A Blog by Jennifer Aulthouse

A heart for those who want more of God. A desperate plea for those who don't.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On Writing

I went to a writers conference in February and one thing that was insisted upon by the very experienced and successful writing faculty is that there is no such thing as writer’s block. You just make yourself sit there and sit there until something comes forth.

And this is why today I am writing about how hard it is to write, because, frankly, that’s all that’s coming forth. Sometimes I don’t think my well of ideas has been dug very deeply.

I think this is one reason why I had questioned for so long whether this writing thing really is what I am made for. I always envisioned a real writer as one in whom there is a great element of internal control over the vibrancy of the writing process. When it is time to write, he simply sits down, and the ideas and language flow forth as if he merely turned on the faucet of verbal brilliance. Words spill over, filling the blank pages as if a dam had burst, bathing the dry land. When it’s time to stop, just as quickly, a good ending point is found and the faucet is turned off, words filed carefully away in the highly organized recesses of the mind until he has time to write again.

My mental filing system is a mess and my faucets are clogged or something.

But it has got me thinking about my writing habits, and perhaps all of this is pointing to something that God is trying to get my attention in regards to, and it’s not necessarily that I “should be writing more often”. What I’ve noticed is that I seem to work at a much more slower pace than other writers I know. That isn’t to say that the process isn’t as frustrating to them, or that the reason behind my comparative slowness is that others are far more seasoned in their writing experience than I am......I’m sure there’s at least some truth to both.......but it’s hit me lately that the mental processing needed on my part in order to bring the sense of clarity in my words requires a length of time that seems agonizingly slow to me when compared to the amount of writing I feel like I’m supposed to be doing and need to be doing. Somehow you can develop an equation which takes the available time for writing measured by what my output should be and I know I would come up extremely short of whatever number the equation would spit out. And here’s where I think God’s talking to me......

I consistently miss the point. I’m so often running around attacking life like an over-caffeinated drill sergeant, feeling the fire-breathing tyranny of the calendar breathing down my neck, as I cross items off a never-ending to-do list of whatever monstrously important tasks must be taken care of this week and then quickly perish from any memory of existence, most of which don’t feel like they hold any significance to the grand scheme of things and yet will cause countless things to fall apart if they aren’t completed. I tend to measure my sense of productivity each day by how many things I can get crossed off that list (sometimes I add things on that I’ve already done, just so I can see more things crossed off.......neuroses, anyone?), and I carry around the burdensome pressure when I’m far behind on said tasks. I approach writing as one of those tasks. I’m doing it right now. It’s not fun, and it’s coming slowly. And I’m thinking of all the other things I could be doing with the hour and a half it’s taken me to put this together and it’s not even anything deep or brilliant (another mark of writing productivity, in my subjectively deceptive estimation of determining success).

So now I begin to clearly see the purpose of SLOW. It is refinement, training me to measure myself in the economics of eternity, where time, value, and productivity are altogether different creatures than we experience them to be in worldly systems. He is not counting my words (though He knows every one). He is not primarily concerned with me building my resume or my platform (though that may be a small part of His plan). It’s not supposed to be about writing, writing is merely one mechanism through which He’s given to me to grow in Him......and to share that growth.

And if it takes all week.....imagine it only taking a week!......for one simple impurity to be burned off of me through the Refiner’s fire, and that happens through what is revealed to me during the process of writing one sentence and one sentence only, it’s been a most successful writing week, indeed.

The words will come forth when they are meant to, if I am faithful to take up the pen when called. This hovering urgent pressure to “complete” is not the abundant life promised.

"Psalm 23 Antithesis" - Marcia Hornok

The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest;

it makes me lie down only when exhausted;

it leads me to deep depression and hounds my soul.

It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity's sake.

Even though I run frantically from task to task,

I will never get done, for my "ideal" is with me,

deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.

They demand performance from me,

beyond the limits of my schedule.

They anoint my head with migraines.

My in-box overflows.

Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me,

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.


  1. Wow Jen, you do not know how much I needed to read this post today. You sound just like me, and I have been feeling very weighed down and too short on my measurements. I, too, write down things I've already done so I can cross them off! I'm reminding myself that I did other things even if they hadn't been on my list to begin with. I feel left behind in a huge cloud of dust by just about everyone around me as they crank out chapter after chapter, article after article.

    I'm re-reading my favorite line from this post and wiping tears:

    He is not counting my words (though He knows every one).

    And you didn't think this post was deep. That's pretty deep to me!

    Thank you for the reminder, dear friend. We should keep in touch more often. I think we can relate well to one another.


  2. It's astounding to me how God chooses to use certain words to speak to people exactly how they need it. Thank you for saying all this.....what confirmation comments like yours bring to me.

    I don't know how people crank out so much so fast, either.

    I'd love to keep in touch more often!

  3. Hmmm well, i guess I'm not a real writer either if i'm supposed to have this internal control over the process! My writing is like feast or famine. Some days/weeks, it's a faucet i cannot turn off. I'm writing all day in my head, whether I can get it down or not. Other times, i can't focus enough to write a thing other than glib comments on facebook...