Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Battling Burnout ~ 10 Tips for Helping You Overcome Writer’s Block

Ruthy here! Today I'm hosting guest blogger Emily Wierenga, and her words of wisdom about writing, faith, motherhood, family and balance... Emily is giving away copies of her debut novel, "A Promise in Pieces", and

a copy of her just published memoir "Atlas Girl".....

Join me in a big Seekerville welcome!

I pin the colored fabric as though savoring a mango, this slice of time so sweet, and the sounds of children splashing in the pool. And all I want is to rest. To open wide this moment and step into it, to sit on a beach chair and hold my babies and breathe in their skin, and funny how, once you get what you want, all you can think about is the other.

But I am learning to write, in spite of myself.

Because I want to honor the call.

But I also don’t want to miss out on my children. Nor the man I made them with.

And sometimes, I’m just plain worn out. I don’t have any more words in me, and hasn’t it all been said before?

So how do we do it? How do we balance the laptop with the laundry and the liturgy?

How do we still our souls in a world that never sleeps?

To know God, in the stillness. Less of us, more of him, and sometimes we think we have to produce when really, we’re slaves to no one. Christ calls us friends, and there is freedom in this. We serve God alone, and have nothing to fear. So, when we’re burning out, we need to quiet our souls.

Here, friends, are 10 ways to find that stillness:

1.       Turn off the laptop. I have made a habit of turning it off for the entire morning and spending those hours with my pre-schoolers. By noon, I’m normally more than excited to begin to write, and all of the fear of yesterday has fled in light of having a space of “me time.” Even if you turn it off for a full day, then return to it in the evening, let your mind, let your spirit, breathe. The sound of victory whooshing through your soul.

2.       Cry, and laugh, a lot. Experience that ALIVE feeling again. Remember: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a (poor) first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” ― Anne Lamott, Bird by bird: some instructions on writing and life

3. Read. Whether it’s a novel or a memoir or the Psalms in your pajamas, don’t
read the same kind of genre you’re writing in, or you’ll get your own writing voice mixed up with someone else’s. So if you’re writing fiction, read non-fiction, and vice-versa.

4. Take a bath with some Epsom salts and a candle.

5. Eat some dark chocolate. And then eat some more.

6. Write a letter to someone you trust.

7. Surround yourself with inspiration. My friend constantly mails me encouraging quotes and artwork; I have posted these quotes and pieces of art above my desk to provide visual stimulation.

8. Hug your kids. Because they’re your greatest story. It’s incredible to be able to make up stories but it’s even more incredible to live them. To hear the words tumbling from your child’s mouth as he talks about his favorite blue flashlight as you lie beside him in his bunk-bed. “Some flashlights are small, and some are big, and some are tiny and some are huge,” he says as he slips his hand into yours there in the dark.

9. Kiss your husband. Because he’s your biggest fan.

10. Pray. The kind of praying that finds you on the floor. The kind that feels like home. Pray as you write, as you edit, as you rest. Pray through it all. Because God is the Word. He gave you this calling. So trust him to work through you, even on days when the pool and the sunlight and the birds are calling. For in the end, it’s all about him. And if he doesn’t write through us, we write in vain.

Don’t be afraid to rest friends, because in doing so, you give OTHERS permission to rest. And in the stillness, we know God. We hear his voice. We hear him wooing.
So, KNOW when to write, and when to stop.

And if God is calling you to write, then know you’re engaged in a spiritual battle because this is what this writing world is friends: it’s a place to speak the truth in love. It’s a place to engage, sometimes, in battle. Our words are holy tools being used to carve out the tomb, to resurrect a God the world says is dead, to point and say–LOOK, he’s alive and he’s here in our midst and do we know Him?

Do our words know him? Do our families and our children and our husbands and our relatives know him? Does the man who delivers your mail know him? Does anything else matter?

I totally love, love, love this picture!!!!!  Emily's website is HERE: http://www.emilywierenga.com/

Visit there. You will love it. I promise. 

Now to the business of food!!!! We've got coffee and cronuts inside, I brought them back FRESH from Manhattan (okay, they have like a two-hour shelf life, so that's not GOOD 48 hours later, 'sall I'm sayin'....) Never mind the cronuts, we'll feast on God's love today.... and pastries from Financier on Williams St.


  1. WOW. This post can be for anyone, whether they write, or not, have children, or not. This is profound. And I know Emily from the two books mentioned. I already have them.

  2. Marianne, good morning! How cool that you already have the books... That will make her smile, no doubt! And yes, I love the way Emily creates a pattern with words, lovingly structured. Just beautiful!

  3. Hi Emily,

    Welcome to Seekerville. I feel more refreshed just reading through your list.

    Thanks for sharing! (Beautiful picture.)

  4. Well, it's probably no surprise that #5 is my favourite...not that I needed any encouragement to eat dark chocolate. :-)

    Emily does have a way lyrical way with words. They kind of cocoon around you, if that makes sense. It does to me. And her website is amazing.

  5. I haven't heard of either book. They look great. I loved the post.

  6. What a beautiful post! Thank you. :-)

  7. Hi Emily,
    This is such a TIMELY post in my life.
    I went to bed last night praying about a difficult situation that had come to my attention. I was asking God to show me how I could be of help to someone and still stay within boundaries I had set for myself. And because God is such a prayer answering God first think this morning HE SPEAKS TO ME. Here's how:
    1)Prov.31 devotion this morning~ Overcoming the need to please disease~you may disappoint someone but pause before giving immediate answers, also some people won't like that or me.

    2)As I read your words, I see..."and sometimes we think we have to PRODUCE when really we're slaves to no one". THis is SO ME, but I hear the caution in prayerful waiting.

    3)God reminded me of a book Cynthia Ruchti wrote and mentioned when here last month, Ragged Hope, Surviving the Fallout of other peoples choices.

    All three of these worked together to give me great direction and assurance about what actions to take. So THANK YOU for being used by God to speak to my heart!

    Both your books look great!

    (Please forgive my wordiness this morning, this was just so powerful for me and I thought it may speak someone else too)


    I agree with Marianne on this one -- WOW!!!

    You pretty much nailed it down the line, girl, and DOUBLE WOW -- you are SO young!! It took me 63 years to FULLY realize what you just said in this blog, but I finally made it. Nothing slow about me ... ;)

    Seriously, I have always known and espoused most of these spiritual thoughts in this post, but "burnout" was the catalyst God used to truly open my eyes for the very first time to hidden depths of His Word.

    LOVE the twist on the "if He doesn't build the house" statement: "And if he doesn’t write through us, we write in vain."

    AMEN to that!! One of my favorite songs right now is "From the Inside Out" by Phillips, Craig, & Dean because it drives this point home SO well:

    A thousand times I've failed, still your mercy remains.
    And should I stumble again, still I'm caught in your grace.
    Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
    Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame."

    SOOOO incredibly true, and blessed are those who realize it before too late.

    LOVE the statement of #2: Hug your kids. Because they’re your greatest story.


    Thanks for a beautifully inspiring post, Em, and God bless!


  9. Thank you for these tips Emily! They are much appreciated. I usually read in my same genre, so I'll try reading the opposite way next time! Love your covers! Thank you for stopping by Seekerville!

  10. HI Emily, Welcome to Seekerville. Your voice is lovely as said before. Very lyrical and delightful.

    As Julie said, it took years to learn what you are already saying. The knowing is one thing, but the listening to what is really being said. my my.

    Thank you.

    Have fun today.

  11. Hi Emily,

    Your bookcovers are beautiful.

    I think we all experience burn-out at one time or the other. Thank you for your encouraging words.


    What a message.

    I feel peace simply reading your post. You have captured the heart of what we do and whom we serve.

  13. Welcome to Seekerville, Emily. Thank you for your lovely inspiring post! Your points on handling burnout reflects how Jesus lived here on earth. He worked hard yet took time to refresh His Spirit, to get away from the crowds and spend time with friends and the Father. Your post reminds me to free myself from the bonds of perfectionism and trust that God is working through me as I write for Him.

    Bless you. Your books look wonderful.


  14. A Promise in Pieces had me crying as I read it at my daughter's swimming lessons. There are such wonderful and profound life truths she shares and in such a beautiful way. I'm looking forward to reading Atlas Girl- please enter me in the drawing!

    I've experienced burnout as a photographer, and I've learned so much about savoring the small moments with husband and kids and family. ?Thank you for sharing your lovely thoughts!

  15. Emily,
    What words for us! It has changed the focus of my day...my rest in the midst of it all is to seek it in God's word. Please put my name in the drawing.

  16. I wonder if time of life affects this?

    I didn't write professionally until my kids were grown and I knew what I'd given them...

    Consequently they're amazingly supportive and proud of my success now, and see it as a reward for my priorities then.

    BUT... having said that, most of the women I know are working moms, and they work because they need money, they like their jobs and they need to pay bills.... so why the huge guilt if we're working from home moms?????

    I noticed when I sold Golden Retriever puppies that the folks with the most problems were the work-from-homes that couldn't resist babying the puppies.... and the folks who couldn't discipline puppies.

    Well, I will confess to being one of those (ahem...) Moms who had no trouble disciplining anyone....


  17. Oh friends, what a blessing to stop by here today and read all of your comments! I'm so encouraged! Truthfully, I need to read my own words over and over again. Marianne, I'm so grateful you already have my books! That really blesses me! Ruth, thanks so much for having me here today! Tracey--I'm SO glad you shared your heart. I am going to be pouring over Proverbs 31 today and looking up the book, Ragged Hope... truly, thank you. And Julie? Girl, I'm still learning every day--I know it sounds good on paper, but I struggle every day with people pleasing and over-achieving. I'm learning just as slowly/quickly as you. :) And Heidi--so grateful you enjoyed A Promise In Pieces! All my heart, e.

  18. Welcome to Seekerville, Emily!

    This was a beautiful post. It's a constant struggle to savor the life we've been given while we push on toward what else God has for us. I love the stillness and peace you post exudes. :)

    Enjoy your little ones!

  19. Great advice, Emily. I have felt burned out with my writing the last few years and trying to get into it again. And I always feel I should be reading the same type of material I am writing, so that is good advice to read something else.

  20. Yes to chocolate!!

    Hi Emily! Wonderful encouragement here and much needed. Thank you! I generally leave the laptop off most of the day on Sunday, and it is always a welcome rest. I just became aware of you and Atlas Girl a couple of weeks ago, perhaps through The Nesting Place or The Art of Simple. I'm not sure. Now here you are today. :-) Looks like a fantastic book...actually both.

  21. Lovely words today, Emily, that soothe my soul. I'm resting a bit after a busy week at the RWA Conference and getting to know my new computer. The house is slowly getting back to order, although not quickly enough. :)

    When I go out into the world, I need quiet time with the Lord to fill up again. I've had that special time these last few days which is very, very good.

  22. Instead of dwelling on how green the grass is over there, enjoy the grass where you are. :)

    But if you're in a desert place, well...look up and view the gorgeous blue sky!

    Are there clouds? Wonderful! Clouds cool the desert and the desert blooms when it rains.

    Where did all this come from? Dunno. But it seemed to fit. :)

    Ruthy, pass the Financier cronuts and nobody will get hurt. A quick zap in the microwave oven and they will be YUMMY!

  23. What a beautiful post.
    It's so true for everything, not just writing.

    A great life plan.

    Thanks, Emily.

  24. Thanks for this inspiring post, Emily! Returning home from RWA, I needed the words of encouragement to get back in the writing groove.

  25. Emily,

    What a breath of fresh air and a gentle voice full of truth and love!

    I'd be honored to receive and read either of your books. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  26. Let go,
    Let God.

    The stillness comes
    from deep inside
    and not from things above

    it abides deep down
    where the grace is found
    wrapped in God’s love.

    Wherever you are
    whatever you do
    Let go, let God
    Let the stillness
    come through…

    His truth is marching on…

    Hi Emily:

    Your post awakened my Unity muse and I’m much inspired to read “A Promise in Pieces”-- for like a pointillist painting -- while each piece of truth reveals but little, by stepping back, the whole fabric of Truth may become visible to our spiritual eyes. It’s by going deep inside that we can travel the furthest from ourselves.

    Please come back again with more inspiration! Please, too, put me in for a copy of “A Promise in Pieces”. I love a book that will make me think.

    the vincible
    but still wily

  27. I don't usually copy off Seekerville stuff because it's all arcived I can come back to it whenever I want and I do. I am going to copy this and take it with me wherever I go. Thank You Emily.

  28. Emily, thank you for this fantastic post! I just hopped over to your blog and also read your beautiful post "Letter from a Pastor's Daughter." I'm a pastor's wife and just shared your touching article with my family.

    Thank you for your beautiful writing! And for being with us today.

  29. Wonderful tips! It never occurs to me to turn off my computer. It's a part of me. I think I need to change a little bit.

  30. By the way, I ate some dark chocolate today. Just reporting in!

  31. And I checked out your blog as well!!!

  32. Emily, I read your post early this morning, and I've been gone all day. I love your list. I'm definitely referring back to this post. I love your focus on the real relationships in our lives. Such wisdom here!

  33. Vince, if that's your poem, you need to let us know! I assume it is. So be sure to add your name anytime you share. :)

    Loved the poem, by the way! Beautiful.

  34. Debby, I'm glad you got your new computer!

  35. Tina, I cannot overstate how cute your new picture is.

  36. Dear Emily, Thank you for today's blog. As a writer with young children, I think it's providential to read blogs from other writers who find themselves in similar situations. It's nice to read someone's advice to dedicate your time to your children and close the laptop when you're not writing. Thanks for the affirmation that it's okay to do that.

    And, of course, being a huge fan of dark chocolate, you had me at number five!

  37. Hi Emily,
    Such a great post. Your bio is fascinating as well. Let's just say that we share similar life experiences and I love that you have the courage to write books about yours. Many blessings!

  38. Lovely post, Emily! And you quoted one of my favorite books -- Bird by Bird. Thanks for a nice pause in my day :-)

    Nancy C

  39. Such a wonderful post & I do love that photograph.

  40. Oh, Emily, this is such a great post! I so needed to be reminded of the spiritual battle we will face as we share the words He places upon our hearts. Thank you so much! Perhaps we truly need to put on our armor before sitting down in front of our keyboards. Grateful for your words today!

  41. Those are such awesome tips. I think they could not just apply to writing but life in gerenal. Rest. We all need rest. There are times we need to step back and just rest in Jesus.

  42. The understated simplicity and craftmanship of Emily's post is captivating.


  43. Wonderful post today! Okay, yesterday... but that's beside the point. Great stuff. Thanks so much for sharing, Emily. :)

  44. Can I just say I LOVE the community here? And Tina, yay for eating dark chocolate yesterday! Thanks for checking in! :) XO

  45. Hi Missy:

    You are very kind.

    Yes, I wrote that poem -- all except the last line:

    “His truth is marching on”

    which I took from the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.

  46. Thank you so much for Emily's words. I don't know how I began following her blog but she has had an incredible influence. Especially loved Atlas Girl - it really spoke to my heart.


  47. BEAUTIFULLY stated and excellent for anyone.
    Have shared widely.

    Now, to implement! :)

    Thanks for being in Seekerville, Emily! And to Ruthy for inviting her.

  48. Some good ideas for breaking out of the 'stuck'. Thanks for sharing.