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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Writer ... Not Writing?

The best-selling author of eight novels (of which Ane has read all 8 and loved), Roxanne Henke has lived her entire life in a small North Dakota town with her husband (her children are grown and flown the coop). She's a speaker and excellent teacher on writing (I know, I've taken her classes).

Is it strange for a writer to write about not-writing?

by Roxanne Henke

Let me back up a minute first. I have a new novel releasing as I type On a Someday, Harvest House Publishers. Having a new story on its way into readers’ hands is always an exciting time for a novelist. We spend hours, days, weeks, and months with a story and then with a click of a ‘mouse,’ send it off into cyberspace for an editor to read for the first time. It’s my editor’s job to take my story and together we shape it into the best book possible. But, the fact is, neither of us know how that story will be received by my readers until it’s “out there”—much too late to change anything on the printed page.

Writing is an act of faith.

And, so, I’ve learned, is not-writing.

I’ve written eight, four-hundred-plus page novels in almost as many years. I’ve poured my heart and soul into stories dealing with broken friendships, clinical depression, hurting marriages, and the sometimes-painful task of parenting. My latest book tackles the topic of “work.” Career-building and careers ending. How do you know when your work is done? Are we ever completely through with work?

I wrote a book dealing with the subject and I’m now seeking the answer for myself. Usually, when I near ‘The End’ of one of my novels, I’m chomping-at-the-bit to get started on the next story. Those first few pages sometimes over-lap with the last few pages of my current work-in-progress. I flip back and forth between files, ending one story, starting another.

But, this last book was different. There was no new story waiting to be told. It was an odd feeling for me…after all, I’m a writer. Writers write, right?

I’ve been doing a lot of praying about my dilemma, asking God what it is I’m supposed to be working on. You know what He told me?


Wait? Wait! What good is waiting when I’m supposed to be writing?

I’ve been doing a LOT of thinking about what God so quietly and firmly told me.

I live in rural North Dakota, the heart of farm country. I’m a small-town girl with enough ties to the land around me to have picked up a few tips. And one of the major tenets of farming is taking time every now-and-then to let your land lie fallow.

You don’t plant anything new. You just let the land set idle.

If you happen to drive by that particular field it may look like nothing is happening. There rest dried-up remnants of the last crop harvested. What good is that land for anything when it’s sitting there doing nothing?

Ah…but that’s where faith comes in. That time of “doing nothing” is actually exactly what that land needs. Rains come to replenish the moisture. The sun shines and breathes new life into the dirt. Minerals are replaced. The remnants of the former crop rot and create rich new soil. It’s all part of God’s plan.

And, so, I’m learning, is “not-writing.”

I’m feeling a little disjointed not having a big project waiting for me each morning. It’s tempting to sit down and write…something.

But, I have to keep reminding myself that lying fallow can be a good thing. And I know, being obedient to God’s will is always right. Being an avid reader, I’ve read books by favorite authors that have fallen flat. Stories that have no passion and, I get the feeling, were written simply to fulfill a contract obligation.

I don’t want to be that kind of writer. And I don’t think God wants me to be, either. A farmer has no guarantee that letting the land lie fallow will result in an abundant harvest…but the chances are better for the waiting. I’m hoping this time of waiting will produce a bumper crop of words. But, there’s no guarantee.

What I’m finding is that waiting has me listening more closely. I want to hear His voice I want to know His plans. Not mine. His.

So far He’s said, “Wait.”

And so…I am.


  1. Beautiful, Roxanne. In the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), God commanded a Sabbath rest of one year in every seven years, for the ground .

    Some folks take Sabbaticals away from their careers.

    Resting from our work--any work--takes faith. And isn't that all tied to the salvation story? Our salvation isn't based on our works, but resting in the work of our Messiah, Jesus.

    So sometimes our resting is a very holy thing? (Sorry, I'm waxing poetic so early in the morning.)

    Congrats on the new book!

  2. Wow, this resonates so deeply with me. I have been at this point after both of the two completed novels I've written. Though I haven't learned to be as patient as you. Thanks so much for the reminder to lean and trust on the Lord during those in between times.

  3. Amen, too. The "wait" time requires we learn to trust Him for the new provision. I'm there with ya. Seven done . . . number eight started and "waiting" to proceed. His call, not mine.

  4. Probably why God said, "Be still and know..." although, I confess, it's a challenge to "still" myself.

    Good thoughts, Roxanne, thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks, Roxy. What a great reminder and a wonderful way to get refilled. :)

  6. Thanks to those of you who have affirmed that "waiting" is a good thing. It's nice to know there are others on-the-sidelines with me. Maybe this is our time to cheer others on...
    Roxy Henke

  7. Enjoy your break. Writing is an art form and a gift from God that cannot be forced. Until then, I will be reading those novels I haven't got to yet!
    Laura Melius

  8. I love your post Roxanne, and now I also see I had your title wrong. It's On a Someday, not Sunday! Boy, am I glad I figured that out.

    Your post is really inspiring. Even though not all of us are in a place we feel led to "lay fallow" right now, we can still try to slow down.

  9. Good stuff. Really good. I'm moving out of a dry period of my own doing. Fear-based mostly. Plus this work is hard and it often takes more self-promotion than I'm comfortable with and more tenacity that I usually have. But I've pulled out my chapters and dusted them it still there?


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