Mentor to the anxious heart

An open notebook and pen lie on an old desk-sized blotter. Verses are written all over the blotter in faded calligraphy. On the notebook the words "Need Help" are written unevenly in black pen.

Maybe it’s wrong to ask advice. I should be able to handle everything myself, shouldn’t I? That’s what my anxious heart tells me.

Recently I’ve been at a loose end with writing: sending sporadic bits of energy in different directions, and at the same time paralysed by self-doubt. Each of my thoughts was a distraction, a possible solution to my uncertainty, a potential answer to the question: what should I be doing?

But what I really craved was an answer from outside myself – advice from someone who knew.

My blog was comatose and the short stories and novels seemed headed that way. What to do? Pick something at random and stick with it no matter what? Forget sincerity or passion, and just churn out pap? Give up writing and get a “real” job?

How could I know? How could anybody know?

But if there’s one thing that God taught me in the last messy year, it’s this:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Some translations say “acknowledge” instead of “submit”; I admit I haven’t looked into the reasoning for that very deeply. But the thing that struck me is that acknowledge can sound very much like lip service. As though God’s the magic button we press with our prayers, to make our plans work.

But submit means he’s the boss. The plans are his.

It also gave me the writerly idea of submitting ideas to him for feedback. And submitting my confusion to him, asking for his guidance.

God’s that kind of boss. He won’t regret he hired me, or file away my admission of weakness for performance reports and non-promotions. He’s the boss who trains me and heals me, and the more I admit the truth about myself and ask for his help, the stronger he makes me. It’s what he wants me to do!

So, I made a list of all my writing-related issues and took it to him. Abstracts like perseverance and wisdom; practicals like skills and meaning; specifics including the website and every piece of writing in my virtual in-tray. I prayed about each thing, took notes on what I thought and wrote down what God seemed to tell me. It took three hours but honestly, it still surprises me it didn’t take longer.

(It’s fun, by the way. I get lonely working at home alone, so I love having proper meetings with agendas, writing discussions, and the nicest person in the universe 🥰 does that sound a bit loopy?)

During that session, each story-in-progress stood out more clearly to me. Bird over Diamond is about healing and thirst. Dogstar is about what we treasure, and it’s a companion piece to Ash Puppies, the first story I had traditionally published. Somehow I never noticed the links between them until then. Phone Story needs an arrogant main character who can fall apart when his plans go wrong.

And the blog. Hmmm. Life as a writer? News? Struggles? Faith?

My notes from the prayer session say – pray about posts. And “If this is what you want me to do, dear Lord, I know you will give me what I need to do it.”

Sometime between then and the next session, the idea came. I can’t remember how or when.

Maybe I could use my old anxiety scribblings to write a fictional journal.

Could it be a blog series? But how often? Would each post be an entry? If I did them monthly, would each post include every entry for the month? Would I just pick one? It would all need to be written ahead of time, for there to be a good story arc across the series. Would I match the entries to my own dates or make them up? If it follows my unintentional journal structure, it would cover a year. What if it took that long to sort out the writing part? What would happen to the blog in the meantime?

And so on. The anxiety reared its head. It takes a lot of practice to hand over the what ifs, and push them away when they keep coming back.

I prayed and waited and started transcribing anything that seemed useful from old journals. Which is scary in itself, but that’s another topic. In the meantime, a writing friend heard what I was working on, and immediately said: “That sounds like a book.”

And I’m pretty sure she’s right.

It’s not what I would choose to write. A realistic piece of fiction, when I love the speculative. Journal entries, when I never journalled till last year. Long form, when short stories are so much more manageable. A personal story, when I’m pretty sensitive to others’ opinions. And the whole process involves revisiting anxiety, when I would really like to forget the exact details rather than wallow in them.

But it seems that’s what I’m going to do.

This feeling is familiar.

The day my dad died, there was no sign it was going to happen. I’d been at the hospital all day, and planned to head home with hubbie and the kids. I was tired. There was no need for me to be there. Mum told me to go and rest.

But I had an illogical sense that I should stay. Not because I felt something was going to happen. Not because I didn’t want to go home. I think it was because God said, “Stay.” So I was there when Dad died. That was the most horrible day of my life so far, and I don’t regret it.

It’s easy to look back now and realise I just submitted to God’s guidance. Maybe I’ll look back at this time and realise I was mistaken. Maybe I’ll see that this isn’t what I should have been doing. Or what if I go ahead with it, and it’s terrible? What if readers assume the fictional characters are based on people I know? What if I destroy the privacy of the people I love? What if I miss important stuff from the story? What if I forget to write about not needing to worry about the what ifs because God is taking care of them?

There’s the anxiety talking again.

Okay.

God’s got this.

God’s got this.

God’s got me.

Trust me with all your anxious heart, and don’t try and lean on your own understanding. Submit all your ways to me, and I’ll make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6, paraphrased)


Thank you hubbie for patiently listening to all my wavering and enthusiastically reading everything I write. Thank you Colin Buchanan for helping me memorise Proverbs 3:5-6 without even trying 🤣. Thank you God for everything good.

And thank you for reading! If you have anything you’d like to talk about, you are welcome to comment publicly below or contact me directly. If you’d like to know what happens next, subscribe at the bottom of the page and I’ll email you when I have news or a new post 😁

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