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How often have you sat down to write, stared at your page, and realized you have…nothing. No ideas, no words. Could it be the dreaded writer’s block? Don’t let it stop you in your writer’s tracks! Guest Tina Yeager is here to help you blast that block to smithereens!
About Tina Yeager
Award-winning author, speaker, and life coach, Tina Yeager hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast and Flourish Today on Christian Mix 106 and publishes Inkspirations Online, a weekly writers’ devotional. She has been licensed as a counselor since 2005. Yeager serves as director of traditional groups with Word Weavers International and as an active member of the Christian Women in Media Association. For life coaching tips or to book her as an event speaker, visit tinayeager.com. Look for her books, Beautiful Warrior: Finding Victory Over the Lies Formed Against You and Upcycled: Crafted for a Purpose.
Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!
Karen: Hey, guys, and happy February. We’re so glad that you’re here to spend time with us and to hear the things that God has given us to share with you. We are so delighted that we have a guest, Tina Yeager, and Erin is going to introduce her.
Erin: I’m so excited because I got to know this lovely person at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. It was just a delight to get to meet her and get to know her. And, guys, just a side note, if you’ve never been to a conference, that’s one of the big benefits of going to a conference. You meet cool people!
I met Tina there and we had lots of time to just chat and talk, and I want to tell you about her. She is an award-winning author. She’s an inspirational speaker and a life coach, and she hosts the Flourish-Meant podcast. She publishes Inkspirations Online, which is a weekly devotional for writers.
She has won over thirty writing awards, including a 2020 Golden Scroll award. She’s been licensed as a counselor since 2005 and has over twenty years of experience teaching parenting and writing skills and communications and inner healing and spiritual growth. The list goes on. She specializes in ADHD, stress management, purpose definition, abuse recovery, and esteem building, and she currently runs an online life coaching practice called Divine Encouragement, LLC.
If that’s not enough, Tina holds a BA in Creative Writing and an MA in Counseling, and she serves on the board of the Christian Authors Network and as a mentor with Word Weavers International. She’s also an active member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, and Christian Women in Media. We’re just delighted to have her here today, bringing her wisdom and experience. Welcome, Tina.
Tina: Thank you so much, Erin and Karen.
Erin: Tina, let’s jump in. What does the deep mean to you?
Tina: I feel like all of us have places within us that feel like they sink deep, where we just get lost sometimes in our own darkness and get lost within ourselves. But the good thing is that God is deeper than our deepest depths and he can reach us there. And when you asked me this question right before the podcast—
Erin: Yeah, little late. Sorry! We put her on the spot, you guys.
Tina: Immediately I thought about a specific psalm that I really love, and it’s always just kind of echoed in my mind. It’s Psalm 42:7: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.”
The psalmist actually meant this as God kind of leaving him to be drenched and almost drowned in the waterfalls. But when I think of waterfalls, I think of the beauty and the tranquility and the rejuvenation you experience when you see a waterfall. So there’s two ways that you can experience the drenching presence of God and his depths, and I love the verse that follows it that reminds that psalmist that he’s not abandoned by God in that deep place: “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.”
That’s what the deep means to me. It means that God meets us in the deepest places that we are, whether those places are dark, or whether they’re receiving that rejuvenating presence of the Holy Spirit.
Erin: I love that. That’s one of my favorite verses as well. I love the way you explained that and described that. Very cool.
Well, you guys know, if you’ve listened to the podcast now and again, that we often talk about being vulnerable and being authentic on the page. That writers need to go to those deep places and pour that out on the page.
But one of the things that we really haven’t covered is: what do you do if you can’t access those feelings? If it’s so traumatic that you have blocked it? Or you want to avoid it? Or you just can’t go there?
When I heard about all of Tina’s experience, I thought that this would be is a great topic to pick her brain about. As a mental health professional, what are your thoughts? What do writers do when they can’t access those feelings and those emotions? What are some thoughts?
Tina: If it is related to a trauma that you experienced—and I’m not just saying this because I’m a therapist, I’m saying this from my experience as a therapist and as a person—you should access someone who is a professional, a mentor, someone of great experience in the area who can lead you with Christian expertise to find healing.
If it is something you’ve blocked, then you probably are in need of professional assistance to work through those feelings and find healing. It’s very difficult to do that on your own. I would recommend that everybody deserves healing and your readers deserve to benefit from the healing that you’ll receive and what you’ll be able to offer after you have gone through that healing process.
It’s painful. Nobody likes to take a broken bone and hand it over to the doctor and say, “Here, reset it,” because it hurts. The resetting of the bone is painful. When they go in to take out an infection that’s gotten embedded deeply beneath your skin and in your tissues, it’s a painful process to get that infection out.
So, many of us are reluctant to go seek help and to address those feelings. We cover it up and we bury it deeper. Yet the wound is still there. It’s still a sore place and we don’t want anybody else to touch it. But that is exactly what is needed for you to be effective in your writing. You need to work through those feelings, get to the other side, so that you can benefit others.
Erin: You’re absolutely right. That’s great counsel right there.
I think sometimes we don’t realize what we’re doing. I’ve been watching somebody deal with this in my life lately. I’m watching another person go through this and they’re just so weighed down with issues that haven’t been addressed. I don’t think they realize the weight on their shoulders. I don’t think they realize how exhausting it is to keep carrying that heavy load. So I’m right there with you encouraging people to get professional help, especially if they don’t realize how weighed down they are.
Karen: It’s interesting, too, how the church has historically been resistant to people going to counselors. Don and I, you listeners who are regular, you know Don and I have had a lot of struggles in our marriage. Don has had a lot of struggles from his childhood, the abuse that he suffered.
We were married in 1979, and we would talk to people at the church, looking even for older couples to help us. They would tell us that we just needed to pray more. Which I understand, yes, of course, the most powerful thing we can do is pray. Yet the deeply embedded dysfunctions taking place there needed professional counseling.
I came from a Leave it to Beaver childhood and background. Don came from Nightmare on Elm Street. You marry those two together, pun intended, and you’re gonna have issues. So we needed somebody who could help us sort through those issues. We were in professional counseling for twenty years, all total out of the forty-three years that we’ve been married.
We would not have survived without the man that God brought into our life. Not only was he able to help us as a counselor, but he was also a believer and he could use his learning and his skill and the grace that God had given him to confront us and to do what was needed. People in the church are so afraid of confrontation. There’s no way they can do what is necessary when you need somebody to really help you dig in to those deep, sometimes ugly, places.
Erin: What do you think, then, if you’ve been through counseling and you’re feeling like you’ve worked your way through it and maybe you’ve already done some journaling and now you want to write about it, but now it’s like, it’s difficult to go there, even though you feel God pushing you that direction? What are your thoughts or tips that might help a writer to deal with that?
Tina: I think you want to look at whether you’ve really worked through it. That’s the first question because sometimes we can work through layers of those things, and you may still need somebody to mentor you through that writing process. Somebody who has walked through writing from trauma or writing from pain to be your writing coach or your writing accountability partner. Somebody to help you a little bit at a time go through those steps.
I think every step that you take needs to be prefaced by prayer and meditation and asking the Holy Spirit to come alongside you. Even if you have to physically reach out and grab Jesus’ hand as if you are grabbing a physical hand in the air and say, “Jesus, come with me on this journey.” Ask him to lead you word by word through every page, every scene, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, to help you direct this in a way that’s going to benefit readers.
There are two types of writing. First of all, there’s writing that’s cathartic. That’s for your own benefit. Then there’s writing that is to benefit the reader. If you’re doing it to be cathartic, it is not for your reader. It is for you and for your therapist.
So you need to know which thing you’re doing. Either one is fine. Just know which one you are doing and be targeting that process in that direction. If you are writing a cathartic piece, don’t mistake it and try to get it published because oftentimes a cathartic piece can be too graphic. It can be too wrought with things that will trigger trauma issues in your readers, and that won’t be beneficial to them.
But if you’re writing from a place of healing, to bring your readers along on that process of healing in their journey, then that is a benefit to the reader. So you can write, after you’ve done the cathartic part and edited all of that and made it so that you could be of benefit to that reader, then you could do that prayer for leading specifically as you write for readers.
That’s where the Holy Spirit is extremely helpful. Because he knows what your readers need. He knows every person that he intends to read that piece. Visualizing the person that’s going to receive this and praying for your reader as you write, as if you are writing to bring healing to someone else, also helps you get out of yourself and have the courage to address the things that are hard.
Erin: You know, if I’m remembering right, Karen Ball, author over there, you wrote a novel called The Breaking Point, and I know that was challenging, where you had to dig into the difficulties of your marriage. What kind of things helped you as you were trying to go there again?
Karen: It was interesting when I knew that I was going to be writing about it. It was the book that was based on the struggles we’d been through in our marriage. It was obviously fictionalized. Not everything that happened in the book happened to us, but a lot of it did.
I used my actual journal. The journal that the protagonist, the woman, is writing, all of it is from my personal journal in our struggles. The very first scene that the couple goes through actually happened to Don and me, all except the end where they go off the mountain. They’re in a blizzard in Oregon, driving through a blizzard, and all she can think about is how much she hates her husband.
It was a scary place to go because Don and I had gotten past that and we had reached a point where we were not only married, but we were friends and we enjoyed being together. I was so afraid that going back into the emotions—which I had to do—going back into the emotions would send me in a tailspin in our relationship.
I prayed about it and God gave me the idea to take pictures of Don when he’s happy. When you have the kind of childhood that Don had, seeing real joy on his face is kind of a rarity. So I found all these pictures of him, and I put them all around my computer, on the walls, and on my desk. When I would go into the really intense part of the writing, if I started to feel myself getting sucked into the anger again, I could look at the pictures.
One of the issues we dealt with was his coming from a family of generational abuse. From as far back as any of them can remember, the men abused their kids, except for Don’s generation. They have stopped it with their children. But Don was subjected to just ungodly abuse. So when it came time to write, and I was so afraid of what would happen, I could lean back and I could look at those pictures. I could look at the computer and say, “That was then, this is now. That was then, this is now.”
The other thing that helped a lot was I had Don read everything that I wrote so that he could see whether I was representing his side of it in the male protagonist view, if I was representing it accurately. I didn’t want to paint it through my filter. I also wanted to make sure that what I was saying from the female’s viewpoint didn’t dishonor him in any way.
So there was all of that. Then I had a weekly group of women, all of whom loved writing, and we prayed together. So I had a lot of undergirding from the pictures of Don, from God’s presence, from my friends, from Don himself. It got me through it. By the time I finished writing that book, it was just a miraculous thing because I found myself more in love with, and with more respect for, Don than I had had even when I began.
Erin: I love that because that matches what Tina said as this just being a Holy Spirit thing.
Erin: It’s a God thing. God took you by the hand and led you through that.
Erin: From a mental health perspective, what about if writers are just feeling down or discouraged? What are some things that they might be able to address or to do to help deal with that type of thing?
Tina: I think having other writers in community with you is essential. Whether you struggle with mental health issues or not, we are a very isolated profession.
Tina: It is very difficult to stay encouraged. We face more discouragement as creatives than any other industry that I can think of, other than other creative industries.
Tina: It’s very hard not to get discouraged, even if you don’t face mental health issues. Then if you do, you have that additional organic complication of not having enough serotonin and dopamine to begin with.
Some things that can help are making sure that you’re doing things that get you energized, that get you connected with other people. You’re going to have to do things that are hard that you don’t feel like doing. One of those might be getting in community with people when you don’t feel like it .
Another thing is to make sure that you get some exercise. Believe it or not, the serotonin levels will go up when you get a little exercise. We can sit at our computers all day and write and write and write, but then our mood can drop because we are in that blue screen environment, which is not necessarily good for the brain for all day long.
Then we’re also not getting that oxygenation of our bloodstream and our brain. We need that for our brain, the organ that allows us to be able to do our job, to function. We need to be able to get some cardiovascular exercise in. Just, you know, fifteen or twenty minutes. It doesn’t have to be “I’m training for a marathon” kind of exercise. Just something to get your serotonin and dopamine up.
Also make sure you expose yourself to something that’s going to help you laugh. That’s going to give you joy. That’s going to make you smile. Don’t make your whole life centered on obligation. If we are working out of obligation when we’re writing, our writing will suffer, and we will suffer, and we won’t be able to continue. We need to do things that make us laugh. We need to play.
We also need to see our work as worship, so that when we don’t feel like it anymore, we are giving it as an offering. When we don’t see the results that we want to see, and how often does that happen? I think all of us have been through those periods, or we just continually are in that period, where we don’t feel like it’s having impact and we get discouraged by that.
Writing as worship can help you redirect your purpose for writing toward God and not towards some kind of tangible result you think you’re going to get that really is not standardized. We don’t know what success looks like under God’s design for our lives, and we may be reaching people that we don’t realize with our lives, with our writing, with our writing community. So remembering to do our work as worship is really important.
Then also just taking care of yourself. Self-care is essential when you are dealing with low mood, and that goes with sleeping, making sure you’re getting enough sleep. Making sure that you’re nourishing your brain. Your brain needs to be fed omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain needs to be fed certain things for it to work properly, especially if you struggle with mental illness, that is critical.
There are things that are great about people being particularly sensitive as creatives. About having that gamut of emotion that you can pour into your writing. But it could also generate a sense of struggle if you’re not on top of taking care of yourself in the midst of that profession.
Karen: I especially like where you say to do things that give you joy. I find that one of the best things I can do is get down on the floor and play with or pet my two corgis. You know, just snuggle with them, or bring them up on the recliner with me and pet ’em. I find that the physical connection with them is rejuvenating and it definitely brings me joy to do that. Even something as simple as playing with your dog can help to get that flowing.
Erin: I think that’s great too because joy brings hope, and hope is like the antidote to discouragement, I think. As Christians, we have that ultimate hope. We should be the most hopeful people in the world, even though it’s not always easy to maintain that perspective.
But that’s something I think we can also be praying for, that God would help us to experience that hope in our hearts, both for what happens in this life and what happens after that. I mean, this is just a warmup show for heaven.
Well, we’re pretty much at the end of our time, Tina. Do you have any last words of encouragement or advice that you’d want to give to our listeners?
Tina: I would love for everyone to realize that you matter, and the words that the Lord has placed deep within you are important. He has created you on purpose, for a purpose. He shines his message through you. It’s not all up to you. All you need to do is make sure that you show up and stay dwelling and centered in his Spirit so that he can keep you sustained by his energy, and his hope, and his joy, and his truth. Remember that you’re the vessel and you matter because you are the vessel that he created.
Karen: I love that. That whole idea that it doesn’t rest on us. The responsibility that we have is obedience. What happens from there is up to God. We have no control over where our writing goes, where our career goes. But God does and he will do what he will do. We just need to make ourselves available to him.
Tina, thank you so much for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I know that our listeners have been blessed by this conversation, so God bless you.
Tina: Bless you, too.
Erin: Thanks, Tina.Got writer’s block? Guest @teagerwrites has terrific guidance to help you blast that block to smithereens! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
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