{Header image by Patrick Fore on Unsplash}

Last week was basically 2020 wrapped up in seven days. Between our fridge giving up the ghost (which necessitated a late-night transfer of all its contents into an already-full Fridge #2), saying goodbye to one of our dogs, dealing with an ongoing, long-term family crisis, AND receiving some sad news on Friday, it was what we would call “a humdinger.”

Needless to say, it wasn’t the kind of week that normally fosters a great outpouring of creativity. AND YET! I still began work on the Celtic fantasy novel I mentioned a couple of Mondays ago. I still wrote a rough draft of my next article for Cultivating. I still sent off one query letter and started a new fanfic. And I did it all on a new laptop!

How I managed to accomplish it all, I’m not quite sure. But these were the things I’d planned to do and I did them, even if it sometimes felt as hard as pulling teeth.

The fanfic was, though, was a surprise. I realized on Wednesday that jumping from a nonfiction article and straight into fictional narrative is like cold-starting an engine. It’s not easy, transitioning from the importance of sacramental vision in dark times to an action-packed scene involving the Loch Ness Monster and a high-spirited heroine I’ve built from scratch.

But I learned on Thursday that if I spent a little time writing fanfic, that transition was so much easier! I still moved straight from nonfiction to fiction, but I didn’t have to fret about the pacing of a scene or whether my descriptions of the Scottish Highlands were accurate. I just had fun. And once my creative muscles weren’t so stiff, I was able to work on the Celtic fantasy without a problem!

But my Inner Critic gave me such a hard time about this, insisting that a project that won’t promote my brand or increase my chances of publication is worthless…even though I still worked consistently on the fantasy.

I’m at the point where I’m about to fling the Inner Critic out the window. Its editorial skills (which are admittedly quite good!) gained far too much power over me while I was polishing up Operation Lionhearted, and I’m getting sick of it.

Thankfully, however, the Lord comforted me through this simple yet profound tweet:

Obviously, “I won’t feel guilty about the things that make me happy” can be perverted: you don’t want to think that way about, say, a sinful habit! But it did assure me that if a little fanfic preps me for the more intense work of crafting my own novel…then praise God! It is a gift, it is a mercy, and I can and should accept it as such.

I’m a different writer than I was when I started work on Operation Lionhearted. I was 24, fueled by sheer excitement and a bit of rage…and writing nothing else except for a blog which I updated maybe twice a month. I’m now twenty-eight and no longer full of rage, thank goodness–but I’m also trying to get my first novel published and a second novel written. I update my blog every Monday. I write for an online magazine, and I’d like to write for other magazines. But I also have a wonderful job every Tuesday, and I have a productive life within my own home: I bake for our family, I’m my mom’s secretary, I enjoy my two baby nieces, I teach my siblings piano, I try to maintain a consistent exercise regimen, and I’m broadening my creative horizons with some arts and crafts.

I AM A BUSY WOMAN. And I refuse to feel guilty anymore about balancing my time and finding my own healthy creative zone. If it takes me longer to write The Thin Places than it took me to write Operation Lionhearted, that’s okay. It’s time to accept this new season of my life and write the next right thing!

How do YOU deal with your Inner Critic? Do you struggle with procrastination, or with being a workaholic? How do you maximize and nurture your creativity? I would love to hear your thoughts!

9 Comments on “Writing the Next Right Thing

  1. Maribeth, I’m so sorry for everything you and your family are going through. This year is hard enough without more ills on top of everything else. I’m cheering you on as you choose to foster creativity even in these days, especially as you learn more about yourself while moving on to a new project (that I can’t wait to read!).

    That tweet reminded me of a quotation from Julian of Norwich: “I saw that He is to us everything that is good and comfortable for us: He is our clothing that for love wrappeth us, claspeth us, and all encloseth us for tender love, that He may never leave us; being to us all-thing that is good, as to mine understanding.” I don’t feel guilty about wearing comfortable clothing; I shouldn’t feel guilty about the goodness where Jesus meets me, especially in the familiar and “homely.” I may have to cross stitch that quotation for my laundry room…

    One of the most helpful things for me in nurturing creativity is surrounding and filling myself with beautiful things that truly inspire me. Paging through art books, meditating on poetry, and keeping my living space tidy give me the energy I need to create. For some people, I imagine that could seem like focusing on unattainable standards. For me, I catch on to the creative energy poured out in art. If I’m stalling on a project, I find it good for recalibration. A messy space makes me despair, so keeping things clean is important to me, too, and helps me be grateful for what I have and present where God has placed me. As for the Inner Critic, if she doesn’t have anything constructive to say, she can pipe down. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for this encouragement, Melody!! I love that quote from our friend Julian; I’m currently (albeit slowly) making my way through a pocket edition of Reflections on Divine Love, and it blesses my heart every time I open it.

      Those are wonderful ways to nurture your creativity! I got to make a birthday cake this weekend, and it was such a refreshing experience; I felt like a real artist once I was finished. And I like to keep my writing spaces neat and tidy, too! But refilling the well is definitely an important practice as well…and taking the time to do that is ANOTHER area where my Inner Critic tries to play the tyrant. “You’re watching a movie?! You’re reading that novel?! YOU COULD BE WORKING!” (*irritated sigh*) She really has nothing constructive to say these days, so I think I’ll lock her in the closet 😉

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  2. I’ll always be fueled by rage, I fear xD xD #perks of being an INFP

    I love this post! I completely agree–all writing, all storytelling, all creating, has value in itself. I sometimes struggle with the same feeling, that my blog posts (for example) have “less” productivity value than my “real writing,” but SHUT UP, INNER CRITIC, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR IT.

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    • As someone who knows several INFPs, I know exactly what I mean and I totally feel ya, haha!

      “All writing, all creating, has value in itself.” YES YES YES!!!! Thank you so much for saying that! I am feeling so many benefits from allowing myself to devote some time to fanfic: already my imagination is really brightening when it comes to the fantasy story, and I’m FINALLY feeling that old, irresistible urge to just chuck the outlines (which were quite useful in getting to know the basic details, but a bit too confining in the actual crafting) and have fun with it!

      Also, the fanfic is once again about our Star Babies, in case you were wondering 😉

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  3. First of all Maribeth prayers for your family as they go through a trying time. Being older I have dealt with procrastination a lot. At least for me what freezes me is wanting to be a perfectionist, but not seeing how I can ever reach that perfect form whether in work, physical health, spiritual health. Dr. Jordan Peterson a psychologist, His Book 12 rules for life, is a good read, but deep, not an easy read. Anyway he said if you can’t get started just look around your room, find one small thing you could do to make the room better and do it. The very act of movement starts the ball rolling so start with something easy. He says your goal for any day should to be finish it better than you started even if it is just 1% better. Start easy.

    Secondly my wife Nancy does her bible reading in the morning. she reads her bible, 2 different devotionals and writes in a prayer journal. She amazes me. She said I just think it is something I need to do to start the day in a good mood. i asked her once how many times she had read the bible? She said she wasn’t sure, but she starts in Genesis goes through Revelations then goes right back to the beginning and starts over. Repetition so it becomes automatic.

    I think doing the fan fiction is a release with no pressure, kicks your mind off your problems. I read a lot, but when I want to give my mind a break I read science fiction. i just go onAamazon and pick something off a short review and read it on Kindle unlimited for free.

    Keep up the writing. I imagine if you would pull out some of your beginning writing and compare it to your present writing you would be amazed how far you have come.

    God bless you and your Family.

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    • Thank you so much for your encouragement comment, Mr. Kevin! I deeply appreciate the wisdom you’ve shared here! I love what Dr. Peterson says about finding one small thing to focus on and improve. That’s very much like the philosophy I’m really trying to adopt with my writing: just work on the next right thing, little by little, and you WILL make progress!

      That’s amazing about Miss Nancy’s Bible reading. I must admit, I think I’ve only read through the entire Bible once? I tend to find straight-through reads very intimidating…or I get bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers, haha! But again, I often adopt a “little bit at a time” approach: I’m reading through 1 Peter right now (my favorite book in the Bible), and as I read through it I write a couple of verses/a paragraph in my prayer journal every day. It allows me to really zone in on a particular thought and let it seep into my soul.

      Do you have any recommendations from your sci-fi Kindle reads? I don’t really enjoy reading books on my phone, but our library recently opened back up and I’m always on the lookout for good new reads–especially fantasy/science fiction!

      Again, thank you so much for your kind, encouraging words. Blessings to you and Miss Nancy! ❤

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      • Book recommendations; “The Coordinate” by Marc Jacobs, “Transgression (City of God)” by R. S. Ingermanson, “The Atlantis Gene” by A.G. Riddle. Middle one is a time travel book. All 3 are the first book in 3 part series. My favorite was the first one..

        When Nancy was your age she wasn’t studying the bible like she does now. Probably the last 15 years she has really worked on her faith because as she gets older and we are hit by more and more challenges and losses she was was looking for answers to why so much bad stuff was happening.. I don’t study it as much as her. She did challenge me to read through the whole bible in a year which I did.

        We see the storms headed your way. Be safe!

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      • Thank you! For both the recommendations and the good wishes! We have spent the entire weekend in Preparation Mode…but now we simply wait 😅

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