Obedience and Creative Exhaustion

Written by Brave Author Shannon McNear

This is the testimony of a writer completely poured out and empty, yet who kept clinging to quiet assurances in her spirit that the Lord was with her and would indeed bring her through the birth process that is the first draft of every book.

A year ago, a terrible secret was revealed that shattered our entire family. Someone we had viewed as a dear, trusted friend—a spiritual mentor to my husband, an adopted grandparent to my children—committed years of abuse, carefully hidden and even “justified” at some point with Scripture. I am happy to report that not only is this man now in jail, but where the enemy tried to destroy our family, God has used it in many ways to strengthen us.

But oh, the grief. The tears, the questions, the second-guessing everything I ever did as a mother (or wife) during the years this was taking place.

Just weeks before, I’d finished final edits on Rebecca, #3 in my Daughters of the Lost Colony series. My agent and my editor were asking me what I might want to do next. While noodling other ideas, about a month after the big family bombshell, I realized I’d overlooked a very obvious addition to any series on the Lost Colony: a story from the point of view of Virginia Dare herself (she’s still a small child in the first two books, then skipped entirely for #3). My editor invited me to submit a proposal. I did so (what amounted to less than a page of possible storyline) then immediately panicked. I had no clear sense of what the story would entail. What if I couldn’t come up with an actual plot? This entire series had been too much for me, really … but there was this overarching conviction that I didn’t want to be guilty of turning down an opportunity just because it was “hard.” (You know how it is … does God ever let us take the easy way out when He calls us to a particular adventure?)

I knew I’d need a bit more time on this one. Two grandbabies due over the summer, a daughter’s wedding, and several weeks committed to hosting my mother-in-law, who had just been officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Well, weeks turned into months with my mother-in-law, due to some other family struggles. She wound up being with us for the entire summer, four months total, and writing proved next to impossible during that time. (I did try.) After the one daughter’s wedding, our youngest daughter was getting engaged, starting classes at a new school, and soon planning her own wedding, which wound up being set for Thanksgiving weekend, for various reasons. More family drama erupted, and my husband made a sudden decision to leave a church where we’d attended and served in leadership for the past ten years. Oh, and our youngest son also proposed to his girlfriend, and theirs would be the third family wedding within a six-month span.

I came down sick the weekend of the youngest daughter’s wedding, and that would linger for almost two months. In the meantime, I did my best to get the story going and write every day. My deadline neared, and I felt like a massive failure as a professional writer because I had less than 20% of my contracted word count. When I went to my agent, however, she was extremely gracious and comforting. My editor was also gracious, and offered 20 days’ extension. I knew it wouldn’t be enough, but it was the first step.

I kept working. The first extension day neared. Once again I reported to my agent, fully expecting this time to possibly be in danger of breaking my contract. My editor said we could still make the original release date “if there were no more delays.”

The month passed. Still not done, although more daily progress was being made. Oh, and did I mention that once I started actually writing it, the storyline had changed? So I’ve had to write new marketing copy. Once again I updated my agent. Once again she approached my editor. She tossed out a date—could I finish by then? I told her I believed I could.

Well. There are still edits to complete, but I finished the first draft yesterday—the day before Resurrection Sunday. Attending church this morning felt like washing up on a beach after a shipwreck, completely wrung out from the ordeal. But how like the Lord that one of the songs we sang talked about how He brings our spirits back to life? Because that’s precisely what it feels like He’s doing.

All along, really, He kept nudging me—encouraging me—making it clear that I wouldn’t get out of writing this story but neither would He leave me to myself to figure out as I went and come up with the words. How beautifully gracious He is, how completely amazing, to do that for me. I still have edits and the appendices to write and compile, but to have gotten this far feels nothing short of miraculous, and I give all glory to Him!

Shannon McNear

Transplanted to North Dakota after more than two decades in the Deep South, Shannon McNear loves losing herself in local history. As the author of four novellas and six full-length novels, with her first title, Defending Truth in A Pioneer Christmas Collection, honored as a 2014 RITA® finalist and another novella, The Wise Guy and the Star in Love’s Pure Light Collection, a SELAH winner, her greatest joy is in being a retired military wife, mom of eight, mother-in-law of soon-to-be eight, and grammie of eight. She’s also a contributor to Colonial Quills and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith-Hope-Love Christian Writers, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. When not cooking, researching, or leaking story from her fingertips, she enjoys being outdoors, basking in the beauty of the northern prairies.

5 thoughts on “Obedience and Creative Exhaustion

  1. Shannon, thank you so much for sharing! What a great reminder that our God is faithful and always provides. I can’t wait to read this story and now it will mean even more!!!

  2. What an inspiring story! I don’t know how you could concentrate on writing with so many trials going on. It shows once again that when God calls you to write, He’s got his reasons, and He’ll give the words to do it.

  3. Wow, Shannon. I had no idea. Praise God for His faithfulness and your willingness to do the hard things. I need to take a page from your story and get back to writing. Thank you for sharing.

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