dealing with writer’s block

  • QUESTION: “What do you do when you can’t write… or when you have ‘writer’s block’… or when you sit down at the computer and nothing happens?”
  • DEREK MAUL: “Write anyway. Write about not being able to write. Or simply write about what you see.”

snoopy1I once read an advice page for “Christian Writers” that suggested writer’s block can be cured via prayer, reading the Bible, and making sure we are “right with God.”

That’s all good. But isn’t that’s where we’re supposed to start out anyway? What if we’ve already been reading scripture? What if we’ve already prayed? What if we’re all cozy with God and we still can’t write?

I’m all about hooking into the source of all creativity, light, and life as a matter of routine – writing or not, and I tend to be more productive, and more creative in everything I do when I live – open-hearted – in the context of my walk with God as a follower of Jesus.

But I still get writer’s block; I still come to a grinding halt sometimes; I still sit in front of my computer some mornings, drawing an absolute blank where I’m usually brimming with ideas.

WHAT DO I SEE? So, to follow my own advice, what do I see? Well I’ll help you out with a picture (below), because it’s not that easy to describe. My desk may look like a mess, but it’s really more of an honest reflection of everything I’m juggling this morning; my desk is “Exhibit-A” of my week.

  • A pile of papers related to the pressing task of registering our vehicles in the state of North Carolina (unbelievably complex, it turns out);
  • some correspondence I’m in the process of answering;
  • bills that need my attention;
  • my study Bible, tellingly covered by DOT forms;
  • receipts tired of waiting to be filed;
  • coffee that desperately wants to be replenished;
  • detailed instructions from the vet vis-a-vis Scout’s new “itchy-allergic-dog” diet;
  • a note from a loving friend in Tampa;
  • this post, partially written;
  • a pile of distressingly small free-lance writing checks waiting for deposit;
  • a survey of our property, covered with notes and ideas;
  • directions to a noon meeting I have today in Raleigh;
  • medical reimbursement forms to fill out…
this desk in real time
this desk in real-time

It’s the story of a fairly cluttered life, a life still attempting to find a more fruitful equilibrium in its new milieu, a life that tries to process all the details with God’s word always in mind – despite the detritus over and around it, a life that I love and wouldn’t trade for anything.

Because these piles of details tell me how vital, forward-moving, engaging, fruitful, meaningful, and challenging my life is. The answer for a messy desk like this isn’t to neatly file everything into its proper place, because the proper place for my life is right in front of me, reminding me that I am blessed – both with challenges and with the resources to take them on.

WHAT WRITER’S BLOCK? And that, interested reader or fellow struggling writer, is what I see. Twenty-two minutes ago I sat down, thought about the scripture I had read, and drew a long, “I guess I’m not going to be posting anything this morning” blank. So then I simply described what I could see.

Now I guess I need to stop writing and actually do some of the things on my list!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Peace and blessings – DEREK


  1. I like what you said about being blessed with the challenges of life and the resources to tackle them. Thanks for putting positive text to the ordinary work-a-day world. Peggy


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