Writing When You’re Suffering, by Marissa Henley
When I approach a writing task, I mentally sort it into one of two categories: coffee shop writing or kitchen table writing. Coffee shop writing can be done despite a few distractions and without the need for tissues. I save kitchen table writing for the privacy of home because an emotional breakdown might result.
As a cancer survivor, I often write about the diagnosis that came one day before my 34th birthday and my desperate prayers to live long enough for my youngest child to remember me. Nine years later, sometimes these topics need to be written about with a box of Kleenex nearby.
Our painful life experiences often form the foundation of our writing ministry. Maybe today you’re writing in the middle of a difficult situation, illness or loss. When you walk through a weary season, what does that mean for your writing? Here are some thoughts to consider.
1. It might be time to share your writing.
I’ve been encouraged many times by someone who proclaims the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of her suffering. When we write in our pain, our words can resonate with a reader who’s struggling.
We don’t need to keep silent until our suffering is all wrapped up like a gorgeous Christmas gift under the tree. But don’t pressure yourself to stick to a strict schedule when you’re sick or grieving. And consider asking a trusted friend to help you discern whether you’re oversharing or sharing too soon.
2. It might be time to save your writing.
Four years passed between my last chemo treatment and my first book manuscript. In those years, every journal entry, counseling appointment, grief-filled time with the Lord and heart-to-heart with a friend prepared me to write from a place of healing.
When you’re grieving, you need to write without worrying about grammar, compelling descriptions, or how the piece will benefit a reader. Save it all — one day, it will shape and influence your public writing. But don’t automatically share everything you’re writing through your weary season.
3. It might be time to step away from writing.
Maybe your only words today are anguished, one-word pleas to the Lord for help and healing. I imagine King David continuously sought the Lord and cried out to Him, but that doesn’t mean he wrote a psalm every day.
Sometimes we need to step away from the pressures of a public writing life — sharing on a blog, posting on social media and other expectations. We need quiet and space for rest and healing. You can always step back in when you’re ready. So give yourself grace and take breaks when you need to.
God cares for you in the big questions of your suffering and the smaller questions of your writing life. You can trust Him to use your suffering for His glory and in His perfect timing. You’re held by your heavenly Father — whether you’re stepping away, saving, or sharing your writing — and He will never let you go.
July 27, 2021
June 1, 2021