The Most Important Comma in a Writer’s Life

May 26, 2021 | Writing on Wednesday

At some point in every writer’s journey, he or she will experience writer burnout. Some call it “hitting a wall” or “experiencing writer’s block,” but whatever name we give it, we recognize it as a common malady that can affect anyone who has been writing seriously for a period of time.

I recently had a conversation with a writer friend who said, “I’m struggling with feeling apathy as a writer these days . . . I’m exhausted . . . My family needs me. And they wipe me out as well. I just don’t feel like I have it in me.”

My friend’s comments are not uncommon. I had another writer friend also share with me recently, “I have been so busy after working that I am finding myself not writing. I always hear people say, ‘True writers never stop writing,’ but sometimes this crazy life takes over. Do you ever struggle with time?”

Both of these writer friends are moms.

It’s probably safe to say that every writer faces the challenge of time, but I dare say this is even truer for mom-writers. How do we meet our deadlines and still get dinner on the table while also taking Kid #1 to soccer practice, Kid #2 to a dentist appointment, and Kid #3 to the store for materials they need for a school project?

Life has a way of getting crazy for everyone, but for writers, this can pose an added layer of complexity because the very nature of writing requires large blocks of quiet uninterrupted time alone. We do our best to write on our laptops in the car during soccer practice or in the waiting room at our kid’s dentist appointment. But it’s not exactly ideal. We squeeze in the time whenever we can and we get the job done, but it can be exhausting to juggle the everyday demands of motherhood while also maintaining the deep mental concentration that is needed to write well.

Like both of my writer friends, I know what it’s like to feel worn out from a prolonged period of high productivity, wondering if I’ll ever even want to string words together again. What helped me, and what I shared with my friends, is knowing that it’s just a season.

The writing life follows seasons of pouring in and then pouring out. So, when we find ourselves utterly spent and poured out, it’s simply a sign that we need a season of filling back up again — reading good books, taking long walks, and enjoying regular daily living. Our minds need rest as much as our bodies and our souls.

This is why I don’t entirely agree with the maxim: “True writers never stop writing.”

While it’s true I never stop writing, there’s a difference between writing for others and writing for self. I take seasonal breaks from writing for audiences, but I never stop writing in my prayer journals. For me, writing is the way I process my day and invite God into my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I write out passages of Scripture, and I write out my prayers. In this way, I am writing every day, but these words are between me and God.

I think it’s wise to step away from writing for public consumption from time to time. In fact, I think it’s healthy. Constant nonstop writing for audiences can lead to “writing as a performance,” and that can kill the heart of good writing.

Again, the writing life follows seasons. There is a time for pouring out, and there is a time for pouring back in.

As mom-writers, we feel a perpetual ebb and flow between the world we live in and the world we write in. The tide pulls us, first one way, then another. We struggle to find a perfect balance, only to discover that multi-tasking is a myth.

The antidote for writer-fatigue is to write a comma into our day. To pause. To rest. To do something else. Because the only words that matter are the words from a life well-lived.

Writing is so much a part of every writer’s soul, but I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better if I lay down my pen and pick up a conversation with my kids. Sharing the moment. Watching their wonder. What could be better?

The most important comma in a writer’s life is the one that gives a writer pause.

To be fully present. In the here and now. It’s how we fill up again. And that distinct joy we experience when writing? It returns. In time.

 


 

Today’s article is part of a series called #WritingOnWednesday. Feel free to share it with friends by clicking on the share buttons below.

If you have any questions about the craft of writing or the life of a writer, send me your questions here. I’d love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.

 

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Denise J. Hughes

Denise J. Hughes

Denise writes about “the quiet life” — a phrase found in 1 Thessalonians 4:11. It’s a vision for living counterculturally in a loud and restless world. She is the author of Deeper Waters and the General Editor of the CSB (in)courage Devotional Bible. Denise lives in North Carolina with her husband and three kids.

 

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