Long ago in Mozambique during the civil war of the 1980s, I used to break out in a rash at times of special stress. I remember once when we returned from grocery-shopping and R & R in neighboring Swaziland to some particularly stressful news. I woke the next morning with my chest, neck and face covered with rash and my eyes swollen nearly shut.
My husband was away last week. This should have been prime time for focusing and making lots of progress on the book. Instead I sat in front of my computer wondering what on earth was supposed to happen in the story, unable to visualize it, much less get it down in black and white. What I did write was dead and uninspiring.
At last I took a morning off from pretending to be the creative author of fiction to journal all my frustrations about why I am a failure as a writer and a person and have only been playing games and deceiving others to call myself an author. After laying it all out, I took my prayer notebook and a cup of tea and sat on the dock. Some Bible verses seemed particularly applicable:
Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a woman’s life does not consist in the abundance of her books in print. (Luke 12:15 paraphrased)
But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
The itch did not miraculously stop when I realized that who I am before God does not depend on my success as an author. Knowing my family won’t love me any less if I never publish another book doesn’t keep my dry, irritated skin from tingling when traffic is heavy, nor have the various threads of my story suddenly come together in a powerful and dramatic climax.
Ultimately I am grateful for the unavoidable external reminder of my need to trust God and not try to do it all on my own. (An itchy eyelid is definitely preferable to ulcers.) I am also grateful for the steroid ointment my doctor gave me.
And this morning I managed to channel some of that self-doubt into my character's frustration with the silence of God. There are still a few weeks before that June deadline....