Thursday, February 22, 2024

Writing Through the Struggle

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

There are times when writing is hard or at least seems harder than it should be. Ideas don’t come. Or the ideas do come, but the words to flesh them into coherency flutter away like a butterfly in a swift breeze. You reach for the words, and they’re gone.

Then an idea comes, and the words start to flow. And we freeze because the words trigger memories and the memories trigger pain. Pain we thought was healed or resolved or forgotten.

Or the pain is unrelated to our topic, but it surfaces just the same. The way our minds and emotions are wired, a thought can cross a synapse into an area we weren’t even thinking about. Then BAM! We’re triggered and the pain and the struggle are there.

Our writing stops, stuck in the mire and muck of our present struggle or one from our unhealed past. It hurts like someone ripped the scab off.

What’s a person to do?

I wish I had a secret formula, a simple answer to fix this. But I don’t.

One word that comes to mind is MOVE. If we don’t move, the struggle and pain win. They overwhelm us and drive us back into the pit we thought we’d escaped.

Moving physically is part of this. Physically exercise—something as simple as taking a walk—releases chemicals in our brain. Heaviness lifts, perspective shifts, and we see the situation more clearly.

But physical movement usually isn’t enough to bring us the relief and healing we need.

Continuing with the MOVE theme, the first and best thing to do is to move toward God. The neat thing is we can do this while we’re physically moving. We don’t have to go far because God is always with us and in us.

He doesn’t move. We move emotionally and spiritually. The pain and struggle hurt deeply. They arise unexpectedly, even from our past. There is a shock element that first freezes us and then makes us withdraw into what seems like a comfort zone of isolation. We feel safe.

But we’re not. We’re alone in our pain. We’ve unlocked a door for the devil to slip in and play his games with our mind and emotions and spirit. He sows lies and doubts and fears.

Our first step is to seek God and proclaim our trust in him. Resist the devil, and he must flee.

And God is there. Ready with all we need. One of the most effective prayers I’ve ever heard is, “Lord, help!” It invites him into our situation, into our pain and our struggle. It acknowledges we can’t do it on our own.

In the Bible, we find God’s promises for the healing of body, soul, and spirit. We pray his Word. We know he knows his Word. Our praying it brings it into our minds and our emotions. His Word feeds our spirit. Praying and speaking his Word reminds us he is in control.

All too often, we try to control, especially when we’re hurting. This is the time we need to seek him, to snuggle into his lap.

In our pain and struggle, we also need other people. Other writers who have shared their struggles with us. Fellow believers we trust. Believers we know are in tune with God. People we’re comfortable sharing our hurts and doubts, our fears and pain. People who will listen and who will provide wise counsel, support, and encouragement. They may not have solutions, but they offer us relationship, empathy, and caring and tender and listening hearts.

Experiencing pain and struggles? Get moving. And moving includes writing. Sometimes, we can use our current WIP as part of therapeutic process. We write our pains and struggles into the manuscript and watch how our characters deal with it. 

Other times, a better alternative is to write our pain, maybe in our journal, or just start a new document. For me, journaling about a struggle frequently turns into prayer and a means of connecting with God on an even deeper level. Meditation on the Word also has a way of strengthening our spiritual connections from which we draw grace and strength and wisdom.

How have you dealt with pain struggles triggered by your writing?


Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest.

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. 

Connect with Henry on his BLOG, TWITTER and FACEBOOK.


  1. Henry, as always, your post gave my day the very start it needed. Gonna talk a little walk before writing today. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for your post. When I journal about my pain or any emotion that comes up I usually end up writing a prayer. This will usually calm me down, and I can see things more clearly. This produces a different perspective of what’s going on inside of me.

    1. Amen, Art. Journaling has been a huge help for me because it helps me to calmly sort out all that's going on. It also halves me focus on hearing from God. Blessings.

  3. Thanks, Henry. Much better plan than avoidance. Often I try to find a small area that is not so emotional to work on -- but I like your idea better. : )

  4. Amen. Thank you. There’s no better support group than those who know God is the answer no matter the question. It never hurts to hear the words again.
    Angela Major