The Writing Challenge

Freelance writing career, week 1, day 4.

As I’m listening to Madonna in my living room and drinking a cup of strongly brewed tea, I’m reminded that this is always what I’ve wanted to do. Hunkered down in a quiet space, listening to my favorite music, and bringing thoughts to the screen in hopes that someone else’s heart will be stirred as much as mine has been.

That said, yesterday (freelancing day 3), was my first overwhelming day. I knew I’d have them—I just didn’t know they would arrive so quickly.

So, why is this freelancer distressed? Because I have to write.

It’s not the writing projects that I’ve been hired to do that are bewildering, it’s the writing I need to do in order to be hired for future projects (book contract!) that cultivate anxiety. This material, the kind that the writer needs to produce in order to make his or her dreams come true, feels as if it’s held captive by the muse (think Stephen King’s fat guy with a cigar in On Writing), who is laughing. “What’s so funny?” you ask him. He just grumbles and coughs. He’s enjoying your inability to craft coherent sentences from the mélange of material in your brain.

Muse or no muse, I know that if I show up each day and do what I was born to do, the discipline of just being here at the computer (which I’ve never had the luxury of doing) will launch me in the right direction. Come Holy Spirit, come.

Here are the current book-length projects I’m brainstorming/struggling with:

Interfaith (Christian-Hindu) marriage

–The story of my rural Indiana childhood, summer visits, and my father

–My work as a UNC Hospitals chaplain with a specialty in death and dying

Salem College memoir

Which of these stories (if any) jazzes you up? What would you like to read about? Are their aspects of each topic that you are especially curious about? Thanks for sharing!


10 thoughts on “The Writing Challenge”

    • You got me. I can always count on you to bring me back to where I need to be. I’d say I listed them in order of how I perceive their jazziness. That means interfaith marriage is number one! 🙂

  • Hmmm, I vote for Christian-Hindu marriage. Personally, I’m kinda obsessed with relationships right now, so in a year or two my first choice might be your rural “Indiana chilhood, summer visits, and your father.” Generally, I enjoy reading about “love” and how two people navigate the beauty and frustration of making a peaceful and productive life with the one they chose. FYI: I’m typing this up on your old computer, mine has a virus, so I’m in and out of your old office. 🙂

    • Hadiyah:
      Thanks for your feedback. I’m so grateful for wisdom; the honestly with which you offer your voice to those navigating challenging relationships is priceless. You have a lot to share–keep at it!

  • Hi Dana – I am so excited for you as you go on this great adventure.
    My order of reading interest would be the order you list the topics.
    Good luck!

  • Interfaith marriage sounds fascinating, but I’m also drawn to the topic of your experience as a hospital chaplain, dealing with death and dying. Most of us are still perplexed about how to relate to people who are dying and their families. Insights that would help folks in that situation—and see how their faith intersects—would be welcome.

    • Thank you for your feedback, Jeannie. I spent most of yesterday afternoon visiting with a dear friend who has stage 4 B uterine cancer. I’ve been her chaplain and “second daughter” for many years. I’d had hoped that, by now (after years of education, chaplain and pastoral experiences), I’d have insights into this life process–but death and dying is still as challenging as ever. Days like yesterday remind me that I know nothing–only how to be present and help hold suffering for a little while. Thanks again for weighing in. You (and my friend) have inspired me to continue to write and reflect on this.

  • Re: which book to tackle first?

    Do you have a gut feeling about which to choose?
    Do you have a burning need/emotion/thought/insight you may share that is fresh and urging to be
    expressed? Think about it 15 min.,stop,take a walk. Let it go for 24 hours. Pray. JWT

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