Tuesday, September 14, 2021

How Will Mental Rest Help Me Find Writing Clarity?


by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

I’m a skeptic. When new ideas are presented to me, I smile. Listen intently then walk away rolling my eyes. It’s not something I do to be ugly or snide, rather it’s my way of learning to process information. My first instinct is impulsivity, so I’ve learned to suppress impulse, I need to put the breaks on.


What is Mental Care For Writers?
In the last few years, personal mental care has become a “thing.” I suppose I’m simply older and being raised in the mountains, personal mental care was last on the agenda. We were raised to meet the needs of those around us first so when I first heard of personal mental care, I listened intently, smiled, walked away, and rolled my eyes. Time to process this new idea.

To me, personal mental care was a vacation at the beach without 100+ people in my face all day long. Still, even at the beach I rose daily and went to work, writing 2000+ words a day. I rested. Sorta.

I’m a slow writer, not one of those authors who can pound out a new novel every 3 months. I’ve noted before, I deal with a learning disability, and that in and of itself makes writing, which is my love and passion, very difficult. My issue is comprehension so when I write, I have to process and reason through each chapter to be sure I understand what I wrote. For most, this is not a problem, they zing through chapters like a mad man, but because of this disability, I can rarely plot out a full novel. I know how I want it to start, where it is in the middle, and how I want it to end. Don’t ask me the details because I haven’t been able to reason them out.

You are probably asking at this point, what does a learning disability have to do with personal mental care? Actually, a lot. Bear with me.

My brain doesn’t function like most. Because of this comprehension issue, doing things that I love can be not only difficult but mentally taxing. I can write the first two chapters, and begin a proposal synopsis, but the chapters don’t work with my beginning, middle, or end. So I rewrite. Then rewrite again. And again. I am now on month three of trying to write a proposal where my synopsis is not matching my writing. Doggone it! Frustration and stress set in, not to mention, self-imposed deadlines. It just takes me a long time to get through those first three chapters. Once I nail them down, the remainder of the story flows with great success. Until then, this is my self-talk.

Will my agent be patient? He’s gonna fire me as a client because I can’t turn out work fast enough. I can’t make this work. Am I even a decent writer? Any good writer would have already nailed this.

Do you see how writing and personal mental care are tying together?

We recently returned from vacation. As usual, I packed my computer, and the morning of day one, I marched out on the deck, computer in hand, sat down, and there was nothing. It wasn’t writer’s block. It was nothing. Immediately, the negative self-talk began and I wondered if I’d finally lost the muse that God had gifted me.

That’s when personal mental care became real. I prayed, Lord, I don’t understand. He replied to my heart. Rest.

I felt this glaring need to put words on the page but I couldn’t do it. Leaving my computer on the table, I donned my tennis shoes and went for a walk. The comprehension disability loomed so I worked through it, the same way I always do. Prayer and a piece at a time.

God is good to His blockhead children and He gently reminded this blockhead of the last three years. Two brain surgeries. A husband undergoing cancer treatment and surgery. A collapsed lung. Knee surgery. 

The Importance of Rest
Suddenly the mud cleared from the water. Sometimes, writers simply need to rest. Lean back, close the computer, turn off the phone, and clear the cobwebs. 

There’s a difference when you want to simply throw up your hands and quit writing than being mentally tired. I believe it’s important to understand how these things differ. There are times our ideas don’t click, rejections prevail, frustration sets in, and well…we feel a little whiny and weepy because “Poor us. We haven’t been published yet. Nobody likes what I do…” You get it. 

Then there are those times when our brain just shuts off. It’s not writer's block, it’s flat-out fatigue. Our bodies are pretty smart and they recognize when enough is enough, but our stubborn consciousness refuses to believe that we are not the “be-all-end-all” to the world. If we don’t write for a day, we’re lazy. Failures. Bad writers.

There are times when writers must recognize the needs of the physical body, listen to the warnings, and obey. 

After two years of great hardship, which I refused to believe was tough, it finally took its toll and my Father in Heaven loves me enough to turn off the light for a few days. If Cindy doesn’t get the clues, then I’ll just turn the light off in the house for a few days. She’ll have to sit quietly with idle hands cuz there’s no light to even crochet by. 

Writers need to rest. 
Our creativity stems from a refreshed mind. New stories come when we get up from our solitude and walk outside. See things. Listen to things. Breathe in the fresh air. We cannot create in a dark box.

It’s important to understand that personal mental care is not an excuse to stop working whenever you don’t feel like working or when you feel sorry for yourself. Rather it’s blocking out time to rest. Making time to reboot. 

I closed my computer for the rest of our vacation. I left my phone on the coffee table and walked away from text messages and social media. For nine days, I laughed with my boys, enjoyed walking and biking with the hubs, and I left the work behind. I quit worrying about what and when I ate. For a short time, God turned off my house lights and forced me to rest.

Writers need clarity. Sometimes it’s in our skill. Our phrasing or work. But sometimes, it’s just clarity of mind. 

Set work hours and if you are able, vary the times of day you write. Shut off the computer at night, and turn off social media. Pray. Go to bed a little earlier or at least kick up your feet and wiggle your toes. Personal mental care means not running yourself into the ground. Do this and your writing life will thrive.

TWEETABLE

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.

18 comments:

  1. After everything you have gone through, your perseverance is an example to all of us. That time of rest was a reward for your body and mind. Thanks for your transparency, Cindy.

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    1. Well sometimes we need to heed our own advice. I was tired...in fact, I'm still a wee bit tired, but I've put myself on a new schedule and it's made a world of difference.

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  2. Did my wife tell you to write this for me:))))

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  3. Nooooo! But you should probably pay attention! :)

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, Cindy! I identify with most of what you said, and this brings comfort, as well as clarity, to my writing.

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  5. Well-said Cindy. Thank you for your transparency and this timely reminder! I get it, and am off to an old cottage the end of this month to breathe and listen. I'll take your permission with me!

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    1. That makes me feel good. Glad you see a need to physically rest.

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  6. Beautifully written, Cindy. It's a wonderful reminder to get off the proverbial treadmill and take a nice, long walk in the woods. thanks.

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  7. I know. I am a "by choice" busy person. I needed to rest. I hope you see the need as well.

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  8. Insightful and so helpful, Cindy! This is just what I needed in this season.

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  9. Cindy, thanks for your vulnerable sharing. I certainly needed it, and I need to remind myself hourly to get up for the computer and take a break. Maybe I'll even set the alarm on my clock!

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  10. It's important. Your body needs a break. Your shoulders and back will thank you.

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  11. I totally understand, Cindy! I have a seizure disorder that affects my ability to focus for very long. It gets frustrating, especially when it requires a lot of rewriting. The best rest is to give myself a break and not be so critical. Easier said than done!

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