plans for supper. Sometimes I can write something meaningful in five minutes; sometimes it takes an hour. Either way is OK.

I still have my struggles, but I’m not the person I was when I was waiting for the perfect scenario. And, as sheepish as I feel when I read what I wrote back then, I’m glad I saved it.

More than anything else, it shows me that those years in the wilderness were not wasted. They had a purpose, a point, a reason. I felt like I was dormant, but under the surface, I was still growing.

Spring was on the way, and I’m glad I was patient enough (for once in my life) to wait for it to arrive on its own.

Lois Flowers

P.S. I’m linking up today with Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith.

18 Responses to When the Words Went Away

  1. I know what you mean about waiting for the perfect conditions. I wanted to start sooner than I did, but I don’t think I was ready for it. Once we are ready, the words really do flow!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Yes, I think you’re right, Sarah. And then summer vacation comes and the words start piling up in my mind as I try to figure out some kind of summer writings schedule! 🙂

  2. Beautiful reminder, Lois, that we don’t need perfect conditions for the words to flow. And even with perfect conditions we may have nothing to say.

    Let the words simmer. Allow God to bring forth what He has poured into my heart in His time, not my own. These are lessons I will remember from your words today. Thank you. : )

  3. Bethany says:

    So much truth here, Lois! Words need to simmer. I’m currently a freelance writer too, but someday I hope to be a Mom and I know that the hours of sitting and pouring over words and thoughts will change significantly. Thank you for this wisdom and encouragement! Blessings in your writing (which is a blessing in itself!)

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad you can relate to the simmering thing, Bethany. I know there are many gifted writers who can dash off entire blog posts in 30 minutes, but I’m not one of them! But one good thing about seasons of not writing is that they give you plenty to write about once you start again! 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement today!

  4. Saleslady371 says:

    Hi, Lois:
    Found you at Tell His Story. I appreciate your honesty and sharing what you discovered in those quiet years. Most importantly, that nothing was lost.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      And you know, the further away I get from those years, the more I can see that I actually GAINED from them. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? 🙂 Thank you for visiting!

  5. Thank you for such an inspirational post which reminds us that when we relax into our circumstances we can trust that the Lord is working that particular season of our lives for His Glory, and that even our desert times will be redeemed.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Karen, I love the phrase “relax into our circumstances.” That is a beautiful description of what is possible when we stop striving and simply rest, trusting that God knows what He is doing. Thank you for stopping by today with your encouraging words!

  6. Tiffany says:

    Love this, Lois and nodded with you all along the way. We can’t force words, can we? But it’s amazing how God pursues us with them, how he keeps the dream and longing ever before our eyes…just at the tip of our fingers. He waits for us to take that first step and then, often only then, does inspiration strike. Pursuing the words with you friend and grateful for our Author!! #raralinkup

  7. Gorgeous. You speak to all of us who love the feel of a keyboard beneath our flying fingers. Thanks, Lois, for sharing who you are here. It’s so good getting to know you!

  8. This is so wonderful. Sometimes for long stretches my words disappear and it terrifies me. Thank you for the reminder that our seasons aren’t wasted! #raralinkup

  9. Mary McCully says:

    What a great message! Sounds somewhat like myself, Lois. Writings I begun, which are still patiently awaiting the reawakening in file folders of different colors, carefully filed for that perfect time to be dusted off and pulled out into the light once again for completion. You have inspired me…now that our new flower beds are complete! Your transparancy is beautiful, covered by the Grace and Joy of our Great Jehovah Raphe. “Marylamb”

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oh, Mary. When the time is right you will finish those writings, but in the meantime, your spoken words bring hope and healing to so many, including me! And about those new flowerbeds? How exciting! Send me a photo or two when you get a chance, OK?

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