Writing in weakness - by Liz Carter

Me right now :D

What do you do when you're a writer and suddenly your hands don't work very well and your brain is muddied with a whole load of fog?

As writers we are used to relying on our own strengths, both physically and mentally. But sometimes, those strengths are lost and we plunge into weakness and suddenly we have to find new ways of coping within that.

About six weeks ago I caught Covid on holiday. My doctor has now told me I have 'long Covid' or 'post Covid' which could last days, weeks, or months (or longer.) The ravages it's taken on me has completely flattened me and frightened me too. After a long time shielding I'd finally felt less worried, but unfortunately it knocked me sideways. The hardest thing so far (after the two weeks of misery in bed) has been this sheer weakness and difficulty thinking, like my cognitive processes have slowed down - brain fog does really sum it up. For this, please forgive me for a short and probably not too articulate post; it hurts to type and I am soooo slow.

But I wanted to write here today to reflect on what it really means to let Christ's strength be made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). I've alaways found this passage helpful because having suffered chronic illness all my life I have had to learn to lean on God's strength. But this experience is even more difficult, because it attacks the things I rely on. It is attacking my mind, usually fairly clear outside of infections, usually able to write so quickly and think on my feet. It's attacking my body, especially my hands (covid can cause nerve damage apparently), which I am so reliant on for their quick response to what's in my head. Basically everything I rely on as a writer is being attacked.

So what does this mean for my writing? For me now it means a process of slowing down, of relearning how to think, of pacing myself (I had some amazing advice on this from Tanya Marlow who sadly knows all too well these feelings from ME). But what it cannot mean is writing myself off and saying that I am useless now, because God works through weakness. God turns upside down power and strength and moves in human weakness, and I think that when as writers we are vulnerable and honest about this it can hlep others in so many different ways.

I am running out of steam now and the words are dancing in my vision. I'd love to start a conversation: how do you cope with the weak times? How have you found God working in your weakness when it comes to writing and communicating? What would you say to someone who suddenly feels useless after an illness has taken something away from them?

For me it's that God has always been here, present even when I was almost delirious and faint in those early days. Its that God is still here now, guiding and encouraging through the gentle whisper of the Spirit. Saying keep going. Go slowly. Go gently. It's OK.

I hope that normal service will be resumed shortly. But for now I'm learning to find God in the weak spaces and to write within those spaces. It's all I can do.

Liz Carter is an author, poet and editor from Shropshire. She loves to write about the difficult and painful times in life, and how we can find gold in the mess. Her books Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places are available in online bookstores.  Her next non-fiction book with The Good Book Company is coming in Spring 2023. She is poet-in-residence of her local town and works freelance to proofread, format and design books.

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