My Writer's Journey
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
I feared the writer's block.
When torrents of blog ideas poured the past week, a part of me dreaded the turn of tide.
Even in prayer and the spiritual life, I know dryness and aridity can happen: when I have to drag myself to pray, and God seems deaf and blind, and I don’t feel His presence. Yet, I pray anyway because that's what separates a disciple from a mere petitioner.
A disciple embraces the discipline of prayer even when the Lord responds or not.
So it must be the same with writing, I thought. It is a discipline so mental block should not stop me from writing even when the well of inspiration runs dry.
I thought one way of dealing with this is to deposit excess inspirational funds like saving in the bank, so I can still post blogs even when inspiration escapes me.
And that’s what I did. I stored potential topics and posts in my One Note App.
When the Well Runs Dry
One morning, it happened. My well ran dry. My heart felt cold. The words of the Bible left me unmoved. Nothing.
St. Teresa would advise an arid soul to pick up a good spiritual book and read through the prayer time. I heeded her advice, and it got me through my 30 minutes of uninspired time with God.
I went out to run. Again, my mind rattled like a noisy peddler. My legs shuffled like an old woman's and dragged my weary body.
It was the music that kept me going. At the very end, the upbeat tune blew some fuel to my limbs, and I ran like a child. I imagined myself chasing my playmates in a game of tag, and running in the fields while flying kites. My imagination took over and prodded me to run.
I recalled the endless days of playing under the sun. We ignored the passage of time. We played for the sheer joy of playing. Kids nowadays play for scores and prizes. No wonder stores sell those stress-relieving toys for six year-old children. Even their play had become stressful. Ah, they are missing a lot of things. We used to play not to compete but just to play, laugh and have fun. We can go hungry and not mind.
And if we did, there were the fruit trees to climb.
I'd often sit on the roof with a small plastic bag of salt, and eat tambis (watery rose apple fruit) dipped in salt until I could breathe no more from fullness. I’d languor under the shade of the overhanging tree, stare at the sky, and daydream. As a child, I had all the time in the world.
And I had a sudden realization. This must be the reason why Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven belonged to the children—the child-like, the child at heart because they have all the time in the world to listen.
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” That’s what Jesus said. “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.” Blessed indeed are the childlike for Jesus reveals the secrets of the kingdom to them.
Once again I am reminded of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the little one, who would sit on God's lap and to whom Jesus would say, "The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."
It also occurred to me that God would not give a little one something so heavy to carry. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; For my yoke is easy, and my burden light,” Jesus said.
To be a little one is to be the Little Jesus' playmate as St. Therese is.
And there are many whom the Child Jesus would call to be His playmates, to play with Him. No wonder sometimes He’d disappear from me because He’s playing hide and seek with me. That day, He must have hidden from me.
I remembered my first blog about finding the voice of the little child in me, the one who would speak up without being prompted, who would tell the truth without malice nor intent to harm. That is the kind of writer He wants me to be.
I also imagined how children like to doodle and draw. Sometimes, the parents would be so proud of the work, they frame it and show it off. But most of the time, they just gather the doodled work and put it in a file, and most of the time the little one would not care what the parents would do with it. She just keeps on doodling and using up papers and scattering them everywhere. I will be like that little one. I will write and write and write to my heart's delight. Should God find a work of mine that He’d feel proud of, He’d most likely prompt me to publish it on the website or send me the agent to get it published. Otherwise, I will just doodle and doodle because I love to do it. And I consider it play.
Isn't that my intent, to find a work that I'd consider play, so it is a pleasure to do every day?
When Work Becomes Mere Play
My daughter talked about making another musical presentation for her project and how she's enjoying her boring summer course because of it. Music is definitely her oxygen.
“That's how work should be, like play!” I told her. “Now you are enjoying your school work.”
St Therese's doctrine makes perfect sense. She has indeed discovered the secret of finding favor in God's eyes in her little way.
Her simple doctrine, based on the gospel, is to be a little one.
The more I pondered on this, the more I realized her genius.
Imagine if you're a baby, the parent will always be there at your every cry, "Why my little one, what's wrong? Do you want to eat? You want to play?" And the parent stoops down to that child's level. And when the child falls on her feet while learning how to walk, the parent holds her hand until her legs have steadied. And even when they would allow the child to fall and cry, they will make sure she is safe and does not allow her to fall off the stairs or a cliff. She is ever before their watchful eyes.
That was St. Therese's secret—complete trust and surrender to God’s care. God gave her the highest honor even with her very simple doctrine because despite its simplicity, adults find it hard to do. They refuse to relinquish control, but a little one will not have her own agenda for the day. She would allow her parents to carry her wherever they go: whether out shopping, to the playground, or to the zoo. And the little one does not worry about her food; she knows her father will take care of her daily bread. And when the parent tells her not to do something because it can hurt her, a small one will obey, and if she does not, she'll eventually learn that it was for her own good when she gets hurt for not obeying.
And a child loves to play! So the parents allow her to play.
And that's how work should be, mere play.
And that’s what my writing should be, mere play.
That day, when I did not find inspiration in prayer, I turned to running. And I found God when I treated running as mere play. I ran like a child. And yesterday, I imagined the Little Jesus beckoning me to play outside with him, when I went out for my run. And we searched for secret nooks and trails, looked at strange flowers and just enjoyed the sun and the birds.
“Didn't you envy those whose hobby earned their keep and had become their source of income and means of living? Let your work become your hobby. See if you enjoy it more.”
My angel is right. That’s an advice for everyone. And I would add that if after a year, you still dread your work, for heaven's sake find another! Why on earth would you stick to knitting if you loathed it? Find a hobby that you'd enjoy. Best if you make your hobby become your work, then your work becomes mere play.
“If my work becomes mere play, would inspiration still leave me? Would I still have writer's block?" I asked my angel.
“Imagine a parent leaving the toddler in the crib and letting him cry. The child eventually learns that playtime is over. He needs to rest and sleep. Sometimes you have to stop playing, or working; it's time to rest and sleep.”
It was then that I realized this was the reason for my dryness in prayer, and my lack of energy in running and lack of inspiration in writing.
I slept late the previous night!
Matthew Kelly, best selling author of the book, The Rhythm of Life, once spoke to a group of health care professionals at Cincinnati Children's and said, "Your day starts the night before. If you don't get enough sleep, you've sabotaged your day, your work and yourself."
So that's the reason for my writer's block: tiredness.
“As a Christian writer, you deal differently with writer's block," the Lord seemed to tell me. "You don't store up your riches of inspired writing for future use because I've sent those messages not for your use but for My people. You do not hoard it. Some messages are more crucial and need to be delivered promptly than the others. A Christian writer operates differently. Your inspirations follow the principle of positive feedback, like a mother's breast that would keep on producing as long as the baby continues to feed on it. Once the mammary glands detect incomplete emptying of milk, it will stop producing milk. That's what will happen to inspirational writers like you. Once you hold on to these messages for future use, for fear of a writer's block, the inspirations will cease. You must write and never stop writing but know when to publish.”
The Pain of Waiting
Know when to publish. The comment pinched my heart. I remembered my book. Had I not waited long enough? Or did God change His mind? Or perhaps I only made up those promises that I claimed to be His. These doubts assailed me last Saturday.
In response to my doubts, the rain poured and brought me to the treadmill so I could watch this video and God could assure me that I had not imagined His promises.
God’s promises never fail whereas my heart change and my fleeting emotions varies with the season.
Even then, God is like a GPS with built-in alternate routes, some longer or slower, but nevertheless lead to the same destination. He recalculates when I make a wrong turn or wrong decision, when I've become lazy to fulfill my end of the promise and fail to do my part. He still makes ends meet.
Being born again and entering the womb has its growing pains. It's part of growing little before the Lord.
While growing up, my daughter used to complain of shin pains.
"The long bones of your legs are growing," I'd explain. Still, she'd complain every day as this happened. And I'd explain every day.
I'm like my daughter, constantly complaining of my growing pains. My impatience makes the waiting painful.
“When is the fulfillment of Your promise happening? You told Me…." and it goes on and on, the yakking and crying. Yet, God in His Fatherly goodness explains and repeats Himself every single day.
Now, I embrace His promises once more and look out for signs. The number 7, 10 and 30. Highway signs, reroutings, they're all before me. Recalculating.
Sometimes a writer's block is not just a block on the road. It's a sign that the road is not safe to navigate, a tree has fallen, or a ravine lies waiting in the end.
I stop and reroute, allowing God's internal GPS to lead me.
And it led me to write daily devotionals and add inspiring infographics to my portfolio.
Indeed, His well is deep.
The more I give inspiration, the more I receive inspiration
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