Essay due? Prayer can help.

Got a paper to write?

It can be tempting to stare at that blank document with its blinking cursor and to think that you’re the one responsible for coming up with the brilliant ideas that will end up on the page. (Hopefully before 2 a.m.!) But this week’s TeenConnect author, Leyla Ghanem, offers a different take on the creative process, explaining how for her, writing has become more about listening to God, divine Mind, for the right ideas, rather than sweating, wrestling, and making a huge mental effort to get something on the page.

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I appreciated Leyla’s piece this week since I’d already written about a dozen different intros to a dozen different potential pieces for this column—none of which seemed to work. I was praying and listening, just as Leyla describes in her article. And I was still drawing a blank. Finally I realized that my own struggles as a writer with very frequent deadlines have taught me some important spiritual lessons that are also worth sharing.

Lesson 1: How to deal with distractions

One piece of writing advice you’ve probably already heard is: Before you start writing, get rid of distractions. Usually that means putting away your phone, getting off social media, even turning off music. But for me, getting rid of distractions is more about how I’m praying before and during my work on a writing project.

There are also lots of mental distractions that try to come at us when we’re engaged with an important project. Maybe you recognize some of these thoughts and feelings: I can’t think of any ideas. This idea is never going to work. I’m bad at writing. I’m going to fail.

Distracting thoughts like “I’m bad at writing” can be silenced with one word: No.

These suggestions may come in slightly different forms, but as you can see, they’re never personal, because they yammer at all of us. And though they may seem compelling, the fact is that each of them is nothing more than a temptationon to deny God’s, Mind’s, allness—a false claim that we are somehow separate from Mind and therefore capable of failing.

So what do you do when these suggestions come? Say no, and know why—that they are fraudulent because they don’t come from God, good. Hitting any of these thoughts with a firm mental no helps me shut them down before they can turn into a real distraction—pulling me away from what I’m supposed to be doing. Then, knowing the spiritual fact about God and each of us as His perfect, capable, intelligent expression, which counters these bogus suggestions, gives me the strength and mental clarity to go forward—undistracted. 

Lesson 2: How to handle stress and pressure 

We all know that slightly-hysterical feeling that descends when a deadline is pressing down on us or a paper or project seems bigger than we can manage. I was dealing with that feeling this week when suddenly a clear idea cut right through the storm of stress. It was the sweet thought that because stress and time pressure aren’t part of God or God’s universe, I couldn’t actually experience them. The feeling of pressure was a false one, because in reality, it had no source, cause, origin, or law behind it. 

Stress and time pressure aren’t part of God or God’s universe.

It takes spiritual sense to trust a message like that, because it certainly flew in the face of what I seemed to be experiencing. But when I followed that thought, allowing God to show me what I was actually experiencing as His daughter, I felt the pressure lift, replaced by a surer sense of peace and clear direction. 

Nothing about the demands on me had changed, but my perspective had shifted from a limited, me-centric view, to an understanding that God’s infinite being has already met every need. Questions like, “How will this ever get done?” faded away, and I actually found myself feeling excited to see God at work in me.

I wish I could tell you that I learned these lessons and was done with them. Instead, it seems like each writing project brings us opportunities to go even deeper with them, and even to broaden our prayers to include everyone engaged with creative endeavors. As I’m discovering, completing any project successfully really isn’t just about getting it done and sending it off. The spiritual discoveries we make along the way are the heart of what we’re about, because, whether we call ourselves students, writers, or artists, our real job is as healers.

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