Creativity In Seasons Of Pain - Melissa's Story
I want to introduce you to the first blog post of this series, Creativity In Seasons of Pain. Adapting to daily struggles of pain is overwhelming. And it can result in feeling discouraged. But, incorporating creativity can help someone with health challenges to cope and find another purpose.
The first guest writer is my friend Melissa. We met through the Diamonds Conference as we both are on staff. And I'm excited for you to read more about her life as a writer and how God is using her struggles with pain to reach those living with chronic illness.
Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your writing journey and how you have continued persevering through health challenges.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Melissa and I live in beautiful, sunny Northern Colorado. I work part-time as a tutor, remote teacher aide, and editor. When not working, I love to read, write, play piano and guitar, go on walks, and spend time with friends.
I’m so blessed to be able to do so many things I love even through the limitations of chronic illness. My health challenges started in high school, got worse in college, and have remained a part of my life ever since in the forms of fatigue, brain fog, and very low stamina, primarily. It’s difficult, yes, but God has taught me so much through these challenges. I’m thankful that life doesn’t have to be easy to be good.
What is one of your creative passions?
I’m a writer. I write novels, short stories, poems, articles, book reviews, and creative non-fiction. My firstborn novel was published when I was in high school (Trust and Deception, an FBI mystery), and for over three years I’ve regularly written devotionals on chronic illness for The Valley ministry blog.
My current WIP (work in progress) is a four-book YA fantasy series. This series is my baby, the project of my heart, and I pray God will let me finish and publish it in the coming years.
Do you find creativity as a way to cope with your physical pain?
Absolutely. I journal often, and whether in its unstructured, raw-heart expressions or in an organized, polished poem or article, I turn to words to help me understand what I’m feeling, process it with the Lord, encourage myself, and encourage others. I’ve written many poems, devotionals, and non-fiction pieces that deal with chronic illness. Whether this outlet helps me cope physically or not (sometimes it does in providing a distraction from how I’m feeling, but other times I struggle to write because of the fatigue, weakness, and brain fog), it has certainly helped me cope mentally, emotionally, and spiritually with my daily struggles and the reality of my life.
My fantasy series has also provided a helpful outlet for my struggles and thoughts. I gave one of my main characters—the sister of the sibling duo—my exact chronic illness and a condensed version of my own health journey. I was surprised by how beautiful, powerful, and hard it’s been to externalize into a fantasy story not just the physical limitations I have but also the mental and emotional struggles I face—and that the people who know me and love me face. It’s been vulnerable but therapeutic in its own way.
What are some challenges you have encountered? And how did you get through them?
Oh man, challenges? Every day. Physical fatigue and weakness, often accompanied by brain fog, have robbed me of a LOT of writing time over the past few years especially. Other challenges include busy seasons in my schedule and the ongoing tug-of-war in my values between letting other (“more important”) things crowd out my writing and fighting to guard my time as a writer in God’s Kingdom.
With the physical challenges, I’ve learned that sometimes it’s just not worth it to fight a crummy brain and body—no matter how hard I try to write, I only end up frustrating myself. I’ve also learned, however, not to give in too soon. Sometimes the days I expect to get zero words in are the days I finish the chapter AND the one after it.
With the other challenges, it’s a hard-to-define balance between giving myself grace when things are busy and holding to the belief that God has called me to write and given me these ideas to share.
How would you encourage someone to continue their creative passions even when pain is a daily struggle?
First, give yourself grace. When you just can’t fight your body, remember it’s okay. It can be tough to let go of your hopes and expectations, but your project will be there when you get back on your feet. Lean into God, find comfort in His grace, and remember that rest is good too.
Second, don’t stop trying. Even if it’s a crummy day, try. Sometimes that’s all you need to get the juices flowing and make some progress. Plus, as I’ve learned, it’s always more rewarding to try and know you can’t than never try and wonder if you could have.
Third, find community. I have writer friends, a critique group, and even non-writer friends who are invested in my project and cheer me on. These friends have kept me going plenty of times when I wanted to give up. Whether in person or online, find people who are in your same creative outlet and build some community to remind you that you’re not alone.
Finally, pray. Nothing is too big for God’s power, and nothing is too little for His care. I have prayed over my series so much (and try to pray any time I sit down to write), and I’ve seen God step in with the words, the ideas, or the strength I needed. I love knowing He’s with me in this project and cares about it too.