Roller Coaster Writer

A piercing headache forced me awake this morning. The pain emanated from the region of my right shoulder blade, up the right side of my neck and spread across the top of my head.

What’s up with this? I thought at first and then wondered how I would make it through the second full day at the Mt Hermon Writer’s Conference with a migraine, which seemed imminent. Exhausted, even after almost eight hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed, took pain relievers and rushed to get ready for the day. I was already going to be late for breakfast.

I confess the desire to burst into tears. My critique class afforded great instruction and helpful, encouraging criticism, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow the writing direction I felt fairly confident of two days earlier now seemed lost to me.  What am I doing here? How am I going to make it another four days?

Even after taking more medication than I ever allow, my head continued to pound. My classmates commiserated with my pain, and I struggled to accept the fact that the writing assignment I wrestled to produce after three hours the previous afternoon would have to suffice. We would all share our work within the hour. Negative thoughts assaulted me. I don’t mean that I felt a bit insecure about my writing. I mean violent words stabbed at my heart and soul.

Your writing is awful. Everyone will hate it and tear it apart. What makes you think you have anything worthwhile to say. Besides, you can’t write it well anyway. No matter how hard you try, this is too hard! You may as well just quit now. Go home.

I should have recognized the onslaught. It was familiar to me by now; anytime I felt like I had progressed at all as a writer, amateur or not, the attack began. But with my head spinning in pain, I almost gave in. Funny thing though–everyone in my group praised what I had perceived as junk and told me it was the best writing they had read from me. They saw the real me emerge. Wow! I couldn’t have been more surprised, so convinced had I been by the lies I heard in my head.

Stunned, I almost cried. “You all can’t believe what a struggle writing this was yesterday afternoon.” They smiled with understanding.

My devoted husband, Brendan, brought me some forgetten items from home (thank goodness the conference is held close by), and as soon as I saw him, I burst into tears.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. My head…” and the entire morning poured out with my tears. Just his being there for fifteen minutes comforted me.

Later, a friend prayed for my headache to go away. It did. During orientation, clarity about the next steps for my writing career began to settle in my mind. I sat in a workshop in which two of the Bible verses used by the instructor were the exact verses I had felt God encouraging me with earlier in the week. My heart lifted and now the tears came out of joy.  Dinner conversation further boosted my spirits. I was given the opportunity to pray for someone else who was struggling. Our evening speaker, Liz Curtis Higgs, entertained us with hilarity and challenged our hearts to trust God with everything. “Just let me love on you,” she said. Sounded good to me!

When I returned to my room, I sent a text to Brendan, and realized the pain in my shoulder and neck were gone.

Phew! What a day.  I rode the coaster up and down and corkscrewed around, but have ended the ride of my day with a sigh of relief and contentment, excited for tomorrow. Such is the life of an amateur writer. I wonder if professionals have days like this? I’ll bet they do.


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