When You’re Stuck…in Writing, in Life…Try This

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Presenting a writing workshop in Des Moines, IO in September

In the past two months I got stuck twice: in my writing/speaking life and in my personal life. This is nothing new, and neither is my finding that writing problems resolve more easily than personal problems. But what is new is how I’m dealing with the stuck-ness: first, notecards. I’ve found that when I’m overwhelmed—with ideas, with emotions—simply transferring those thoughts to some notecards helps me organize in writing, and helps me cope in life.

In September, notecards helped me complete my presentations for the women’s conference I spoke at, and this month, notecards are helping me articulate some personal problems I can’t seem to straighten out on my own, or even in prayer right now. While I’ve decided to seek Christian counseling for these personal problems (read more in my next post), writing my overwhelming thoughts on notecards has facilitated a small emotional release when I don’t have a listening ear at my disposal.

If you’re stuck either on the writing front, or overwhelmed in your personal life, maybe you can try what I’ve tried.

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The two sessions of my writing workshop were well attended. I coached about 80 women on writing their stories for God’s glory, and I hope they are well on their way to sharing those stories with others!

On the Writing Front

In the months leading up to the Iowa Missouri Women’s Retreat, I struggled to write my presentations: a sermon and a writing workshop. Every time I opened my laptop to work on them, I typed more and more words as my ideas spiraled wildly…without ever reaching conclusion. There was so much I wanted to say…but I would only have so much time at the conference. I had to be selective and concise in my talking points.

(Last year at a different women’s retreat I had four talks to develop my ideas…and it was considerably easier to prepare for that conference because I had so much talking time.)

Finally, after trying to write out my sermon both verbatim and in bullet point form too many times without success, I got out some notecards and started jotting down my points shorthand—one thought per card. Over several days, as more ideas came to me, I jotted them down, too, and slipped them into the deck where they seemed to fit.

This simple process of writing on notecards, as opposed to writing on paper or typing on a laptop, freed me up to introduce any and all ideas that came to me in my writing process, because I knew it would be easy to discard the extraneous ones later. (Though some of my ideas were total rabbit trails, jotting them down somewhere was valuable because it kept me fluid in my writing process, kept me moving, when I just wanted to stop.)

As the cards accumulated, I began to find the shape of my talk, and I also figured out what didn’t fit. In the end, I returned to my laptop and typed out my speech, a mix of bullet points and fully developed paragraphs (I’m still finding my way as a speaker), but now it came easier because I had an outline: my notecards.

When it came time to present, I knew my delivery wasn’t perfect, but I felt that my presentation was valuable to my audience, because my writing/preparation process had allowed me to zero in on my best, most pertinent ideas, and discard those of lesser importance.

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I spoke to about 150 women for a Sabbath morning session about how, when, and where to share our stories, especially when life feels “dark.” I am trying to take my own advice and start back at square one with one trusted person, a counselor, until life makes more sense again. But since part of my ministry is sharing my personal struggles and victories with an audience, I’ll probably share bits of that journey on this blog, too:)

After I presented my sermon and writing workshop, women came up to me to thank me for my talk/writing tips, some saying my message/material was exactly what they needed to hear. Still other women said they had read my book and it was great and would I sign it? It was a heady experience being treated as such a religious authority …especially because I know what they don’t: since the events of the book ended (really, since I’ve become a mom), I’ve been a mess of pent-up ideas and emotions, so much so that I have decided I need some professional help to sort them all out.

On the Personal Front

Until my first counseling session, I’m using notecards, and other small releases, to help me cope. For those moments when I can’t find quiet, space, time, energy, or listening ears to process, I can find fifteen seconds and a pen. I can write one phrase, or one sentence, and tuck it into a discussion box that I plan to take to the counselor. I can put that negative thought or problem away from me, from brain to pen to paper, until I have true time and place to process. And then, I can quickly pray:

God, here is the mess the best I can describe it in these few seconds. I desperately don’t know how to fix it, but eventually I know I need to deal with it. Please hold this for me—keep me safe from it, keep my kids safe from it—until I have the proper time and space and listening ears to process it.

 I do believe God honors these prayers—and these pleas for help—found on this writer-mom’s humble notecards.

In my next post I will further explain my reasons for seeking counseling, and perhaps give an update of how the first session went. Until then, please send me a message or a comment if you’ve had a good (or bad) experience with counseling or, on a lighter note, notecards (or some other writing strategy).

4 thoughts on “When You’re Stuck…in Writing, in Life…Try This

  1. ccyager November 4, 2017 / 10:37 am

    Hi, Lindsey! I’m actually going through something similar as I deal with a conflict between working fulltime for a company and needing to write on my own. Your notecards idea sounds promising to me. I think all week about scenes for what I’m writing, mull them over, then write frantically on the weekend trying to capture everything I’ve been thinking about. This isn’t working too well.

    As for counseling, I was in therapy for over 20 years to deal with psychological trauma I sustained in childhood. I had more than one therapist (not at the same time) both good and bad. It’s important to find someone whom you can trust, who treats you with respect, understands and respects healthy boundaries, and who is the kind of active listener who can figure out what questions to ask you to help guide you to the answers you seek within. A tall order! But I found mine. I’m sure you’ll find yours. Good luck! Cinda

    • lindseygendke November 16, 2017 / 9:04 pm

      Thanks Cinda. I wish you the best in your writing and in your personal life. I know good things are on the horizon!

  2. ~Melissa February 10, 2019 / 8:55 pm

    Hello Lindsey, I just got back from vacation this week. I spent my free time (when the family was swimming) reading your book, Ending the Pain. I also had attended this IA-MO women’s retreat and I recall being in your class.

    I just wanted to encourage you and thank you for writing your book. I came from a broken home as well, and my mother is also bipolar, but maybe not as severe with her swings. I identified however with many things you wrote… with the one of seeing your Mom as Jesus sees her… and I had gone through that a couple years ago. I guess your book was confirming things that I had experienced and also finding that, yes indeed, Satan does not give up. I was encouraged with the aspect that God sometimes waits for a time in our lives to reveal something painful to us… when we can handle it or rather deal with it, because some days it doesn’t seem to feel like I am handling it well.

    Another interesting thing is the theme about telling your story. This was the Iowa-Missouri Women’s Retreat theme. It was also the theme of a class I attended at campmeeting in MN one year. It was also a class I attended at another writing class. And this has gone on like this with a reminder about once a year for the last several years… and I have felt the prodding to tell my own story. I have resisted because I felt I was not ready. And yet, I see that I have used that as an excuse. I feel God is telling me it is time and as I take steps forward, Satan throws wrenches in the plan… problems with my mother, with my mother-in-law, with my brother-in-law needing surgery, with my kids and some days it is just too much. I was pretty down the last 3 months without a real reason why… but I felt stressed. I have a neck tic that comes and goes with my anxiety It was gone for the first time in a couple years for several months, but came back with a vengeance in October. My husband noticed and we couldn’t figure out the trigger… I’m still not sure of the trigger, but I am beginning to see more clearly where to focus my story and how to share it. Now to learn the technical part of implementing that plan! 😛 While I feel this growing sense of direction, I am thankful for one thing in your book that you mentioned taking time to clear the air with family. Because I grew up in a broken home, I saw my father every other weekend. He never came to school events, he did not take much interest in me and every phone call I was supposed to tell him about my sister. I am 50 years old and I realized I need to tell him why I am distant and apologize for that. I came to terms with my Mom a couple years ago, but my Dad… we’re still tiptoeing around each other… and my step-mom is one that adds fuel to the fire in our relationship… reiterating again in November that we are not her children and she does not consider us family (something I hear every couple of years). I feel like once I take that step to clear the air… share my side but also apologize for my absence in their lives because of my pain… that maybe there might be a chance to get past that pain. Anyways, there is hope… but I felt that when I read that in your book that God was telling me… this is what “I” need to do. Not for the expectation that the relationship will heal (because I cannot control my step-mom or my Dad), but that I give it an effort… because it is the right thing for “me” to do. So I thank you for sharing that.

    Congrats on the new job! May God continue to use you to bless others. I am sorry for your frustrations as a mother. I had many as well, however one gal came over and helped me and listened to me sound off for years until my kids got old enough for me to handle the pressures. I like to think I learned to be a good mom, but those early years are hard on a mom… and I had two more later and experienced the same struggles but this time with more depression. Anyways, you are a GOOD MOM to notice how parenting little ones affects you. You are a GOOD Mom to seek help. You, like me, weren’t given the best example in your home growing up… and that affects how we parent…we don’t have the skillset that so many take for granted that this is normal female knowledge… not so… it is learned! There may have been good parent days… but probably the bad parent days outnumbered the good. My mother-in-law was very encouraging to me and helped me with going back to school when my kiddos were very little. My father-in-law was the father I never had and I was so blessed with his wisdom, with his listening ear, with his encouragement and his helping hands around the home when my husband was so busy with work. God sends help in different people when we need it… and I am thankful they were willing to embrace me and show me love!

    Warmly, ~Melissa

    • lindseygendke February 12, 2019 / 4:43 pm

      Hi Melissa, it’s great to hear from you! I think I remember you from the retreat. Thanks so much for taking time to write and share a bit of your journey. Whew, the weight of untold stories can be VERY heavy, and it sounds like you are feeling that, and perhaps God is calling you to find your audience. I’m glad to read of some healing and progress with your family. Indeed, it can be a long process! My story is not over yet, either. Life goes on; we keep encountering pain, and keep having to seek the Lord (as is the case with me during the early motherhood phase–thanks for your empathy in that department!). Regarding telling your story, I’ll just repeat what I tell people often: keep praying for the Lord to show you the right time and the right audience. Meanwhile, if it helps your own healing process, journaling is a great low stakes way to tell your story…and it might end up seeing an audience, and it might not…but the process of just writing it down can be healing, as I’ve found. Best wishes, and prayers, as you navigate these confusing questions with His guidance. Thanks again for reaching out!

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