Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Hope for the Lonely Writer by Sondra Kraak

It has been said that writing is lonely work, and I won’t argue this point. A writer sits alone at a desk and must draw out words from the creative recesses of their mind and put them into a beautiful order on the page.

No one can do the work for the writer.

There is a legitimacy to this ache of loneliness. We were made for relationships, and loneliness can be a symptom that something about those relationships is broken. It can also be a symptom that we are placing our expectations for fulfillment in people and not in our heavenly Father.

Thus, loneliness can be an invitation into deeper intimacy—and creativity—with our Father. What a great opportunity!

But there’s a part of me that despises the lonely author stereotype. Because often, behind this stereotype is a writer who wants to be seen as lonely, who sees loneliness as a badge of being an artist. In this case, loneliness doesn’t reflect something broken about relationships, but rather points to something darker and more sinful: the lie, “no one understands me.”

And at the heart of that lie is a preoccupation with self.

Namely, pride.

I speak as an artist who struggles with this. In creative types, pride often looks like a desire to be recognized as uniquely talented, a desire to be praised for exclusive and rare gifts.

We long to hear, “No one writes quite like you do!”

The stereotype of a writer being lonely only feeds us with the idea that we are supposed to be lonely as writers—because no one understands what it’s like to be a writer.

Poor me.

There’s another reason the lonely writer stereotype bugs me. As writers of the 21st Century, we have incredible access to community. When I began writing fiction, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers, which led me to my critique partners. Other similar organizations provide resources, events, and small groups for writers. Many writers testify to the blessing of community they have found with each other. Not only do we have access to community as writers, but if you belong to Christ, you belong to His body, the Church and have a great spiritual family surrounding you.

The problem is, what may be true in theory is not always true in practice. The family of God is supposed to be marked by belonging and love but, instead, it can feel exclusive and rejecting. And the digital community so helpful to us as writers can also be cliquish and isolating.
Our experiences with community can leave us feeling lonelier, a discouraging thought.

The legitimacy of loneliness is real for many of us—whatever the motives or reasons.

What are we to do?

Extend grace.
None of us are perfect in relationships. We will hurt others and be hurt by others. This does not mean we vow never to be in community again. It means we pray for grace to forgive and try again. We don’t ignore our painful experiences, but we don’t linger and live in them either.

Examine your lifestyle.
Have you chosen to live like a hermit? Are you shying away from fellowship opportunities? What steps might you take toward community with other writers or believers? Some of us are more introverted and struggle to reach out, but either we pity ourselves in our lonely places, or we take the first steps to move toward people. Let’s choose the later.

Humble your expectations.
It’s natural to want to be in the “in” group of writers, but do you struggle with an unhealthy thirst for acclaim and affirmation from these writers or groups? Has fitting in become an idol? Work on freely offering encouragement and praise to others without expectations attached. Also, strive to set aside the insecurity that leads to feelings of isolation. Ask the Lord to reveal what is behind your need to be popular, well-liked, or praised?

Reevaluate your time and season of life.
Are you in a season of life that has temporarily hampered your community? Writers who have small children or who work a separate full-time job can easily feel distanced from others. Busyness creeps in on all of us and calls for us to reevaluate how we spend our time. Give yourself grace and have vision for the long haul. Make a goal to set aside space for interactions with other writers and creatives.

Ground yourself in scripture.
Finally, settle into John 13-17 and live from there. This passage, called the Upper Room Discourse, is Jesus’s final meal with His disciples. He gives a long message on abiding in the Father and the sending of the Comforter. It’s a beautiful invitation to a life of intimacy and communion with him. Understanding the love the Father has for us is essential for living a life of hope and peace. When we understand how loved we are, we are free to reach out to others with that love and fellowship.

Let me leave you with this:

The Lord God is a relationship in Himself: Father, Son, and Spirit. And He calls you into communion with Him. There is no greater place of belonging than in fellowship with your Creator and Savior. Take your loneliness to Him that He may swallow it up in the joy of His presence.

For the lonely writer, there is no greater place of belonging than in fellowship with your Creator and Savior. Take your loneliness to Him that He may swallow it up in the joy of His presence. @SondraKraak @MaryAFelkins #SeriouslyWrite

Sondra Kraak, a native of Washington State, grew up playing in the rain, hammering out Chopin at the piano, and running up and down the basketball court. Now settled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she enjoys spending time with her husband and children, Instagramming about spiritual truths, and writing historical romance set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She delights in sharing stories that not only entertain but nourish the soul. Her debut novel, One Plus One Equals Trouble, was an ACFW Genesis semi-finalist and the winner of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Unpublished Women's Fiction Award. Join her newsletter for a free short story and information about special devotional series.

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Four Dreams of You
Unfulfilled dreams have left Grace Thomas vowing not to let her imagination roam wild again. Resigning herself to the realistic dream of owning a dress shop, she accepts a position as a housekeeper at Monaghan Lumber Camp in order to earn funds. The plan is simple, easy, and safe. But Torin Monaghan is not. The reclusive brother who seems indifferent to her presence is ironically the one stirring up her imagination once again.

Torin Monaghan will not be deterred from his passion to preserve the beauty of nature. Even if it appears as if he’s going against his family. Even if the quirky and wistful seamstress invading his space is proving a distraction. To his frustration, Grace Thomas is not easily dismissed, and neither are the ways she’s opening his eyes to a different sort of beauty.

When past threats bring new trouble to Pine Creek, Torin and Grace must become vulnerable—to each other and their community—and through risk, discover that reality is more fulfilling than their dreams.