I don’t know about you, but by
the time summer rolls around I’m exhausted. The gray months of winter,
overwhelming task of keeping track of family schedules and school,
deadlines, and more leave me feeling empty and spent.
The same is true of my writing
career. Having recently finished a particularly emotional manuscript,
the recent launch of my third novel, and maintaining my day job on top
of that, my brain rather feels like mush. My imagination has shriveled,
my prose is flat, and my muse has fled and left a note saying not to
come look for it because it doesn’t want to be found.
Recently, my husband and I
dusted off the porch swing, pulled it from its winter spot in the
garage, and took it to the back patio. I sat on the familiar cushions
and one of my golden retrievers jumped up next to me, curling himself
into a furry comma, and we rocked back and forth, back and forth, until
once again I began to notice.
I noticed the cardinals singing
and the mourning doves cooing, perched on the roof corner of the house
next door. I noticed the round flower buds of our peonies readying
themselves to burst open, their glory so heavy they will soon arch to
the ground with the weight of it. And I noticed the sound of my
children and others in the neighborhood delighting in play.
His mercies are new every
Summer reminds me that as
important as discipline is to a writer, self-care is just as
imperative, and the warm, colorful months are a great time to fill the
places of your heart and mind that have been emptied onto the page.
May I share four suggestions on
how with you today?
First, go exploring. You don’t
have to go far to find a new place to hike and discover nature and the
world around you in new ways. One of my friends recently posted a map
featuring a tour of waterfalls in the state of Indiana, and I put this
on my list of places to explore. So many towns in the summer months
have farmer’s markets and art fairs bursting with unique people and
foods and talents. It’s been my experience that art begets art. Whether
a new painter or metallurgist, or the Original Creator, there’s always
something new to discover and inspire if we take the time.
Second—and this may be
obvious—but read. When I am between manuscripts or edits, I binge read.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to settle my brain enough to fully
appreciate a book when I’m in writing mode. But when I set down my pen,
I can’t get enough books. Trying books outside your usual favorite
genre can be especially fun and inspiring to a parched mind. Join a
summer reading program at your local library. Join a book club. Start a
book club. Or, just set awhile on your own porch swing and just read.
Third, exercise. While I’m no
personal trainer, I have discovered that the older I get, the more
pivotal exercise is in maintaining not only my body, but my mind as
well. Summer, of course, lends itself to getting the body moving,
whether a bike ride to the said farmers markets, planting a new bed of
flowers or vegetables, or taking a row on a quiet little lake. Even a
brisk walk around the neighborhood with my dogs is enough to help give
my introspective mind a new outlook on a project and on life.
Finally, and most important,
remember who you’re writing for. When you feel like you can’t write
another word, let alone another page, remember that He who brought you
to it will see you through it, as the saying goes.
In my new novel, Lead
Me Home (Tyndale), James Horton is the pastor of a dying
church in a small Midwestern town. In a scene where James is feeling
terribly discouraged, he finds a letter from Tilly, the old pastor
emeritus of the dying church, who reminds him,
“Never forget your
calling. When the storms and trials of the pastorate come, keep these
things in mind:
A crisis doesn’t mean the end. More often than not, it signals a
Critics usually aren’t’ heretics. They are, however, usually hurting.
You’re not in this alone, so don’t try to do this alone.
The grass isn’t greener at the church down the road.
The gospel stays the same.
God never leaves.”
What Tilly says can be
applied to the writer committed to telling stories with a Christian
world view. We are ministers in our own right, after all, and no one
ever said ministry was easy. I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, the
perpetual winter, the fear that the cold and dreary seasons will never
My character James
Horton is faced with a lot of tragedy, but as he wrestles with his
failures and near-overwhelming despair about everything that might have
been, the blessings right in front of him slowly become evident, not
unlike summer flowers pushing up through the dry, hard dirt.
“They all still had
futures. They all still had hope,” James considers. “And in that moment
it occurred to him that God could still use any situation, even the
impossible and unlikely, to make all things new.”
Winter, and a winter of
the soul, are like this, aren’t they? We reach the end of our selves,
and we can either decide to be miserable, or we can decide to look
around us and see that at last spring and summer have arrived again, as
they have a habit of doing.
This reminds me of one
of my very favorite verses from Hosea 6:3, “Let us know; let us press
on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to
us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
What will you do this
summer to allow the Lord to water your soul?
BIO:A long time believer in the power
of story to change lives, Amy got her start in journalism and medical
writing. Her work has been featured in a wide array of publications
including newspapers and medical journals. Her novels have been
shortlisted for the 2014 Inspy awards, semi-finalists for the ACFW
Genesis awards, and a winner of the 2011 Women of Faith writing
contest. Amy lives with her husband and three sons in central Indiana.
Her third novel, Lead Me Home (Tyndale),
released in May.