Have you ever found yourself caught up in a difficult season? Has the rain ever poured down with the streaming of your tears? Or has the thunder ever flashed above the pounding of your heart?
I’m sure you’ve experienced those confusing moments when your emotions seem to change as quickly as the winds. Maybe you’re going through a family crisis. Maybe your friends keep treating you poorly. Or maybe you’re feeling depressed without even knowing why.
Life is hard. It’s hard for anyone, and it’s hard for a young writer like you.
But when you’re facing one of life’s storms, do you ever find yourself turning to your writing to help you process it all?
“Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing; ink is the great cure for all human ills.”
Take it from C.S. Lewis himself: There’s something comforting about writing through a storm.
And it’s something more comforting than just hearing the clickity-clack of your keyboard above the pattering of raindrops (although that definitely sounds soothing!).
When I think about the hard season I experienced last year, I’ve realized how much writing has changed my life for the better. I learned how to write through difficult times. It’s become a place where I can pour out my heart onto the page, and where I can let the way I see the world drive the direction of my words.
I’ve found so much relief in writing. And oftentimes, it’s allowed me to look at my everyday life with a fresher view. Writing has even helped me grow closer to God.
And I hope it can do the same for you.
How To Write During Difficult Times
When you’re going through a difficult season, it’s important to acknowledge that you’re struggling. If you’re having a hard time in your life, you’ll see that reflected in your writing.
And that’s okay! Writing through a hard time is one of the greatest ways to build endurance as a writer.
But writing may not come as naturally to you when you find yourself caught up in a storm.
You may not even want to write at all.
And you don’t have to write. It’s healthy and important to take a break, or at least change your rhythm—especially when life happens.
But if you do choose to keep writing, there are some helpful ways to approach the process.
1. Write Whatever Comes To Mind
You don’t have to keep plowing away at your main work-in-progress if you don’t feel the inspiration or energy to continue with it at the moment. There’s nothing wrong with setting that project aside and writing whatever comes to mind.
Write whatever will allow you to pour all those thoughts and feelings onto the page. Or write whatever will give you relief or hope or make your faith feel stronger. You can even write simply just for the joy and the fun of it!
A lot of times I feel more inspired when I’m away from my computer, with just a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. Shutting off the screens takes away the distractions and lets my mind think at its best, especially when I’m having a hard time.
So I would encourage you to take out a sheet of paper or flip somewhere in your notebook. Just look at the blank page and think about what you’re going through. What words come to your mind? They don’t have to be spectacular, they don’t have to make any sense—They just have to be words. Words in all their splendor.
And when you’re at a loss for words, touch on your experiences and emotions. Let those fuel your inspiration, and see if putting down those words lifts your spirits even just a little bit.
2. Remember Your Work Doesn’t Have To Be Shared
As writers, we often feel this pressure to share everything we write. And as a result, we feel that everything we produce has to be perfect and worthy and likable…
But it doesn’t have to work that way. Your writing doesn’t have to ever see the light of day if you don’t want it to.
There’s something special about having a few personal pieces that you keep tucked away within your journal. There are some meaningful works that you hold so close to your heart, and you don’t have to cave to the pressure of sharing them with the world.
And sometimes, you may realize that you want to share your writing at some point, but you simply aren’t ready yet.
And that’s okay. After all, the world will always be waiting—so why rush the process?
3. Take A Few Steps Back
If you do feel ready to share your writing, however, it’s important to give yourself a healthy break from the piece before starting the editing process, and especially before showing it to anyone.
Taking a few steps back is important. It allows you to consider how emotionally connected you are to the work. Do you think you could handle receiving constructive criticism? How would you feel about others reading it? How much does it reflect your struggles or emotions?
Receiving criticism on your writing is never easy. Others may not understand how you, the writer, can feel so attached to a piece. It’s just words, isn’t it?
But no, it’s not just words. It’s your heart and soul poured onto the page. It’s your thoughts and feelings put into expression. And it’s the way you see the world.
You probably already know that receiving and implementing feedback will make you a better writer. But when you’re emotionally connected to a piece, any criticism will hurt more than usual.
And taking a few steps back will help you recognize if you can handle that criticism yet. It will also give you the time to let any wounds heal—and when your mental health gets stronger, so will your ability to take criticism.
Maybe your piece is something that isn’t meant to be shared. Or maybe it is, but you need to wait for the storm to pass. Acknowledging these things will help you take your next steps.
4. Give Yourself Grace
To practice consistency, many writers will keep track of the number of words or amount of hours they’ve written that day or week. They’ll set goals for themselves to stay on track with their project, or to just build good habits. Maybe you’ve done this for some time now.
And while these practices have their benefits, sometimes your goals won’t be realistic. Even if you set a small, manageable goal for yourself, you may find that you’re worn out trying to reach it.
And in the difficult seasons, you may have to take a break. And that’s okay. Learn to see even small steps as achievements. Writing another sentence in your book, editing a paragraph, thinking about your characters–These may seem simple, but they’re still a sign of progress.
After all, words become chapters and chapters become novels. But it all starts with the words.
If you don’t meet your daily word count, don’t beat yourself up for it. If you go days without even touching your writing, accept the fact that you’re in a difficult season. You can’t expect your writing life to fall into a perfect cadence if the rest of your life sounds like a wild storm.
Give yourself grace, and remember that the storm will pass.
How Writing Helps In A Difficult Season
When thinking about how writing can bring relief from the storm, I think that part of it has to do with your love for the process.
Writing is something that you’re passionate about. You find joy in it—a sort of joy that feels like an escape from all the heavy things in this world.
But it’s more than just a source of joy. It’s a source of relief.
Pouring It All Onto The Page
Sometimes, when you’re struggling, it can be helpful to talk to a friend about it all. There’s something comforting about having someone to whom you always can turn (and maybe even rant).
Writing can be like that listening ear. You can pour all your thoughts, all your emotions, and all that’s bothering you—You can pour it all onto the page.
It can be in a journal entry or a poem, or even in a fiction work.
But when you write, and when you put all your struggles onto that page, you may find that your heart feels a little bit lighter as you continue with your day.
Your thoughts may start to feel clearer as you see them reflected on the paper.
You may even be able to look at your circumstances from a different perspective–a more hopeful one–if you choose to end your writing on a positive note.
I like to end my writing with something hopeful. I seek to give my poem hope or my characters hope. Most of all, I seek to give my readers hope.
And when I make hope feel possible for my readers, it suddenly feels more possible for me, too.
Faith Feels More Real
When writing about your faith, especially in the storm, you’ll find that your faith suddenly feels more real.
Every line about God’s goodness suddenly feels like a truth that flows through your soul with the beating of your heart. The faith that once felt so flat suddenly comes alive in every dimension.
And you grow closer to God because of this.
The impact that writing has placed on my faith has changed my life in ways that I cannot begin to describe. I hope that you, my fellow young writer, will see the same results.
Sometimes it’s hard to write about God’s goodness when you’re going through a storm. But writing about it forces you to look for His faithfulness in the simplest of things.
And writing about it helps you realize that His faithfulness lies everywhere.
The World Relates To The Raw Stuff
Sharing your writing often feels like sharing a piece of yourself. And sometimes, coming into that place of vulnerability—sharing a writing piece that lets loose all your unkempt emotions and opinions—can be terrifying.
It means sharing this part of you that perhaps you’ve kept hidden all this time–the raw part of you. The part of you that may look like a mess at times.
“Now,” you may say, “I don’t think my readers would want to see any of that raw stuff.”
I’ve thought the same thing. I’ve thought about putting on the mask of having my life “all together” in my nonfiction pieces, and I’ve worried about the emotional, “over dramatic” scenes in my fiction work. But over time I’ve realized that the world has a desire to read the raw parts.
Because the raw parts aren’t just raw, they’re real.
This world has seen so much of what’s fake. What the world needs now is the stuff that’s real.
Sympathetic characters, with their weaknesses and fears, make fiction feel genuine. These characters suspend the reader’s disbelief, as they reflect someone that seems real. Someone to which the reader can relate.
Someone who may seem a lot like the reader himself.
And a lot like you—the writer—yourself.
With your nonfiction work, it’s up to you to express your weaknesses and fears. It sets up credibility (“This is how I came to this realization—because I struggle with this myself”) and a humble attitude (“I’m not better than you—I struggle with this too”).
And as a writer obsessed with avoiding hypocrisy and the “holier-than-thou” narrative, I always seek to remember the importance of openness, and especially honesty.
A fictional character falls flat without an internal struggle. And truly, no reader wants to see a nonfiction article in which you paint a supposedly perfect life.
You see, the raw parts serve as an important part of your writing. They make it real, and they make it relatable. And your work as a writer has always involved connecting to your readers.
Seasons Of Writing Match The Seasons Of Life
The beauty of writing through the storm lies in the prospect of relating to your readers on a deeper level. Because if there’s one thing that every reader will understand, it’s hardship.
And you never know, your words could end up changing someone’s life. Your words could reach someone right in the middle of their own storm, telling them, “You’re not alone.” Or maybe even saying, “Look up—There’s still hope.”
And it’s amazing how much writing can change your own life. Let that be a reason you write–to change lives. To change your own life, even. And to bring the reassurance of hope.
After every storm comes a breakthrough of sunshine, and after every winter comes the arrival of spring.
The seasons of life go through a cycle of sorrow and joy, hardship and hope.
The seasons of your writing will match this same cycle. Sometimes it will feel easy, but other days, even writing a few words will be a struggle.
But your writing will always be a place where you can find comfort from the storm, and see reminders of the One Who provides in that storm.
And one day, you’ll feel the warmth of the sun shining upon your back as you thumb through the pages of a worn notebook. You’ll see your old writing—the words that you wrote in that difficult season—and you’ll feel amazed at just how far you’ve come since then.